WAVERLY — Not since 1991-92 has the Wartburg College wrestling team had this miserable of a season.
That is if you consider being ranked second in the nation and sporting a 16-2 dual record miserable.
Thursday, the Knights get a chance to reverse one of those two losses in a highly anticipated Division III dual when top-ranked Augsburg visits Levick Arena for the Battle of the Burgs.
The Auggies topped the Knights back on Jan. 5, 21-17, to win the NWCA Division III National Duals title in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“It’s in important, featured dual for Division III because of the history of the two programs and what they have accomplished,” Wartburg head coach Eric Keller said. “It is important for wrestling as a whole. It is a championship-style event. We know we’re going to get their best shot, and they know we are going to give them our best shot.
“Both teams are prepared to wrestle at their best and at their highest level.”
Augsburg snapped an eight-match losing streak to Wartburg in the previous meeting as the Auggies got falls from third-ranked David Flynn at 141 and top-ranked Lucas Jeske at 165. Those falls offset a technical fall by Kyle Fank at 197 and a major decision by Bowen Wileman at heavyweight for Wartburg.
There were two matches where an extra takedown could’ve provided the Knights with bonus point wins, and Keller says those opportunities can’t be missed again.
“The biggest thing is not giving up bonus (points),” Keller said. “You can’t win a championship giving up bonus points and you have to score your own bonus points to win, too. We had a chance to score bonus at a couple of weights and didn’t do it.
“Some of those other matches, we wrestled their style. We didn’t get to our offense, allowed them to tie us up and slow us down.”
Wartburg is also trying to avoid its first three-loss dual season against Division III competition since 1991-92. During that 16-3-1 season, Wartburg lost to Augustana (Ill.), Central and Loras.
The Battle of the Burgs is the first of two huge duals Wartburg faces as the regular-season winds down. Fifth-ranked and undefeated Loras College (16-0), coached by former Knights national champion T.J. Miller, comes to town Feb. 9.
“It’s kind of what you want at the end of the season, two big duals. Timing-wise it is not a bad thing,” Keller said. “It’s all good. The guys are excited. The fun stuff is here and they are ready to roll.”
All-American Wartburg heavyweight Lance Evans, who missed the first Augsburg dual and has not wrestled since the NWCA National Duals, is expected to wrestle Thursday, according to Keller.
PREP MATCH: Prior to the Augsburg-Wartburg showdown, Waverly-Shell Rock will square off against Scott West of Jordan, Minn., in a dual that will start at 5 p.m.