Senior Seth Ecker and graduate student Jeremy Stierly are listed in the wrestling team’s history as two of eight national champions, but they will also be remembered for their contributions in the classroom.
Ecker became the South Hill squad’s first two-time individual national champion when he defeated Coe College senior Jordan Westfall at the NCAA Championships March 10 to earn the top spot in the 133-pound weight class. Stierly had suffered two successive defeats in the 141-pound weight class before moving up to the 149-pound category and earning his first national title.
They have also earned national honors for balancing their course load with athletics. Ecker was named to the District I All-Academic Team in 2011, while Stierly was a
National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-American.
Ecker said he felt a deeper sense of responsibility to win during his second time on the biggest stage in Division III wrestling.
“Representing your school, your coaches and the hard work and dedication they put into you — it’s the culmination of that which makes winning a national title so special,” Ecker said.
Stierly said if he lost in the national title bout a third time, he would have seen his final season as a failure.
“Anything but first would have been unsuccessful for me,” he said. “One of the things about getting second twice is that you go in there knowing that getting second or worse is going to be an unsuccessful finish for that weekend.”
Junior Rick Gomez had a similar experience to Stierly’s when he wrestled at Nassau Community College in the 125-pound weight class. Gomez said he wants to match Stierly’s persistence in overcoming adversity.
“He made it to the finals twice and lost but kept chasing his goal and got to accomplish it because he prepared the same each day,” he said. “That is a feeling I’m waiting to experience next year.”
Doliscar said other wrestlers can follow in Ecker and Stierly’s footsteps by not only winning matches at the national level, but also passing on knowledge they’ve gained from their four seasons on the South Hill squad.
“Not only should you win your championship, but you need to guide the others and lead them the right way, just like they led us,” Doliscar said.
Ecker said he and Stierly’s legacies cannot be measured by only athletic achievements.
“Besides being dual national champs, performing well academically is important and something I hope sticks with the program’s reputation,” Ecker said.
Stierly said he wants younger wrestlers to learn the dedication it takes to become a national champion from his and Ecker’s actions.
“I just hope that the guys on the team look at me and Ecker and they see the work we put into it, and they understand what we went through in order to get to where we were,” Stierly said.