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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, February 21, 2008

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Championship Preview
wrestlers head to cc meet at full strength

While many of his fellow seniors on the Muhlenberg football team spent the aftermath of the 2007 season hanging out and celebrating their winning of the Centennial Conference championship, Chris Swensen instead thought about losing.

Swensen, who competed at heavyweight for the Mule wrestling team his first three years, had to drop more than 30 pounds to be eligible to compete at 197 in his final season. With the help of a strict diet and intense workout program, he made the weight, and on Saturday he will shoot for another CC title.

Swensen is one of 10 Muhlenberg
Joe Tartar
Tartar has won two tournament titles this year, at Williams and Washington and Lee.
wrestlers who will travel to Ursinus for the Centennial Conference Championships. Competition is scheduled to begin at 10:00 am and wind up with the championship bouts in the late afternoon. The winners of the 10 weight classes, plus one wild-card selection, advance to the NCAA Division III Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I just felt I could perform better at 197 than at heavyweight,” explained Swensen, who said his friends thought he was crazy. “I got a late start because football went so long, for a good reason, and wrestled only five matches. But my body feels good, and it feels like I’m just turning the corner now. I’m ready for conferences.”

So is a Mule team that has experienced a strange season, with injury or the flu bug striking almost everyone in the lineup. Forced to compete shorthanded in most of its dual meets, Muhlenberg went only 4-8 (2-5 in the CC), but defeated nationally ranked Messiah in its final dual and is back at full strength for the conference meet.

“We definitely have a solid lineup, and we’re better than our record. We could surprise some people,” said Swensen. “We’re a good tournament team. We have a lot of wrestlers who can get into later rounds and keep scoring team points. In a dual match, your better wrestlers only wrestle once and then they’re done.”

Three of the Mules’ wrestlers – senior Joe Tartar and juniors Billy Hall and Rob Kein – went as deep as you can go in the CC meet last year, winning their weight classes and helping the team to a second-place finish.

Tartar is 23-8 with 10 pins at heavyweight on the season, but was beaten twice in CC duals. Both Hall (25-4 at 141) and Kein (25-5 at 149) are at higher weight classes than they were last year, and both lost once in CC dual matches.

Juniors Matt Horn (21-6 with a team-leading 11 pins at 184) and Justin Fitch (19-5 at 174) also have posted exceptional records.

Muhlenberg has qualified at least one wrestler for the national tournament nine straight years and will try to keep that streak alive against a strong field that includes 16th-ranked Kings Point and five-time defending CC champ Ursinus.

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