Hanson closes his career on the All-American podium
Tue, Mar. 15, 2011 - [Wrestling]
NCAA Div. III Championships - BRACKETS

The Loras College Duhawk's theme in 2010-2011 was "recovery". Dusting themselves off from missing out on the 2010 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships and starting a climb back up the standings in the best wrestling conference in Division III.

On February 25th, the Duhawks had their chance to put their money where their recovery was. Pre-tournament seedings had no Duhawks among the top three at the ten weight classes. Loras provided LaCrosse, Wisconsin with four national qualifiers from the IIAC Championships following their solid efforts in Indianola, Iowa.

Those four Duhawks were:

Matt Holmes, 133 pounds

Erik Hanson, 157 pounds

Stephan Birt, 174 pounds

Jeremy Klein, heavyweight

Matt Holmes entered unseeded and went 1-2. Holmes (26-10) dropped his first match to #5 seed Adam Sheley of Augsburg 9-0 and rebounded with a 9-6 win over Paul Marcello of Johns Hopkins. His sophomore season came to an end with a 5-3 loss to Corey Brown, the #6 seed, from Theil. Holmes is over the 40 win plateau after two seasons with the Duhawks.

Erik Hanson, a senior, made his third appearance at Nationals and promptly won three matches on his way to the All-American stand. He began with a pin of #4 seed Jesse Harrington of Delaware Valley to move into the quarterfinals. There he was beaten 9-3 by the #5 seed Justin Berns and sent to the consolation bracket. Hanson answered with another pin, this time of Mike Lechter of Ohio Northern. Chris Burdge of Centenary was next on his list, a competitive 5-4 decision in favor of Hanson. That win put Hanson on the All-American stand. Iowa Conference rival Carrington Banks, the #3 seed, sent Hanson to the fifth place match rather than the third place match with a 6-2 decision. Hanson's sixth and final match of the two-day event was his second loss to Berns, this time a 10-1 loss.

Hanson's 32 wins this season pushed him up to seventh on Loras' career wins list with 110 and he ends his career with a 73% winning percentage. He is the thirteenth member of Loras College's "100 Wins Club".

"I think the hard work pays off, that's what it comes down to for me," Hanson said early this week.

"Loras gave me an atmosphere and a coaching staff that pushed me and helped me get to this point."

Hanson also saw one of his elusive goals reached on Saturday when he took the podium as an All-American in his third try at the NCAA Championships.

"It feels a little bit like I got that monkey off my back," Hanson said. "It was a goal I wanted to accomplish before I left (the program), so it felt great."

At 174 pounds, freshman Stephan Birt drew #3 seed Zach Molitor of Augsburg, the eventual champion in the weight class in the opening round. Birt was one of two pins by Molitor over the weekend. He was then matched up with #6 seed Brian Broderick of TCNJ. Birt scored six points, but fell 12-6 in his first go around at the NCAA Championships. He won 18 matches in his first season with the Duhawks.

Jeremy Klein capped his four-year career with the Duhawks in memorable fashion with his first trip to Nationals in 2011. Klein's tournament started with a loss to Tom Foote of Williams College, but he answered with two wins in the wrestle-backs. The first was a 5-3 win over Nick Cambi of Roger Williams and the second was a shutout win over the #6 seed Corey James of SUNY-Cortland, 1-0. Augsburg's #8 seed Chad Johnson stood in the way of Klein and a trip to the All-American stand next. Johnson and Klein battled early, but the young Auggie pulled away late for a 12-3 win. Klein, a native of Cooper City, Florida was able to close his career on Division III wrestling's biggest stage in front of a handful of family members who made the trip to watch him compete in his final event as a Duhawk.

"These guys really put in a lot of work this season to get them to this point," head coach Randy Steward said at the conclusion of the tournament. "Erik ending on the podium was great, Jeremy has been a pleasure to coach, and Stephan and Matt can get back here and do better in the future, so we're close, but we're not quite where I want this program to be. We're going to be better…we have to continue to want to be better."

The Duhawks finished 24th in the team standings at the NCAA Division III Championships, fourth among Iowa Conference schools.