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Muhlenberg College

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

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NCAA Preview
two mule wrestlers hope to
capitalize on last chance

At the beginning of the 2008-09 wrestling season, Muhlenberg senior Rob Kein said, “This is our last chance to do something in a sport most of us have been involved with our entire lives. This year is an opportunity to lay it all on the line every single match.”

This weekend Kein and his teammate and fellow senior Matt Horn have the opportunity to leave it all on college wrestling’s biggest mat — the one at this year’s NCAA Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to go to an event that most NCAA wrestling athletes never get a chance to make it to,” said Kein. “Hopefully it can inspire some of the guys on team that are on the brink of breaking out to make the extra effort to get themselves here before they graduate.”

“This trip to NCAAs is both surreal and terribly exciting,” said Horn. “This is the tournament that the entire year has been building for. I’m really excited for the opportunity to wrestle at this tournament because this has been my goal the entire time at Muhlenberg.”

The last time the Mules qualified wrestlers for the national championships was in 2007 when they sent four; Kein was one of them. In the 2007 tournament, Kein wrestled 141s and was knocked out after losing his first two bouts.

“It was a lot different sophomore year,” he said. “It was more surreal then. I wasn’t ready to be
Rob Kein
Kein ranked as high as seventh in the NWCA Division III poll this season.
there; I was too young. Last year I was ready to go and place at nationals but I fell short of making it there. This year I know that I have a great shot of placing high and I really have to give it 100 percent in every second of every match.”

This season, Kein earned an at-large bid at 149 after placing second in the Centennial Conference Championships. He has a season record of 21-3 and captured two titles and two second-place finishes in tournaments this season.

Kein enters the NCAAs with a sixth-place seed. He will have a bye in the first round before facing an unseeded grappler from Ithaca, one he beat 13-7 last year. Kein wrestled two of
Matt Horn
Going into this weekend’s tournament, Horn has 87 career wins, tying him with Kein for fifth on the all-time list; his 34 pins tie him for third.
the other 17 149-pound qualifiers during the regular season. He defeated sophomore Dan Twito of Merchant Marine 5-1 early in the season before losing in a close 3-2 match in the finals of the CC Championships. Kein also faced senior Erik Smith from Wilkes in the Mules’ first tournament, winning 4-2 in overtime.

But the NCAAs are a unique environment and history isn’t guaranteed to repeat itself.

“The atmosphere of this tournament is completely different,” said Kein. “There are thousands of people watching and it’s loud; really loud. Everyone there is good and it’s not an easy trip to the finals. You can’t think that any match is decided before you go out there, no matter what your record or his is. This is a lot of people’s last chance and that means they’re going all out. Horn and I are two of them.”

Horn will be going to the tournament for the first time; after finishing third in the CC Championships his first three years, he captured the 184-pound title to earn an automatic bid to Iowa.

“This is my last shot at being an All-American and I don’t want to miss that,” he said. “I am trying to keep the mindset that it is just another tournament. If I can find a way to stay relaxed and be myself then I should have no problems.”

Horn enters the NCAAs with a 22-match winning streak; the only matches he’s lost this season are two that he wrestled at 197. Horn secured three tournament titles this year and a second- and third-place finish. He is unseeded in the tournament and will face the sixth seed, a senior from Johnson & Wales.

“I have not wrestled any the qualifiers this season and I’m looking at this as an advantage because I have such an unorthodox style that I will be able to surprise a lot of people,” Horn said. “It may be beneficial that they’ve never seen me. As long as I can get them to play into my match then I am confident against anyone.”

When asked if Kein had offered him any veteran words of wisdom, Horn joked, “I wouldn’t listen to him anyway. Seriously though, it’s nice to have someone that has done it before in your corner.”

“It’s great to have a good teammate out there with you, but it’s even better to have a good friend,” said Kein.

Competition is scheduled to begin Friday morning and wrap up with championship finals on Saturday night. Click here for the official site.

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