Storm wrestlers ranked No. 5

by Scott Schleisman

The NCAA Division III National Wrestling Championships give out trophies to the top four teams every year. Last year, the Storm wrestling team finished fifth, just one spot away from placing and receiving one of the coveted trophies.

But that was last year’s team.

“This year we are solid at every weight class,” wrestling coach Ron Peterson said. “We have no weak links in the chain.”

However, before the team can place nationally, it has to survive the extremely competitive Iowa Conference.

“The Iowa Conference is known throughout the nation for its wrestling,” junior Craig Vasquez said. “The better the opponent you face, the better you become.”

Six teams from the Iowa Conference are preseason ranked in the top-27 of the country, including No. 2 Wartburg and No. 3 Luther.

If a team wants competitive opponents, than its wish has come true in the Iowa Conference this year. This will be the toughest schedule Simpson has ever wrestled against.

“We have to wrestle the best to be the best, and we have to be the best to achieve our goals,” Peterson said.

Simpson is already among the best with a preseason ranking of No. 5 in the nation. Sometimes this preseason ranking can effect the team, but the team unanimously agrees that the ranking doesn’t mean anything.

“Anyone can beat anyone in the conference,” junior Daniel Zepeda said. “Our seniors leaders won’t let us get overconfident and overlook an opponent.”

Returning this year are some of the familiar leaders. Senior Clint Manny is the returning 149-pound national champion and senior Quent Christensen placed third nationally at 133 pounds. Junior Dustin Brewer was named the IIAC Outstanding Wrestler last year and also placed third nationally at 125 pounds.

“Any individual who has had success in our program has achieved the old-fashioned way – through hard work,” Peterson said.

At 3:30 every afternoon, the wrestlers can be found working hard in Cowles Fieldhouse.

“Practices have been physically demanding,” Zepeda said. “The coaches are really putting it on us and everyone is responding so that we can reach our goals.”

“Practicing harder than other teams can give us an edge,” Vasquez said. “But normally the time goes pretty fast because everyone supports each other. I think that all athletic teams need unity to have success, and we’ve had that since day one.”

Peterson agrees with Vasquez, “My job is easier this year because the team is so close. I have found that a good core of captains can shape the team’s moral and bring the team together.”

This is one of the best teams Peterson can remember, so he sees an eventful season unfolding.

“One of the strongest teams that Simpson has ever had along with a handful of All-Americans and the toughest schedule we have ever played equals an exciting season,” Peterson said. “I hope that everyone can come out and support.”

The season starts tonight for the Storm wrestling squad at Dubuque.