Year of triumphs comes to sudden end
By Connor Halbmaier
All good things must come to an end, and the wrestling season is no exception. However, that doesn’t mean that the end can’t be a beginning. This year’s wrestling season was full of triumphs and historical firsts, which will pave the way for greater victories for the Duhawk wrestlers to come.
For the Duhawks’ first meet of the year, they took on Buena Vista. This opening was as strong as they get, with Loras giving little ground as they took the match 51-6, marking their tenth victory in a row against Buena Vista.
A day after their opening match, the team traveled to Platteville, WI., to compete in the Super 8 Invitational. At the end of the day, three Duhawks walked away as gold medalists: 133 pound junior Mason McMillen, 165 pound first year Baylor Crigger, and 197 pound senior Guy Patron Jr.. Seniors Matt Randone and Kirk Mommsen, and first years Shane Liegel and Wyatt Wriedt all claimed second place, while juniors Zeke Smith and Slade Sifuentes took third place.
Three more champion titles were claimed by the Duhawks during the Luther Open and the Grand View Open. Against Luther, Liegel took the Silver 184 bracket by storm as he fought his way up to claim the gold medal. The Grand View Open saw senior Brandon Murray, 157 pounds, and sophomore Travis Willers, 165 pounds, take the champion titles.
Dominating a team is alway a big moment, the most memorable in Loras wrestling history was the match against Wartburg. Since 2014, the Duhawks had been on a losing streak against this formidable opponent. That didn’t stop them from fighting the Knights with all they had. It was a close duel, but Loras notched a win 19-17, bringing an end to Wartburg’s reign of terror.
The final competition of the season for the Duhawks this year was the NCAA Regionals. However, this year was different since eight wrestlers qualified for the championships. Five of the eight were returning wrestlers who had competed in previous championships: seniors Clint Lembeck and Eddie Smith, as well as Murray, Patron, and junior Jacob Krakow. Three other qualifiers were going to be newcomers to the most important tournament of the year: sophomore Daniel Ruiz, Liegel, and Wreidt. As a team, the Duhawks took first place out of eighteen, marking the first time the program has ever won a regional team title.
“Winning the conference championship for the first time in program history was probably one of the greatest nights of my life,” said Head Coach TJ Miller, reviewing the season’s highlights. “Twenty-eight years of Wartburg’s dominance was snapped in a matter of an hour and a half dual meet. It was pretty surreal to be a part of that streak from the beginning to the end. Winning the regional tournament for the first time was also amazing. The guys on the team have been incredible. This group is a Hall of Fame caliber class.”
Coach Miller, along with his assistant coach Trevor Kittleson, were named the Lower Midwest Regional Head Coach and Assistant Coach of the year, a well deserved award. Now, all that’s left for the team is to prepare themselves for the next season. They have a lot of work ahead of them, but this team has proven time and time again that they are more than capable of rising to the challenge.