After bringing home their third straight Mideast Regional team title with four championships, the number four Falcons competed in the NCAA Championships on March 11 and 12 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Senior Lucas Malmberg and sophomore Ben Swarr were named NCAA Champions. As a team, Messiah claimed second place behind Wartburg with a total of 100 points.
The preparation for nationals involved taking it one step at a time. Although the team competes with vigorous passion and is dedicated to training, Head Coach Bryan Brunk deliberately prepared the team for success or failure. He had the team write out potential post-match speeches; one in response to a successful outcome and one in the case of a loss.
“The guys have bought into a lifestyle that is appropriate for Messiah College but keeping in a championship lifestyle,” said Brunk. “The choices that you make, sacrifices are made, sleep, diet, nutrition and hard work.”
According to Brunk, the Falcons have a reputation around Division III as a fiery team who love each other. The guys compete and cheer in a positive manner. Their excitement and passion for the team are shown through supporting each other even if only a few teammates are competing.
For Brunk, getting to this point with the team has been a journey. He recalled going on site visits to different colleges he thought were doing well in order to apply their strategies to Messiah’s team. Brunk also noted the work ethic and resilience of the guys who brought the Falcons to where they are now.
Over the past four years, senior wrestler Lucas Malmberg has seen himself grow through the program as the team has become a family.
“The guys have kept me accountable and encourage me on and off the mat,” said Malmberg. “We’ve been bouncing back, and we’re one of the top ranking teams in the country.”
The team’s successes are secondary to their overall purpose, to glorify God. “Since the day I started here, I preach to my guys identity. I want guys to find their value and worth as a person in Jesus Christ,” said Brunk. “Second, as being part of the team—don’t value based on how much you win.”
Malmberg echoed this identity in Christ. “Physically we are as prepared as we’re going to be. Spiritually we’re just keeping it in the word. We’re preparing ourselves to find the best way—meditation, just being in the word—to give God all the glory.”
With two NCAA champions and six All-American wrestlers, the Falcons ended a very successful year and they hope to continue to improve in the years to come.