March 7, 2009

Courtesy of Wartburg

CEDAR RAPIDS – Second-ranked Wartburg sends three wrestlers to the championship round of the 2009 NCAA Division III Championships tonight. The news was part of a great afternoon for the Knights, as they clinched the program’s second straight and seventh all-time national team title.

The Knights’ 109.5-point total leads runner-up Augsburg by nine-and-a-half points. The Auggies can only add a maximum of six points to their total, no matter what happens to the Orange and Black in the championship round.

The senior trio of 141-pounder Zach McKray of Iowa City, senior 157-pounder Aaron Wernimont of Pocahontas, and senior 165-pounder Justin Hanson of Dakota City each take aim at the top step of the awards stand inside the U.S. Cellular Center. McKray, winning his 18th consecutive match, used a third-period takedown to hold off a strong challenge from unseeded Corey Paulish of Williams College of Massachusetts for a 6-4 victory. Wernimont upped his win streak to 79, taking control in the second period of an 8-3 decision over Ohio Northern’s Luke Miller. Hanson had another heart-stopper, scoring a takedown on the University of Dubuque’s John Terrell with one second left in a 3-1 decision.

Wartburg’s wrestleback activity was just as important to push them to the title. Sophomore 125-pounder Mark Kist of Eagle Grove roared through his three matches with a fall, a major decision and a 5-3 win over defending national champion Seth Flodeen of Augsburg for third place. Junior 133-pounder Matt Kelly of Dubuque, coming back from a tough, double-overtime loss to Iowa Conference rival Nick Nothern of Cornell in the semifinals, picked up back-to-back wins for third, including an 8-5 win over Coe’s Branden Ball. Senior 149-pounder Jacob Naig of Emmetsburg, closing a four-time All-American career, did the same after a semifinal round loss, taking two wins for third. Sophomore John Helgerson of West Union made it four third-place finishes in four chances with a 3-2 win over top-seeded Kyle Bilquist of Delaware Valley.