Wartburg sends Miller off a winner
Retiring coach hoists third consecutive title in last event
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Winning championships is nothing new to Wartburg College.
The Knights sent head coach Jim Miller out in style this weekend, claiming a third consecutive Division III team title. It also marked the 10th DIII title for Miller.
Miller, whose incredible 22-year run at Wartburg came to an end this weekend, was given a ride to the stage on the shoulders of some of the men he helped shape.
|MAESTRO OF THE MAT|
As Wartburg head coach Jim Miller's legendary career comes to an end, take a special look at a man who made an extraordinary impact.• Interactive Retrospective
“Just happy to be a part of it,” said Miller, whose squad totaled 103 points during the past two days to win the 2013 Division III Wrestling Championship. “I’ve been fortunate to be around so many great people who have helped build this thing. I’m happy for the team, the coaches, the fans, the university … so many things go into building something like this.
“I never imagined 22 years ago that we could build something like this. But it is built.”
Wartburg finished with seven All-Americans, led by champion Kenny Anderson, who ended a perfect campaign with a workmanlike 9-1 major decision against Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Grant Sutter at 133 pounds. The champion at 125 last year, Anderson, a native of Massachusetts, finishes his junior season 25-0.
The Knights’ other All-Americans were: Gilberto Camacho (125), Thomas Mirocha (141), Kodie Silvestri (149), Cole Welter (157), Landon Williams (165), and Ryan Fank (285). Williams, a champion last March, finished fourth, while Silvestri lost in Saturday night’s finals.
Three others joined Anderson in claiming a second title.
Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Nazar Kulchytskyy finished a monster 44-1 junior season with a victory against College of New Jersey’s John Darling in the 165-pound final. Ohio Northern’s Kyle Kwiat was also up to the task, beating Ithaca’s Jules Doliscar for the title at 174 pounds. Kwiat finishes 41-3. Augsburg heavyweight Chad Johnson (37-1), a junior, beat Centenary’s Joseph Zitone in the final bout of the tournament.
Elmhurst passed Wisconsin-Whitewater for second in the final session, crowing a pair of champions. Josef Rau (33-5) capped off a dominating weekend with a 6-3 win against College of New Jersey’s Brian Broderick in the 184-pound final, and Mike Benefiel (22-2), a former starter at Oklahoma State, finished his collegiate mat career with a comfortable 7-2 win against Cornell College’s Alex Coolidge in the 197-pound championship bout.
Entering the weekend, head coach Steve Marianetti’s program had won just one individual title in its history. Within a half hour on Saturday the program moved that number to three.
“It was a really tough regional going into this and we thought we could get more than five guys,” said the 1995 DI NCAA champion for Illinois. “But to bring five and have five All-Americans, it is a good day. It’s more than nice.”
Rau credited Benefiel; Benefiel credited Rau. Both credited their coach.
“[Benefiel] has helped me a ton,” said Rau. “To have a guy in the room like that, it has made me better. He is a Division I guy, and to win 197 against those bigger guys; that shows how good he is.”
“I don’t think I would have done this if [Rau] hadn’t been in the room,” Benefiel said. “Rau is the strongest wrestler I have ever worked out with. It was like wrestling 197-pounders every day, so that got me ready to do this.”
“[Rau] is the first guy in my program who I do not want to wrestle; he is too tough,” Marianetti said.
For two programs, Saturday night marked a first.
Greg Sanders, a native of Texas, gave Wisconsin-Concordia its first national champion, while Springfield’s unseeded Devin Biscaha gave his program its first DIII title. Jeff Blatnick, who died late last year, won a title for Springfield when it competed at the Division II level.
Sanders exploded twice on Saturday night in beating Silvestri. The first, a cat-quick, low-level attack resulted in a takedown for a 4-3 lead after three minutes. In the closing seconds of the match, explosion No. 2 came when the self-titled “Greg Sanders” produced an unlikely reversal and an eventual 6-5 victory.
The move, a back-flip from a sit-out position, rivals U.S. Olympian Ellis Coleman’s “flying squirrel” that received plenty of national media attention.
“It isn’t the first time I have used [the move],” said Sanders, whose had a few hits on a Youtube video performing the unorthodox technique in Florida in 2012. “This one was different, more from a crab-ride position.”
Sanders was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
Biscaha and Wilkes’ Kristopher Krawchuk twisted and turned, rolled and twisted, which suited Biscaha just fine.
“You have to take it step-by-step,” said Biscaha. “I didn’t have that good of a year, didn’t wrestle as well as I could. Not being seeded is good sometimes because people doubt you, might not get as prepared. But after I beat three seeded guys I told myself I was going to go out and win this.
“I scramble, that is my game, so I am comfortable in matches like that.”
Wilkes has not had an individual champion since 1975.
Points were hard to come by in the 141-pound final where Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Adam Sheley beat Johns Hopkins’ Paul Marcello, 2-1, on a riding time point. Sheley (23-1) finished sixth and fifth the last two seasons, respectively.
Ithaca’s Ricky Gomez (26-2) finished his career in style, claiming the 125-pound title. A senior and a two-time runner-up at the NJCAA level, Gomez scored a first-period takedown on a low-level attack, then built more than two minutes of riding time in a 4-2 victory against Iowa native Jimmy Gotto.
Elite 89 Award
Given to the student-athlete in the tournament with the highest grade point average, the Elite 89 Award went to Ohio Northern heavyweight Cody Lovejoy, who maintained a 4.0 GPA in Pharmacy.
All-Americans by school
Wartburg led the way with seven All-Americans, followed by Wisconsin-Whitewater (6), Elmhurst (5), and Centenary, N.J. (4). Seven programs finished with three All-Americans this weekend; five had a pair of All-Americans; twenty-seven had at least one top eight finisher