Even with the NCAA scrapping all national tournaments for winter sports, the Augustana College wrestlers will get one last shot on the mats this coming weekend at a national event.
Picking up the opportunity to compete at a modified national championship, the Vikings will be among 34 teams participating at the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Coaches Association National championships. The event is being held at the Xtreme Arena in Coralville, Iowa, on Friday and Saturday.
Viking coach Tony Willaert is taking a full roster of 10 wrestlers to the event and is hoping for some good outcomes.
“I think we'll win matches at every weight,” said the fourth-year Viking boss. “Like I said, maybe we can turn a few heads. … I think we've got some chances to place; we're good enough to have a couple of guys in that blood round if not earn All-American honors.”
Among the Viking entrants are three standouts who prepped at Moline High School — junior Ellex Williams at 125, senior Danny Terronez at 149 and senior Josh Bush at 184.
Williams (8-3) is coming in off a runner-up finish at the CCIW Championships, Terronez (4-3) placed third at the CCIW meet and Bush (4-3) placed fourth.
Heavyweight Daniel Skold (Soph./Wheaton St. Francis HS), who also placed third at the CCIW Championships, leads the Vikings in wins with an 11-3 record.
The top 12 wrestlers in each weight class were seeded by a committee.
After that, the 32-man brackets were filled by a blind draw. While there was some luck involved there, Willaert feels as if the former Maroons fared decently in the draws and is cautiously optimistic in their chances.
“Ellex wrestles a kid he has majored (beat by major decision) and if he can beat that kid, he faces a guy he has a win over in the past,” Willaert said. “Danny will have an opening match he can win and then faces the No. 1 seed. I think he can battle with that kid. I like Josh's draw as well. He faces a kid from Alma and if he wins that will have the No. 3 seed. I've watched lots of film on that kid and Josh can beat him.”
Willaert also thinks Skold is in a good position to battle.
“Our heavyweight is pretty tough and hopefully he will put himself in the conversation,” the coach said.
Another tough foe all the Vikings must wrestle this week is COVID-19 testing. Willaert said that his wrestlers must pass testing for three straight days beginning Wednesday before being able to practice in Coralville on Thursday and compete on Friday.
“It's going to be tough on the noses,” he said with a laugh.
A long day of competition is planned for Friday, with all 10 brackets being pared to the top eight wrestlers who will secure NWCA All-America status.
There will be at least one other Quad-City area prep competing this weekend. Shaylan Loomis Lucas, a junior from Rock Island now at Millikin University, is ranked eighth nationally at 174 with a 6-5 season record.
A live stream of the event is being offered. It can be accessed through the NWCA website (nwcaonline.com).