The Duhawks’ season got off to an explosive start last weekend as Loras notched first-place finishes in four weight classes at the Knox College-Chuck Porter Invitational.
But don’t look for head coach Randy Steward to be handing out laurels any time soon.
“In my mind it was critical for us to perform well in our first competition,” Steward said. “It enables our kids to see some reward for the hard work and time they’ve put in. That being said, I’ve stressed to the team that it was a good start – we now need to build on that start.”
Based on their debut performance, this year’s team has a solid foundation on which to build.
First-year 125-pounder Vincent Elizalde got the fireworks started for the Duhawks, earning a tech fall and a major in his first two matches of the tournament. Elizalde dispatched two more opponents on his way to the finals of his weight bracket, where he won a 7-4 decision over University of Dubuque’s Joey Cisternos to claim the championship.
“Vincent Elizalde had a solid first performance, that’s why we recruited him,” said Steward, adding, “As with the team, it was a good start for him personally. I look forward to watching his progress.”
Junior Nick Steger and first-year Troy Valdez were each awarded first-round byes in the 141-lb. bracket. Both wrestlers earned two pin-fall victories en route to an impressive all-Duhawk final. Steger and Valdez opted not to wrestle one another to decide first and second places, and the teammates were named co-champions.
It was déjà vu at 149, as sophomore Evan Weaver and first-year Jimmy Davis advanced through their respective sides of the bracket to earn another Duhawk co-championship.
“We’re very pleased with the 1-2 finishes at 141 and 149,” Coach Steward said. “It shows that we have some quality depth at those particular weight classes. While I am happy with that, I won’t be satisfied until we have that quality depth at every weight class.”
Far and away the most dominant performance of the tournament was turned in by senior Steven DeWitt. The top-seeded 157-pounder earned technical falls in all four of his matches, including a 20-2 smothering of Truman State’s Roark Whittington in the finals.
Senior Joe Butler advanced to the finals of the 174lb. bracket, earning a fast pin-fall and two decisions before losing 10-6 in the championship round to Augustana’s top-seeded Jordan Richardson for a second-place finish.
James Buss, Loras’ defending National Champion at heavyweight, did not compete. The top-ranked junior was held out of action with an illness.
The Duhawk matmen look to continue their early-season success this weekend, as they travel to Decorah to compete in the Luther Open.