After last year’s 13-3 finish, a national tournament appearance and the recruiting of head coach Jason Reitmeier and assistant coach Tom Meester, the Augustana wrestling team has three reasons to be excited about the upcoming season.
Excluding Division I schools, Reitmeier’s 2012-13 recruiting has been officially recognized as 11th in the nation by Wrestling USA Magazine.
The Magazine ranks recruiting classes as either Division I or non-Division I. Augustana is classified non-Division I. In such a broad category, with hundreds of other schools, this ranking is something Augustana and its wrestlers can be proud of.
Reitmeier went to work in the off-season bringing in 13 promising freshmen. in what could be the move that the team needs to go deep into the national tournament.
“This is a great recruiting class,” senior Nathan Herda said. “I like the freshmen a lot, and last year they had another really good recruiting class. I think that is a tribute to Augustana, Reitmeier and Tom Meester and what they do. The school is great.
“I am actually hosting a recruit this weekend, and you could see the look on his face with how impressed he was with the school.”
Since Reitmeier became head coach, he has been leading the team in the right direction.
“Jason is a great guy,” Herda said of his coach. “He is a mentor as well. I would say I look up to him almost like a father figure. He is firm and there for you.”
Herda grew up in Rock Rapids, Iowa, and knew he wanted to wrestle in college during spring of his sophomore year of high school. With only two seniors, Herda and Brian Schultz, the team will be young.
“This year is a lot of young faces,” Herda said. “I feel like I am the old guy now, who is looked on to be the mentor.”
One of the hopeful freshmen prospects, Michael Lowman, also had nothing but good things to say about Reitmeier.
“Coach Reitmeier is an awesome coach,” Lowman said. “He is tough, competitive and very outgoing.
“He pushes us to our limits and even past them. He is everything you look for in a good coach.”
Being one of the 13 freshmen on the team can be intimidating, but the seasoned wrestlers are making everyone feel like they belong.
“It’s more like a family than a team,” Lowman said. “It is going to be fun wrestling with these guys this year, and I think as a group we will be able to win a national title.”
Even before competition starts, the wrestlers are pushing each other in practice and in the weight room to have a good season.
At 6:15 a.m. to get in shape, they lift weights four days a week. They run on Mondays and they have an open mat on Tuesdays. Wednesdays consist of either running or ultimate football. On Thursdays they wrestle on the mat, and on Fridays they run up hills or do sprints. Season practices start on Oct. 10.
“I actually love ultimate football,” Herda said jokingly. “It can be pretty fun. I have been punched in ultimate football though too, don’t get me wrong.”
With all of the signs pointing up, this year’s wrestling team is thinking that the sky is the limit. And with an exuberant amount of potential and fresh young faces, the team is looking to go all the way.
The Vikings will open the year with a tournament in Brookings, S.D. on Nov. 3. Their first match is set for Dec. 7 at Northwestern.