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Eric Peterson, Published March 08 2011

College wrestling: Moenkedick is a dominating presence

When Matt Nagel trains with Phil Moenkedick, the wrestling action can get intense.

Nagel has the wounds to prove it, pointing out an area above his eye and another on his ear.

“Since I’ve been here, he has given me stitches twice,” the Concordia assistant coach said with laugh. “I kind of take it as if my guys are bloodying me up, then I’m doing my job.”

Moenkedick has a made a career of dominating his opponents. The senior is ranked No. 1 at 184 pounds heading into the NCAA Division III tournament, which starts Friday in La Crosse, Wis. He is the defending national champion at his weight class.

“He’s super focused,” said Cobbers sophomore Nathan Schmitz, who also wrestled with Moenkedick at Perham (Minn.) High School. “He sets a great example as a teammate in practicing with him day in and day out. It has brought me to the next level.”

Moenkedick is 31-1 this season, with his lone loss coming against a Division I foe. Moenkedick has the school record for wins with 131 vs. 10 losses. He was a national runner-up as a sophomore before winning a national crown as a junior. His 63 pins are a school record.

“If out of high school I wrote a description of what my life would be like in the next four years, I would have never wrote something as enjoyable as I’ve had here the last four years,” Moenkedick said.

Moenkedick is 91-4 over the past three seasons. Cobbers head coach Clay Nagel added his son, Matt Nagel, to the coaching staff last season.

In high school Matt was a five-time Minnesota state champion for Frazee, Minn. Matt Nagel was also an All-American at Division I Minnesota.

Moenkedick said Matt has helped him develop a more physical style. In his first two college seasons, Moenkedick said he relied quickness and technique to beat opponents.

“It’s more hands on,” said Moenkedick, who would like to become a wrestling coach when his career is over.

“It’s kind of winning by getting the other guy more tired than you. Before I wrestled open all the time just trying to out-quick guys. It just brings another dimension.”

That new style has paid off for Moenkedick and for the entire program. Concordia has a school record six wrestlers headed to the national tournament.

“I think that was one of the reasons why Clay wanted me to come up here was to take him and the rest of the guys to the next level,” Matt said. “We try to just stay on people and make them wrestle the whole time. … When you can get a guy tired that changes everything.”

Moenkedick is trying to become the first Cobbers wrestler to win back-to-back NCAA individual titles. Barry Bennett won NAIA national crowns in 1976 and 1977 and then added a NCAA title in 1978.

“I want to maybe prove to myself that I have made another step and there is no doubt that I am better than everyone at my weight,” Moenkedick said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com