Wartburg’s Ryan Fank isn’t a prototypical heavyweight.
The Knights’ junior can wrestle unorthodox at times, resembling a lightweight with his ability to roll on the mat.
It paid dividends at the national tournament for the second straight year. Fank used a leg-spladle to pin Elizabethtown’s Jeremy Rieth in 4:19 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships Friday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. It was Fank’s second win of the session, edging John Scepaniak of St. Johns (Minn.), 3-2, in a pigtail match.
The move forces a wrestler to lace an opponent’s leg, reaching over to grab their other leg and rolling to stack them on the shoulders. Last year, Fank pinned Wisconsin-LaCrosse’s William Mayer in the consolation semifinals at nationals, earning All-America status with a fourth-place finish.
“I like to roll around,” Fank said. “On bottom, I like to get out right away. It’s a lot different from when I was in high school.
“On top, I like to throw in a leg. You don’t see that as a heavyweight. I think that is why it is so hard.”
Wartburg co-head coach Eric Keller said the move is worth trying if the opportunity presents itself, but he doesn’t encourage it because it can put someone in danger. Fank has shown an ability to use it effectively.
“He hit it and hit it well,” Keller said. “He had it tight, which is what you worry about as a heavyweight, because it’s a hard move to hit as a heavyweight.”
Keller confirmed it is rare for a larger wrestler to use the move. Bigger wrestlers are more basic and can be explosive, using moves that suit those traits.
“You don’t see a lot of the out-of-the-ordinary stuff,” Keller said. “It is nice having a guy that can see something there and not be afraid to hit it.”
Wartburg co-head coach Jim Miller joked that he taught Fank the move last week and that he got lucky with it.
“We’ll take whatever we can get on that thing,” Miller said. “He’s dangerous sometimes on top.”
Rieth used a tri-pod stand-up that made the move possible. The way Fank sets it up, he can get it or the guy on bottom will flatten out and he can work other holds. He took advantage of the chance.
“I was trying to hit,” Fank said. “That ride hasn’t worked out well for me this year. I’m just starting to get it back.”
Fank was a bit riled after giving up an early takedown. He trailed 2-1 when he scored the pin, and beat Rieth at his own game.
“The kid got a lucky foot sweep on me,” Fank said. “I wasn’t paying attention. The kid is funky.”
The win capped the Knights perfect first session. They went 12-0 with Fank and 197-pounder Puna Soriano posting consecutive pins. Fank moved within one win of a second straight All-American performance with that funky fall.
“It was nice to go 2-0 in the first two rounds,” Fank said. “The pressure is off because one more and I’m an All-American again.”
Comments are closed.