UW-MilwaukeeTakes 38th At Nationals; Kwilinski All-American
UW-Milwaukee Ends Season With 6 Wins At Nationals
15 March, 2008
LAKELAND -- UW-Milwaukee finished competing in the three-day NCWA National Tournament on March 15 by having Darin Kwilinski (Sr, 174) crowned as an NCWA All-American. The senior capped his career with an 8th place finish.
"It's a dream come true," said Darin of his All-American achievement. "It's what I've been working for all eights years of my career. The reason I wrestled in college is because I didn't feel accomplished enough in high school. Now that I'm an All-American, one of the highest honors you can get, I can finally hang up my shoes and say I did something in wrestling."
Kwilinski lost his first match 14-7 before rattling off four consecutive victories to earn the honor. The final win he needed to become an All-American came in dramatic against Abu-Ali of Kansas State University. As a scoreless first period was winding down, Abu-Ali hit a lateral drop to put Darin on his back. Kwilinski rolled through and put Abu-Ali on his back and held him there. The referee hit the mat as time expired. With all observers waiting with bated breath, the referee announced that the pin occurred in time, and that Kwilinski won by fall in 2:59.
"It happened so fast that I didn't have much time to think about it; I just reacted," Kwilinski said, describing the sequence that ended with his victory. "The second I was thrown, I knew he was in bad position, so I just rolled through, and squeezed as hard as I could, hoping I could just end it right there."
UW-Milwaukee head coach Koy Kosek had similar thoughts.
"I looked at the clock and there were eight seconds left, Abu-Ali was on his back, and Darin had it locked up quite tight. I realized that Darin could pin him right there. I yelled to Darin that he still had enough time, to squeeze hard and go for the pin," said Coach Kosek. "He did, the ref hit the mat, and after he hit it, I looked quickly to the clock and it read one second. I was relieved that the ref made the right call. It was a good feeling. Darin earned this."
Kwilinski expounded on his feelings after being named All-American.
"I was quite speechless," he recalled. "I did a little bit of celebrating. The feeling sunk in right away, that I had finally achieved my goal that I had worked for all season. It was just an incredible sense of accomplishment, happpiness, joy and relief, knowing that my hard work had paid off."
The team finished in 38th place overall with 12 team points. Coach Kosek offered his assessment of the team's performance.
"We went 0-4 in the first session," he explained. "I felt that this team was better than that. We went back to the hotel and watched every match. I challenged the team and asked them if this was how they wanted their season to end. I told them that I didn't see us generating much fund-raising interest in the off-season after an 0-8 showing at Nationals. Then we discussed some adjustments that had to be made. After that, Omar wrestled hard but just got beat by a better opponent, Tom pretty much did too, Alex won his next two matches, and Darin won his next four, followed by a 5-4 loss to Lance Esch, and Esch had beaten Darin 14-6 just two weeks earler. I was mildly disappointed with our overall showing, but I wasn't upset overall with how we performed after that first round."
Alex Hughes (Fr, 125) had a somewhat successful end to the season, too, as the team's only other point scorer at Nationals:
"It was a very new experience," said Alex, a 2007 WIAA State Placewinner at 103. "I liked how it was very structured. The style of wrestling was a lot different than I expected. I was disappointed with losing my first match. But the rest of the tournament, I felt that I pretty much for the most part did my best.
"I was happy to see that Darin went as far as he did," continued Hughes, commenting on the team, "but I would have liked the other guys to have gotten a win or two in at Nationals."
Coach Kosek offered his thoughts on the team's performance as well.
"I don't know if I got out-coached, I probably did, but I know I definitely got out-scouted," said Kosek. "We knew they would be throwing and rolling like crazy, but this went way beyond what we expected. I didn't think we'd see this good of throwing and rolling all season. We're used to NCAA Division 2 and Division 3 wrestling in the midwest, where teams mostly try to beat the snot out of you and don't worry much about throwing or rolling in general.
"This was like a freestyle tournament, relatively speaking. The style that's evolved in the NCWA is wide open, with less emphasis on being physical and conditioning. And at Nationals, I was surprised at how good a lot of the guys were at it. We went to five NCAA opens in Wisconsin this year, and the best throwers and rollers I saw this season were at the NCWA National Tournament, and I'm not kidding.
"If we can get the gang back together again next year and make another run at it, I can assure you that we will be better prepared to combat this style of wrestling.
"In the meantime," continued Kosek, "the program over the last four months has taken Darin Kwilinski from 0-2 at conference last season to All-American this season. We saw Alex Hughes go from a 103-pounder who was 6th best among Division 1 high school teams in Wisconsin reach the top sixteen at 125 at NCWA Nationals in one year. Omar Reynoso, who never got out of Regionals in high school and sat out of wrestling for two years entirely, got to NCWA Nationals in his first year back in competition.
"It has been established that dedicated wrestlers can now learn to compete at the college level and improve their skills at UW-Milwaukee. I hope that will be noted by wrestlers who want the opportunity to compete at UW-Milwaukee."