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Lefever Lit it Up


Wabash star became second Division III wrestler to capture four championships


I


n early March, Wabash College’s Riley Lefe- ver became only the second four-time Div. III wrestling champion in history, winning the 197-pound title at the NCAA Champi-


onships in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Lefever’s quest for his fourth national title was


FHQWHUHG DURXQG HQMR\LQJ KLV ÀQDO UXQ LQ D :DEDVK singlet, a mindset that led him to achieve big things his senior year. “At the beginning of every season, people


would say, ‘Oh gotta get No. 2 or No. 3 or No. 4,’ but I didn’t really think of it like that,” Lefever said. “Changing my perspective and mentality really helped me stay excited to wrestle and not be focused on outcomes but just focus on the process. “I wanted to improve and have fun every day


and just compete rather than going into that tourna- ment thinking I have to win a fourth title. I just went in thinking this was the last time I get to compete for Wabash and with my teammates, so I wanted to have fun and compete hard.” After winning three titles at 184 pounds, Le-


fever decided to try his hand at a new weight, 197 pounds. (Historically, Cael Sanderson, the only wres- tler to win four NCAA Div. I titles and go undefeat- ed in his career, did the same thing as a senior for Iowa State in 2002.) “I didn’t really want to focus on weight man-


agement too much,” Lefever said. “I wanted to fo- cus on improving during practices and not thinking about my weight. Over the summer, I wrestled with some bigger guys out in Colorado Springs, some guys that trained at 97 (kilograms). I was pretty con- ÀGHQW , FRXOG PDNH WKH PRYH XS µ He put together a solid season, winning six


tournaments and claiming the Outstanding Wrestler honor at three, prior to the NCAA Championships. In November, he won the Harold Nichols Open, hosted by Iowa State, where he knocked off Ne- braska’s Aaron Studebaker, who went on to claim ÀIWK DW WKH 1&$$ 'LY , &KDPSLRQVKLSV Other tournament wins included the In-


diana Little State, Spartan Mat Classic, Baldwin Wallace Invite, Mid-States Invite and NCAA Midwest Regional, which punched his ticket to


32 USA WRESTLER/WIN MAGAZINE ASHLEY DE JAGER PHOTO


In going 16-0 in four NCAA Division III Championships, Riley Lefever has pinned six IRHV LQFOXGLQJ WKUHH LQ


ZKHQ KH ÁDWWHQHG &DUORV 7RULELR RI ,WKDFD LQ WKH ÀQDO — By Taylor Miller —


the national championships. Heading into the NCAA tournament, Lefever


compiled a 35-3 record, with his three losses com- ing at the hands of Division I opponents, including 2017 All-American and Big Ten champion Kollin Moore of Ohio State. The Wabash senior from Ft. Wayne, Ind., con-


tinued to assert his dominance at the national tour- nament, rolling through the weight class, where he was seeded No. 1. He opened the event with a pair of pins com-


bining for 3:07, downing St. John’s Robert Tait in 36 VHFRQGV IROORZHG E\ D ÀUVW SHULRG SLQ RYHU .DFHH Hutchinson of Greensboro. $OWKRXJK KH GLGQ·W SLQ KLV VHPLÀQDO RSSRQHQW


Lefever was not slowed down as he forced his way to a 16-5 major decision over AJ Kowal of Stevens 7HFK WR HDUQ D ELG WR WKH ÀQDOV There, he was set to face No. 3-seed Carlos To-


ribio of Ithaca, who put together a solid tournament of his own. There was just one match left. A match that


Four-Time NCAA Champs The following is a list of the wrestlers who


have won four NCAA titles at all levels. 1DPH 6FKRRO


Kyle Dake, Cornell III


'LY <HDUV I 2010-13


Joey Davis, Notre Dame Coll. II 2013-16 Riley Lefever, Wabash


2014-17


Marcus LeVesseur, Augsburg III 2003-07 Cole Province, Central Okla. II 2001-04 Dan Russell, Portland State II 1988-91 Cael Sanderson, Iowa State I 1999-02 Les Sigman, Nebraska-Omaha II 2003-06 Pat Smith, Oklahoma State Logan Stieber, Ohio State


I 1990-94 I 2012-15


Tim Wright, SIU-Edwardsville II 1984-87


would be his last as a collegiate wrestler and one that would determine whether or not he would make history. But there was no pressure for Lefever. In- stead, he was ready to have some fun. “I just thought of it as another match —my


last match and I just wanted to go out there and have some fun, score a lot of points and try to pin the guy,” he said. “I was really excited to wrestle. During my warm-up, I was just smiling and getting ready. It was just an exciting time. That’s the best way to put it into words.” Securing his place in history, Lefever pinned


Toribio in 4:52 in the championship bout, joining Augsburg College’s Marcus LeVesseur in the very short list of four-time Division III champions. “I got in my shot, he was moving in and it felt


pretty good,” Lefever told Wabash Athletics after winning his fourth. “He stuffed me pretty good. I had to switch outside. Once I pulled my head up I felt it. I started to try to switch his arm and pull his hands in. Once I lifted him, I knew I was in pretty good position to capitalize on it and that he was go- LQJ WR HQG XS RQ KLV EDFN , ZDV GHÀQLWHO\ WKLQNLQJ pin then.” Thanks to his incredible performance, Lefever


was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler. He was also honored as Division III’s Most Dom- inant Wrestler by the NCAA, averaging 5.79 team points per match. Not only does Lefever wrap up his career as


a four-time national champion, but he also boasts an undefeated streak against Division III competi- tion with a 129-0 record. Overall, Lefever claimed 158 wins to write himself in as third on Wabash’s all-time wins list. “I don’t really get the feeling that it was this


spectacular feat,” said Lefever, whose brothers Re- ece and Connor also earned All-American honors for Wabash between 2013-15. “It’s another goal that I set and accomplished. I had a lot of fun this year and I would not trade it for anything. “It’s kind of somber to see my collegiate career


go, but I’m excited for what the future holds in wres- tling. There are still some bigger things in the sport that I’m striving to complete.” Q


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