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Dakota Wesleyan wrestlers seek to get a grip on All-American status this weekend

Three Dakota Wesleyan University wrestlers were one match away from being All-Americans last year.

This weekend at the NAIA north qualifying tournament, DWU's Richard Rios, Trever DeVestern and Kyle Gerlach are all taking their first steps in erasing last year from their memories. A year ago, all three were a part of the final 12 wrestlers in each of their weight classes, but they were knocked out before making the final eight.

"There isn't much time you don't think about it," DWU coach Matt Sedivy said, referring to failing to become an All-American at the national tournament. "When you get that close and it doesn't happen, I definitely know it's driven them."

Saturday in Fremont, Neb., the Tigers are sending 12 wrestlers to regionals, and all of them have hopes to qualify for nationals. To guarantee a spot at the year-end tournament, a wrestler needs to place in the top four of his weight class.

A junior, Rios (133) is gunning for his third straight national tournament appearance. He's ranked fifth in the nation at his weight and has won 12 of his 14 matches this year. Gerlach and DeVestern are both wrestling at 157 pounds and are ranked nationally. They both qualified for nationals as true freshmen a year ago and are hoping to return as sophomores.

Gerlach, ranked 10th, is a Mount Vernon native and holds the team lead with 21 wins. DeVestern is ranked sixth and holds a 14-6 record.

"I think they're just wrestling with less pressure this year," Sedivy said. "It's a higher comfort level after being eyes wide open and not knowing what to expect last year."

Sedivy is in his fourth season as head coach at Wesleyan. He's had one All-American in his tenure, heavyweight Josh Geppert in 2011, but is hoping the list expands this season.

"I think every kid in our starting lineup's goal is to be an All-American," he said. "That's one of the reasons we put the time and effort in to do this."

Each team can send 12 wrestlers to the regional tournament with a maximum of two wrestlers per weight class. If a wrestler doesn't make the top four in his bracket, there are wild-card selections that make nationals. Sedivy estimated 15 to 17 wrestlers from the region would go to the national tournament as wildcards. The national tournament starts March 1 and takes place in Des Moines, Iowa.

Other DWU wrestlers who are wrestling this weekend are Dusty Paulsen and Caleb Heiberger at 149 pounds, Nick Hutcheson and Ryan Roach at 165, Tyler Sarringar at 174, Jade Hoisington at 184 and Eric Gruis at heavyweight.

As of Monday evening, Sedivy had 11 wrestlers he was set on sending to the regional tournament, allowing one more entrant a spot. He wasn't sure who that person will be and added it will be determined this week based on practice.

"We don't have anyone that's going to graduate this year and that's definitely a good thing," Sedivy said. "But you can't take the next year for granted. You have the opportunity you have in front of you today, and that's about it.

"We've had a lot of team success, but we need to get some All-Americans."