Duhawks wrestle their way up

Nate Kaiser (TheLorian)

Hungry and dangerous: that’s the only way to describe the Loras Wrestling team.

After a fast start to the season, the NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association) has ranked the Duhawks ninth in the team poll, and four wrestlers within the top 10 of their weight classes. Led by head coach TJ Miller, the Duhawks put up a great effort against the Iowa State Cyclones in their first dual of the year.

“Hilton is just a cool place to compete, and it didn’t really hit me until I looked up and saw all the Olympic banners,” Miller said. “Here we are, Loras College, and here we are about to compete against a top 10 Division I opponent. We were just so grateful for the opportunity.”

The chance to compete against Division 1 wrestlers so early in the season also raises the bar for the wrestlers themselves.

“We knew they had some world-class athletes on their squad, but for the chance for our guys to roll around with them, have a chance to be on ESPN + and get that (level) of competition early on is amazing,” Miller said.

The season may only be one dual in, but the changing landscape of college athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic leaves some unknowns for the future of college wrestling. The Duhawks were scheduled to compete against Central College and Coe College this past weekend, but the duals were re-scheduled due to positive tests.

Changes to the layout of the season, including more tests in order to practice and compete and social distancing guidelines, created a new environment for the team.

“It’s been challenging, the guys have to fill out their surveys every day before noon, or they don’t practice. Trying to keep the guys grouped to, but not altogether, those are just some things we face on a daily basis,” Miller said.

Although being in top physical shape is a key to being successful on the mat, Miller stresses the importance of staying mentally strong during these challenging times and focusing on not dwelling too much on the things they can’t control.

“It says it on the door as soon as you enter the wrestling room, ‘one day at a time,’ and that’s how they have been approaching every single day. When you simplify it like that, life just gets easier,” Miller said.

While some may have changed their coaching style due to the pandemic, Miller is confident in his team and his staff that the season will be a success for the duhawks.

“Right now, we are doing what we can control and not worrying about the uncontrollable. The transition has been seamless for us; we are a young coaching staff, and trying to stay grateful for every opportunity we get moving forward,” Miller said.

The Duhawks will return to the mat in Storm Lake to compete against Buena Vista and Luther college on Jan. 30.  

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