Seven national top-10 team finishes
DUBUQUE—The battle for fifth place came down to the final match but Loras College pulled out a 20-18 triumph over the Central College wrestling squad at the Iowa Conference dual finals Friday night.
The Dutch finished sixth in the league team standings. The squad was also sixth last year, which was its highest finish since 1995-96.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Wartburg captured its 21st straight league championship with a 33-3 win over No. 14 Coe. No. 23 Luther took third with a 26-16 triumph over No. 26 Dubuque and Buena Vista claimed seventh with a 33-19 victory over Simpson.
Down 17-12, sophomore Tyler Lowy (Phoenix, Ariz., Thunderbird HS) and senior Theron Stewart (Marshalltown) delivered back-to-back decisions at 184 and 197 pounds, respectively, giving the Dutch an 18-17 advantage. But seventh-ranked James Buss of Loras grinded out a 10-6 win over Jake Crawford (senior, Monroe, Southeast Polk HS) at 285 for the team victory.
“It came down to the wire,” coach Eric Van Kley said. “Tyler and Theron tightened the match up and Jake gave a spirited effort, but that is Loras’ best wrestler.”
Senior Joseph Atwell (Jamaica, Panorama HS) captured a fall at 157 pounds and sophomore Daniel Page (Yelm, Wash., Tumwater HS) gained a forfeit at 125.
“We had some real strong efforts and hard-fought wins,” Van Kley said. “We just gave up some bonus points at a few spots and had some swing matches at the lighter weights get away.”
Central closes the regular season at 12-6, its fourth-straight year with 10 dual wins.
“There were lots of positives in the dual season,” Van Kley said. “We knocked off three nationally ranked teams and continued to improve and make strides in the right direction. But our wrestlers are still hungry and want to get better in the conference and nationally, so we’ll keep chipping away.”
Central has a three-week break before returning to Dubuque for the Central Regional hosted by Loras College at the Five Flags Center. The new qualifying format for the NCAA Div. III championships features six regional sites with the top three wrestlers in each weight class advancing to the national meet to fill a field of 180 wrestlers. The Central Region includes the eight conference schools along with Augustana College (Ill.), Knox College (Ill.) and Cornell College. Six of the 11 schools are ranked in the latest top 30 coaches’ poll.
“We look forward to the next three weeks,” Van Kley said. “We're going to make one last push before the regional and refine some things we’ve worked on throughout the year to make sure we’re prepared in March.”