Throughout the past three seasons, the wrestling team has been knocking at the door of respectability.
Two weekends ago, that door was reduced to a pile of sawdust.
At the NCAA DIII Wrestling Championship in Virginia, the Duhawks left little doubt as to their destination: Loras has developed a premier wrestling program under third-year Head Coach T.J. Miller.
At the end of the national tournament, five Loras wrestlers had earned All-American honors and the team as a whole finished No. 2 in the country. Only perennial power Augsburg stood in the way of a national title.
Junior Clint Lembeck started the magic for the Duhawks by capturing a third-place finish at 141 pounds. The junior from Cedar Rapids is now a two-time All-American.
Then, of course, there’s junior Guy Patron Jr., who placed sixth at 197 pounds, becoming just the third three-time All-American in Loras history.
Juniors Brandon Murray and Eddie Smith each finished fourth at 157 and 165, respectively. Sophomore Jacob Krakow placed eighth at 174.
“As a whole, I feel like the team performed outstandingly,” said Head Coach TJ Miller. “Every championship that I have been a part of either in college or in high school has been special, but this one beats them all. To be a part of something that has never happened in program history is just an amazing feeling, and it’s thanks to the support of the administration, the athletic department, Denise Udelhofen, and my entire coaching staff.”
Murray’s pinned his first opponent in the 157-pound weight class. Murray also won his second match when his opponent sustained an injury and had to forfeit the match. After losing his quarterfinal match, Murray battleed back in the consolation rounds, eventually working his way up to fourth place.
The Duhawk representative in the 165-pound weight class was Smith, who won his first-round match before losing a tough 3-2 decision in the second round. Like Murray before him, Smith also clawed and scratched his way to the consolation title match, and he also earned fourth place in the nation.
Competing in the 174-pound weight class was Krakow, who lost his opening match and needed to battle for a spot on the podium in the consolation bracket. He worked his way up to eighth place.
Also competing in the national tournament were 133-pounder junior Brice Eversen and 149-pounder senior Kevin Kelly. Both came out on the wrong end of close, grueling matches that prevented them from joining their teammates in earning All-American distinction.