On Saturday and Sunday, February 23-24, ten members of the Loras wrestling team went to the Five Flags Center here in Dubuque to participate in the NCAA Lower Midwest Regional.
Kicking off the tournament in the 125 weight class was sophomore Jake Hiles. In his first match, Hiles took on Buena Vista’s Byron Fleming and won with a major decision of 12-1. After that, Hiles was defeated by Nebraska Wesleyan’s Eron Haynes through a fall at time 6:08. Moving into the consolation bracket, Hiles won against Dubuque’s Aaron Black with a 15-3 major decision.
In the 133 weight class was junior Brice Everson. Everson opened up with a match against Buena Vista’s Brandon Foster, successfully beating him through an 18-0 technical fall. In the quarterfinals, Everson triumphed over Luther’s Tyler Difiore with a 5-2 decision. With that win under his belt, Everson went on to defeat North Central’s Jaime Suarez with an 8-3 decision. In the final round, Everson fell to Wartburg’s Brock Rathbun due to a 15-4 major decision, giving him second place.
Representing the team in the 141 weight class was junior Clint Lembeck. Lembeck’s day started out with a win by fall at 2:10 against Luther’s Kyle Clough. He kept on going, winning against Dubuque’s Jevontae Yarbourgh through an 8-1 decision. Nothing was stopping Lembeck at this point. His streak continued, beating Wartburg’s Brady Fritz with a 3-0 decision win, followed by a 5-2 decision win over two-time All American Millikin’s Chris Williams. Lembeck was crowned regional champion for the second time in his career.
Senior Kevin Kelly tried out something new by competing in the 149 weight class. He kicked off his day with 5-4 decision over Coe’s Josh Gerke. In his next match, Kelly came out on top against North Central’s Anthony Rink with a 7-2 decision. Dubuque’s Greg Krulas was Kelly’s next victim, falling to the Duhawk by a 11-1 major decision. Kelly’s win streak ended in the finals when he had to face Wartburg’s Kris Rumph. With a 3-0 decision defeat, Kelly ended the day with second place.
Next up is the 157 weight class, with junior Brandon Murray being Lora’s competitor. With a tough opening against Westminster’s Jacob Warren, Murray moved on through a 7-4 decision win. His opponent in the semifinals was Luther’s Teagan Miller, whom he crushed with a 16-1 technical fall. With a narrow 4-3 decision win over Millikin’s Bradan Birt, Murray went onto to wrestle Wartburg’s Cross Cannone, only to fall 6-2, giving him a second place.
Fighting in the 165 weight class is none other than junior Eddie Smith. Smith absolutely dominated his first two opponents, crushing Augustana’s Neil O’Shaughnessy with a 15-0 technical fall and North Central’s Danny Harris with a 9-0 major decision. Continuing his trend, Smith took down Cornell’s Ben Hewson with a 3-1 decision, and wrapped up the tournament with a 9-0 major decision win over Buena Vista’s Brad Kerkhoff, granting him his first regional championship.
Sophomore Jacob Krakow, a newcomer to the tournament, is a Duhawk of the 174 weight class. His first match of the day was against Ozarks’ Ndayambaje John. With a 17-1 technical fall, Krakow went on to face against North Central’s Cam Hayes. Through a difficult battle, Krakow emerged victorious with a 3-1 decision win. In the semifinals, Krakow lost 9-5 to Coe’s Jake Voss, but with a 10-4 decision victory over Buena Vista’s Shane Vaughn, he made it into the third place match. There, Krakow fought Central’s Nathan Fritz, and came out victorious with a fall at the very end.
“Seeing Jacob Krakow come back and get third to qualify for nationals was really great to see,” said Head Coach TJ Miller.
In the 184 weight class, senior Sam Schuler had a difficult day. With being knocked out in his opening round via a fall, Schuler went on to wrestle Huntingdon’s Cody Dixon. After a win via a 16-1 technical fall, he butted heads with Buena Vista’s Dylan Huntoon. Despite his effort, however, Schuler’s time as a competitor came to end due to a 10-1 major decision defeat.
Duking it out in the 197 weight class was junior Guy Patron Jr. Patron Jr.’s first match of the day was against Westminster’s Kodie Bellury, whom he quickly dispatched through a fall at 1:19. His hot streak continued with a 16-1 technical fall over Luther’s Hunter Weaver. His next opponent, Coe’s Taylor Mehmen, put up more of a fight, but was unable to topple Patron Jr. Moving on from that 6-2 decision win, Patron Jr. went on to show his skills, pinning Millikin’s Keajion Jennings in 1:16, granting Patron Jr. the championship title.
In the final weight class was senior Quin Gilliam. In his first two matches, Gilliam showed no mercy to his opponents, defeating first Buena Vista’s Don Phillips II and then Luther’s Feldpausch. Both were taken out with a fall. Sadly, Gilliam’s day came to a close when he was bested by Augustana’s Adarios Jones through an 8-0 major decision defeat.
“I thought the team performed exceptionally the entire weekend,” said Coach Miller. “Getting six wrestlers in the finals, and three of them winning the regionals was very significant for the team. It wasn’t all perfect, but it was definitely a great overall performance.”
Next up on the wrestling team’s calendar is the NCAA Championships in Roanoke, Virginia, on Friday, Mar. 8, and Saturday, Mar. 9. Hiles, Everson, Lembeck, Kelly, Murray, Smith, Krakow, and Patron Jr. will all be competing in the tournament.