Small College Sports

NCAA III wrestling regional offers stiff challenge

No. 1 Wartburg among teams in Dubuque this weekend

Coe College head coach John Oostendorp pumps his fist during the a dual against Cornell earlier this month. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Coe College head coach John Oostendorp pumps his fist during the a dual against Cornell earlier this month. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — John Oostendorp didn’t want to put a number on it. But he knows one thing — it’s not going to be easy.

“You can’t have a bad day. You can’t have a bad match at the wrong time,” the Coe wrestling coach said of the NCAA III Lower Midwest Regional, which begins a two-day run Saturday at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque.

The national-qualifier features 17 teams, including top-ranked and five-time defending champion Wartburg, fifth-ranked host Loras, the No. 7 Kohawks and No. 25 Central. There are 10 returning All-Americans in the field and ranked wrestlers at every weight — including four at 149 and 157 pounds and three at 174 and 184.

The top three finishers advance to the NCAA III Championships in Cleveland, March 9-10.

“You’re going to leave some good guys home,” Oostendorp said.

He thinks a tournament like this can prepare all wrestlers for the rigors of the national championships.

“You’ve got to be on,” he said, “but you’re definitely going to be battle-tested when you get to the national tournament.”

Oostendorp, of course, would like all 10 of his wrestlers to be in that top three. And he likes the makeup of this team and the way his Kohawks have wrestled so far. Coe finished the dual season at 13-6, including a 6-2 mark in the rugged Iowa Conference.

“I feel like we’ve had a very positive year,” he said. “We’re building for the future — and a good end to this season.”

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Coe is led by Cole Erickson at 157 and former West Delaware prep Jake Voss at 174. Voss is ranked fifth in the country by the National Wrestling Coaches Association and D3wrestle.com and has a team-best 25-4 record. Erickson is ranked sixth in both polls.

Coe also has contenders in Taylor Mehman at 184, Brock Henderson at 125, Fletcher Green at 133, Brady Ruden at 141 and Andrew Holladay at 197.

“They are very disciplined in every part of their lives,” Oostendorp said of his team, adding the “culture and commitment” are what’s setting this group apart.

“We have good leadership ... and a number of young guys who are really on board.”

Cornell also is in the field and has a lineup that includes top-ranked Josh Martin at 141, two-time NCAA qualifier and 2016 All-American Phillip Opelt at 149 and Tyler Ortmann at heavyweight.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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