Bruce leads Storm at IIAC Championship
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Justin Bruce came within one match of qualifying for the NCAA Division III Championships, leading the Simpson wrestling team to an eighth-place finish at the 2012 Iowa Conference Championship on Friday.
Simpson finished with 51.5 points, a four-point improvement from last season.
"With a young squad you try to find ways to improve from year-to-year," head coach Clint Manny said. "Overall, I think we gained a lot of experience this year and have four or five guys who are on the cusp of breaking through to qualify [for nationals]. We are improving and we ended the season on a positive note."
Wrestling at 174 pounds, seventh-seeded Bruce advanced all the way to the consolation finals before falling to third-seeded Logan Einerson of Dubuque by fall. Bruce rattled off three straight wins in the wrestleback bracket, beating Buena Vista's Casey Paprocki by fall (6:17) and pulling out close decisions against Joe Butler of Loras (4-2) and Thomas Van Renterghem of Central (2-1).
Bruce avenged losses to both Butler and Van Renterghem during the dual season.
"If you want a shot, you have to out-wrestle your seed and he definitely did that," Manny said of Bruce's performance. "He is the conference's alternate at 174 and definitely earned some respect at the weight class with his effort today."
Simpson's next best finish came at 165 pounds, where Cory Stratton took sixth-place. Seeded seventh, Stratton lost his first match before getting a major decision over Seth Shatto of Buena Vista (9-1). Then he went on to beat Mitch Gansen of Loras 8-6, a match he lost during the dual season. Stratton eventually lost to Dubuque's Ray Bryant in the fifth-place match, 3-1.
"Overall it was a good day of wrestling considering the competition," Manny said. "We had four guys beat people who had beaten them earlier in the year. When you start the tournament with a lower seed, it makes it tough. But we wrestled well on the back side of the bracket and got some wins that were pretty important. "
The Storm finished the 2011-12 season with six dual wins, the most during Manny's four-year tenure and the most by a Simpson team since winning 11 in 2005-06.