Seven national top-10 team finishes
PELLA—It’s a daunting road for Central College’s Joseph Atwell (Jamaica, Panorama HS), but one he is eager to embark.
The junior makes his first national appearance in a powerful 157-pound bracket at the NCAA wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at La Crosse, Wis. The bracket features all 10 of Division III’s ranked wrestlers and eight with previous tournament experience.
“It’s exactly what you picture with a national tournament,” coach Eric Van Kley said. “Joseph is excited. He’s ready for the challenge and for the opportunity to compete against some of the best.”
Atwell (23-9) earned an automatic bid to the championships with a third-place finish at the Iowa Conference Tournament. He muscled his way through the bottom half of the bracket, knocking off a nationally ranked opponent and avenging a first-round loss.
Atwell opens the tournament at 11 a.m. Friday, facing top-seeded senior Orlando Ponce of Augsburg College (Minn.). Ponce (20-0), rated No. 1 in Division III, is a three-time national runner-up and all-American.
“We don’t put a lot into who we draw the first round or how the bracket goes,” Van Kley said. “Joseph just needs to relax and wrestle his match to compete in the bracket.”
The winner advances to the championship quarterfinals while the loser moves into the consolation bracket. Both of those matches will take place in the second session Friday, beginning at approximately 6 p.m.
To be successful, Atwell needs to attack.
“The biggest thing going for Joseph is that he’s very offensive,” Van Kley said. “He has the skills to score on anyone in the country. We want a high-paced match and to continue to score points throughout the match.”
It’s the second straight year Central has sent a wrestler to the national tournament. Kalen Greiner (sophomore, Keota) received an at-large bid to the meet last year after stunning two nationally-ranked opponents at the league tournament.
Central wrestlers have captured all-America honors 43 times and won four individual titles.