The 17-1 Duhawks traveled to Waverly, IA on Friday, Feb. 9, to take on the No. 1 team in the nation in Wartburg. Easily the toughest matchup of the season for the Duhawks, the men knew that they would have to go all-in and pull off some outstanding upsets in order to best the inner-conference powerhouse. At the end of the day, however, the Duhawks simply could not match the surging Knights, who with the win sealed their 26th consecutive Iowa Conference Championship.
The match resulted in a 35-3 Duhawk defeat, with junior Kevin Kelly scoring the 10-5 win at the 141 spot for the Duhawks. Matt Randone got off to a good start against Brennen Doebel, but conceded a reversal later in the match which resulted in a loss. Eddie Smith had a very strong performance against the No. 1 ranked Mike Ross as well. Despite no takedowns, Smith forced Ross into three separate stalling warnings, leaving him just shy of the win, 5-3.
Head Coach Miller noted that part of the problem was “mental lapses” during the competition.
“The mental lapses were in some cases the deciding factor, especially when it came to the close ones,” Miller said. “I just wanted our guys to fight for seven minutes, that was our goal. Some guys were able to do that. We didn’t get them all … we’ll get back to the drawing board and go from there.”
Despite the final duel of the season ruining the Duhawks’ perfect record, Loras set a program record for single-season winning percentage at .944. That program record had stood for 50 years. Guy Patron Jr., Quin Gilliam and Eddie Smith each saw their winning streaks come to a close but showed an immense amount of promise and capability as the team heads into the regional this weekend. The Duhawks will be relying on each and every one of their men to leave their best on the mats.
“(The team will be) working on bottoms a whole lot…if you’re not fighting on bottom in all positions you’re going to be in big trouble,” Miller said about heading into the NCAA Lower Midwest Regionals.
Still, he is hopeful for the remainder of the season.
“There’s a lot of positive things that can go on in Regionals and Nationals.”
Lucky for Duhawk fans, the Lower Midwest Regional will be hosted at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque. The Regional will feature 17 teams from Arkansas, Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska, including inner-conference rivals No. 1 Wartburg and No. 7 Coe. Preliminary and first round action begins Saturday at 1 p.m., so make sure to go out and support the Duhawks as they compete for regional dominance and fight for their spot at Nationals.