Wrestlers staying positive, focused

photo by Christina Ney/Loras College Athletics

Despite a disheartening 1-12 record in dual meets this season, you won’t find anyone in Randy Steward’s wrestling room hanging his head.

“I decided before Christmas that you can either be negative–because it’s really easy to do–or you can say ‘hey, we’ve got to do more,’” Steward said. “We’re not happy about losing, but you still try to take positive things from it and move forward.”

The Duhawks’ most recent, and perhaps most heartbreaking dual meet loss came last Thursday in the AWC against cross-town rival University of Dubuque. Sophomore Dayton Olson and first-year Sam Schuler scored pinfalls for Loras, and Senior Malcolm Watson and first-year Quinn Gilliam added a pair of decisions, but the Spartans held on for the victory, 24-18.

“I’m disappointed for the kids,” Steward said. “It’s a cross-town rival, and the freshmen have figured out that it’s a pretty big deal, and they wanted to do well. I’m disappointed for them more than anything else.”

Olson brought the home crowd to its feet in the closing seconds of the first period of his 125-pound match, pinning UD’s Marcus Ingalls to give Loras a 6-0 lead to open the dual. Olson was dominated throughout most of the period, but utilized one of his favorite holds to secure the fall just two seconds before the horn.

“I love cow-catchers,” Olson said. “Once I know I have that in there and I get him over, he’s done. It felt great to get the fall.”

“We keep talking about [Olson] trying to be a sparkplug,” Steward said. “Doing what he did tonight, getting the pin, that’s being a sparkplug. The place went nuts, the kids were fired up. It was a great thing.”

Unfortunately, Olson’s spark failed to ignite a fire for the Duhawks, and UD wrestlers claimed victories in the next four bouts. Sophomore Michael Triplett dropped a 6-1 decision to Dubuque’s Stephen Rosenburg at 133 pounds, and junior Evan Weaver lost to Jeremy Melendez, 9-5. A pair of first-period pinfalls over Colin Griffin and Jimmy Davis gave the Spartans an 18-6 lead halfway through the meet.

Schuler brought the Duhawks back to life, earning a third-period fall over Alek Aragon in their 165-pound match. Like Olson, Schuler was behind in his match before grabbing the pin.

“Sam Schuler started out the year tough, and it’s been a struggle,” Steward said. “For him to come out and get a win like that in a close match, it’s a big deal. Hopefully it’ll give him some confidence. It should.”

Schuler’s fall made the score 18-12 for the Spartans and kept Loras’ hopes for victory very much alive, but an 8-1 loss by first-year Chris Malone at 174 pounds steepened the Duhawks’ climb.  A neck-and-neck triple-overtime loss by 184-pound sophomore Awais Arain all but locked up the dual for the Spartans.

Needing pins in the final two bouts to tie the team score and send it to criteria, Watson and Gilliam both earned convincing decisions, but the Duhawks’ rally came up six points short.

“I was looking for bonus points, trying to help my team out,” Watson said of his 10-4 victory over UD’s Cosmo Halwix at 197 pounds. “I was fighting until the end, but he was running from me a little bit. I’m happy for my win, but I wish our team would have won.”

Far from dejected, the Duhawks are keeping their eyes focused squarely on what’s ahead.

“The season isn’t over,” Watson said. “The second you go into regionals everybody has a zero-zero record. We’ve got to beat some guys who beat us earlier in the year. We’ve got to bring it back to them and work harder than we ever have.

“Excuse my language, but we’ve got to work our asses off.”

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