116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Rankings are just a number.
Coe Coach John Oostendorp doesn’t subscribe to them much, but that doesn’t mean the polls aren’t an indication of progress. Coaches have taken notice of the Kohawks’ gains this season.
Coe is ranked No. 1 in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association NCAA Division III dual poll. The Kohawks earned the top seed at the NWCA Multi-Division National Dual Meet Championships on Thursday and Friday at Kentucky International Convention Center.
Coe (4-0) faces Mount St. Joseph (3-6) in the first round.
“Obviously, it’s just rankings but it feels good to know your guys have put in the time and the training to be recognized as that team, at least for right now,” Oostendorp said. “I think we have a lot of leadership in the room right now. It has a lot to do with them developing at the level they have.”
The Kohawks have throttled American Rivers Conference foes, beating No. 12 Central (30-7) and Buena Vista (54-0). They also posted wins over second-seeded Wisconsin-La Crosse (30-13) and No. 3-seed North Central (Ill.) (27-19) on the same day.
“We just have to control what we can control and that’s what we’re doing,” Coe senior 184-pounder Ryan Schott said. “It’s carrying over. It’s cool to be on that top spot, but it’s also putting a bigger target on our back. We all realize that. This will be a good week to go out and prove it against everybody.”
Interestingly, Coe is 10th in the tournament rankings. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Kohawks push each other in the practice room and adopt the strong habits of their teammates to get better.
“The guys are making a commitment to the program and realizing their responsibility to their weight class and putting in the time and effort to have a higher-level guy at every weight,” Oostendorp said. “We talk a lot about standards in our program and setting a high standard for how you go about your business.
“They push each other in the room but I also think they just start seeing people around them doing things at a high level. We have a lot of examples of when you put in this amount of time and effort then you start seeing results.”
Many teams have faced injury and illness, preventing them from fielding their best lineup. Coe isn’t immune to those issues. The Kohawks have created depth in their program, giving them formidable choice among their first, second and even third string in some cases. The asset could come in handy for the two-day event.
“Just having a lot of top guys have been bringing other people up,” said Schott, who is ranked ninth at 184. “If one person can’t compete, for whatever reason, we have another to step in place. It’s cool to have that.
“You have top battles with whoever you grab. There’s no easy day. Everybody in there wants to be at the top, so I think that’s elevating our wrestling as a whole. It’s given us that depth.”
The Kohawks have the individual talent as well. Nine are in the national rankings of their respective weight classes. Second-ranked heavyweight Kaleb Reeves leads the way. A.J. Patterson is sixth at 157, while NWCA national champion Alex Friddle is seventh at 125. Fellow NWCA national titlist Brock Henderson is eighth at 141 and Tristin Westphal is 10th at 174 with three more in the top 15.
Chemistry might be just as vital as the talent, work ethic and competition in the practice room.
“Everybody is real close and hang out all the time,” Schott said. “We’re all like one big family right now. Everybody is joking in the room. We’re all happy to be there because we’re with our friends. It’s carrying over to the mat. Everybody loves competing for each other. Every time you go out there you’re battling for your brothers.
“I’ve never been a part of a team like this. It’s very exciting.”
NWCA champion mainstays Wartburg and Augsburg were unable to make the D-III field due to COVID-19 issues in their programs. Loras, which was the previous No. 2 seed, withdrew before the brackets were released Wednesday. The field still includes six of the top-10 teams and seven in the top 13.
“We’ll see who is all going to be there,” Oostendorp said. “There have been some teams that have dropped. There are still plenty of good teams across the nation.”
Upper Iowa is the fifth seed in the NCAA Division II competition. The Peacocks are 2-1 overall and face Tiffin (Ohio) University in the first round.
Grand View is the top seed of the NAIA bracket. The Vikings (3-0) are looking for their 10th straight NWCA Duals title. They beat Life University, 40-0, in the 2020 finals. The 2021 event was canceled. Life, last year’s NAIA national traditional tournament team champion, is seeded second.
The women’s field is broken up into NCAA and NAIA competition. No Iowa programs are in the NCAA field, but it is separated into two five-team pools.
Grand View and Iowa Wesleyan are in the 13-team NAIA women’s bracket. The Vikings are the fifth seed and received a first-round bye. Iowa Wesleyan faces No. 4 Texas Wesleyan with the winner taking on Grand View in the quarterfinal.