Knights clinch fourth straight crown before finals

Coe secures fourth-place finish

Published: March 15 2014 | 2:48 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:39 am in

CEDAR RAPIDS - Wartburg became the first NCAA Division III wrestling program to win four straight national titles.

The Knights did it without needing any points from their four finalists.

Wartburg clinched their fourth straight team title Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center. The Knights had six All-Americans, including four going for individual crowns Saturday night. They also won their 11th title overall, tying rival Augsburg (Minn.) for the most in division history.

Wartburg Coach Eric Keller praised the senior class, including finalists Kenny Anderson (133), Cole Welter (165), Landon Williams at 174 and heavyweight Ryan Fank.

“These guys dreamt this their freshman year,” Keller said. “To see it come to fruition now, it’s amazing.”

The Knights went 4-1 in the semifinals and pulled away from the field, leading second-place Wisconsin-Whitewater by 22 1/2 points. Anderson posted a major decision, getting a chance to win his third NCAA crown. Williams, a three-time All-American and 2012 165-pound champ, returned to the finals with a decision. Welter and Fank, both seeded second, earned decisions.

They overcome a tough start to the day, suffering Gilberto Camacho's late loss in the 125-pound semifinals. Camacho rebounded to place fifth.

“Kenny set the stage,” Keller said. “The way he performed that ignited the spark for what had to happen for the rest of the guys.”

The current Knights have handled the stress of sending Hall of Fame Coach Jim Miller into retirement with a title last year, and the pressure of continuing the tradition under Keller, who had been Miller's co-head coach in recent years.

“There was a certain amount of pressure,” Keller said. “I think it says a lot about this group that they didn’t let it bother them. They rose to the occasion every time.”

Wisconsin-Whitewater and Messiah (Pa.) each have two finalists. Messiah is just seven points behind and would need two champions to move into second.

Coe had a strong start to the second day, going 4-0 in the opening round. Dimitri Boyer gave the Kohawks' at least one finalist in each of the last five seasons. He pinned Jorge Lopez of Williams College in the 157-pound semifinal. He helped Coe secure fourth place, as did All-Americans Ethan Ball (174), Ryan Sheldon (184) and 197-pounder Donnie Horner.

“I think it shows the kind of guys we have, battling through the back side,” Ball said. “We had to win all those matches. We put it together. I thought we had a great tournament.”

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