Dubuque's Five Flags Center provided the backdrop for the first-of-its-kind regional format for the eight Iowa Conference schools and Augustana, Knox, and Cornell on Saturday as 30 tickets to Cedar Rapids were earned by participants in the Central region. Loras' James Buss earned one of those tickets, going 3-0 with two decisions and one major decision.
Buss started his day with a convincing 9-1 major decision win over Knox's Stephen Bora. His semifinal match was a tight one, and after some late action and points by Luther's Nick Pearch, Buss needed overtime to claim the victory. His quick takedown in the first sudden victory overtime period gave him a 7-5 victory and put him into the finals. It also punched his ticket to nationals in Cedar Rapids in two weeks. His final matchup of the day was the rubber match against Ryan Fank of Wartburg. Having split the two previous meetings this season, the Central Region's first title was on the line. Buss escaped early in the second period and added takedown in the third period to win.
Here's how the other eight Loras wrestlers did on Saturday:
Steger won a low-scoring 2-0 decision over Jake Scholten of Augustana to reach the semifinals before losing a close 4-3 decision to #2 seed Jake Sokol of Dubuque. He bounced back with an overtime win over Tyler Endres of Coe, 3-1. In the 3rd place match – with a chance to go to Cedar Rapids – he lost a 7-1 decision to Luther's Evan Obert.
Weaver started fast with a second period pin of Simpson's Jeff Sand. Second seeded Kyle Windquist then won a major decision over Weaver. The freshman answered with a 8-4 win over Central's TJ Peretti to reach the 3rd place match. There, top seeded Tommy Mirocha, a senior from Wartburg won a tech fall over Weaver.
Dubuquer Greg Vance started with a quarterfinal win over Augustana's Hector Ruiz, 7-4. Top seeded Kodie Silvestri then scored 19 points in the semifinals to send Vance to the consolation semifinals, where he lost a 10-3 decision to Luther's Dakota Gray. Trailing late in the fifth place match, Vance rallied for a takedown and pin ten seconds shy of the final buzzer over Ryan Davis of Central.
#2 seed Garrett Bonte of Luther won an 8-4 decision in the quarterfinals to send Butler to the wrestlebacks. Butler started there with a pin of Jon Heffner of Central. He followed that win up with a win over #3 seed Farai Sewera of Coe, 4-2. #4 seed Joe Kubica of Dubuque kept Butler from the third place match with a 10-6 decision. In the fifth place match, Cornell's Colin Bertucci, the #5 seed, won a 7-4 decision.
Birt's day started with a 9-4 win over #6 seed Jarid Groth of Luther in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, #2 seed Dylan Azinger of Wartburg took a major decision over Birt. Augustana's #5 seed Matt Burns then surprised Birt with a third period pin. Birt finished in sixth place after a loss to 3-2 loss to Cornell's Brent Hamm.
Winel's day was off to a successful start with an opening round pin of Cornell's #9 seed Kevin Stahmer after just 60 seconds. Winel put up a fight against four-time national qualifier and top seed Brian Broll of Buena Vista, but lost a 6-1 decision in the quarterfinals. He earned his second pin of the day against Taylor Witzel of Simpson before losing a decision in the next round of wrestlebacks to Augustana's Jordan Richardson.
197-pounds, #6 seed Malcolm Watson
Watson's day started with the #3 seed Puna Soriano of Wartburg. Watson was kept off the scoreboard in a major decision loss. Watson answered with a pin of Simpson's Jared Bevins, the #7 seed. He was kept from the 3rd place match by #5 seed Donnie Horner of Coe, who won 7-2. In the fifth place match, Watson won a 4-2 decision over Dubuque's Cody Ortmann, the #8 seed.