It wasn’t that long ago when Dimitri Boyer not only stood among the best wrestlers in the state, he stood above them.
In the three years that have passed since finishing his prep career at Eddyville-Blakesburg, now Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, with consecutive state championships, Boyer has learned just how tough it is to stand out among the best in NCAA Division III. As he proved last Friday in Cedar Rapids, Boyer is getting very close to returning to that elite level.
The former Rocket prep kingpin faced not one, but three ranked wrestlers in his first national championship apperance for Coe College. After beating seventh-seeded John Carroll grappler Terner Gott in his first national match, 2-1, Boyer fought hard but dropped two straight decisions during the Friday night second session of the NCAA DIII National Wrestling Championships.
Centenary’s second-ranked Chris Burdge, the eventual third-place finisher at 157 pounds, ended Boyer’s hopes of a national title this year with a 6-0 decision in the national quarterfinals. Sixth-ranked Reece Lefever of Wabash then kept Boyer from clinching All-American status by earning a 9-4 win in the third round of wrestlebacks.
“It was a tough road, but you have to win those big matches,” Boyer said. “I just couldn’t quite pull all of them out, but I’m happy that I wrestled as hard as I could and I still have next year to come back.”
Boyer received no favors from the NCAA, drawing the seventh-seeded Gott after finishing third at the Central regional tournament. But when his name was called for his first ever national tournament match, Boyer took a very confident approach with him out to Mat 3.
“He was supposed to be the seventh-best wrestler in the country at 157,” Boyer said. “I knew I had to be ready for a test.”
Boyer met the test head on, battling Gott to a stalemate in the opening three minutes. After being down to start the second period, Boyer made an important escape in just 24 seconds to grab an early lead while keeping Gott from storing up riding time.
With just 24 seconds to make up, Boyer caught and passed Gott by riding the seventh-ranked grappler for almost the entire third period. The former two-time state champ gave himself plenty of riding time for an extra point to be scored, making Gott’s late escape meaningless in a 2-1 win.
Match two got no easier with second-ranked Chris Burdge awaiting Friday night in the national quarterfinals on Boyer. Once again, Boyer held his own in the opening three minutes, battling through a scoreless first period again before being taken down.
Unlike earlier in the day, however, Boyer couldn’t find an answer as Burdge scored a third-period escape, takedown and earned enough riding time to move into the national semifinals.
“There were a couple of things I wished I could have changed (in that match),” Boyer said. “I look at this as a competitor. Everyone’s 0-0 coming into the national tournament. Everyone’s here to win the national title.”
Boyer came closer then the final score appeared in his do-or-die match with Lefever with All-American hopes on the line. A pair of takedowns helped give Lefever a 6-3 lead late in the match before Boyer escaped with 26 seconds left, giving the former Rocket one last chance to score one takedorn of his own for the honor.
Lefever instead caught Boyer coming in and rode out a 9-4 victory. The loss brought Boyer’s successful junior season to an end at 25-9.
“He’s worked really hard to be able to get to this level. It’s tough to make the transition from high school to college wrestling,” Coe head coach John Oostendorp said of Boyer “I’m proud of him for sticking with it. It meant a lot to him to come that close to being an All-American. I’m sure it’s going to motivate him to be back here next year.”
“I’ll be back. I have no doubt about that,” Boyer added. “I just have to use this to fuel to get back here next year.”
Iowa Colleges shine at NCAA Division III National Wrestling
Boyer was hardly the only wrestler to draw the thousands of fans that attended both days of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Tournament. The Coe College junior was one of 27 representatives to compete against the best in the country from the Iowa Conference.
Boyer's junior teammate Jimmy Gotto was the only other Kohawk to win a national tournament match. In fact, the 125-pounder made a surprising run all the way to the championship match, giving the hometown fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena plenty to cheer for leading into the first title match on Saturday night before falling to top-ranked Ithica senior Ricardo Gomez 4-2.
All told, eight different Iowa Conference wrestlers earned All-American status in NCAA Division III by placing in the top eight in their respective weight classes. Leading the way was Wartburg, who lived up to their number one ranking by sending head coach Jim Miller off into retirement with a third straight national championship and 10th overall.
The Knights rolled away from Wisconsin-Whitewater in the team standings with 103 points to second-place Elmhurt’s 82. Top-ranked Kenneth Anderson capped a perfect season by winning the only individual state title for the northern Iowa school with a 9-1 major decision over Wisconsin-Whitewater’s seventh-ranked Grant Sutter in the 133-pound final.
Even more fans are hoped to be back in Cedar Rapids for next year’s NCAA Division III Wrestling national meet, which will be Mar. 14-15 in 2014 at the newly renovated Convention Center.
State pride to be showcased at NCAA Division I Nationals this weekend
A four-week stretch that has made Iowa the capital state for the sport of wrestling will conclude this weekend with the biggest event on the college level for the sport. The NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships get under way today at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, the home for the epic Iowa High School State Wrestling Meet.
Large crowds are expected to make their way through the turnstiles throughout the three days of competition, many of whom will be rooting for the home schools with Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa sending 19 different wrestlers to compete. Of those wrestlers, nine were born in the Hawkeye State and have some experience wrestling in big matches in Des Moines.
There are also five wrestlers from Iowa communities that will be making their homestate returns this week. Two redshirt seniors from Nebraska, Ridge Kiley and Josh Ihnen, along with Stanford redshirt junior Bret Baumbach, Northern Illinois redshirt junior Matt Mougin and Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore Julian Feikert were all born in the Hawkeye State.
Ihnen has the best record of those five Iowa-born wrestlers representing schools from outside the state at nationals. Looking to join in the footsteps of the legendary brothers Terry and current Iowa head coach Tom Brands, the 24-6 Nebraska Cornhusker Ihnen will be looking to become the most recent Sheldon Orab to win an NCAA wrestling title as he competes at 184 pounds.
Ihnen's Cornhusker teammate Kiley will also be looking for a national title at 141 in his final collegiate season. The Eagle Grove native is 14-11 on the year.
Closer to southern Iowa, Keokuk-born Feikert brings a 21-17 record into the NCAA meet in his redshirt sophomore season for national team title hopeful Oklahoma State. Former Columbus Junction standout Matt Mougin also will look to represent southern Iowa proudly this week as the Northern Illinois redshirt junior sports a 22-15 record at 174 pounds.
The long road trip from Council Bluffs to Des Moines will seem much shorter for Bret Baumbach, who returns to Iowa to compete at 165 pounds after moving much further west for his college career. The redshirt junior represents Stanford this week at Wells Fargo Arena, entering the national tournament with a 22-10 record.
The three-day, six-session NCAA Division I Wrestling championships get underway with first-round matches starting at 11 a.m. The finals begin Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and, new this year, will begin with the 174-pound title match.
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