LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Being the underdog is something that is often associated with being a Student Prince. Not to say that Heidelberg athletics have not seen success; they have. However, Heidelberg is not known for being the powerhouse program but instead, doing things "the Heidelberg way".
As the Berg wrestling team entered the 2013 Desert Duals for the first time in the history of the program they were called on to play a familiar role, the underdog.
The 2013 Desert Duals, hosted by Wartburg College (Iowa) featured seven NCAA Division III institutions. All the participating teams are currently ranked in the top 30 by the National Wrestling Coaches' Association with four in the top ten, including host Wartburg who is currently the number one team in the country.
Heidelberg entered as the lowest seeded team, 26th. In their four dual matches, the Student Princes drew number eight Delaware Valley College (Pa.), number 18 St. John's University (Minn.), number seven Coe College (Iowa) and lastly Wartburg.
The first dual match against Delaware Valley would be the only match to end in the Berg's favor. The Rams gained an early lead by taking 125-pounds and 133-pounds with a major decision and a decision. 141-pounder, senior Ian Gillespie, who was one of two Student Princes to finish the day 3-1, got the Berg on the board with a 10-2 major decision. After suffering two losses at 149 and 157-pounds, senior 165-pounder Jeremy Stepp scored a technical fall, 21-5, to bring the team score to 16-9 in Del Val's favor.
Juniors Brennan Kelly and Richard Dowdley scored a pair of major decisions to put the Berg ahead 17-16. Senior 197-pounder Jason Russell lost to Aaron Karns, who battled Heidelberg All-American Andy Lovins for fifth/sixth place at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Karns defeated Russell by decisions, 4-0 to set the Rams ahead before the heavyweight bout.
Sophomore 285-pounder Nino Majoy scored a takedown with short time in the third period to earn a 6-4 decision and a Heidelberg upset, 20-19.
"We had a great first round performance against a tough Del Valley team, where our bonus points - any match that ends in a major decision, technical fall or fall - made the difference," said third year head coach Ned Shuck. "There was an increased fight up and down the lineup."
The Student Prince battled the St. John's Johnnies following their victory over Delaware Valley. The Berg took the first three matches from St. John's with three consecutive decisions. 125-pound freshman Joe Brodman scored a 6-4 decision followed by a 5-3 decision from sophomore 133-pounder, Justin Kihn and a thrilling 2-0 decision from Gillespie at 141-pounds.
The Berg men dropped the next four weight classes, including two falls and a medical forfeit at 165 pounds. With the Berg trailing 21-9 heading into the 184-pound bout, Dowdley scored a convincing decision, 11-4. Russell collected a close decision, 3-1 at 197-pounds followed by another decision by Majoy at heavyweight. Unfortunately the 18 unanswered points from the Johnnies put the match out of the Berg's reach as they swept the last three weight classes only to lose, 21-18.
The Berg's afternoon would become more difficult as the Coe College Kohawks squared off with the Student Princes in their third match of the day. The Berg men came out of their bye in the fourth round of competition and took the first two weight classes from the Kohawks. Brodman scored a spactacular 7-5 decision in sudden victory to start the Berg off with a 3-0 advantage.
Perhaps the match of the day took place at 133-pounds as sophomore Colin McDermitt took down Coe's Jimmy Gotto, who was an NCAA Runner-up a year ago and is currently ranked third in the latest NWCA poll. McDermitt defeated Gotto, 4-3 in his first match of the afternoon to send the Berg to a 6-0 lead.
Gillespie's decision of 4-2 at 141 pounds would be the only other Berg victory against the Kohawks as they stole away seven consecutive weight classes from the Student Princes. A controversial win at heavyweight over Majoy, 4-3 in the second tiebreaker period, sealed a 28-9 victory for the Kohawks.
The Berg's final match of the afternoon proved to be their most difficult as the matched up against the extremely dangerous and number one ranked Wartburg Knights.
The Knights took eight weight classes from the Student Princes, handing the previously unbeaten Gillespie his first and only loss of the afternoon at 141 pounds. Gillespie fell in the third period by a pin, 6:45.
The Berg ended up losing to Wartburg by a score of 35-7 after Russell and Majoy picked up two victories for the Student Princes in the final two bouts of the match. Russell scored a major decision, 12-1 at 197-pounds while Majoy collected a decision, 4-1 in the final bout of the day.
Majoy's victory against Wartburg propelled him to a 3-1 finish after being robbed of a victory against Coe.
"It was a great test to see where we are in the middle of the year against some of the best teams in the country," said Shuck. "I'm confident that our guys are going to use the positives and negatives to prepare for the end of the year. Individually, we had some solid wins over some top ranked opponents. We will continue to work on our consistency," Shuck concluded.
The Student Princes and coach Shuck will take the remainder of the holiday break to rest and prepare for their next competition before Ohio Athletic Conference dual matches begin. The Berg grapplers return to the mat on Saturday, January 10, 2014 when they travel to Williamsport, Pa. to compete in the Lycoming Duals. Start time from the campus of Lycoming College is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.