Wrestlers gear up for nationals

 

By Kevin Cunningham

 

With the Warhawks sending eight competitors to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championship on March 15 and 16, head coach Tim Fader said each of his wrestlers can be potential national champions.

“If we wrestle the way we can wrestle, there is no reason why we couldn’t bring that national championship back to Whitewater,” Fader said. “That’s what we’ve been working for. Winning a title is certainly one of my goals.”

The eight wrestlers competing for the ’Hawks this weekend are the most the team will send to nationals in school history.

The eight qualifiers are: Grant Sutter in the 133-pound weight class, Jake Fredricksen in the 141-pound weight class, Elroy Perkin in the 149-pound weight class, Cade Sarbacker in the 157-pound weight class, Cedric Gibson in the 165-pound weight class, Roland Dunlap in the 184-pound weight class, Shane Siefert in the 197-pound weight class and Anthony Edgren in the 285-pound weight class.

Two of the eight, Fredricksen and Sarbacker, are seniors for the ’Hawks.

“I’m really excited for those two,” Fader said. “They’re perfect. A lot of our younger guys have looked up to them to see how to train, what to say and how to act. When you’re a senior, you realize why you’re doing this and that you don’t have a lot of time left to do it.”

The team enters the National Championships as the No. 2-ranked team in the National Wrestling Coaches Association poll and is tied for the second largest team contingent with eight, trailing No. 1-ranked Wartburg College with 10.

The ’Hawks come into the National Championships after winning the team title at the Midwest Regional. Before the Midwest Regional, the team took home its second straight WIAC title, after UW-La Crosse had won the previous 14 seasons.

After going undefeated in WIAC play and defeating UW-La Crosse two times this season, Fredricksen said the ’Hawks’ wrestling program has taken a step up since the first time he arrived on campus.

“When I first got here, winning conference was not really in the cards,” Fredricksen said. “Each year we’ve gotten closer and closer, and now I feel like we’re going to win it every year. We’ve got such a good coaching staff that helps us out with different aspects of wrestling.”

Before last season, the ’Hawks hadn’t won a WIAC title since the 1990-91 season. That season was the third straight conference championship the team had won, starting with the 1988-89 season.

Currently ranked No. 2 in the country, the ’Hawks will likely end up with a top-12 finish and could push for the team’s best finish in school history. The team’s best finish in the NCAA D-III meet was seventh place in 1987.

The ’Hawks have finished in the top 12 at nationals two of the past four years. The last time the ’Hawks had finished in the top 12 before then was the 1987-88 season.

The two-time defending national champion, Wartburg College, is the No. 1-ranked team and qualified the most wrestlers to participate with 10. The top eight finishers at nationals earn All-America honors from the National Wrestling Coaching Association, and Fredricksen said that he likes his team’s chances.

“I thought we would be just as good or better than we were last year,” Fredricksen said. “After this regional tournament, I expect all eight of us to be All-Americans and to win a national championship. We have the talent, we have enough guys competing in the tournament, and I feel like we’re that good.”

The ’Hawks have competed at nationals each of the last six years, and Fader feels as confident as ever in his team’s abilities.

“This is the best part of the year,” Fader said. “The conference championship was a byproduct of the way the team worked. We’re really excited about how this team has come together.”

 

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