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CEDAR RAPIDS — A year makes quite a difference.
At this time last year, Will Esmoil was watching his Coe teammates compete at the National Wrestling Coaches Association national tournament. He wasn’t even in the lineup and wasn’t committed to various aspects of college life.
Esmoil’s maturation has paid dividends on and off the mat.
“Just discipline and focusing on what I need to do,” Esmoil said. “Get my priorities straight and surround myself with better people.”
Esmoil produced one of the biggest victories of the first session of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships on Friday at Alliant Energy PowerHouse. Esmoil scored all his points in the first period, dropping second-seeded and previously unbeaten Dominick Reyes, of Johns Hopkins, at 165 pounds.
“First matches are always the toughest,” Esmoil said. “I’m glad I got that out of the way. Obviously, a big win over a No. 2 seed. It’s awesome.”
Esmoil used a four-point move in the opening period to put Reyes in a hole. He countered a shot and caught Reyes on his back in neutral danger zone, holding him long enough to earn a takedown and two nearfall. Esmoil was comfortable in the positon and capitalized.
“He ended up rolling through and I just caught him with my legs,” Esmoil said. “I held him and I heard my coaches yelling ‘danger.’ We just rolled out of bounds.”
Coe Coach John Oostendorp said he had high expectations for Esmoil, despite not being ranked or seeded. Esmoil provided merit to Oostendorp’s confidence in him with his 19th victory of the season.
“He’s just a tough, gritty competitor and he’s a great athlete,” Oostendorp said. “That is a good combination.”
Oostendorp has seen the growth from last year. The product is an exciting style that can give the Kohawks a jolt.
“He’s really starting to buy into the program,” Oostendorp said. “It’s exciting. He’s one of those electric guys, watching him compete out there. It’s good for your team to have guys like that, energizing people.”
Sixteen of 80 seeded wrestlers were beaten in the opening session Friday. The only spots that were unscathed were the Nos. 3 and 6 wrestlers at each weight.
North Central’s Robby Bates pulled off the most notable upset, topping Wabash’s top-seeded heavyweight Max Bishop, 3-2, in tiebreaker-1 with six more seconds of riding time.
Five fourth-seeded wrestlers lost, which was the most with four No. 8 seeds losing before the quarterfinals. Two No. 5 and No. 7 seeds suffered early defeats.
Heavyweight and 149 led the way with the most seeded wrestlers dropped into the consolation bracket. The fourth and eighth seeds at heavyweight also fell, while Nos. 4, 5 and 7 lost in the opening session.
The 184-pound bracket was the only to have all top eight seeds advance to the quarterfinals.
Roanoke College arrives
Roanoke (Va.) College announced the start of its wrestling program in January of 2020. The Maroons had to wait a couple years to get their chance on the national stage.
Mahlic Sallah (184) became the school’s first national qualifier. He also became its first quarterfinalist.
Sallah opened with the tournament with two decisions, recording Roanoke’s first wins at nationals and moving within a win of All-America status.