by Steve Peterson
John Sievert saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd when he took to the mats for five grueling matches at 197 pounds at the NAIA National Wrestling Championships at Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines.
“A lot of people came down to watch. It was awesome. I get the most pumped seeing how the crowd gets pumped up,” said Sievert, who defeated Carl Lawrence of Missouri Valley College in a 3-1 battle for the NAIA National Championship at 197 pounds.
“I knew he would be a tough opponent. I went out and got the take-down in the first period and got a 3-0 lead. I knew I just wanted to stay smart and in good position, and he could not take me down. When it was 3-0, I knew I had it,” said Sievert.
“I thought of all the hard work and dedication I put in this year. I was extremely happy,” said Sievert. On Sunday, he was en route to Steamboat Springs, Colo., for a spring break week of skiing, snowboarding and most of all, relaxing.
Sievert’s 5-0 tournament record included a grueling 8-7 win in the semifinals against Josh Manu of Missouri Valley College. “It was four over-times and I had never been in a match that long. I had riding time and I had to ride him out for the last 22 seconds and did it with four seconds to spare,” said Sievert.
Then there was the memorable 13-second second round win over Eric Johnson of Calumet College. It set a new Morningside record for fastest fall by two seconds.
Earlier this season Sievert met with Morningside Athletic Director Tim Jager, Head Coach Jake Stevenson and his brother, Joe Sievert, to talk about options. He decided to go for wrestling one more season at 197 pounds and some matches at heavyweight for the second semester.
Sievert ended his career with an 86-32 record and a legendary school-record 44 falls. He was also named Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Wrestler of the Year.
His title on Saturday was the first for Morningside since Stevenson won the 184 pound crown in 2007.
“I did not want to have any regrets. I’m glad I made the right decision,” said Sievert, adding his first tournament was “horrible” with a 2-2 record but he soon regained the focus.
Next year, his brother, Joe, will be back after an injury limited him to just eight matches at 174 pounds.
Van Oort’s perspective
Watching from the stands Saturday was the Sieverts’ Akron-Westfield High School Coach Mark Van Oort.
He told The Akron Hometowner he felt very much like a proud parent, also giving John Sievert some pointers in between matches.
“The A-W wrestling community is very strong and there was a good fan base there,” said Van Oort. “They’re all proud of John and what he accomplished as an athlete.”
“That was an emotional tournament, he said, explaining John was third as a senior in high school, seventh as a junior and was a state qualifier as a sophomore. “Knowing the work and dedication he put into it, it brought tears to my eyes when he finished out on top wrestling on the raised stage.”
“There was no quit in John,” said Van Oort. “He kept battling no matter what and he closed out as the king at 197.”
“He did everything right for seven minutes,” said Van Oort of the championship match.
Van Oort reflected back to Sievert’s junior year in high school when he battled in the semifinal match, only to give up a five-point move early on. Despite the deficit, he kept fighting and what he learned from that match he could use today.”
Van Oort said he was as proud as he was when his son, Cory, who finished fourth recently at the AAU State youth tournament.
“It shows that it is possible,” said current A-W Wrestling Head Coach Dustin Meinen, who started to coach as a volunteer after John Sievert graduated. “He was on a mission all tournament.”