March 2, 2007

Sports Shorts 3/2/07: Wrestling's Kruzel heading to Nationals

Wrestling’s Kruzel heading to Nationals

Ranked third in the region and fifth nationally, fourth-year Phil Kruzel has little left to prove in his distinguished career. Already this season, he has taken home a UAA championship and won individual titles at the Elmhurst, Cornell, and Concordia invitationals. With his college career winding down, Kruzel faces his final—and greatest—challenge yet: the NCAA championships.

Taking on the nation’s best at this weekend’s competition in Dubuque, Iowa, Kruzel will attempt to become the Maroons’ first wrestling All-American since Nick Kehagias (A.B. ’05). Kruzel, a fourth-year and team captain, went 3-–1 at Midwest regionals February 17, after going 29–3 during the regular season. The performance was enough to net him a wild card entry at 165. Chicago did not send a wrestler to Nationals last year, and the two wrestlers sent in the two years prior did not place.

With the rest of his fellow Maroons done for the year, Kruzel has spent the last two weeks practicing in a nearly empty gym with the coaches and several teammates near his weight.

Competing on the biggest stage in DIII wrestling, Kruzel will undoubtedly have some of the toughest matches of his season. By virtue of his semifinal upset at regionals, he did not face DIII’s answer to Olympian Cael Sanderson, top-ranked Marcus LeVasseur, an Augsburg fourth-year who has not lost a match in his college career. Although Kruzel was ranked fifth in the nation before regionals, the fact that he’s coming to Nationals as a wild card may give him a high-ranked opponent in the first match, like third-year Brandon MacWhinnie from UW–Stevens Point, who pinned his way through his regional tournament.

With so much riding on his final meet—the chance to be an All-American and cement his status in program history—Kruzel has stayed focused on the task at hand.

“I’m absolutely excited. This is the culmination of so many things; one of the reasons I decided to wrestle in college was to try to get here,” Kruzel said. “My main goal this year has been to earn All-American status at Nationals.

“My prediction is that I’m going to wrestle like it’s my last time on the mat because it is. I feel good. I’m confident. I’m ready. I plan on ending my wrestling career on a high note.”