Off of a third-place finish at last year's national tournament, Augustana 133-pound wrestler and Marshall native Jason Jeremiason was primed for another run to nationals.
His goal was to become a national champions, but the Vikings senior hit a bump in the road last April. Jeremiason went into surgery for a hand injury that left him in a short-arm cast for nine weeks.
"I had a torn ligament and a broken bone in my hand," Jeremiason said. "I couldn't really work out, and I had a lot of rehabbing.
Photo courtesy of Augustana Athletic Department
Augustana senior wrestler and Marshall native Jason Jeremiason, right, completed his collegiate wrestling career last weekend at the Division II National Championships, taking fifth place at 133 pounds.
"I could do most of the wrestling, but I couldn't go live yet. That would have been a little more hard on the impact."
Battling back from surgery, Jeremiason closed out his collegiate wrestling career with a fifth-place finish at the Division II National Wrestling Tournament in Pueblo, Colo. last weekend, defeating Limestone's Michael Magaha in a 4-1 decision and securing All-America honors for the second time. With his help, Augustana finished in a tie for 10th place for the Division II team championship.
"It was pretty bittersweet," Jeremiason said of his final match. "The tournament didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to, but it still turned out good. It was good being there with all the fans and giving them the best goodbye I could.
"It's been a lot easier to do this with all the support from my family. My mom and dad and my sister, they've never missed a thing and they've always been there for me."
A four-year starter at 133 pounds, Jeremiason finishes his collegiate career with a record of 94-46. In high school, Jeremiason compiled a 154-45 record, qualifying for state four times and finishing in third place as a junior (112 pounds) and senior (119).
After a 25-5 mark as a junior, the hand injury slowed things down for the former Marshall Tiger. Ranked second in the country when the season started, Jeremiason missed out on the team's first meet in Brookings, S.D., eventually hitting the mat a week later at the Dakota Wesleyan Open in Mitchell, S.D.
Despite the injured hand weighing in on his mind, Jeremiason got off to a hot start, going 5-0 in the open tournament.
"We'd tape it up and make sure it was the best we could do to protect it," Jeremiason said. "I was a little more cautious at first, but after that it was fine. It hurt a little bit until January, and after then, it didn't bug me."
Jeremiason would work his way to a 20-5 record this winter, eventually taking second at the Central Region tournament. He was also named to the All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference second team for the second straight year.
After a delayed start, Jeremiason was ready to run at nationals. Things started out fine for Jeremiason with a 12-4 major decision over San Francisco State's Julian Perez in the first round, and a 10-4 decision over Central Oklahoma's Dustin Reed to advance to the semifinals.
"(Against Perez), I got after him right away, got a couple takedowns in the first period and kept it rolling from there," Jeremiason said. "In the next round, right away, I got a quick takedown and just slowly wore him down. There was a pretty good gap in the score."
But in the semis, Jeremiason ran into St. Cloud State's Andrew Pokorny, a wrestler he had split a pair of meetings with in the regular season. Jeremiason wanted to be the aggressor, but Pokorny caught Jeremiason on his back for a pinfall in 4 minutes, 22 seconds.
Falling into the consolation bracket, Jeremiason lost his next match by pinfall in 2:37 against Kutztown's Evan Yenolevich.
"It was definitely heartbreaking," Jeremiason said, "but I wanted to stay positive, not only for myself, but for my family, the Augie fans and the team."
Wrestling for fifth place, Jeremiason put it together to end his collegiate career with a victory via decision.
Wrapping up a business accounting major, Jeremiason said his goal is to remain in Sioux Falls, S.D. to find work. And if he gets the chance, he hopes to follow in a family tradition and stick around Augustana as a volunteer coach. Jason's dad, Cal, is the former head wrestling coach at Marshall High School.
"I'd like to stay involved with Augie wrestling as much as I can," Jason said. "Wrestling's in my family's blood, we love it to death."