Brendan Gould and Christos Giatras have traveled separate paths to the same destination.
The Augustana seniors conclude their collegiate wrestling experience at the NCAA Division III Championships beginning Friday in Cleveland, Gould competing in the NCAA meet for the first time in his career and Giatras working to repeat all-American honors he earned a year ago.
Both have led in their own style in the Vikings’ wrestling room, Gould a little more subdued while letting a blue-collar, workmanlike approach speak for itself, Giatras a little more vocal, a little more feisty as he trains at the Carver Center.
“Nobody in our room has worked harder to get to this point than Brendan,’’ Giatras said. “When I think I’ve put in a full practice, I look up and he’s still going at it, not taking anything for granted. He’s been that way since Day One. His actions have motivated me and the rest of us work even harder.’’
That has led Gould to the opportunity he has in front of him this weekend in the 133-pound bracket at the national tournament.
Two years removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Davenport Assumption graduate has built a 26-15 record this season and qualified for the Division III nationals with a runner-up finish at the Lower Midwest Regional last month in Dubuque.
“It’s a great way to end my career. I know I’ll miss it when it’s over, so I want to make the most of every match I have left,’’ Gould said. “This is what I’ve worked toward. At this point in time, I feel like I’ve done everything I can to prepare myself.’’
The approach will remain the same, no different any of the matches which preceded this weekend’s tourney.
“It’s always been about that next guy, the guy that you’re out there on mat competing against,’’ Gould said. “That’s the most important thing. You want to make the most of that moment. Then, you move on to the next match.’’
Giatras, who earned his second straight College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin championship last month at 184 and currently has a 25-2 record, lived that a year ago during his first NCAA experience.
One second of riding time – the deciding factor after multiple scoreless sudden victory and tiebreaker sessions – decided his first match in the pigtail round of the tournament, a 4-3 loss that dropped Giatras into the consolation bracket but didn’t change his determination.
The Lemont, Illinois, native battled his way back to earn seventh place in the NCAA and earn a spot on the awards stand as an all-American.
“I didn’t let that speed bump deter me,’’ Giatras said. “Get back up and fight again. I fought all the way to becoming an all-American and that is the attitude you have to take. Whether it’s seven minutes in a wrestling match or 40 minutes or 60 minutes in another sport, you’ve got to bring the fight and be 100 percent invested in winning it.’’
Gould senses that as well.
His objective isn’t simply to be satisfied with reaching the NCAA meet.
“One match at a time, you step out and compete. You do what you can to put yourself in a position to score points and win matches,’’ Gould said. “All my life, as a kid, at Assumption, now here at Augie, that doesn’t change from one meet to the next. I know my abilities. I feel prepared and ready.’’
There is a certain level of finality to it all for Gould, who will graduate in May with a degree in finance and marketing.
“All season, there has been more of a sense of urgency,’’ he said. “I’ve felt that all along. I’ve worked a little harder, pushed myself a little more because I knew that this would be my last chance to get to nationals.’’
That commitment, starting in preseason training, carried on throughout the season and leading to the ultimate goal has been accomplished during a transition year for the Augustana program.
Giatras credits first-year coach Tony Willaert with helping the Vikings work toward their potential.
“We all sat down with him and talked about goals before the season started and he has been right there for us,’’ Giatras said. “It’s been a good situation for us and he has helped us achieve what we set out to do.’’
That has positioned both Gould and Giatras to be at their best for the biggest meet of the season.
“This is what you grind for every day,’’ Gould said. “I feel ready to make the most of the one shot I get at it.’’