CLEVELAND, Ohio — The storylines are each worthy of their own piece of property.
In the end, however, it is the sum of those stories that matter the most to the Wartburg College wrestling team.
Three champions and two national runner-ups along with eight overall All-Americans helped fuel the Knights to their third consecutive NCAA Division III wrestling championship Saturday at Cleveland Public Auditorium.
“It is sweet getting an individual title,” said Independence native Kyle Fank who capped his senior season with a 197-pound national championship. “The big thing here is to get that national championship trophy.
“This is a rollercoaster ride. There are highs and lows. We’re a family here. We’re not teammates, we are brothers, know what we’ve been through, and that team title, that is what we have fought for all season. It’s so sweet.”
Fank won at 197, and Wartburg also got titles from freshman Brock Rathbun at 133 and junior Cross Cannone at 149 as the Knights won by 54 1/2 points over long-time rival Augsburg College, 136.5-82.
It’s Wartburg’s seventh crown in eight years and it was wrapped up before the semifinals with five finalists. Only three other times have the Knights qualified more than five to the finals — 2003, ‘04 and ‘06 when they had six finalists in each of those championships.
“Feels good. Obviously championships are special and there is nothing easy about them,” Wartburg head coach Eric Keller said. “The amount of work our staff puts in ... our trainer Ryan Callahan, and just everybody that is invested in this program.
“The credit goes to them.”
Finals night started with Rathbun becoming the 45th NCAA champion in program history and the first freshman to do so.
Rathbun and Augsburg’s Sam Bennyhoff were tied at 5-all after two periods. Taking bottom to start, Rathbun scored a reversal and then added four near fall points to finish a dominating 12-5 victory.
“I just had one job .. to win and I just put my head down and went for it,” Rathbun said.
“You just keep wrestling. If I stop, he was going to ride me and if I didn’t I was going to make something happen,” Rathbun added of the third period. “I had my mindset I was going to make it happen.”
One year after getting blanked in the 141-pound national finals, Cross Cannone was not to be denied in his 149-pound final against York’s Gregory Warner.
Cannone scored first, hit a tilt for two near-fall points late in the first period for a 4-0 lead and rolled to a 9-1 national championship.
“I bought in from day one to what the coaches were saying and if I continued to work all season I knew I’d be the champion,” Cannone said.
Cannone out-scored his four tournament opponents 40-3.
It was capped off by Fank, the native of Independence, who lost last year in the semifinals, with an impressive 8-2 win over Guy Patron Jr of Loras in the finals, his third victory over the Duhawk this season.
“Feels great. It is what I’ve put all this hard work in for,” Fank said. “Last year I was stripped of my goals in the semifinals, and this year we got it done there. I wrestled this guy six times now. I knew the game plan coming in and I executed it perfectly.”
For the second-consecutive year, Logan Thomsen ended up heartbroken with Augsburg’s Ryan Epps scored with 33 seconds left in sudden victory at 157. The match featured several great scrambles, but little scoring before Epps hit the match winner.
Thomsen. a senior from La Porte City, ends his Wartburg career as a two-time national runner-up.
At 184, a tremendous senior season by first-time starter Tyler Lutes came to the and when he dropped the championship match to Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Jordan Newman, 9-1, as Newman repeated at 184.
“It is awesome. It goes to show you what happens when you continue to develop,” Keller said of Lutes. “He got better every year, but wasn’t necessarily mentally thought he could do it. The difference this year, mentally, he thought he could do it.”
Some disappointment came in the form of top-seeds Eric DeVos and Lance Evans falling in their 174 and 285 semifinals.
“It is bittersweet seeing DeVos and Lance get beat in those heartbreaking matches. That was tough,” added Keller.
DeVos almost scored a defensive fall in the closing seconds, but dropped a 4-2 decision to Jon Goetz of Wisconsin-Platteville. Evans lost in the semifinals for the third consecutive year, 8-6, to Jake Evans of Waynesburg.
DeVos rebounded from his loss with two pins in the consolations, including one in 1:57 over Darden Schurg of Wabash to finish third. Evans, a three-time all-American like DeVos, finished fourth.
Freshman Mike Ross finished eighth at 165 after medically forfeiting his final match due to injury.
HOW THE LOWER MIDWEST REGION FARED: Coe College took 10th overall with 34 points as the Kohawks had three all-Americans.
Cole Erickson took third after losing to Augsburg’s Ryan Epps, 3-1, in the semifinals at 157. Jake Voss was eighth at 174, and Andrew Holladay took fourth at 197.
