Wrestling team places 6th in nation

The wrestling team finished its 2016-2017 season with a weekend of surprises at the NCAA Division III National Championships, making it one of the best seasons in school history.

The team brought home sixth place at the NCAA Wrestling Nationals in La Crosse, WI. Three Duhawks grappled their way to All-American honors, and their coach was awarded with a prestigious award.

Guy Patron Jr., a 197-pound first-year, stunned many observers by beating three wrestlers ranked ahead of him. He began the tournament by defeating No. 4-ranked Devon Carrillo from Wesleyan University on Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, he returned to the mat to face No. 8-ranked Kacee Hutchinson from Greensboro College. Patron pinned Hutchinson in the second period.

But Patron was not done making waves in the 197-pound weight class. He then faced No. 2 Kyle Fank from Wartburg in their third matchup of the season. Patron was fighting from behind in the scoring throughout much of the match, but the momentum began to swing Patron’s way midway through the match, and Patron avenged his two earlier defeats to Fank. In his last match of the season, Patron beat Triston Engle from Brockport College, 9-2, to take home All-American honors with a third-place finish.

To kick off the weekend, first-year Clint Lembeck, 141 pounds, pinned the first wrestler he faced, Gregory Warner from York College. Lembeck later pinned Joseph Ferinde from JWU in the fifth-place match, and he also joined Patron as All-American in his first college season.

Junior Jimmy Davis, 167 pounds, needed to beat Steve Bonsall from Chicago University to seal his chance at becoming an All-American. He led from the start during his 8-3 victory. In his own fifth-place match, Davis wrestled Mark Choiski from UW-Oshkosh. Davis dominated the match and scored a major decision, 15-5.

Another exciting feat for the Duhawks that day was with Head Coach TJ Miller being named NWCA Rookie Coach of the Year.
Now with the 2016 season is over, it is time to start making preparations for the 2017 season.

“Trevor Kittleson and myself are going to start recruiting to build on the foundation that was laid this season,” Coach Miller said. “I learned that a few kids can make a really big impact on your team.  Gets me excited to get recruiting this off-season. I also learned that these student-athletes can get a lot better very quickly.”

This is the first time since 2002 that the Duhawks had three All-Americans named in one year.  This was also one of the best seasons in Loras history, and Coach Miller hopes to build off of that for the next season.

“I’m hoping we can bring home a trophy next season,” he said. “I think if we can mimic the success of this season and add a couple more pieces to puzzle, we will do that. I know that will be a team goal for these guys moving forward, and I know all my assistants are determined to make that a reality.”

But even though the coach and the team are already looking forward to next year, Coach Miller still has some favorite moments from the year that will stick with him.

“Finishing sixth place in the nation is obviously a huge highlight for me as a coach,” Miller said. “Seeing those guys get their dream is always fun. I always look back on the Central dual meet.  That’s where the momentum started, I believe. They were 10th in the country at the time, and I think that was an important date to remember that started it all. The Cornell meet, the Coe meet and UD dual and the Central Regional Qualifier were all highlights for me this year.”

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Sean Whitley is a sports writer for The Lorian.

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