ROANOKE, Va. — Three points.
That was the difference between three-time defending national champion Wartburg College leaving the Berglund Center Saturday with a strong talking point rather than talking about what could’ve been.
The Knights had three wrestlers in the Division III wrestling championship semifinals and all three lost by a point, marking the first time since 2002 that Wartburg did not produce a national finalist.
It is also the first time the Knights have not had a national champion in 16 seasons.
The end result was a shocking sixth-place finish, its lowest since also taking sixth in 2001 in Waterloo.
“No doubt about it ... it’s disappointing,” Wartburg head coach Eric Keller said.
Three points. That was the difference between heartbroken and potentially bringing home a team trophy.
Despite a sideways Friday, Wartburg was in third and a strong semifinal round would’ve squarely put the Knights in the hunt for second. Long-time rival Augsburg College nearly lapped the field while winning its 13th title with four champions.
Augsburg finished with 126 points.
American Rivers Conference rival Loras took second (66 points) and Johnson and Wales was third. For Loras, it was the highest finish in school history. The Duhawks are coached by T.J. Miller, the son of Wartburg long-time head coach Jim Miller.
One break after another Saturday went against the Knights.
First at 157, top-seeded and defending 149-pound national champion Cross Cannone, who was riding a 63-match win streak, led 5-1 in the third period against Mount Union’s Antwon Pugh.
But Pugh rallied and his two-point near fall with 10 seconds left in the match, combined with a riding time point, gave him the upset, 6-5.
Two matches later, sophomore Kyle Briggs led defending 174-pound national champion Jariod James of Mount Union 4-3 with 12 seconds left, but James scored a match-winning takedown with five seconds remaining to win 5-4.
Then at heavyweight, a late rally by Bowen Wileman fell short in a 4-3 loss to Lycoming’s Grant Wesneski.
“Those semifinal matches, every single one of them were heartbreakers,” Keller said. “Cannone is in control, gets in a scramble and ends up on bottom, flat, that guy’s best position and gets tilted.
“Briggs, dude has the match won, and Bo chased that guy around. Everyone a heartbreak, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort(s).”
Cannone and Briggs each battled back to finish third, Cannone with a pair of major decisions to finish with 118 career wins, 13th all-time at Wartburg, and a three-time All-American.
“My expectations were high, wanted to win it, but I knew I had to get those last two because that showed the heart that I had,” Cannone said. “It wasn’t easy at all, but I knew if I finished those two matches strong that is what I’d be remembered by.”
Wileman capped his career by finishing sixth, extending Wartburg’s run of having a heavyweight All-American to 21 years.
Briggs and freshman Brady Fritz, who took sixth at 141, return.
Briggs, just a sophomore, closed out his tournament with a 13-1 major over Daniel Kilroy of the College of New Jersey
“It is easy to go out there, wrestle tough and be at your best when you haven’t lost,” Briggs said of finishing strong. “Once you lose, it is all heart. I’m just glad that I could show that.”
Fortunately, this type of finish has already fired up the Knights.
Including Briggs and Fritz, three other national qualifiers — Rathbun, Brady Kyner at 125 and Kris Rumph at 149 — return next season as does Mike Ross at 165, a national qualifier last year, Isaiah Cox at 184 and Kobe Woods at 197.
“We lose Cannone, and we lose Bo,” Keller said. “We have an entire team back. We are young. A lot of the mistakes that were made here were young mistakes. That can’t be an excuse, because you have to find a way, so ... obviously, at the end of the day, we’ve got to get better.”
HOW THEY FINISHED
1. Augsburg 130
2. Loras 66
3. Johnson&Wales 63
4. Ithaca 59.5
5. Mount Union 58.5
6. Wartburg 52
7. UW-Whitewater 49.5
8. TCNJ 44
9. Millikin 42
9. Wabash 42
Semifinals — Jay Albis (Johnson&Wales) dec. Cam Timok (Central), 11-4, Mike Tortorice (UW-Whitewater) dec. Victor Gliva (Ausburg), 5-3 SV.
Consolation semifinals — Peter Del Gallo (Southern Maine) dec. Timok, 5-2.
Seventh place — Carlos Champagne (Wabash) dec. Eron Haynes (Nebraska Wesleyan), 9-6.
Fifth place — Gliva pinned Timok, 4:03.
Third place — Del Gallo dec. Ferdninand Mase (Ithaca), 8-5.
Championship — Albis pinned Tortorice, 2:25.
Semifinals — Jordin James (Mount Union) dec. Yoseph Borai (Stevens), 8-1, Ben Vosters (UW-Stevens Point) dec. Charles Nash (Baldwin Wallace), 7-6.
Seventh place — Levi Englman (Ferrum) dec. Taylor Dial (Merchant Marine), 3-2.
Fifth place — Jake Giordano (TCNJ) dec. Borai, 8-2.
Third place — Jordan dec. Nash, 5-3 SV.
Championship — James dec. Vosters, 9-7.
Consolation quarterfinals — Brady Fritz (Wartburg) dec. Brenden Ladd (Alma), 9-7.
