Viking wrestling is headed to Edmond, Okla. to make a bid for nationals.
Ten Augustana wrestlers will compete in the NCAA Super Region 3 Championships starting Feb. 28. The tournament will be hosted by the University of Central Oklahoma at the Hamilton Fieldhouse.
The top five wrestlers in each division will advance to the national championships March 14 and 15 at Public Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.
“We’re trying to get anywhere from six to seven guys to nationals,” head coach Jason Reitmeier said.
This is Reitmeier’s eleventh season as head coach, but he has been with the coaching staff since graduating from Augustana in 1997.
Reitmeier feels particularly confident about three students: TJ North, Sean Derry and Jayd Docken. But he said it is all about who comes to compete that day.
North, a redshirt sophomore, is ranked third nationally for Division II in the 125 pound weight class. He recently beat the wrestler formerly ranked first, and he is 26-3 for the season.
Going into regionals, North is ranked first.
North said he’s feeling confident, with a healthy dose of nerves.
“It probably wouldn’t be good if you weren’t nervous at all because anybody can beat anybody,” North said.
The team finished fourth in the conference, but Reitmeier contends the technical point that lost them third place could have gone the other way. At regionals, the team is hoping to be in the top five or six teams.
In preparation for the qualifier, North said the aim is “peaking at the right time.” The practices have alternated between lighter workouts, two-a-days, recovery days and multiple match practices to simulate the endurance requirements of the tournament structure.
Derry, a senior, is 26-3 this season in the 184 weight class. He is ranked third in the region, but the coaching staff believes he should be ranked first.
“He hasn’t lost since November,” Reitmeier said.
Derry qualified for nationals the last two years, but was unable to compete due to injuries. This is his last chance to wrestle at the top level.
Derry said knowing this is his last season provided a powerful motivation in his matches.
“I laid out some goals before the season and up to this point I’ve accomplished them,” Derry said. “The next thing on that list is to be a regional champion.”
Having qualified for nationals before, Derry said nerves are less of a factor this year.
“As long as I go out and wrestle my style and pace, I don’t see any reason why I can’t accomplish my goal,” Derry said.
Docken, a junior wrestling in the 197 weight class, is 13-2 this season. He is ranked third in the region.
Looking to next year, Reitmeier said the team will only lose two seniors.
“Sean Derry is going to hurt,” Reitmeier said. “He’s 26-3, and it’s tough to lose a guy like that.”
Tom Davies is also graduating, but due to injuries his presence on the mat may not be missed as much as the energy he brings to the team.
“I think they will be really tough next year,” Derry said. “A lot of these guys have gained some good experience this year.”
There are currently 30 wrestlers on the team, with a handful of new students coming next year.