By Adam Burns, Sports Editor
Coach Thomas Williams and his young Benedictine wrestling program garnered their first-ever ranking in the NAIA Top 20 Coaches’ preseason poll back in October.
Since, the Ravens reclaimed top 20 honors at No. 17 and defeated Ottawa University 29-16 in a dual on Tuesday.
Williams said the national recognition has been beneficial on the recruiting circuit, but when it comes to his team it’s just a step toward something bigger.
“I talk to the team a little bit about it, but it’s not where we want to be,” he said. “Our goal is to win a national title.”
Along with the highest ranking in program history, two Ravens were ranked individually.
Junior 197-pounder Stephen Loosbrock, who was a national runner-up last season, stands firm in his top ranking and junior Michael Cutherbertson is No. 12 in the 133-pound weight class.
“It’s nice seeing guys recognized, but our end goal is nationals,” Williams said. “I prefer if they don’t even look at the rankings; they don’t make them any better. I try to underplay them.”
Against Ottawa, Cutherbertson pinned Grant Hollingsworth, Loosbrock had a slight edge over Kasey Crump in a 2-1 decision and sophomore Alek Mitchell (149 pounds) and freshman Dillon Scanlon (165 pounds) both earned major decisions.
Williams said the turning point of the dual was when Mitchell bumped up a weight class and won in a 12-3 major decision over Darnell Everett.
Williams added that Cutherbertson is coming into his own this season. Cutherbertson’s biggest win of the season was a pin against Marcos Rios-Tamayo, a top-10 NCAA Division II wrestler from Lindenwood.
Benedictine is still awaiting the return of junior Ethan Jirak, who began the season ranked No. 7 in the 197-pound weight class.
Jirak’s hand injury is all but healed and he is now working toward cutting weight to be ready for the Missouri Valley Invite Jan. 16-17.
The Ravens are set to hit the road for Saturday’s Cusatis Open in Hastings, Neb.