Boxers are set to compete at the annual Wartburg Desert Duals tourney
The Pacific men's wrestling team is off to Las Vegas next week, but the Boxers won't have much time for slot machines and craps tables.
Instead it will be all business, as the squad focuses its attention on the Wartburg Desert Duals, an annual wrestling invitational that features some of the top NCAA Division III and NAIA clubs in the country.
In addition to the hosts from Wartburg, currently ranked No. 2 in the country, there will be five other nationally-ranked squads. The pool of possible foes for Pacific includes North Central (No. 8), Coe (No. 12) and Elmhurst (No. 22), all Division III schools, and NAIA clubs from Great Falls of Montana (No. 9) and Menlo (No. 12).
'We are pretty sure that we will wrestle both Elmhurst and North Central from our region. Both are very strong teams and we need to be ready to go,' said Pacific coach Scott Miller. 'Elmhurst finished second at the regional last year and (they) are well coached. North Central is ranked in the Top 10 this year and has a very talented team, so our hands will definitely be full with those two teams.'
Other schools making the trek to Las Vegas for the tournament include The Apprentice School, Central (Iowa), King's (Pa.) and Ohio Northern.
The Desert Duals kick off early next Tuesday at the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas.
Luckily, Miller and his young Pacific team have had a whole week to practice and prepare for the tournament.
'We're happy to be able to spend this week just concentrating on the upcoming matches in Las Vegas,' Miller said. 'Our kids had finals last week and we were only able to get in one practice where we had everybody in the room without a class conflict.'
The Boxers are 2-1 in dual meets so far this year, with wins against Douglas (B.C.) and Yakima Valley Community College, but they will have their work cut out for them against a loaded field in Las Vegas.
Leading the way for Pacific will be senior Kevin Spangler - one of just two seniors on the roster - who already has 11 wins on the season and is well on his way to a third straight 20-win campaign. The 133-pounder is 11-4 on the year and is coming off a 2-2 showing at the Simpson Invitational, earning wins by major decision and technical fall. Spangler opened the season with seven straight wins, including a championship at 133 pounds at the Mike Clock Open in November.
The lineup for next week's trip to Las Vegas is not set in stone, but freshmen Nathan Shay (149) and Mike Weir (285) are both projected to make the trip, and fellow newcomers Kory Pratt and Josh Monge will fight for the right to represent Pacific at 197 pounds.
'Our kids are in pretty good spirits this week and look forward to having an opportunity to perform better than we did in Iowa,' said Miller of the Boxers' 12th place finish at the Simpson Invitational. 'We're working on our intensity level in practice and improving our transitional offense. We expect to be a much better team when we go to Las Vegas.'