Semifinals — David Flynn (Augsburg) dec. Clint Lembeck (Loras), 4-2, Chris Williams (Millikin) dec. Ben Brisman (Ithaca), 703
Consolation semifinals — Lembeck technical fall over Evan Drill (New York U), 16-0, Brisman dec. Fritz, 6-5.
Seventh place — Ladd dec. Mario Vasquez (Ferrum), 14-0).
Fifth place — Drill dec. Fritz, 13-3
Third place — Lembeck won by inj default over Brisman.
Championship — Flynn dec. Williams, 4-3
Semifinals — Gregory Warner (York) dec. Brett Kaliner (Stevens), 10-7, Ryan Budzek (TCNJ) dec. Alex Wilson (Augsburg), 8-1.
Seventh place —Ryan Snow (Brockport) dec. Luke Hernandez (Mount Union), 8-6 SV.
Fifth place — Zachary Cooper (Alma) dec. Jarrad Lasko (John Carroll), 4-2.
Third place — Kaliner dec. Wilson, 15-3.
Championship — Budzek dec. Warner, 4-2.
Consolation quarterfinals — Brandon Murray (Loras) dec. Grant Zamin, 6-2.
Semifinals — Antwon Pugh (Mount Union) dec. Cross Cannone (Wartburg), 6-5, Ryan Epps (Augsburg) dec. Braden Birt (Millikin), 6-4.
Consolation semifinals — Cannone dec. Kaidon Winters (RIT), 11-2. Brandon Murray (Loras) dec. Birt, 8-4.
Seventh place — Keone Derain (Elmhurst) dec. Zamin, 6-4
Fifth place — Winters inj. default over Birt.
Third place — Cannone dec. Murray, 9-1.
Championship — Epps won by disqualification over Pugh
Consolation quarterfinals — Eddie Smith (Loras) technical fall over Austin Whitney (Ithaca), 15-0.
Semifinals — Lucas Jeske (Augsburg) dec. Kyle Hatch (Wabash), 9-7 SV, Dempsey King (RIT) pinned Nicholas Bonomo (UW-Whitewater), 1:45.
Consolation semifinals — Smith dec. Bonomo, 6-3.
Seventh place — Taylor Shay (Roger Williams) dec. Austin Whitney (ithaca), 10-5.
Fifth place — Bonomo dec. Hatch, 9-4.
Third place — Mark Choinski (UW-Oshkosh) dec. Smith, 6-3.
Championship — Jeske dec. Kinig, 6-2.
Consolation quarterfinals — Tanner Vassar (Augsburg) dec. Ben Sarasin (Chicago), 8-6, Arthur Aaberli (Coast Guard) dec. Jacob Krakow (Loras), 5-3.
Semifinals — Darden Schurg (Wabash) dec. Daniel Kilroy (TCNJ), 11-6, Jairod James (Mount Union) dec. Kyle Briggs (Wartburg), 5-4.
Consolation semifinals — Briggs dec. Aeberli, 6-5.
Seventh place —Sarasin dec. Krakow, 9-5.
Fifth place —Vassar technical fall over Aeberli, 19-4.
Third place — Briggs dec. Kilroy, 13-1.
Championship — Schrug dec. James, 5-3 SV.
Consolation quarterfinals — Kyle Peisker (Chicago) dec. Josh Edel (Coe), 9-3.
Semifinals — John Boyle (Western New England) dec. Dylan Roth (Heidelberg), 6-3, Jake Ashcraft (Ithaca) dec. Khamari Thomas (Johnson&Wales), 2-1.
Seventh place — Nick Stencel (UW-Whitewater) pinned Edel, 1:55.
Fifth place — Peisker inj. default over Roth.
Third place — Thomas dec. Glantzman, 3-1 SV.
Championship — Boyle dec. Ashcraft, 5-3, SV.
Consolation quarterfinals — Taylor Mehmen (Coe) dec. Zeckary Lehman (Baldwin Wallace), 6-3.
Semifinals — Keajion Jennings (Millikin) pinned Riley Kauzlaric (UW-Whitewater), :34, Lance Benick (Augsburg) dec. Guy Patron (Loras), 5-1.
Consolation semifinals — Kauzlaric pinned Mehmen, 2:24, Etiini Udott (Centenary) pinned Patron, 4:53.
Seventh place — Lehman dec. Antonio McCloud (Mt. St. Joseph) 6-2
Fifth place — Mehmen inj. default over Patron.
Third place — Kauzlaric dec. Udott, 5-2.
Championship — Benick dec. Jennings, 8-5
Semifinals — Grant Wesneski (Lycoming) dec. Bowen Wileman (Wartburg), 4-3, Adarios Jones (Augustana) dec. Drew Kasper (Otterbein), 14-2.
Consolation semifinals — Jake O’Brien (Ithaca) dec. Wileman, 2-1 TB1.
Seventh place — Konrad Ernst (UW-La Crosse) pinned Connor Calkins (RIT), 6:59.
Fifth place —Kasper dec. Wileman, 8-4.
Third place — Bethel dec. O’Brien 4-0.
Championship — Wesneski dec. Jones, 9-7, SV.