The final act looms for senior Jaran Rutledge, as he heads for the NCAA Division III Wrestling National Championships on Friday, March 7. Seeded in the heavyweight division, this is Rutledge’s second time to Nationals, and he aims to make a bigger impact this year than last.
After coming in third in the tournament last year, to become Knox’s first All-American wrestler, this entire year has been building up to this point. Since the conclusion of last season, he and Coach Tony Islas have been training with the goal of becoming National Champion. With the exemplary performance he put forward this year, suffering only two losses all year, Rutledge has gained a bye in the first round, advancing to the quarterfinals, giving him more time to prepare, both mentally and physically.
Though he did only lose two matches, one of those came at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Tournament, in a double-overtime heartbreaker to Mark Corsello of Elmhurst College. The loss was on a tie-breaking riding time point, and nobody saw it coming, least of all Rutledge. Still, more than anything, this pointed out any faults in the Knox wrestler’s style, and with the break between Regionals and Nationals, corrections were able to be made and put into effect.
Seeded fourth in the heavyweight division, Rutledge will more than likely face the #5 seed Ryan Bowers of Heidelberg College, and, barring an upset, #1 seed Trevor Hiffa of Oneonta State enroute to the finals. In fact, it is possible for there to be a rematch of the Regionals Final, as Mark Corsello is seeded sixth, and if he wins through, the two titans could face on the mat, for the final match of Rutledge’s career.
To gain a second All-American status, Rutledge must finish in the top eight, but that would be less than what he wants, a National Championship for Knox College. Matches begin at 11 a.m., on Friday, March 7 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Rutledge, with his seeding, will wrestle at 6 p.m.