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Two weekends ago one Wartburg sports team celebrated a milestone that is extremely rare for any sport in any division. Almost 300 Wartburg alums came back to help Coach Miller and Coach Keller celebrated a double decade of dominance for Wartburg wrestling.
The Wartburg wrestling team has won the conference championship 20 years in a row, starting with the 1992-1993 season. In those 20 years, the grappling Knights have also brought home nine national championships, including 36 individual champions. The Wartburg wrestling team is not only a dynasty, but a huge family.
Mark Kist, a 2011 graduate of Wartburg and former wrestler, said, “Wartburg wrestling to me means a lot. When I think about it I think about tradition, family…it’s more than just on the mat. I’ve met people here who I’ve developed relationships with that will be with me for the rest of my life.”
“Wartburg is just a special place,” added 2012 graduate Elard “CT” Coello. “It’s not only about championships, but it’s about friendships, it’s about family…it’s just not wrestling.”
Wartburg wrestling even impacts parents of wrestlers. Mark Kist’s father, David, said, “I have gotten to know so many fantastic people here. It truly, truly is a family. Everyone that I’ve met cares about each other on the mat and off the mat.”
For some Knights, wrestling at Wartburg changed their lives.
“When I got to Wartburg it was a rough transition,” said Kevin Bratland, a 2003 graduate. “But the three years I was here from 2000-2003 shaped who I was and who I am today. It’s just something I give my coaches credit for; they changed my life.”
Justin Hanson, a 2009 graduate added, “I was lost in the world before I came here. I went to a D1 school and I came here and was a little lost at the beginning. Coach Miller made me find my way to having success on and off the mat.”
Wrestling at Wartburg is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle and it’s something that the wrestlers take with them for the rest of their lives.
“What I took away from Wartburg wrestling is simple: hard work, set goals and obtain them,” said Zane Briggs, a 1995 graduate.
Kist added, “Everything I do in my life now I reflect back to Wartburg. In the wrestling room, the lessons I learned just from mental toughness to physical toughness, just every day life.”
All former Wartburg wrestlers would agree that it was Coach Miller’s one saying that stuck with them: “Do it anyway.”
“It’s something I still carry with me today,” said 2003 graduate LeRoy Gardner. “Anyone who has wrestled for Coach Miller will tell you his saying is ‘do it anyway’.”
“Anything I have to do at work and I don’t want to do it I just do it anyway,” stated Hanson.
Brennan Drew, 2011 graduate, added, “What sets you apart is doing it anyway. In any circumstance whether that be in work or life, in friendships, whatever the case may be.”
It is important to the former wrestlers that the current wrestlers continue the dominance and the legacy that is Wartburg wrestling.
“The farther I get away from having graduated the more meaningful it has been to see that it continues…it never drops off,” said Gardner. “It kind of boggles your mind to know how it can continue to just keep happening and happening.”