2 wrestlers place fourth at NCAA Regional Championship meet

by Matt Lash, Sports Reporter

DUBUQUE, Iowa — The Storm wrestling team finished the season strong at the Central Region Championship meet last weekend.

The team finished ninth out of the 15 teams in the region, a Simpson record, and had several wrestlers finish their collegiate careers very strong. Entering the regional meet with a record of 6-9 overall, and just 2-6 against IIAC opponents, the Storm wrestling team knew they would face some challenges.

When the team traveled to Dubuque to compete in the NCAA Central Region Championship meet, a challenge is exactly what they faced.

Only the top-3 wrestlers at each weight qualify for the DIII Championship meet, but Head coach Nate Hansen says he felt good going into the meet, knowing it’s a hard region.

“Our region is definitely one of the toughest qualifiers for Division III in the country,” Hansen said before the meet. “We’ll have to beat some teams we’re not supposed to beat. We have a lot of guys sitting in the five and six place spots, so they are winnable matches.”

In the last few years, the team hasn’t had a qualifier for the NCAA Division III Championships, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting forth their best effort. As the season progressed, there were matches that became more important to the success of the team.

“I expect a handful of guys to beat those opponents they lost to earlier this season,” Hansen said prior to the meet. “Hopefully we find ourselves battling back in matches and getting some guys into the finals.”

Colby Vlieger, at 285 pounds, hoped to be one of those guys.

In his first two-seasons, Vlieger had a record under .500. Last year, he started pushing himself harder in practice and the offseason, finishing his junior year with a record of 20-19 and a sixth-place finish at the 2016 regional championship meet.

Entering his senior season, Vlieger pushed himself even harder than before. He changed his mindset, attitude and determination during the offseason and practices.

Heading into the regional championship meet this year, Vlieger has a record of 22-10 and is hoping to go out with a bang.

“We’ve looked at tape for some of the guys we struggled to beat during the season,” Vlieger said. “There are guys from teams no one has wrestled against, but we are doing what we can to prepare for that.”

At the regional meet, Vlieger finished in fourth-place in his weight class, picking up four wins and only needing one more to qualify for the NCAA DIII Championship meet. Vlieger finished his senior season with a record of 26-12, and a career record of 71-76.

Leading up to the regional meet, Vlieger was admittedly nervous and excited about the possibility of either qualifying for nationals, or ending his wrestling career.

“Thinking about it makes me kind of nervous,” Vlieger said. “I’m still confident, no doubt, but it’s just weird to think it could be the end of my wrestling career. We’ve all had the same drive for the season, and it’s really rubbed off on some of the younger guys. It’ll be cool to see what they can do for the program in the coming years.

Another highlight of the regional meet was the success found by Jason Kiehne. The 141-pound junior finished the season just two points shy of a trip to the DII Championship meet.

Finishing in fourth for his weight, Kiehne went 3-2 on the day and made things interesting towards the end of the meet because of his efforts. Although he didn’t end up qualifying, Kiehne showed how practice translates to success.

Although he is only a junior, Kiehne will end his collegiate wrestling career with a season record of 21-11 and a career record of 32-24 due to early graduation.