Wrestling: Luther's DeVilbiss' Performance A Pleasant Surprise

By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter

DUBUQUE, Iowa - Forget the world, Jayden DeVilbiss shocked himself.

Luther's 184-pound sophomore learned something about his ability Saturday, even though it was what his coaches had told him all season.

DeVilbiss entered the NCAA Division III Central Regional wrestling tournament as the seventh seed, and then knocked off three straight nationally ranked opponents for the title and Outstanding Wrestler honors at Five Flags Center. He was one of six Norse qualifiers for the national tournament March 15-16 at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

"I couldn't have imagined myself wrestling this good," DeVilbiss said. "So, this is outstanding.

"I'm just happy to be going to nationals."

DeVilbiss capped the day with a 5-4 victory over Buena Vista's second-ranked Brian Broll in the finals, scoring the final three points including an escape and takedown in the second period.

"I just wrestled like my coaches said I could all year," said DeVilbiss, who improved to 27-12 after going 17-15 as a freshman. "I didn't believe in myself until I started winning (Saturday) and I realized my coaches knew I had it in me."

DeVilbiss advanced to the championship match with a decisive 10-3 win over Coe's seventh-ranked He opened with a fall, but his quarterfinal match sparked DeVilbiss. He came out on top of a scramble, pinning fifth-ranked and second-seeded Sam Upah of Wartburg in 1:01.

"I roll around a lot on the mat and sometimes you get lucky," DeVilbiss said. "I turned the right way and he turned the wrong way and I ended up sticking him. It gave me a huge confidence boost the rest of the day."

DeVilbiss was one of three finalists for the Norse, who haven't this many NCAA qualifiers since seven in 2009. Kyle Windquist (141) and Garret Bonte (165) finished second. Evan Obert (133) and heavyweight Nick Pearch were third.

Windquist had just 13 matches before the regional. He sat out much of the year do to a concussion suffered early in the season after bumping heads with a teammate. He returns to the national tournament where he finished one match short of all-America status last year.

"It's a great feeling, getting to go back is a main goal," Windquist said. "As soon as nationals was over last year I was training for the next national tournament. In a way, you can feel so great about it but the journey is still taking place. It's a fun process."

Coe's Ethan Ball is also returning to the NCAA tournament, and he was propelled by a win over his nemesis. Ball used a first-period takedown for a 3-1 win over Wartburg's Dylan Azinger to claimed the 174-pound title.

"That is a guy that has beat me four times the last four years," Ball said. "I just kept getting closer and closer."

Ball (24-5) said he has scored first before, so the early lead wasn't as important as maintaining his intensity late for the win, fighting off a crucial second-period takedown. Ball's toughness was key and was the subject of a meeting with Coe Coach John Oostendorp, who challenged it before the tournament.

"I had to think about it and how people thought of me and how I was perceived," said Ball, who edged Dubuque's top-seeded Derek Mizaur, 4-3, in the semifinals. "I think I proved (Saturday) I'm a pretty tough kid."

Ball will be joined at the NCAA tournament by teammates Jimmy Gotto (125) and 157-pounder Dmitri Boyer, who both placed third. Gotto was an All-American last year, placing sixth.

Cornell also crowned a champion and had two finalists, who will move on the national tournament. Top-seeded and second-ranked Alex Coolidge captured the 197-pound title, beating Wartburg's Puna Soriano, 8-3, in the final.

Coolidge said he likes his mental and physical performance in the postseason.

"I feel real good," Coolidge said. "My conditioning and power is there."

Coolidge (29-3) was dominant, building a 6-0 lead thanks to a takedown in the first and then three nearfall points as the period closed. It was a contrast to his semifinal match where he hit a freight-train double off a restart with about :20 remaining to beat Coe's Donnie Horner, 4-3.

"Every time I wrestle Donnie Horner it's a battle," said Coolidge, noting the win served as relief and a shot of confidence. "Records, rankings, nothing matters with him. It's a seven-minute fight, if not more."

Ideally, this title will serve as a catalyst for one in two weeks in Cedar Rapids.

"It is another step," Coolidge said. "Knowing I can win arguably the toughest regional, it sets me up, hopefully, for a great national tournament.

Wartburg rolled through the field, advancing eight to the finals with five champions. The Knights are looking for their third straight national title and 10th overall. They qualified all 10 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships for the second straight year.

Wartburg won the team title with 161 points, finishing 38 1/2 ahead of runner-up Luther. Dubuque was third with 110 1/2 and Coe was fourth with 89 1/2. Cornell placed sixth, one spot back of Loras.
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