Storm wrestlers ready for nationals

by Will Steingreaber

After a season filled with aches, pains, and pins, five Stormwresters are just now hitting their peak. For coach Ron Peterson,it’s not a moment too soon.

Senior Bart George, juniors Clint Manny and Quent Christensen,and sophomores Brett Christensen and Dustin Brewer all qualifiedfor the NCAA Division III National Championships in Dubuque, Iowathis weekend. Manny, George, and Quent Christensen all had secondplace showings at the IIAC Wrestling Championships at 149, 197, and133 lbs., respectively. Brewer’s first place performance in the 125lb. championship against third-ranked Justin McClintock earned himMost Outstanding Wrestler accolades and moved him up the nationalrankings from seventh to fifth.

Perhaps most surprised person of this accomplishment was Brewerhimself. After taking last season off from competitive wrestling,Brewer hardly expected to carry a 39-2 record into the nationalchampionships. Now all his hard work is making anything less thenthe best almost worthless.

“Anything less than being a national champion, both as a teamand individual, probably wouldn’t even feel worth going,” saidBrewer. “But if we wrestle well, I think we have a good chance ofwinning. We have raised expectations, but we’ve been workinghard.”

Last season, the Storm finished 14th at the championships. Theirbest finish ever was a fifth place showing in 1998. This season,coach Peterson and the team and are hoping for more.

“At the beginning of the season, I thought we might get five orsix guys to nationals. The five guys we have can all beAll-Americans.” Petersen said. “At this point in the season, italmost becomes more about the individuals. If they all perform likethey’re capable of, though, we can do a lot of damage.”

Which is something Bart George knows a thing or two about.George, ranked eighth in the latest national polls, is the veteranleader and only senior on the Storm roster. And as strange and newas the championship experience will feel for a newcomer likeBrewer, it’s become a part of the routine for George, who hasqualified for nationals in each of his four seasons as a Stormwrestler.

This season he would like to tack “National Champion” on hisimpressive resume.

“I’d like to win a championship,” said George. “If I show up towrestle, there’s no reason I can’t. And if we have five guysscoring points, we can bring home a trophy. We may not have themost wrestlers going to nationals, but we have more quality. And atthis point, it’s about quality over quantity.”

Coach Peterson agrees.

“For all these guys, it’s the perfect time to be peaking.”Petersen explained. “And Bart, he’s had a phenomenal run. Fournational tournaments-that’s a tribute to his work ethic and mentaltoughness. He’s been a huge building block for our program and amajor clog in putting us on top.”

But even with grapplers of George and Brewer’s caliber on theteam’s side, Coach Peterson said he knows the Storm can’t win itall without a little help from the fans.

“We would really appreciate some support up in Dubuque.”Petersen said. “It’s a great environment, and the more people wehave cheering us on, the more excited these guys will be.”