Historic Hopper Gym hosts wrestling senior night

by Brock Borgeson, sports editor

Simpson College wrestling honored its two seniors, Ethan Calvert and Brian Haynes, last Thursday, Feb. 12 at Hopper Gym as Simpson squared off with rival Central College.

The atmosphere was unique and dramatic as fans encircled the lone mat in the center of the gym, illuminated by a single spotlight as wrestlers were encouraged by the echoing and boisterous cheers created by the matchbox setting.

Despite the setting, a 27-0 deficit after the first five matches proved too much for the Storm as they fell to Central 36-12.

“I think Central is good,” Vlieger said. “We are right there though. We just have to put seven minutes together and wrestle to our potential and we’ll be fine.”

Bryce Wignall (165), Brett Roberts (174) and Colby Vlieger (285) were the lone wrestlers to earn points for Simpson on senior night.

“They’re a solid team, we made a lot of mistakes early on which cost us the match, but Central knows they got away with some wins,” head coach Nate Hansen said. “You look at the eight matches that were wrestled and we were leading in the majority of them.”

Two forfeits at 125 and 133 hurt Simpson (7-11, 1-6), as they fell behind the Dutch (8-4, 3-4) 12-0 before any wrestling was done.

The 12-5 Devan Berrian had a 4-2 lead over Central’s Jaheel Vester at 141, but Vester turned the tables, pinning Berrian in the second period to give Central six more points to their lead.

Another freshman, Jonathan Melton had a chance to earn points for Simpson, but suffered a 3-2 loss to Ryan Vandall at 149 before the Storm saw a lead erased at 157 when Jake Mize was pinned while leading 7-0 in the third period.

Wignall, who only wrestled five varsity matches this season, filled in for the injured Haynes, winning Simpson their first points, going right at Cory McCleary all match to earn six points on a pin in the third period.

Roberts won a 12-5 decision over Sam Apland to make it 27-9 Central, although a technical fall on Spencer Ward at 184 pushed the Dutch lead to 32-9.

It was time for Calvert on senior night, although it wouldn’t be an easy match having to face nationally ranked, No. 8, Matt Seabold.

Calvert hung tough, and in the third period Seabold illegally threw Calvert down on his back. Calvert, shaken up, took recovery time and had the chance to decide to win the match through Seabold’s violation, but the determined senior decided to wrestle to completion, falling by decision, 15-6.

“We asked Calvert, ‘are you wanting to go?’, and he said he wanted to wrestle,” Hansen said. “He’s a fighter, a tough guy. That stuff doesn’t rattle him, and I think he was influenced by it being senior night and wanted to wrestle the rest of the match.”

As Vlieger did against Buena Vista University, the sophomore from Indianola High School closed out the match with a win, securing the win with a takedown to finish 3-2 over Jay Pike and bring the final score to 36-12, Central.

“He’s looking really good,” Hansen said in reference to Vlieger. “I like where he is and where his confidence is at.”

After the loss Thursday, Hansen and the wrestling team will have just over two weeks before the Central Regional Championships at the University of Dubuque on Feb. 28. This decides who goes to nationals, and at this point, Hansen is putting all his chips in on this event.

“After the whole regular season and all the Iowa Conference duals, it’s all in preparation for the Feb. 28 qualifier,” Hansen said. “It’s nice to have a lot of dual meet wins and a nice record, as it sets you up well for seeding, but records are 0-0 right now and that’s the attitude we have going into training. Anyone can win this and we have guys that can go the NCAA Tournament.”

By advancing at the qualifier on Feb. 28, wrestlers would head to Hershey, Penn. on March 13 for NCAA national championships. The Storm will have a tune up JV Open in Dubuque the night before the Central Region Championship to get geared up after two weeks of preparation.

“Now we are just going to fine tune our points, improve on our strengths and work on our weaknesses and get ready for our regional tournament,” Vlieger said.