By Connor Halbmaier
The No. 1 ranked Loras wrestling team plowed right through their opening season, pinning those who got in their way as they move into the rest of the season.
The Duhawks’ victory over Buena Vista on Thursday, Nov. 7, marked their tenth win in a long streak. Many returning players opened up their season in this conference match. Junior Jake Hiles, weighing in at 125 pounds, took the first win for the team 16-0. Following Hiles’s lead, sophomore Zach Licht claimed the win for the 133 weight slot with a fall against his opponent. With a first period fall in 2:03, senior Clint Lembeck triumphed over his opponent at 141 pounds. Senior Brandon Murray, in an impressive feat, pinned his 157-pound opponent in under two minutes. At 165 pounds, senior Eddie Smith received a forfeit, bringing the overall score to 23-6. At 174 pounds, junior Jacob Krakow secured a fall in 1:56 over his opponent. First-year Shane Liegel, a newcomer to the team, won his debut at 184 pounds through a pin. Senior Guy Patron Jr. had a tough battle, getting taken down by his 197-pound opponent in the first period, but managed to come back to win by major decision 13-2. In the heavyweight class, first-year Wyatt Wriedt claimed the final victory of the night with a pin in 1:58, giving Loras its first triumph of the season with a score of 51-6.
“It’s really too early to tell,” responded Head Coach T.J. Miller when asked how the start of the season compared to previous ones. “I think this team has the potential to be pretty good, but we need to keep working to get better. Our schedule is really tough this fall and I’m looking forward to seeing where we are.”
Following their strong opener, the Loras wrestling team traveled to Platteville, WI, on Saturday, Nov. 9, for the Super 8 Invitational. Of the Duhawks that competed in the tournament, three walked away as gold medalists. Sophomore Mason McMillen, competing in the 133 pound bracket, was the first victor. His journey to the top started with a bye in the first round. In the second round, his opponent from Platteville gave him a rough go of it, but he came out on top with a decision 7-4. In the semifinals, McMillen wrestled against Rink from North Central College. With a technical fall of 17-2, McMillen went on to the finals to face Mullen, who was also from North Central. It was another close match, fitting for the finale, but with a decision 8-5, McMillen claimed the gold medal.
“Mason McMillen had a really great tournament,” said Coach Miller. “In that finals match, he wrestled really smart.”
First-year Baylor Crigger, one of Loras’ representatives weighing in at 165 pounds, was the second first-place finisher. With a bye in the first round, Crigger’s first match of the tournament was against a wrestler from Chicago. The Duhawk claimed victory through a decision 4-3, and went on to claim another decision win over Dubuque’s Anderson in the semifinals. Chicago’s Britain was Crigger’s final opponent of the day. It was a heart pounding match, but the Duhawk narrowly claimed victory with a decision 4-3.
“I didn’t bring a lot of freshman this year,” stated Coach Miller, “but Crigger proved that he could handle it. He looked really good in his matches.”
The final gold medalist, Patron Jr., was the sole Duhawk representative in the 197 weight bracket. Patron Jr. received a bye in the first round, allowing him to move on to compete against a North Central wrestler. The Duhawk won with a decision 8-2, and went on face off against Dubuque’s Rackouski. A fall in 2:31 granted Patron Jr. access to the finals, where his last opponent was North Central’s Bergen. In a close bout, Patron Jr. took the gold medal with a decision 3-1.
“Patron didn’t wrestle all that well,” admitted Coach Miller, “but he still came away with the win and his fourth Super 8 title.”
During the tournament, several other Duhawks claimed spots in the top-three of their brackets. Senior Matt Randone, senior Kirk Mommsen, first-year Shane Liegel, and Wriedt all placed second at their respective weights. Sophomore Zeke Smith and junior Slade Sifuentes took third place in their brackets.
“Overall, I thought a lot of the guys wrestled hard,” said Coach Miller. “Obviously the champions stick out to me, but even those guys really need to improve for the rest of the season.”
All in all, it was a strong start for the Loras wrestling team with one conference win and three named champions at the Super 8. Next up on their schedule is the Luther Open in Decorah, IA, which starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16.