Saturday, March 7, 2009

The agony and the ecstasy

The Saturday morning session at the Division III Championships is not for the weak of heart. I guess that’s why it’s one of my favorite. Finalists, medallists and – sometimes – the team championship are all decided in 5 1/2 hours of wrestling.

Because of time compression, semi-final losers must come back and wrestle two more matches to determine their final placement in the tournament.

One of the hardest things to do in sports is to lose in the semi-finals of a national wrestling tournament and then wrestle back for third - especially if you are a #1 seed or a returning champion. Every wrestler in the semi-finals believes that he will be the national champion. Two of those wrestlers in every weight class will lose – and then have very little time to get past the disappointment enough to go out and win two more matches. It takes a special kind of courage.

This year Matt Kelly(Wartburg), Jason Adams (Augsburg), Austin Bautista (UW Whitewater), Jacob Naig (Wartburg), Joshua Zabel (UW La Crosse) and John Helgerson (Wartburg) all came back from semi-final losses to claim third.

A tale of two wrestlers

Last season Tyler Burkle was undefeated and became Coe College’s first ever NCAA wrestling champion. This year he lost in the quarter-finals to Josh Terrell from the University of Dubuque. Tyler wrestled back to finish third and when the Coe fans gave him a standing ovation he waved politely and walked off the mat. You could see his disappointment.

Coe team mate Bryon Grothus started the tournament by upsetting the number one seed at 174, Jerome Owens of Johnson and Wales. Bryon then lost in quarterfinals, but came back also to place third. He also contributed much-needed bonus points with falls in his last 2 matches. His celebration was glorious.

Everything that’s good about wrestling – you get to see in 5 ½ hours.

On to the finals.

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