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|Prairie Fire's Vaca 9th in D-3 Wrestling
|The National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III's latest Brute-Adidas Individual Ranking for NCAA Division III wrestlers has Junior Edel Vaca (Chicago, IL - Thomas Kelly High School) ranked ninth in his 133 lb. weight class.
This marks the first time in Knox College wresting history that a Prairie Fire wrestler has been ranked as a junior. The only other wrestler to be nationally ranked was heavyweight Jaran Rutledge, a 2008 graduate who was ranked his senior year after taking third at the NCAA Division III National Tournament his junior year.
Coach Tony Islas commented on Vaca's ranking, saying "I think his ranking is a little premature, but he certainly earned it. It is still early in the season and although it is a nice recognition, we have a long way ahead of us still. It gives him something to work for."
Vaca is now 8-3 on the young season. "You know, Edel is starting to step into the role that Jaran held for the team. He is leading by example, a silent leader. I'm really excited to see what he does as the season progresses. He is going to have to work hard, especially now that he is ranked because every wrestler will be trying their best to beat him," Islas said.
The ninth-place ranking came off a strong weekend of wrestling for Vaca, who took first-place at the MSOE Invite. Having lost to Caleb Cardenas of Wheaton College in the Friday night duals, Vaca came back to go a perfect 4-0 in last Saturday's tournament. Having been seeded fifth in the 25-man bracket, Vaca received a first-round bye before defeating Wisconsin-Platteville's Brad Hessbeck by a 4-1 decision. Vaca then faced his foe of the previous night, Caleb Cardenas. Vaca didn't take any chances and pinned Cardenas in the third minute and advanced to the final four.
In his final four match, Vaca again faced a former foe in Ryan Timmerman of St. Olaf who Vaca lost to last year in the MSOE Invite. Vaca rose to the occasion, defeating Timmerman by a 5-4 decision. In the championship match Vaca took on Rob Firas of Lakeland College, the number two seed, Vaca again came through by defeating Frias in a 3-1 decision.
In addition to winning the 133 lb. weight class, Vaca was awarded the Outstanding Wrestler Award. It's the first time in Knox College history that a Prairie Fire wrestler was selected as the outstanding wrestler of any tournament. Following his outstanding performance, Vaca was named the Knox College Prairie Fire Performer of the Week.
Vaca will have his work cut out for him as the Prairie Fire wrestling team travels to the North Central Invite December 11th and 12th. The team will then go on break before returning to their home mat for the Chuck Porter Duals January 9th.
(Knox College Athletics)