Cornell College also had three All-Americans led by Josh Martin at 141, fifth. Ben Hewson took seventh at 165, and Tyler Ortmann was eighth at 285.
Central senior CJ Pestano finished on the podium for the third time, taking sixth after losing in the first round.
Semifinals — Carlos Fuentez (Wheaton) dec. Nick Mancini (Mt. Union), 10-8. Jay Albis (Johnson & Wales) dec. Jonathan Haas (Brockport), 4-3.
Championship — Albis dec. Fuentez 11-10.
Third place — Mike Tortorice (Wis.-Whitewater) dec. Haas (Brockport), 3-2.
Semifinals — Sam Bennyhoff (Augsburg) maj. dec. Joao Vicente (Johnson & Wales), 15-3. Brock Rathbun (Wartburg) maj. dec. Austin Sisco (SUNY), 11-0.
Championship — Rathbun dec. Bennyhoff, 12-5.
Third place — Troy Stanich (Stevens) pinned Sisco (SUNY), 1:50.
Semifinals — Brett Kaliner (Stevens) dec. Joseph Ghione (Elizabethtown), 6-2. Ben Brisman (Ithaca) pinned Brendan Ladd (Alma), 2:32.
Championship — Brisman dec. Kaliner, 10-7.
Third place — Chris Williams (Millikin) pinned Ghione (Elizabethtown), 6:22.
Semifinals — Cross Cannone (Wartburg) maj. dec. Alex Wilson (Augsburg), 8-0. Gregory Warner (York) dec. Sean Peacock (Brockport), 4-3, TB1.
Championship — Cannone maj. dec. Warner, 9-1.
Third place — Austin Bethel (Wabash) pinned Evan Drill (NYU), 1:16.
Semifinals — Ryan Epps (Augsburg) dec. Cole Erickson (Coe), 3-1. Logan Thomsen (Wartburg) dec. Zach Wilhelm (Stevens), 7-4.
Championship — Epps dec. Thomsen, 3-1, SV1.
Third place — Erickson (Coe) dec. Wilhelm (Stevens), 4-0.
Semifinals — Nick Velez (Ithaca) dec. Frank Aiello (Wheaton), 10-3. Lucas Jeske (Augsburg) pinned Anthony Arroyo (Baldwin-Wallace), 1:43.
Championship — Jeske tech. fall over Velez, 15-0, 7:00.
Consolation third round — Jeff Hojnacki (Messiah) dec. Mike Ross (Wartburg), 7-1.
Third place — Arroyo (Baldwin-Wallace) dec. Aiello (Wheaton), 7-5.
Seventh place — Ben Hewson (Cornell) won by medical forfeit over Ross (Wartburg).
Semifinals — Jon Goetz (Wis.-Platteville) dec. Eric DeVos (Wartburg), 4-2. Jairod James (Mt. Union) dec. Ben Swarr (Messiah), 6-1.
Championship — James dec. Goetz, 4-1.
Consolation semifinals — DeVos (Wartburg) pinned Sawyer Massie (Wis.-La Crosse), :39.
Third place — DeVos (Wartburg) pinned Darden Schurg (Wabash), 1:57.
Semifinals — Jordan Newman (Wis.-Whitewater) pinned Christos Giatras (Augustana), 2:23. Tyler Lutes (Wartburg) dec. John Boyle (West. New England), 4-2.
Championship — Newman maj. dec. Lutes, 9-1.
Third place — Jake Ashcraft (Ithaca) maj. dec. Boyle (West. New England), 14-2.
Semifinals — Kyle Fank (Wartburg) dec. Etiini Udott (Centenary, N.J.), 4-0. Guy Patron (Loras) dec. Triston Engle (Brockport), 3-2.
Championship — Fank dec. Patron, 8-2.
Third place — Wesley Schultz (Wis.-La Crosse) pinned Andrew Holladay (Coe), 139.
Semifinals — Jake Evans (Waynesburg) dec. Lance Evans (Wartburg), 8-6. James Bethel (SUNY) pinned Jake O’Brien (Ithaca), 3:48.
Championship — J. Evans dec. Bethel, 10-5.
Consolation semifinals — Evans (Wartburg) dec. Konrad Ernst (Wis.-La Crosse), 1-0.
Third place — Isaiah Bellamy (Wesleyan Conn.) pinned Evans (Wartburg), 4:34.