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CORALVILLE - All the running, weight training and pushing his body to the brink was for this instance.
Kyle Briggs did it to make himself the best. All those workouts, sacrifices and pools of sweat were also for the chance to share the triumph with those who mean the most to him.
'Moments like this make the training worth it,” Briggs said after winning the 174-pound title at the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Wrestling Championships on Saturday night at Xtream Arena. 'I ask myself why I train the way I do for this. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my family, friends and teammates. The moments like this are magic to share it with them.”
In front of his parents, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, his girlfriend, Sarah, and a legion of followers on Facebook Live, Briggs capped a dominant tournament with an 8-0 victory over Augsburg's second-seeded Solomon Nielsen, tallying three takedowns and more than six minutes of riding time.
'It feels great,” Briggs said, 'but it feels weird coming off the mat not getting a pin.”
Briggs rolled through the bracket. He posted four straight pins to reach the final. Those matches lasted just 8:01, including Saturday's semifinal fall over Messiah's No. 4 Brian Shermeyer. He also outscored his foes a total of 32-2.
His consistent approach powered him to the top of the podium and allowed him to pull far away from the field.
'I like to be very strategic,” Briggs said. 'I go into a match with a game plan, sticking with that. Don't get too high or too low.”
He was one of six Knights finalists and two champions, joining 157-pound teammate David Hollingsworth.
Coe had an impressive performance, crowning three champions.
Kohawks 149-pounder Josh Gerke persevered personal adversity leading up to the championships. His resolve resulted in a national title. Gerke scored the winning takedown with nine seconds remaining to defeat Wartburg's Brady Fritz, 4-2, in the final.
'It means the world to me,” Gerke said. 'This is big, not just to me, but my whole family. We needed this.”
Gerke needed wrestling. In the previous weeks, he dealt with the death of his aunt and grandfather. Both were big supporters of his wrestling. The sport actually served as a respite from his losses.
'It was hard, at first,” Gerke said. 'Wrestling has always been an escape for me. It helped. I felt them with me all weekend.”
The championship boiled down to one wild late scramble. Gerke and Fritz were both within an eyelash of scoring as they spun, rolled and flipped during a series of counters. Gerke, who appeared to be standing on his head at one moment, came out with control and points.
'I'll be honest. I blacked out a bit during it,” said Gerke, who had to delay his celebration after the call was upheld following a Wartburg challenge. 'I had a good seatbelt on him. I felt like he tilted and I knew I'd get it.”
Gerke's victory came after Alex Friddle and Brock Henderson struck gold.
Henderson overcame so much for this moment. He endured a season-ending injury two years ago. Henderson saw his shot at this dissolve with last year's cancellation. He got his shot and took it.
Henderson wrestled for 9 minutes, 43 seconds to reap the reward of his dedication over the last two seasons. He scored a takedown with 17 seconds left in sudden victory-2 to upend North Central's Robbie Precin, 4-2, for the 133 title.
'It's awesome,” said Henderson, whose brother, Brady, was the runner-up at 157. 'I'm super grateful the NWCA put this on.”
The pair exchanged escapes in regulation. Henderson's defense fought off Precin's bid for a takedown in the third and then an even better attempt in the first sudden victory period.
Henderson recognized his opportunity for his decisive score, converting a low-single and dumping Precin to his hip.
'It's what we've trained for and how the coaches built us for,” Henderson said. 'To be tough and doing what it takes when the time comes.”
His championship was preceded by teammate Alex Friddle's title at 125. The Kohawk sophomore topped Wartburg's Brady Kyner, 6-3, in the final.
'It's everything,” Friddle said. 'We put in so many hours of work and so much stress on your body. … You just put all your work into this seven minutes.”
Third-seeded Friddle scored the opening takedown, but No. 4 Kyner had tied the match at two apiece to start the third. His quick flurry to start the final stanza made the difference. Friddle escaped in five seconds and quickly shot it, taking down Kyner to pad his lead. Kyner escaped but Friddle secured a riding time point.
'For me, I'm always trying to score points,” Friddle said. 'I always try to put pressure on the guy.”
No team scores were kept or trophies awarded, but the performances would have had Wartburg as the top team with 174 points. Coe finished with nine All-Americans and would have been in second with 154 1/2 points, 21 ahead of Loras.
'Those guys push me every day,” Henderson said. 'I'm happy for Coach O (John Oostendorp) and the program.”
Former Western Dubuque state champ Bradan Birt won the 165-pound title and was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler. He won Millikin's first national wrestling title.
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