Small College Sports

Coe wrestler Taylor Mehmen combines brains with brawn

Junior NCAA qualifier excels on the mat and in the classroom

Coe's Taylor Mehmen, top, wrestles Cornell's Joseph Keller in the 184 pound match pound match during a dual meet at Eby Fieldhouse in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Coe's Taylor Mehmen, top, wrestles Cornell's Joseph Keller in the 184 pound match pound match during a dual meet at Eby Fieldhouse in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Taylor Mehmen is making his first visit to Virginia.

His first national wrestling tournament trip afforded him a few days in the new locale.

As enthused as the 197-pound junior said he is for this opportunity, this isn’t his first time representing Coe many miles from home. Similar to the hard work he put in on the mat, his academic efforts as a physics student produced memorable experiences in England and San Antonio, Texas.

“He is an excellent representative of Coe,” Kohawks Coach John Oostendorp said. “He excels in the classroom and on the mat. He is highly motivated in both.”

Mehmen will make his debut at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at The Berglund Center in Roanoke, Va., beginning Friday at 11 a.m. Seventh-seeded Mehmen (21-1) faces SUNY-Cortland’s Dylan Dubuque (11-1) in the first round.

“Basically, I’ve been training since October for this,” said Mehmen, a former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep. “I couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming days.”

Not only has Mehmen ascended to seventh in the national wrestling rankings for No. 10 Coe, but he has managed to post a 3.77 grade-point average, studying in the school’s nationally-recognized physics department.

He plans to stay involved in both after college, coaching while pursuing a career in electrical or software engineering.

“Honestly, I think wrestling has helped me balance it overall,” Mehmen said. “During wrestling season, it’s six months of the year where we preach everything has to be disciplined and it has to be done right. I’m waking up early for practice and then I have the whole day to do my homework. I’m not hanging out with friends as much. I’m practicing and focused on wrestling, which actually makes me more focused on homework.

“So, I think they kind of go hand-in-hand.”

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Mehmen’s studies allowed him to travel to England with classmates to attend an international glass conference at Oxford. Last May, he was one of the few underclassmen to go to San Antonio, where he presented research from the past couple summers.

“I did place second and I was pretty proud of that,” Mehmen said. “It was a pretty big moment.

“They give me a lot of opportunities to really excel and do the best you can. The program is really strong.”

The strong mind has come in handy in the practice room as well. He meshes intensity with a cerebral ability to his execution.

“He’s really a heck of a competitor,” Oostendorp said. “He’s mentally strong and he is someone who has made continued gains because he is able to understand concepts and carry them over into his wrestling.”

Mehmen demonstrated strong potential as a freshman, recording three wins over ranked wrestlers. Last season was derailed by an elbow injury that prevented him from being full strength for the postseason. Oostendorp said Mehmen has been durable this year.

“He’s a very driven young man,” Oostendorp said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s a hard worker and tough.

“He is really hard to wrestle because he never stops moving. I don’t think there is any limit to how high he can finish here.”

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Mehmen passed a tough test just to qualify, competing in a regional with six top-10 ranked wrestlers vying for three berths. Mehmen is battle-tested and that adds to his confidence. His focus is on a national title.

“The coaches preach giving it your all every match,” Mehmen said. “At this point, I’ve worked hard for six months with the whole team. As long as I’m going and putting it all out there I don’t think there is anything I can be mad about.”

All-American Jake Voss (174) and Josh Edel (184) also advanced to the national tournament. Voss (18-6) is the eighth seed, finishing eighth last season. Edel (18-5) is unseeded. Last year, Coe had three qualifiers and all three reached the podium.

“We feel good about all three of our guys,” Oostendorp said. “They are competitors and that’s what it takes to succeed here.”

Wartburg qualified seven wrestlers, including former Center Point-Urbana three-time state champion Brock Rathbun and former Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep Kyle Briggs.

Rathbun is the defending 133-pound NCAA champion and is seeded third this season.

Former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep Ben Sarasin qualified as a freshman for the University of Chicago. He is the sixth seed at 174 pounds and faces a potential all-Metro quarterfinal with Briggs.

Former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep and Loras 141-pounder Clint Lembeck is in the field. Lembeck was an All-American as a freshman with a chance to reach the podium for the second time in three seasons.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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