Sunday, March 8, 2009

The morning after

Another NCAA Division III championship has come and gone. Even before reflecting on this one, I’m already looking forward to next year.

As most of you know by now Wartburg won another team title with Augsburg finishing second. It’s been a roller coaster season for coach Jim Miller and his Go-Hawks. In preseason they seemed to be the odds-on favorites to repeat. Then they lost two duals to Augsburg and were tied in a dual with Delaware Valley. Then this weekend they took care of business – and the competition.

A couple of fans commented to me that it’s getting a little frustrating watching Wartburg or Augsburg win the championship every year. Take heart – there are at least a couple of coaching staffs working hard to change the status quo. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse coach Dave Malacek is developing a strong program. The Eagles crowned two champions last night – both of whom return – and finished third.

Coach John Oostendorp’s Kohawks won the fourth place trophy for the second consecutive year. He’s assembled a top notch coaching staff and is doing a solid job of selling his school to potential recruits. Their total of six All-Americans is a school record.

The fans

When you go to the “Big Show” – The NCAA Division I Championships you hear a lot of noise. But nothing seems to match the spontaneity of Division III fans at DIIIs. Luther, Elmhurst, Coe, Cornell, UW-La Crosse, Augsburg and Wartburg all bring vocal support. The Luther fans were my favorites this year. Not only did they perform their regular cheer “playlist” – this year they had giant photos of their wrestlers. It’s invigorating to see all of that passion.

The finals

Conventional wrestling wisdom holds that finals matches tend to be anticlimactic and (let’s be honest) boring. With a couple of exceptions, the most exciting wrestling happened during yesterday’s morning session.

The venue

I freely admit to being biased. I want Cedar Rapids to be the semi-permanent home for the Division III Championships. The US Cellular Center is the perfect venue for this event. The seating is comfortable, views are universally good and there’s room to grow. There is also a feeling of intimacy among the fans and the athletes.

A fan from The College of New Jersey has already reserved her hotel room for next year. I know I’ll be there. How about you.

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