WAVERLY — Eric Keller was worked up when he walked into the lockerroom.
Keller’s top-ranked Wartburg College wrestling team was trailing second-ranked Augsburg University 14-3 at the midway point of the Battle of the Burgs inside Levick Arena.
Keller had one message.
“I told them we are going to win this dual,” Keller said. “You can ask them. That is exactly what I said. There are five matches left and we win all five we win the dual. That was the plan — to go win the next five matches.”
The Knights delivered.
Wartburg won the five remaining matches, three by a point and another by two to defeat the Auggies for the second time in a month, 19-14, in front of a packed crowed of 1,700.
The Knights beat Augsburg, 24-15, for the NWCA National Duals title in January.
“Yeah, I went in there and said we are going to win this dual,” Keller reflected. “But it was on them to come out here and go to work. And every single guy did that. They dug deep.”
It came down to the guy Keller wanted in that position, Brady Fritz.
After Kris Rumph scored an 8-6 win over Victor Gliva at 133 in a battle of 1 vs. 2 to put the Knights (16-0) ahead for the first time, 16-14, Fritz headed to the mat to face defending 141-pound national champion David Flynn, whom he had beaten in the National Duals finals, 3-1.
“There is not another guy that I would want with the match on the line than that guy there,” Keller said. “He is a guy that you know 100 percent there is no quit and regardless of what the circumstance is you are going to get everything has got.
“He did a good job there. I’m really proud of him.”
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Much like the match in Louisville, it was 1-1 in the third with each wrestler scoring an escape. But with one minute left, Fritz got to a leg of Flynn, lifted it into the air and gave Flynn a shove in the chest to push him toward the mat for the go-ahead score.
Flynn escaped with 44 seconds left, but Fritz held on for a 3-2 win and a Wartburg victory.
“It was unbelievable,” Fritz said. “Something you can’t describe.
“We are fighters,” continued Fritz. “Keller talks about digging deep and going a full seven minutes. That carried out there onto the mat. It was definitely exciting.”
Augsburg controlled the first half of the meet, getting a technical fall from Ryan Epps at 157. Top-ranked Tanner Vassar scored his second win over second-ranked Kyle Briggs at 184, 3-1, to give the Auggies (6-2) their 14-3 lead.
“It was a tight one,” Augsburg co-head coach Jim Moulsoff said. “A great dual … hard fought.”
Augsburg, which wrestled without national champions Lucas Jeske at 165 and Lance Benick at 197, almost won the first five matches. At 165, it appeared Moses Madimba had a takedown in the closing seconds of a 1-0 loss to Max Forsyth. But official Jason Wedgbury did not award it and the final seconds ticked off.
“You know in the moment you probably think it is a takedown,” Moulsoff said. “Jason is a well-experienced official and I thought he called a good dual. It could’ve been either way and I thought he did a nice job of keeping his emotions out of it.
“It could’ve been. But I was thinking if Moses drops his hips it is a different ball game. But his head was down and his hips were up.”
Kobe Woods and Jordan Brandon opened the second half of the meet with wins at 197 and heavyweight before Brady Kyner produced the Knights’ only bonus points with a 12-4 major over Justin Stauffacher at 125 to set up the exciting final two matches.
“It is exactly what you expect out of this rivalry,” Keller concluded. “Every single match is hard. Every single match is a fight and that is what makes it special. That is why it means something right now is because that is a really good team we just beat. They wrestled well.”
Wartburg Wrestling Collection
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Wartburg 19, Augsburg 14
149 – Aaron Wilson (Aug) dec. Nick Meling, 8-3, 157 – Ryan Epps (Aug) technical fall over Martine Sandoval, 15-0, 6:06, 165 – Max Forsyth (War) dec. Moses Madimba, 1-0, 174 – Solomon Nielsen (Aug) dec. Paul Calo, 6-2, 184 – Tanner Vassar (Aug) dec. Kyle Briggs, 3-1. 197 – Kobe Woods (War) dec. Wyatt Richardson, 8-2. Hwt. – Jordon Brandon (War) dec. Tyler Kim, 3-2. 125 – Brady Kyner (War) major dec. Justin Stauffacher, 12-4, 133 – Kris Rumph (War) dec. Victor Gliva 8-6, 141 – Brady Fritz (War) dec. David Flynn, 3-2.