Duhawk wrestling is back on the mats for a new season. For longtime Loras head coach Randy Steward, the goals and expectations are the same in 2015-16.
“Our expectations right now are to get as many kids as we can through the regional tournament we’re hosting in February,” Steward said. “I think that’s the same expectation every year. If we can get four or five kids through [to Nationals], I think we’ll be right in the mix.”
While February and the NCAA Regional Tournament are still in the distance, the Loras matmen have already begun paving the road to get there.
The Duhawks, who finished last season with a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Division III Championships, kicked off their 2015-16 season on Nov. 7 with a trip to Platteville for tournament action at the UW-P Super 8 Invitational. Loras crowned three individual champions at the Super 8 and brought home a pair of runner-up finishers, as well.
“Competition-wise, [Platteville] wasn’t crazy, so it was good place to go and get our feet wet,” Steward said. “We had three guys win it and five in the finals, so it was a pretty good tournament for us.”
141-pound junior Evan Weaver brought home the first championship of the day for the Duhawks. After an opening-round bye, Weaver scored a tech fall in his first match and added major decisions in his next two to reach the finals. Weaver earned an 8-4 decision over Central’s Jahleel Vester in the championship bout to claim the 141-pound crown.
“I think Evan Weaver is on the verge,” Steward said. “He’s poised to have a really good year.”
Sophomore Jimmy Davis also went 4-0 on the day, steamrolling his way through the competition in the 157-pound bracket en route to the championship. Davis picked up a pinfall, two tech falls and a major decision on his way to the podium, and outscored his opponents by a combined score of 47-3.
Senior Malcolm Watson rounded out the Duhawks’ trio of champions in Platteville, securing the top spot at 197 pounds. Watson was awarded a first-round bye, and earned decisions in the quarter- and semifinal rounds before scoring an 11-3 major decision in the finals.
“Malcolm Watson’s a four-year starter, and this was his first tournament title,” Steward said, “So that was a big deal. He’s a kid we think can be an All-American at the end of the year.”
Sophomore 184-pounder Awais Arain and first-year heavyweight Quin Gilliam each reached the finals of their respective brackets, but both were forced to settle for second-place finishes. Arain lost a tight 2-0 decision against UW-P’s Grant Wedepohl in the 184-pound final, and Gilliam was pinned by Jack Seaman of Augustana in the final round at 285.
The Duhawks will look to continue their success this weekend as they travel to Mequon, Wis. To compete in the Concordia Open, where the competition will be stiffer than the Duhawks faced at UW-P.
“It’s a huge, primarily Division III tournament,” Steward said. “Wartburg’s there, and some other schools we don’t usually see. We look at this as a really big test to see where some of our more solid guys are.”