PREVIEW: WARTBURG WINTER SPORTS AIMS FOR SUCCESS

RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHTWIRE MANAGER

Across the board this winter, it seems every athletic program at Wartburg College is focused on one thing: domination. While the fall sports like Volleyball, Women’s soccer, and Football are likely to punch their tickets to the NCAA tournament, the winter sports wait for no one.

Looking first to Wrestling, the no. 3 ranked Knights are focused on making an impact after finishing just sixth nationally in the 2019 NCAA Championships.

As a program, the Knights have won 14 national championships, and this year will be defined by aiming for number 15. With top returners including Kyle Briggs, Brock Rathbun and Kris Rumph, the Knights begin the season with six different wrestlers ranked, and a fresh mindset.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys on the roster,” Eric Keller, wrestling head coach, said. “23 new guys that are absorbing the culture, doing the right things. No one’s in a rush to leave that room at the end of practice.”

After 4 straight years of NCAA tournament appearances, and an elite eight appearance this past season, the women’s basketball team opens the season with their highest ranking in program history: a staggering third in the nation.

This year’s team is headlined by reigning conference MVP Emma Gerdes, returners four starters in Tori Hazard, Amanda Brainerd, and Ally Conrad. For the Knights, they’re looking to continue the system they found success in last season: spread the load.

“We have a lot of weapons across the board this year,” Bob Amsberry, women’s basketball head coach, said. “What I love about our team is we don’t stuff the stat sheet for any individual. We have a ton of women who can score the ball, be effective, and it makes it that much harder for opposing teams to beat us.”

Men’s basketball comes into this season with plenty of new faces, after graduating their top-three scorers, the Knights will look for a bolstered roster from returners like Ryan Stulken, Max Smith-Drahos and Camry Moore, as well as fostering young talent all-around.

While the men’s team is not nationally ranked, they will look to follow up a strong conference season last year, which saw them qualify for the conference tournament. They open the season ranked fourth in the A-R-C.

“We’re still in the infant stages, the planning stages,” Dick Peth, men’s basketball head coach, said. “we’ve got a lot of younger players, first-year players, that we’re really excited about.”

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