WAVERLY — Wartburg College wrestling head coach Eric Keller spoke on Wednesday with a high level of enthusiasm resonating from his voice in a time when there has been little to get excited about within sports world.
There’s now a major carrot to dangle in front of the NCAA Division III national power’s wrestlers through an extended offseason that began with cancellation of the national championships due to the coronavirus.
Wartburg will open its 2020-21 season with a 7 p.m. dual on Nov. 6 at Iowa State inside Hilton Coliseum.
“In a real uncertain time right now with everything going on — and the way the season ended without getting to have a national tournament — I think it helps to be able to mentally turn the page to thinking about the future, thinking about next year,” Keller said. “It’s an exciting event to think about for next year and early, right away next year.
“It helps these guys to have something to put on the calendar, look forward to and get excited about.”
Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser reached out to Keller, setting in motion the Knights’ first dual against an NCAA Division I school since a trip to Wisconsin during the 2011-12 season.
Wartburg held its own throughout a 17-16 loss to the Badgers on criteria.
“He (Dresser) just reached out and said he was interested in potentially putting together a dual with us, and I was excited about it,” Keller related.
Iowa State has been building momentum under Dresser’s leadership.
The Cyclones placed second at the Big 12 championships before the cancellation of the NCAA Division I season.
ISU will bring back Big 12 individual champions Ian Parker (141) and David Carr (157).
“Obviously those guys have done a great job building a fan base and level of excitement with Iowa State wrestling,” Keller said, addressing the Cyclones’ program.
Wartburg had trio of wrestlers secure NWCA Division III All-American honors prior to their senior season in Kris Rumph (133), Kyle Briggs (184) and Jordon Brandon (285).
Opportunities to compete against Division I schools were far more frequent for the Knights in the past.
This will be Wartburg’s first dual meet against a Division I foe in nine years. The Knights sport a 12-11-1 all-time record against NCAA Division I schools.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Keller said. “Ultimately for us it’s about how we compete and how we wrestle. We take that approach no matter what division or what level they are.”
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