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DWU wrestlers looking for redemption at national tournament

All seven Dakota Wesleyan University wrestlers competing in the NAIA national wrestling tournament today in Des Moines, Iowa, know what it feels like to wrestle on this big stage.

But they don't know how it feels to be an All-American.

Last year Richard Rios (133), Dusty Paulsen (149), Trever Devestern (157), Kyle Gerlach (157), Nicholas Hutcheson (165), Tyler Sarringar (174) and Eric Gruis (HWT) all made the NAIA national wrestling tournament. Rios, Gerlach and Devestern each came within one match from earning All-American status.

This season, they all are a year older and are setting their sights on placing at the national tournament.

"Everybody is really excited, last year we didn't have anyone make All-American, but this year we want to have a few guys get it," Gerlach said. "Last year as a freshman, I didn't really know what to expect, but this year I have higher expectations and I have a lot more drive to make it to the podium."

The Mount Vernon native and first team all-GPAC wrestler is leading DWU in wins this season with 24 and is ranked 12th at 157 pounds.

Joining Gerlach at 157 is Devestern, who currently ranks 11th at the weight class. The sophomore earned all-GPAC second team honors this season.

Devestern and Gerlach qualified for the national tournament finishing third and fourth, respectively, Feb. 16, at the North Qualifying tournament in Fremont, Neb.

The pair wrestled each other in the third-place match and Devestern won by pinning his teammate in the second period.

"There is a possibility I might meet up with Trever again in the tournament, but if we both wrestle good, we definitely have a shot at getting on the podium," Gerlach said.

The highest-rated DWU wrestler heading into the tournament is Rios. The Chino Hills, Calif., native is 15-3 this season and rated seventh in his weight class.

This is the junior's third time competing in the national tournament. It will also be the third time Sarringar, Hutcheson and Gruis will wrestle at the tournament as well.

A junior from Pierre, Sarringar is ranked 15th at 174 and punched his ticket to nationals with a fourth-place finish at the North Qualifying tournament.

Gruis and Hutcheson each qualified for the tournament via wild-card selections after finishing fifth and sixth at the North Qualifying tournament.

"It feels good to be heading back to the tournament," Hutcheson said. "I didn't get much mat time this season because of injuries, and I finished sixth at the qualifying meet, but I am happy the coaches thought enough of me to vote me in."

Wild-cards for the NAIA national tournament are chosen immediately after the regional qualifying competition and are given to 14 wrestlers who did not earn automatic berths by finishing in the top four of their weight class. Coaches voted in the wrestlers they think are good enough to compete at national tournament,

"This is a great group of committed guys. They have all been here before so nobody is going in pretty wide-eyed," DWU coach Matt Sedivy said. "I think they are ready, they have put in a lot of hard work for that All-American status. Now they have to go and take it."