Seven national top-10 team finishes
PELLA—Junior Joseph Atwell (Jamaica, Panorama HS) bounced back from a first-round loss to earn a win at the NCAA Division III wrestling championships before bowing out of the tournament Friday night at La Crosse, Wis.
Atwell met top-ranked Orlando Ponce of Augsburg College (Minn.) in his opening match at 157 pounds and suffered a 16-8 loss by major decision. Ponce is a three-time national runner-up and all-American.
“Ponce is the No. 1 wrestler for a reason,” coach Eric Van Kley said. “He’s an athletic wrestler who really picked the pace of the match. Joseph did a good job but had trouble getting into the offense as consistently as Ponce.”
Dropping to the consolation bracket, Atwell topped Terner Gott of John Carroll University (Ohio) by decision, 13-9.
“Joseph really controlled the match,” Van Kley said. “He did a good job attacking and getting the takedowns going.”
Atwell advanced to face No. 3 Elias Larson of Trine University (Ind.). Larson placed third at the tournament last year and topped Atwell by an 8-2 decision.
“Joseph dug himself into a hole and was down 5-1 at the end of the first period,” Van Kley said. “In the second and third period he had good shots and opportunities to score but didn’t capitalize. He battled all seven minutes but came up short.”
Atwell closes the year at 24-11.
“I’m really proud of Joseph’s effort,” Van Kley said. “He had a tough draw against two all-American seniors. They were a little more physical than us and that showed, but it’s nothing to hang our heads about. Joseph had a big win and solid effort against the Carroll wrestler and he has a lot to be proud of this season. There are big things ahead for him.”
Central also sent a wrestler to the championships last year, the first national tournament appearnce since 2004.
“It’s continued progress,” Van Kley said. “We’re making steps in the right direction."
Central compiled its third straight 10-win dual season, racking up 13 wins, the most in 18 years. The Dutch also improved their finish in the Iowa Conference standings, placing sixth at the league tournament.