Seven national top-10 team finishes
PELLA—The Central College wrestling team is hungry for more.
After compiling its most successful dual season in 17 years, Central (13-11) is looking to make some noise in the Iowa Conference tournament Friday.
Coe College hosts the tourney in Cedar Rapids. Varsity action will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the championship finals are slated to start at 7 p.m.
The Dutch saw significant improvement last year at what’s considered to be the NCAA Division III’s toughest league tourney. The squad took seventh place for the second straight year and scored 83.5 points, just four points behind sixth-place Luther College. Central also placed in the top eight at all 10 weights for the first time in 15 years and sent a wrestler to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2004.
“We want to continue to improve in the conference standings from last year and get some national qualifiers for the tournament in March,” coach Eric Van Kley said. “We have lots of wrestlers with national tournament aspirations.”
The league qualifies 35 wrestlers for the championship field of 170. The top three finishers in each weight class advance along with five wild cards, three chosen by the league’s coaches following Friday’s meet and two selected by a national committee after all tournaments are completed.
Sophomore Kalen Greiner (Keota) had an outstanding rookie showing at the league tourney, stunning two nationally ranked opponents in back-to-back overtime wins to finish fourth at 125 pounds and earn a wild card bid to the national tournament. This year he’ll compete at 133 pounds.
Van Kley also highlighted TJ Peretti (sophomore, Auburn, Wash., Auburn Mountainvew HS) at 141 pounds, Joseph Atwell (junior, Jamaica, Panorama HS) at 157 pounds and Jake Crawford (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) at 285 pounds as top candidates for the national tournament, held March 9-10 at La Crosse, Wis. Peretti is 17-9, Atwell is 20-9 and Crawford is 19-9.
“Those three wrestlers are all contenders,” Van Kley said. “They’ve all had good conference performances this year and should receive a higher seed. They’re also familiar with the wrestlers they’ll be facing.”
Freshmen Tyler Lowy (Phoenix, Ariz., Thunderbird HS) and Daniel Page (Tampa, Fla., Strawberry Crest HS) also show promise. Lowy is 18-12 at 184 pounds and Page is 21-15 at 125.
“Those are two wrestlers that could definitely surprise some people,” Van Kley said. “They have beat some quality competition and have a good chance to advance.”
The rest of Central’s probable lineup includes Josh Atwell (senior, Jamaica, Perry HS) at 149 pounds, Reid Imerman (senior, Guthrie Center) at 165 pounds, Tommy Van Renterghem (senior, Oskaloosa) at 174 pounds and Dan Gordon (senior, Anchorage, Alaska, Diamond HS) at 197 pounds. Imerman (10-11) and Van Renterghem (16-11) placed sixth last year while Josh Atwell (14-9) finished seventh.
Wrestling in March won’t be an easy task. Five of the league’s nine teams are ranked in the nation’s top 21 and 28 of the league’s wrestlers are ranked individually in the top 10. But Van Kley believes the Dutch will find success if they bring the firepower.
“We need to be offensive and be the ones attacking,” he said. “If we can do that we’ll give ourselves a good shot.”