Wrestlers close season at NCAA DIII Midwest Regionals


Annika Vande Krol (‘19) | Photo Bureau

Tyler Difiore (‘22) squares up against an opponent during University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point meet on Dec. 1.

Hope Gilbertson, Staff Writer

Luther’s Wrestling Team earned seventh place of 17 teams with 84 points in the NCAA Division III Regional Lower Midwest competition at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque, Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 23 and Sunday, Feb. 24. The Norse brought wrestlers to fill all 10 weight classes to compete in the national qualifying event. Only one, Michael Suarez (‘19), will advance to the NCAA National tournament in Roanoke, Virginia Mar. 8-9.

According to Head Coach Dave Mitchell, this was an extremely important event that the Norse wrestlers prepared for all season.

“We really gear up for [the regional and national meets] at the end of the year,” Mitchell said. “Everything we do with our schedule and training cycle is all geared towards being prepared for these two events.”

The Norse started off strong with eight of the 10 wrestlers continuing to the quarterfinals in their weight classes on Saturday. Connor Murphy (‘19), Tyler Difiore (‘22), Gilbert Valadez (‘19), Teagen Varga-Miller (‘22), Hunter Weaver (‘20), and Keenan Feldpausch (‘20) all won their first matches with a pin.

Along with physical preparation, the team worked hard to stay calm and have a positive mental state.

“Ever since regionals last year, we have been practicing really hard,” Murphy said. “We are all confident in our preparation, and that takes away from the nerves.”

Luther finished the first day with six wrestlers continuing to Sunday’s championship matches and was seventh in the team standings.

According to Feldpausch, the roaring Norse fans flooded the stadium at the regional meet, heightening the energy at the competition.

“The [fans] get in there right when the doors open, [along with] all the guys that are on the team [who don’t compete],” Feldpausch said. “It is just a rowdy sea of blue. They are the loudest in the stadium when we are out there wrestling.”

Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau
Michael Suarez (‘19) completes a leg attack leading to a takedown at the Gator Boots Duals on Dec. 15.

Norse wrestlers, alumni, and fans returned Sunday for another full day of wrestling. The remaining six wrestlers faced each match with the possibility of it being their last. Ira Kuehn (‘21) came in fourth place in the 184 weight class, after his three-match winning streak of the day ended with a third-place match defeat. Murphy in the 125 weight class and Difiore in the 133 weight class both placed sixth, Miller in the 157 class placed seventh, and Valadez in the 149 class placed eighth. Only the top three wrestlers in each weight category move on to Nationals.

In the 165 weight class, Suarez avenged himself on Feb. 24 against an opponent from Cornell College he had lost 6-3 to on the previous day. Suarez won his final four matches, winning 3-2 in the third-place match to earn third, and secured a spot at Nationals.

Suarez will compete against some of the nation’s toughest wrestlers in Roanoke, with the support of the Norse behind him.

In a video on the wrestling team’s Twitter account, Mitchell expressed pride about Suarez’s victory and each wrestler’s performance.

“[I’m] really proud of [Suarez’s] fight,” Mitchell said. “He’s been wrestling really well [and is] right up there with some of those top guys. I’m really proud of the whole team, [they had] great fights across the board for two days, [which was] unbelievable.”

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