by Steven Cutler–A conference championship and a top 20 national finish to the 2018-19 season has excitement high for the Morningside Mustang wrestlers this season. The expectations are high, but repeating as Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament Champions will not come easily for Morningside this season.
The GPAC sits in the heart of wrestling country and it shows in the NAIA pre-season team poll. Concordia sits in the top 20, with Briar Cliff, Northwestern, Doane, Jamestown, Hastings, and Dakota Wesleyan all receiving votes to be ranked. Morningside is also receiving votes to be ranked along with the rest of the stacked conference.
Key wrestlers returning for the Mustangs are junior heavyweight Phil Rasmussen, senior 157-pounder Kyle Fowler, and senior 197-pounder Jacob Wiley.
Rasmussen went 25-11 last year which gave him First Team All GPAC Honors. Rasmussen also turned in a great performance at the GPAC tournament, winning the heavyweight division. Rasmussen comes into this season ranked #9 in the NAIA.
When asked what his expectations for himself were this season, Rasmussen said, “I want to get on the podium this year and make All-American. I think that’s a do-able goal this year.”
Fowler had a great season as well last year, turning in a 22-12 record through the season. Fowler also was able to find a place on the All-GPAC 2nd Team this year. Fowler comes in to this season ranked 8th in the NAIA.
Fowler’s expectations for himself were simple, “I want to win the GPAC title again and I have to All-American this year.”
Wiley went 24-11 last season and also took a spot on the All-GPAC second team. Wiley comes into this season ranked 13th in the pre-season poll.
There are several important meets during the year for Morningside this year, but when talking to most wrestlers and head coach Jake Stevenson, the key meets for Morningside this year are the Auggie-Adidas Invitational, The Dave Edmonds/Sioux City Open, and of course the GPAC Tournament.
“We haven’t been to the Augsburg tournament in four or five years,” head wrestling coach Jake Stevenson said when asked about important meets coming up this season, “Always a tough tournament. We’re the only NAIA school entered in the tournament, so it will be a good test for a lot of our freshmen and our upper classmen.”
Morningside’s first meet will be the Auggie-Adidas Invitational in Minneapolis on November 23rd. Morningside’s first duel will be against Concordia on December 5th in Sioux City.