CORALVILLE, Iowa — Concordia recorded 16 total wins and had eight of their 10 wrestlers record at least one victory but it was the performances of sophomore Gabe Zierden and senior Alex Skaare that stole the show at the NWCA Division III National Meet.
Zierden and Skaare both got to the podium at the meet to earn NWCA All-American honors. Zierden was second at 197 and Skaare was seventh at 174. They become the first Cobber All-Americans since 2016 when Jakob Stageberg earned NCAA All-American honors. They also push the Concordia All-American total, in either NAIA, NCAA or NWCA to 39.
Zierden stormed through the bracket at 197 and advanced all the way to the championship match. He became the first Cobber wrestler to compete in a national finals bout since Phil Moenkedick won the NCAA Championship in 2011. Zierden also follows the same path as Moenkedick. Moenkedick was the runner-up as a sophomore before he won back-to-back titles.
Zierden started his runner-up path with a pin in the second minute of his match in the Round of 32. He followed that up with a technical fall win over Chris Nielsen from Dubuque. Zierden made it three straight bonus-point wins when he put his opponent’s shoulders on the mat at the 2:13 mark in the quarterfinals. The win over Kobe Woods of Wartburg assured Zierden of All-American status and pushed him into the semifinals – the first CC athlete to get to that point since 2-11 when Tom Bouressa finished fourth at 285 at the NCAA Meet.
Zierden punched his ticket to the title bout with a 4-1 decision over Bentley Schwanbeck-Ostermann from Augsburg. His successive wins over athletes from wrestling powerhouses Wartburg and Augsburg served notice that Zierden will be one of the top wrestlers in the country at 197 for the next two years.
Zierden’s breakout meet came to an end when he lost to Cody Baldridge from North Central in the finals. Zierden couldn’t mount an offensive attack on Baldridge and lost 10-2.
Zierden went 4-1 at the NWCA meet and finishes the year with a 6-1 record. He is 28-11 in his two seasons in maroon and gold.
Skaare was the feel-good story of the weekend. He capped his Cobber career by earning All-American honors.
He entered the weekend seeded sixth at 174. Skaare started his meet with a convincing 11-0 win over Devin Rogers from Carthage. He then came through with a pin at 4:06 in the Round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals. Needing a win in the Final 8 to earn All-American honors, Skaare dropped a 12-2 decision in the quarterfinals and was forced to take the consolation route to All-American status. He still needed only one more win to get to the podium and got there with a 13-3 major decision over Shyler Langley from Simpson.
Skaare lost his next match in the consolation Round of 4 but then rebounded to win the seventh-place match with a pin at 4:52 over Tristan Westphal from Coe.
Like Zierden, Skaare finished the year with a team-high six wins. He went 6-2, and in the past two years fashioned a 17-12 record. Skaare ends his Concordia career with 47 victories.
Cade Lundeen and Jacob Arends were the other Cobber wrestlers to record more than one win at the meet. Lundeen went 2-2 at 141. He dropped his opening Round of 32 match 11-1 but then put back-to-back wins together before falling in the Consolation Round of 8. Arends, who had a breakout year at 285 in 2021, made the same path as Lundeen. He dropped his opening match but then edged Daniel Skold of Augustana (Ill.) and pinned Brian Morel of the Coast Guard at 2:47. He lost to the No.2-ranked wrestler 8-4 in the Consolation Round of 8.
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