Wrestlers end season at Nationals

Morgan Cardenas, Staff Writer

The wrestling season has officially come to an end after they competed at the NCWA National Tournament in Allen, Texas on March 14 to 16. The team managed to finish 16th place out of 34 Divison I teams.

“Most of the schools in Division I have a much larger enrollment than Wayne State so a top 20 finish is good for us and for who we are,” head coach Greg Vander Weil said.

Wayne State had five men compete at Nationals in five different weight classes. Juniors Hunter Weiss, Gerald Kenkel, and Ethan Fitzler competed at 149 lbs., 174 lbs., and 157 lbs. weight classes respectively. Senior Matthew Reeves wrestled in the 141 lbs. weight class, while freshman Julio Sanchez was in the 197 lbs. weight class.

“I thought we finished the season pretty well,” said head coach Devon Rupp said. “We saw that we had the potential to wrestle at the best of our ability and place pretty high in the National Tournament. We felt really good about the guys who competed there.”

Weiss went 4-2 and managed to place in the top 12 in the nation, finishing one match short of an All-American status. Kenkel made it to the round of 16 and ended with a 2-2 performance. Fitzler went 1-1 after winning in the first round.

“As a team, we ended up coming together the first two rounds after losing everyone except for Gerald and myself,” Weiss said. “We talked as a team to support each other out on the mat and we all fed off the energy from each other.”

Fitzler explained how Nationals may not have gone the way they all wanted, but they had all learned from the experience and would help improve their performances for next season. He also talked about how as teammates, they can compete at a national level and would push each other more in the next season to show that.

“I’m looking forward to putting people on the podium next year because we have the talent and we have the people to push each other in the room,” Weiss said.

Vander Weil expressed how strong of a foundation the team already has but will be recruiting in the off season to help build onto it. Rupp hopes that with more wrestlers recruited, they can have better practice partners to help one another improve more.

“We appreciate all the support from the college, the community and all our Alumni,” Vander Weil said. “Without it, the opportunity for these young men wouldn’t be possible.”

Reeves, Weiss and Fitzler were all named Academic All-Americans for holding a 3.25 GPA and qualifying for Nationals. The team will be having a celebration for their season with family, friends and Alumni on April 14 in the Frey Conference Suite.