THE BIG LEAD: BEHIND THE SCENES OF WARTBURG WRESTLING’S DARKEST DAY WITH KYLE BRIGGS

RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE CO-MANAGER

For wrestling fans, especially those who follow the Wartburg Knights, the winningest all-time Division-III program, the worst day for the sport isn’t hard to pinpoint. 

On March 13, hours before the start of the D-III national wrestling championships in Cedar Rapids, teams from across the country were warming up to finish their season when NCAA President Mark Emhert made the announcement that all winter sports championships were cancelled. 

Teams like Wartburg, Loras and Augsburg saw their postseason hopes dashed, and seniors faced the reality that they had wrestled for the final time.

For Kyle Briggs, a redshirt junior at the time, the cancellation was perhaps the worst day of his life.

“When news like that hits; it was really hard on us,” Briggs, who entered the tournament as the second-ranked 174-pounder in the nation,  said. “When you really take the emotional beating is when, what it felt like was: all the times in the room, when you’re working hard and you’re on the bike and you feel yourself so close to breaking but you push through it, you think to yourself, ‘it’s all going to be worth it, it’s all going to be worth it.’ And then all the sudden you lose that. It makes it feel like it was for nothing.”

Briggs described the atmosphere in the locker room after the announcement as “raw.” 

“I remember a lot of emotion, we were all just in shock, in disbelief,” Briggs said.

With the NCAA announcing this fall that winter sports will be postponed until no earlier than Jan. 1, Briggs and the rest of the team have begun to prepare themselves for the reality that the pandemic could once again cancel their season.

“That was probably the most shocked [I’ve ever been],” Briggs said. “If they said tomorrow that this season was cancelled, it wouldn’t be half as shocking as what happened last season. At this point we don’t rule anything out. We’re just kinda rolling with the punches.”

For ranked Wartburg seniors like Martine Sandoval and Max Forsyth, they saw their only chance at individual titles stripped from them. For Briggs and top-ranked 133-pounder Kris Rumph, the cancellation deprived them of the ability to earn multiple titles.

“No one should have to go out like those seniors did,” Briggs said. “They came in, in a situation where, ‘This is my one opportunity.’ No one should have to leave feeling like they didn’t get a chance at retribution.”

For Briggs, a wrestler who is already in the midst of his fifth academic year, the idea of a cancelled season this year would test his ability to return for a sixth year to utilize his last year of eligibility.

“Maybe I’ve already wrestled in my last match, nothing’s guaranteed,” Briggs said. “There’s still the potential for nationals. I have time to train and prepare for it. If they decide that it’s not gonna happen, at least I got to enjoy a little bit of training.”

BURGCAST EPISODE FOUR – KYLE BRIGGS

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