Senior 133-pounder Jestin Hulegaard will try to become the program's first-ever four-time wrestling All-American when he takes part in the NCAA Championships. Hulegaard, who placed fifth in Thursday's Iowa Conference Championships, earned the qualification as a wild card participant.
The Ankoa, Minn., native - seeded third- was edged 2-1 in his opening match of the championships by sixth-seeded Zac Bartlett of Luther. He then bounced back with a pin in his first consolation match over Loras College's Jordan Loy. In his bid to wrestle for third place, Hulegaard was again edged by a single point (5-4) by Coe's Gannon Hjerleid before topping Donte Brown (Dubuque) 5-0 to finish fifth and improve his overall mark to 28-6 this season.
The NCAA Championships will take place on March 7-8 in Cedar Rapids. Hulegaard captured fourth-place a year ago after taking third as a sophomore. He began his career with a fifth-place finish as a freshman and has already become the first wrestler in school history to earn All-American honors for three straight years at the same weight class.
Hulegaard will join teammates, Aaron Cook (149lbs) and Julian Mancha (165lbs) who earned automatic bids by taking second and third, respectively, in the IIAC Championships at Wartburg College on Thursday.
Cook's bid for a conference title came up a little short as the junior fell 5-1 in his title bout against top-seeded Jacob Naig of Wartburg. Cook's only scoring came on a riding-time point. He will head to nationals weighting a stellar overall record of 30-4. His path included a 16-0 technical fall over Simpson's Curtis Barber in the semifinals.
Earlier in the afternoon, Mancha (St. Paul, Minn./Humboldt) grabbed a third-place finish to lead the remaining nine wrestlers in the consolation bracket.
After falling 4-2 in his semifinal match, the sophomore bounced back to top Simpson's Geoff Murtha, 11-0, before cruising to a 7-0 victory over Luther's Thomas Ingram and improving to 24-11 overall.