Beaver Wrestling Utilizes Strong Returning Leadership and Solid Underclassmen Core to Prep for Underdog Season 


Allie Hartman

Tanner Frost, Sports Editor

The Beavers are looking for revenge and to shock in the American Rivers Conference this season. Fortunately for them, they do not have to wait long for their first chance to do so. 

Beginning their 2019-2020 campaign on the mat much like last year, the Buena Vista Wrestling team faces off against the long-time ranked Loras Duhawks in their season opener.

However, it’s been a long road and winding road leading up to dual one of the year. In his second season at the helm of the program, Head Coach Mark Rial will be the one to pave the way for success. Despite the adversity faced in a tough-as-nails conference, the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame coach is eager to begin. 

“My expectations are for us to compete with a lot of effort, passion, and integrity,” says Rial. “Our goal is to fight every time we compete and be thankful for the opportunities we have.”

With practice underway for almost a month now and the chance to return to the mat having been taken in stride, Rial and team have enjoyed the preseason. 

“We have a lot of guys that are motivated to get better every day. We have some young talent that I look forward to their progression throughout the year. For the most part, we have been consistent with the intensity and fight in the room, and now we have to carry that over when it matters.” says Rial. 

However, the American Rivers Conference sees Buena Vista in an underdog situation, much like last year. 

The Beavers finished the 2018-2019 campaign with an overall record of 5-8 which was a significant improvement over seasons past. The team also went 2-6 in American Rivers Conference matchups defeating Dubuque 27-21 and Simpson 31-11. This would see the Beavers end in a three-way tie for 6th in the ARC, with the same conference record as Nebraska Wesleyan and the aforementioned Spartans. 

The preseason coaches poll slots Buena Vista in the number eight spot, only ahead of the Simpson Storm who were winless in American Rivers Conference duals in 2018-2019. 

Senior Brad Kerkhoff shone in his last year as a Beaver, qualifying for the Division III National Championships as a Beaver for the first time since 2014.

Alongside Kerkoff, now Junior Don Phillips II, Senior Parker Preul, and Senior Collin Stilson all broke through in big ways while notching big wins under their belts. 

Stilson is the lone returning all-region member of the squad from last season, as the Senior placed 8th at the 2019 NCAA Regional.

As a veteran member of the team, Phillips looks to be a part of a small upperclassmen group taking over the team’s leadership roles.

After his solid last year with four pins to his name, Phillips is raring to go for the fast-approaching conference opener. Alongside one other Junior and four Seniors, the Junior knows it will take a team effort to have a successful season. 

“Heading into the season opener we want success throughout all ten weights and just to wrestle our best,” says Phillips. 

Subscribing to Rial’s methods of hard work and determination, Phillips has his mindset on a mentally strong year as well.

“One thing I know for sure is that you have to push yourself when you feel like you can’t go anymore. We have to believe that we can do anything we put our minds to, and not worry about who we have to wrestle. We just have to wrestle.” adds Phillips.

With seven of the 18 members on the Beaver Wrestling squad coming in as freshmen, alongside five sophomores as well, the strong underclassmen group is also expected to step up in a big way in Rial’s eyes. 

The second-year Head Coach lists Axel Hernandez, Garret Bruce, Floyd Miller, and Stephen White as a few new faces to watch out for when the season finally kicks into high gear. 

After traveling to Loras this Thursday, the Beavers head east to Mitchell, South Dakota to compete in the Dakota Wesleyan Open.

Buena Vista will host their first home dual of the season next Friday night in Siebens Fieldhouse against Saint John’s University. The Beavers took a big victory away from this night last season in a dominant 31-13 win over the Red Storm.

The dual will begin at 6:00.