CEDAR RAPIDS – Ethan Ball saw the pictures of Coe’s top wrestlers on the wall when he first arrived at the school.
Like many wrestlers, he couldn’t help but think of having his photo next to them for others joining the Kohawks program to see.
The seventh-ranked 174-pound senior has a chance to join a select group of Coe wrestlers when the Kohawks compete in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Multi-Divisional National Duals this weekend at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The competition will feature teams from NCAA Division II and III, NJCAA, NAIA and women’s wrestling programs, beginning Saturday with the finals set for Sunday.
Ball (15-3) enters the tournament with 99 career wins and could become just the 10th Coe wrestler to reach 100 by the end of the first-round dual against Springfield (Mass.).
“Everybody, when they get here, looks at the pictures and they want to be one of those guys that are remembered,” Ball said. “When it comes down to it, it’s the guys that put their social life aside and embody that championship lifestyle.
“I want to leave my mark on the program. I want to be one of those guys the younger guys look up to.”
Ball has had his own mentor in a sense. Clayton Rush, a two-time 125-pound NCAA champion and four-time All-American, was the last Kohawk to surpass 100 career wins. They are from the same high school in Aledo, Ill. He recalls being about seven years old, travelling to wrestling tournaments with Rush and Rush’s mother, Gail.
“Anywhere they went I’d jump in the car and go with them,” Ball said. “We’ve been together a long time.”
Rush is now a Coe assistant. He was influential in Ball following in his footsteps. Ball said Rush has been like a brother as a teammate and now coach. Both have represented Aledo well in Division III and the Iowa Conference.
“It’s kind of cool,” Ball said. “For two guys to come from small-town Aledo and move along o Cedar Rapids and both have success is pretty remarkable.”
Neither Ball, nor Coe Coach John Oostendorp, focused on hitting the win plateau. They were surprised when others informed them.
“I didn’t know I was close,” Ball said. “It’s just a testament to four years of being competitive and staying healthy and trying to get every match that I could.”
Ball has been an important part of the Coe program and has made a strong contribution. Oostendorp has been able to count on Ball.
“It means he’s a fixture in your program and someone to rely on,” Oostendorp said. “A kid like Ethan has done everything right and had success at that level.”
Oostendorp recognized Ball’s potential when recruiting him.
“He expected him to come in and be competitive,” Oostendorp said. “A big part of that is knowing how the kid loves the sport. He has put as much time in to wrestling, learning wrestling and enjoying it as anybody we’ve had through here.”
The first victory was one of the more memorable for Ball. He was a reserve 174-pound freshman when the team competed in the Desert Duals in Las Vegas. He filled in at 197 and beat the starter for St. John’s (Minn.) for his first taste of success.
“I didn’t know if I was big enough to wrestle 174 and move up to beat a 197-pounder,” Ball said. “That was fun.”
Ball is determined to add to his win total and achieve All-American status, striving for a national title to match another one of Rush’s achievements. He was an NCAA qualifier a year ago, but didn’t fare well. He said he was not happy falling short.
“It’s definitely motivation,” Ball said. “It’s something you don’t want to see happen again, because it left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Luther and two-time defending champion Wartburg are in the D-III bracket. Upper Iowa will compete in the D-II field. NAIA power Grand View is looking for its third straight national duals title.
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