By Michael French, Reporter
Resiliency proved a recurring theme for the Raven wrestling team last weekend at the NAIA National Tournament in Topeka, Kansas.
After a runner-up finish last season, junior Stephen Loosbrock battled against an even tougher 197-pound weight class this time around. He faced fifth ranked Midland’s Kolton Kersten in the second round of the tournament. Loosbrock posted a 1-0 decision over Kersten before falling in a 4-3 decision to Lindsey Wilson’s Jake Maupin. Loosbrock (24-12) wrapped up his season with a loss to top-ranked Hudson Buck of Dickinson State to finish in fifth place after beating Andrew Mahone of Missouri Baptist 4-0 and Brandon Sunday of Indiana Tech 5-2.
Ethan Jirak, a 184-pound junior, started off right in his second straight trip to the national tournament by earning a 2-1 decision over Lane Oversen of Dickinson State. Although he did not place, Jirak put on a valiant display through the consolation bracket after a second round loss to Indiana Tech’s L.J. Grayson. He went on to earn a 9-6 decision over Austin Fehlhafer of Concordia before falling 11-5 to Rulin Pederson of Morningside, ending his season at 12-4.
Junior Gabe Suthoff, 174 pounds, knocked off the 16th ranked Marvin Lawrence out of Campbellsville 11-9 in the first round of his first ever national tournament. He fell to Doane College’s Kevin Corbett in the second round before beating Conner Linehan of William Baptist 16-6. His tournament ended in the fourth round after a fall to Dickinson State’s Tyler Brown.
Overall, the team placed 23rd in the tournament and was the second highest placing school from Kansas.
“Stephen, Ethan and Gabe all outperformed what they were ranked going into the tournament,” coach Thomas Williams said. “Stephen lost in the quarters to a guy (Jake Maupin) and then came back to beat him for fifth place. That showed a lot of resilience. Gabe and Ethan were losing numerous matches but came back and won against those guys. Fighting back like that shows a lot about their character and the kind of people they are. If you look at it from that standpoint we had a pretty solid outing.”
Williams is looking forward to what’s ahead.
“Obviously my goals are higher for the team and we want to do a lot better next year,” Williams said. “I need to do a lot of things to move forward. I’m going to be spending a lot of time recruiting in order to accomplish those goals. Training will start pretty much as soon as we get back.”