CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe’s Taylor Mehmen said the last four years have passed quickly.
During that time, he has developed into an All-America wrestler and an accomplished physics student. Mehmen said he has enjoyed it so much that he’d be willing to do it four more years.
“It’s flown by for me,” Mehmen said. “I’ve loved every single day of it, but it’s coming to an end. I’m ready to put it all out there.”
Mehmen begins his final postseason march at the NCAA Division III Lower Midwest Regional wrestling tournament this weekend at Flag Fives Center in Dubuque. Action for the two-day event begins Saturday at 1 p.m.
Fifth-ranked Coe is one of six programs in the 18-team field that includes top-ranked Loras, No. 2 Wartburg, No. 14 North Central (Ill.), 20th-ranked Luther and No. 25 Dubuque. The top three wrestlers at each weight advance to the national tournament March 13-14 here at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“I’m really excited,” Mehmen said. “I’ve got a lot to look forward to, a really good team behind me and good coaches. I can’t ask for more than that.”
Mehmen is in a stacked weight class. Three of the 20 ranked wrestlers in the regional are at 197. He is ranked second nationally. Loras’ Guy Patron is ranked No. 1 and Wartburg’s Kobe Woods is third. North Central’s Ben Bergen is another top contender.
“Just going into it like any other tournament,” Mehmen said. “You can’t really prepare for it other than doing it throughout the year, having tough matches every single match.
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“It’s going to be the same preparation as always and going into it, wrestling as hard as I can.”
Coe Coach John Oostendorp noted last year’s regional had a deep bracket with up to seven potential qualifiers.
“I think he’s prepared,” Oostendorp said. “Everything he does, he does with very high standards, whether it’s academically or athletically. That’s why he has had such success in both areas.”
Oostendorp described Mehmen as one of the mentally toughest wrestlers he has coached. He recalled how Mehmen demonstrated that trait from the first day in the Kohawks’ practice room and how his daily work ethic elevated him to new heights.
“He’s physically and mentally tough as a competitor, but also he just does not allow his emotions to get the better of him,” Oostendorp said. “He keeps things in perspective and he deals with the pressure of competition to where he is confident in himself and what he is capable of doing.
“As far as physically in practices, how hard he can push his body and mind, he is at an elite level.”
Mehmen earned All-America honors last year, placing fifth at 197, and owns 74 career victories at Coe. He was also a state finalist and two-time state medalist for Cedar Rapids Prairie. Toughness had to pick up the slack when his technique wasn’t enough.
“I wasn’t as always good at wrestling as I am now,” Mehmen said. “It came through working harder and harder. I finally started to master some of my craft.
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“Now, it has gotten to the point it that’s my lifestyle. Every day I try to work as hard as I can. It kind of improves upon itself and it is just normal for me.”
Oostendorp said Mehmen made consistent gains in the room and his workout partners — including the Kohawks coach and former Iowa All-America heavyweight — can attest to his mentality that fuels a relentless drive in practice. Mehmen’s leadership will leave some big shoes to fill next season.
“I said it before practice a month ago,” Oostendorp said. “Who are going to be the guys that are going to set the tone in the room the way Taylor does when he’s gone? I challenged the guys about that.”
One goal has been on Mehmen’s mind for an entire year. He has been waiting for this opportunity and a final chance to cap his career with a national title in Cedar Rapids.
“That is all I’ve looked to all season and ever since the end of last year,” Mehmen said. “It’s all I’ve trained for. That is where my sights are.
“This weekend is one of the steppingstones for that and just go out there and try my best.”
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