WAVERLY, Iowa, November 7 – Two Connecticut wrestlers will be in the starting lineup when the Wartburg College wrestling team – the defending NCAA Division III national champions – open the wrestling season on Wednesday when they host Nebraska-Wesleyan.
Trumbull senior Cross Cannone, the defending national champion, is ranked No. 1 in preseason rankings at 149 pounds while Milford sophomore Mike Ross, who earned All-American honors a year ago at the NCAA Division III national championships, is ranked No. 3 at 165.
“No matter who you are, no matter what you did last year, it has to be re-earned,” Wartburg coach Eric Keller said. “There’s not a spot in that room that doesn’t have to be earned, no matter who you are. That’s the beauty of wrestling; you have to go earn it. There’s a lot of guys who want to do that and get their opportunity. To represent this program and put their stamp on this program and this program’s history, and be a part of winning a championship.”
Defending national champions sophomore Brock Rathbun (133) and Cannone return, as does Ross. Senior Brennen Doebel (125) was one match away from earning All-American status last March.
Cannone went 34-0 a year ago and gave up just four points at the national championships. He became the first Connecticut native to win a Division III national championship in 32 years.
“Cross is also locked in,” he continued. “It’s his senior year. He understands that part and wants to go out on top. He doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.”
Rathbun and Cannone received the No. 1 ranking in their individual weight classes in the preseason poll, while Ross is No. 3, and Doebel is ranked No. 7. On the team poll, the Knights were tabbed No. 4 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division III national poll behind Augsburg University, Ithaca College and Johnson and Wales.
“We have a group of a lot of unknowns,” Keller continued. “There are guys that haven’t had the opportunity yet to be ‘the guy’ with what we had in front of them. They haven’t developed to where they need to be yet, and some are new to our program.”
The Orange and Black open the season Wednesday against American Rivers Conference opponent, Nebraska Wesleyan, as they start the quest for their 27th consecutive conference championship.