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Behnke wrestles to first at Matman invitational

Complete domination sums up Nathaniel Behnke’s Saturday of wrestling.

Behnke continued his solid freshman season by winning all five of his matches en route to a 141 pound championship to help the shorthanded Blugolds place eighth with 42 points at the Matman Invitational hosted by Cornell College in Mount Vernon (Iowa), Saturday afternoon.

Behnke was dominant throughout the day, allowing his opponents to score only four combined points against him in his five matches.  He collected a pin and two major decisions and won his championship match by shutting out Coe College’s Beau Westpfahl, 2-0.  Behnke’s record improves his overall record to 24-5.

“I got after it right away,” Behnke said. “I got that first take down in every single match.  I think getting that first take down is key.”

Even Behnke was surprised at the dominance he displayed on Saturday, but it may serve him well for the rest of the season as he makes a quest for a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WIAC) title and trip to nationals.

“I finally got that confidence that I can finally beat these ranked guys,” Behnke said. “It’s motivation.”

Motivation drives Behnke, as he cites that putting in extra time in the wrestling room keys his success.  First-year head coach Jon Ames has a front row seat to Behnke everyday at practice and has a pretty good idea why his college career is off to such a hot start.

“He’s relentless out there,” Ames said.  “His work ethic in the wrestling room is unmatched by very few people and that’s the key to success for a college wrestler.”

While Behnke was undoubtedly at full strength on Saturday, the Blugolds were not.  They competed with just seven wrestlers due to an array of injuries.  Ames thought the tournament had some very good wrestlers in it, but he was overall pleased with how his team performed.

“We had some ups and downs,” Ames said. “But some of our individuals wrestled pretty well today.  I was happy with the way we wrestled.”

Behnke’s championship highlighted the day for the Blugolds, but Ames thought that most of his other wrestlers performed strong today as well.  He thought one thing his team did very well was wrestling focused, and nearly all of them came away with a first round victory.

Junior Mat Rieckhoff was one of those wrestlers, and his fifth place at 184 pounds was the second highest finish on the team.

Rieckhoff won his first two matches of the day before losing his third and fourth round bouts.   Rieckhoff was unable to finish his fourth round match due to a lingering injury in his back and had to forfeit.  He subsequently won by forfeit in the fifth place match.

Ames thought the matches Rieckhoff did wrestle went solidly.

“He came out on fire and wrestled really well,” Ames said.  “He battled pretty hard and did pretty well.”

Rieckhoff considers this the biggest collegiate tournament he’s ever placed in, and like Behnke, he has his sights set on the national tournament.  He agreed that placing at the Matman Invitational gives him confidence as well as adjustment periods for the stretch run that is rapidly approaching.

“Placing at a big tournament like this is definitely good for confidence,” Rieckhoff said. “Just realizing what’s working to win the big matches and the one’s that I’ve lost realizing what’s not working for me gives me some time to adjust before the regional tournament.”

The Blugolds will look to continue their solid wrestling when they return to the mat on Friday, when they travel to UW-Whitewater.   Action commences at 7:00 p.m.

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