Wartburg’s reign of dominance is over.
Loras wears the crown now.
Brandon Murray delivered a key pin at 157 pounds and Guy Patron Jr. won a major decision at 197 to give the Duhawks a nice cushion going into the final bout, and NCAA Division III No. 3-ranked Loras upended the top-ranked Knights, 19-17, on Friday night in Waverly, Iowa, ending Wartburg’s incredible run of 27 consecutive conference championships.
It was the first American Rivers Conference championship for the Duhawks, who had never won the Iowa Conference title.
Loras won five of 10 matches and improved to 14-1 overall, 8-0 in the A-R-C.
The Duhawks have been building toward this point for the past several seasons. Wartburg beat Loras, 32-0, in the first season under head coach TJ Miller, a national champion at Wartburg and the son of legendary Knights coach Jim Miller.
Wartburg, which had won 220 consecutive conference duals dating to 1994, won the 2018 meeting with Loras, 35-3, before the Duhawks cut it to 23-16 last year.
“It means a lot to everybody. It means a lot to Loras College,” Miller said. “I’ve always told my guys, at some point in history, someone’s going to be the one to do it, it might as well be us.
My dad started the streak a long time ago and it’s been tough to break through. It came down to heavyweight last year and it just feels really good. I feel relieved almost. The kids earned it. They worked so hard and our assistant coaches are the best in the nation. I can’t explain the feeling right now. It means so much to not just our guys, guys from the past, all our alumni, boosters, our faculty, our staff. It’s been awesome.”
Loras rallied on Friday to get over the hump.
Wartburg’s seventh-ranked Brady Kyner earned a 6-2 decision over Matt Randone at 125 to open the dual, and the Knights’ top-ranked Kristian Rumph followed with an 11-3 major decision over Mason McMillen at 133.
Loras put together a run to take control.
No. 6-ranked Clint Lembeck worked a 5-4 win over fourth-ranked Brady Fritz at 141 and Daniel Ruiz earned a 4-2 victory over Brock Rathbun at 149. Murray, ranked fourth, gave Loras a 12-7 lead with a pin of Shea Hartzler in 5:13 at 157.
Murray’s pin was a key turning point.
“We’re trying to get the major there and we got the fall,” Miller said. “Clint Lembeck was down, he hasn’t wrestled for a month or so and he dug deep. He got the turn, got the rideout and then Ruiz, he had to win twice. He thought he won already and then it went overtime. And then Murray got that fall. That was a lot of momentum.”
Wartburg’s No. 6-ranked Max Forsyth stopped the run with a 7-5 victory over third-ranked Eddie Smith at 165, but No. 5 Jacob Krakow answered with an 8-2 victory over Paul Calo at 174 to put the Duhawks in front, 15-10, with three weights remaining.
Wartburg’s second-ranked Kyle Briggs tightened it up though, earning a 14-4 decision over No. 8 Shane Liegel at 184 and trimming the Duhawks’ lead to just one point.
Patron Jr., ranked No. 1, put Loras on the brink of ending the title drought, powering to a 14-0 major decision over third-ranked Kobe Woods at 197 and give the Duhawks a daunting 19-14 lead heading to heavyweight.
Wartburg’s eighth-ranked Jordan Brandon, needed a technical fall or a pin to keep the Knights’ hopes alive earned a 2-1 decision over Wyatt Wriedt in sudden victory at 285.