Wrestlers compete at Nationals for
A year after sending just one wrestler to nationals, Augustana will send five to the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in Birmingham, Ala., March 10-11.
Freshman Brandon Carroll (125), senior Tyler Nation (157) and senior Ben Goodwin (197) make their first nationals appearances, while junior Aero Amo (184) and senior Michael Lowman (285) return for a second time. Goodwin and Amo were regional champions.
Head coach Jason Reitmeier said that before the regional tournament he would have been happy with three qualifiers. To get five, he said, was outstanding.
“The boys … wrestled with a lot of guts and a lot of heart,” Reitmeier said.
Carroll became the first Augustana true freshman to qualify for nationals since 2003, according to goaugie.com. Still, this was one small step torward accomplishing bigger career goals.
“I know I can be a four-time All-American,” Carroll said. “I always love to compete, and now it’s just another tournament with a little more hype. I can’t wait.”
Carroll said he’s more excited than nervous. Reitmeier said Carroll’s excitement carries over to his coaches—which sometimes turns into anxiety when they watch him wrestle.
“He’s a free-flier,” Reitmeier said. “He just goes out there and let’s it go. It’s very exciting. At the same time it’s, frustrating for coaches to watch. But the regional was probably the funnest I’ve had in a long time with one kid.”
Reitmeier described Nation as a model of consistency.
“He just does what he has to do to win and is just solid,” Reitmeier.
Nation said that making the national tournament was not the goal—earning All-American status that accompanies a top-8 finish is. Despite this being his last meet, he said there is “no point in getting nervous.”
“I’ve either put in the work and am going to win or I haven’t,” Nation said.
Goodwin hit his stride in the regional in a way Reitmeier wasn’t sure was possible, beating the one, two and three seeds on his way to the championship, according to Reitmeier.
“What do you say about Goodwin?” Reitmeier said. “He did things that we haven’t seen from him this year, which was wrestle with a sense of urgency at times, a sense of purpose the whole match.”
Goodwin acknowledged that this weekend will feature the most important matches of his life and admitted to having mixed feelings about it.
“I’m excited, nervous, anxious, but I’m at the point in my career where I know how to turn those emotions into fuel,” Goodwin said. “I love that feeling.”
Amo went 1-2 at nationals last year and missed out on All-America honors. Reitmeier said that if Amo wrestles like he did at regionals, he could win a national title.
“That was the best I’ve seen Aero Amo wrestle in probably a year,” Reitmeier said.
“He was just so controlled and confident and focused, … and he did every little thing right. He really wrestled smart, focused matches. I was just super impressed by the way he controlled every match.”
Amo said he hasn’t looked at his 16-man bracket, saying that it makes no sense to peak ahead when wrestling the best of Division II.
“I like to … focus more on what I want and need to do rather than focus on what my opponent does,” Amo said. “I think we should wrestle how we always do and not worry about what our opponents are going to do.”
Lowman returns to nationals after being denied All-American status his sophomore year. Reitmeier said that he liked the way Lowman responded after falling behind in his regional championship despite eventually losing.
“[He] wrestled really well,” Reitmeier said. “The finals wasn’t as good a match as we would’ve liked to have seen, but, overall, he finished the match the way he was supposed to. He … came back and made it an actual match.”
Lowman said he is more prepared for nationals two years later and believes he has a shot to win the national title.
“My first trip at nationals I was really nervous and felt that it had a negative [effect] on my performance,” Lowman said. “I am feeling confident and know that if I go and wrestle my hardest that I will be happy with the outcome. … The goal is to be a national champ.”
Reitmeier said that even the athletes who weren’t selected to wrestle at regionals or didn’t qualify for nationals have been supportive in practice and working out as though meets remained in the season. He said the team’s chemistry is as high as it has been in years.
“Even the seniors that are pretty much done have been great, just phenomenal,” Reitmeier said. “They’ve been real role models, great practice partners, leaders for these guys that are going to nationals.”
Had he been told before the season that five of his wrestlers would qualify for nationals, Reitmeier said he would have taken it. He hopes that all five will bring All-American honors back to Sioux Falls. If they wrestle well enough to place in the top four as a team, they’ll bring a team trophy back, too.