DUBUQUE — Jacob Krakow will look to take advantage of his second chance.
One that he didn’t expect to materialize so soon after he left Wartburg at the end of the first semester, contemplating his future.
“I decided to go home,” said Krakow, a former Iowa Valley prep. “I wasn’t even really thinking about wrestling that much. I was thinking about going home and working. Just kind of going from there.”
Plans changed when he was contacted Loras assistant Trevor Kittleson and now Krakow will be part of the Duhawks’ postseason lineup this weekend for the NCAA Division III Lower Midwest region wrestling tournament at Five Flags Center. Action begins Saturday at 1 p.m. with the finals set for Sunday.
“I was going to figure something out from there after a little while,” Krakow said. “This opportunity came and sounded like a good plan. I’m glad it did.”
Krakow struggled through the first semester and opted for a change of scenery. For a short time, Krakow’s only wrestling was at the Iowa Valley wrestling room. He spent time helping his dad hang drywall and working construction for his uncle.
“I was bouncing back and forth between those two,” Krakow said. “More construction. I hate drywalling. That turned me around real quick. That’s all I was planning on doing for a while, kind of figuring stuff out.”
Kittleson had recruited Krakow out of high school and had worked with him on the freestyle circuit. Krakow said they rekindled their relationship and he was recharged for wrestling. He visited the program and said he liked what he witnessed from the wrestlers and the staff.
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“I felt like it was a good fit,” Krakow said. “I think I was done with it for a bit. I had that feeling with my head down a little bit. After stepping away for a little bit, I kind of realized, ‘Man, what are you doing?’ You realize how much you love it once it’s gone.”
Krakow has stepped in as the 174-pound starter, going 6-1 with his lone loss coming to his former teammate, third-ranked Kyle Briggs. In his Duhawk debut, Krakow won the Loras Open on Jan. 26.
“I had a good day,” Krakow said. “Everything was right. I was back in shape. It felt good.”
The top three wrestlers at each weight advance to the NCAA tournament. Krakow will compete in a bracket with Briggs and Coe’s sixth-ranked All-American Jake Voss. He is trying to keep his emotions in check, but admitted he is excited.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Krakow said. “A little over a month ago, I was working and at home. I’ve come in and am glad I get the chance. It’s exciting to compete with Loras and get a shot at going to nationals.”
The regional is stacked with rated teams and individuals. The field boasts 23 ranked wrestlers and three top-10 teams.
Top-ranked Wartburg, No. 8 Loras and No. 10 Coe lead a group that includes 11th-ranked North Central (Ill.), No. 12 Central and No. 16 Millikin.
“Definitely, this regional is deep enough in high-level guys that, basically, all of our guys will need to be on the top of their games this weekend,” Coe Coach John Oostendorp said. “It’s a meat grinder.”
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The Kohawks have three ranked wrestlers, including All-Americans Cole Erickson (157) and Voss at 174. Erickson and seventh-ranked 197-pounder Taylor Mehmen are in brackets with the most ranked wrestlers.
Six wrestlers at 197 will vie for three NCAA berths. Second-ranked Guy Patron, of Loras, Millikin’s No. 5 Keajion Jennings, Simpson’s No. 6 D.C. Scott, Wartburg’s eighth-ranked Kobe Woods and North Central’s No. 10 Tyler Vittal join Mehmen in the bracket.
Erickson will battle Wartburg’s top-ranked Cross Cannone, No. 5 Brandon Murray, of Loras and Millikin’s No. 7 Bradan Birt. Erickson is ranked ninth and placed third at last year’s national tournament. Cannone won the 149-pound title a year ago, while Birt was eighth.
“You’re really trying to get guys focused in the right frame of mind to go out to wrestle where they are effective for seven minutes,” Oostendorp said. “I feel guys have had good preparation, going into it. It is a matter of carrying it over into competition.”
Top-ranked Wartburg enters the postseason with eight ranked wrestlers, including third-ranked duo Brock Rathbun (133) and Kyle Briggs at 174. Rathbun, a former Center Point-Urbana three-time state champ, became the Knights’ first freshman NCAA titlist last season. Briggs was a three-time state medalist for Cedar Rapids Jefferson and has climbed the national rankings his sophomore season, now set to make his postseason debut.
Former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Clint Lembeck is ranked fifth at 141. He was an All-American in 2017, placing fifth at 141 as a freshman, but missed the postseason last year.
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