Thursday, March 22, 2018 10:18 AM
Photo by Larry Radloff, D3photography.com
Ryan Epps reacts after scoring two points to win the Division III national wrestling championship at 157 pounds. Epps is the grandson of Rushford’s Jim and Bonnie Norstad.
Ryan Epps, a 2016 graduate of Cannon Falls High School and a sophomore at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, claimed his first-ever Division III national wrestling championship over the weekend after a thrilling 3-1 overtime win over Logan Thomsen of Wartburg College.
Epps entered the Division III national individual tournament as the top-seed at 157 pounds. He opened the tournament with a pin of Tyler Marsh of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, then claimed All-American honors with an 8-5 win over Egan Berga of North Central (IL). Epps then beat Cole Erickson of Coe College 3-1 to advance to the championship match.
The title match with Thomsen was a chess match, with each wrestler entering with his own game plan.
“He wasn’t very aggressive,” Epps said of Thomsen. “I kept going after him, and eventually he broke.” Epps used a single-leg takedown in overtime to win. “I wanted to keep things simple. I was better conditioned, so I knew I could wear him down.
“The final match was closer than I thought it would be, but it was fun to win in such dramatic fashion,” Epps continued. “I had family and friends in the stands, and my team was there. It was a cool atmosphere.”
“Ryan is a hard-working, no-nonense kind of man,” said Ausburg coach Jim Moulsoff. “He’s such a pleasure to work with. If Ryan has any faults, it’s that we have to tell him to slow down – he’s very competitive and will out-work anyone.
Winning a national championship was one of two goals Epps set before the season; the second was to win a team title. Augsburg placed second as a team behind Wartburg.
“We’ve got a young team, and Wartburg lost a bunch of guys,” Epps said. “Hopefully we can win it next year.”
Epps’ coach at Cannon Falls High School, Dudley Flodeen, made the drive to Cleveland, as did Donita Flodeen.
Moulsoff noted that 10 years ago Seth Flodeen of Cannon Falls won a national title while wrestling for Augsburg. Moulsoff was an assistant coach then.
“Coach Dudley Flodeen is doing a great job with those kids,” he said.
Epps’ mom Dawn (Norstad) Epps was present, as were grandma and grandpa Bonnie and Jim Norstad of Rushford.