Wrestlers ready for NCAA tourney
Randy Steward has been to the NCAA Tournament many times. In 22 seasons at the helm for the Duhawks, Steward has coached 66 national qualifiers, 35 All-Americans and three NCAA champions. But when the four-time Iowa Conference Coach of the Year steps matside at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, he’ll do so with a brand new credit to his name: Hall-of-Famer.
Tonight Steward will be inducted in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Hall of Fame.
“It’s humbling,” Steward said in an interview. “To be nominated and voted in by your peers around the country is special.
“I’ve devoted my lifetime to this sport,” he added. “You don’t really think about it on a day-to-day basis, but when you get to the point in your career where I’m at and you look back, it really makes you appreciate things.”
The things Steward appreciates most from his long don’t come with trophies or medals, but they’re the things that make up a hall-of-fame career.
“I appreciate the people I’ve been involved with, the lifetime friendships I’ve made,” Steward said.
He also spoke about the values of the sport to which he’s committed his lifetime, and how instilling them in his athletes is the most important aspect of his job.
“Commitment, dedication, sacrifice; a lot of times those are cliché words, but they’re all directly related to wrestling. They’re lifelong skills you learn through this sport.”
Steward will be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues at his induction ceremony on Thursday, but his focus remains on the two young men making the trip with him to Cedar Rapids. Senior Malcolm Watson and sophomore Michael Triplett advanced through the NCAA Central Region qualifier on Feb. 28 in Dubuque and will compete at Nationals this weekend.
“It’s going to be a pretty cool night,” Steward said of his Thursday induction. “But we’ve got business to take care of on Friday.”
Triplett’s business in the 133-pound division will begin with an out-bracket match against Augsburg’s Sam Bennyhoff. Bennyhoff (27-5) claimed an 18-1 tech fall victory over Triplett back in December. Watson’s opening-round opponent will be third-seeded Joe Giaramita of Cortland State. Giaramita comes in with a record of 32-5, with 10 of those victories coming via pin this season.
For Steward and his wrestlers, the game plan hasn’t changed.
“It’s the same as it was going into the regional tournament,” Steward said. “It’s ‘one match at a time, and don’t look past it.’ That’s it. We’re going to go down there and focus on that first round, and go from there.”
Coach Steward’s NWCA Hall of Fame induction ceremony may be viewed via live webcast on Cornell College’s athletic site (March 10, 6 p.m.), and live coverage of the NCAA Tournament can be found throughout the weekend at TrackWrestling.com.