RYAN REEBENACKER, SPORTS WRITER
The No. 3-ranked Knights began the program’s quest for national championship No. 15 on Saturday with a 39-6 win over conference foe Nebraska Wesleyan. Wartburg claimed eight of 10 bouts against the Prairie Wolves to open the season undefeated in conference.
While the Knights have 14 national titles since the early 90’s, they stumbled at the NCAA championships last season, finishing sixth after winning the title in the 2017-18 season.
“It’s a group of 23 new guys in our program, and that’s a lot for us,” Eric Keller, Wartburg’s head coach, said. “The attitude, the effort and just really coming in fired up. These guys are coming in every single day on a mission. It’s 23 guys that have bought in right away.”
At the 125-pound weight class, Brady Kyner ’20 came out strong with a first-period tech fall. Sixth-ranked Kris Rumph ’21 was noticeably absent from the 133-pound matchup. Instead, Brennen Doebel ’20, a 201718 National qualifier, wrestled for the Orange and Black.
Doebel took on Wesleyan’s Eron Haynes, who came into the match ranked fifth in the nation. The first period was close, as Doebel recorded a reversal and near-fall points, but Haynes took control in the final two periods. Doebel lost the match, 23-17. Following that, the Knights went on a tear throughout the middle-weight classes.
Returning All-Americans Brock Rathbun ’21 and Brady Fritz ’22 each contributed first-period tech falls, and Shea Hartzler ’20 picked up an 8-2 decision at the 157-pound class. Max Forsyth ’20 earned six points for the Knights with a first-period fall at the 165-pound class.
Kyle Briggs ’20, the Knight’s highest ranked returner coming into the season pushed the Wartburg lead to 30-3 with a first-period tech fall. Briggs is ranked second in the 174-pound class. Out of the 10 Knights who competed Saturday, Bronson Harmon ’23 was the only newcomer to wrestle.
Harmon impressed with a first-period fall at the 184-pound weight class. The Knights’ next contest will be at the Luther Open on Saturday in Decorah.