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SouthtownStar Athletes On Campus: De La Salle alum James Buss wrestles to NCAA Division III championship

Loras wrestler James Buss with associate head coach Ryan Birt. | Supplied photo

Loras wrestler James Buss, with associate head coach Ryan Birt. | Supplied photo

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Updated: June 5, 2014 6:45AM



Seventeen. Six. One.

Because of a memorable moment that took place in the middle of March at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, those three numbers always will have special significance in the life of Loras wrestler James Buss.

Buss, who prepped at De La Salle, won the NCAA Division III national championship at 285 pounds, defeating Ryan Fank, of Wartburg, 4-1 in the final March 15.

Doing so enabled Buss, a sophomore, to become the first Loras wrestler to win a national title in 17 years. Buss, who is the sixth Duhawks wrestler to become a national champ, took home the top prize for the first time in his collegiate career.

“Winning a national championship feels great,” Buss said. “If you would have told me two years ago that I would be a national champion, I would have thought it would take more time and I would have to put in more effort.

“But the opportunity came, I seized it ... this is one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Buss, who finished the season with a 27-3 record, defeated Zack Gibson, of St. Olaf, 5-2, and Ricky Caruso, of Bridgewater State, 5-0, in his first two matches before facing two-time national champion Chad Johnson, of Augsburg, in the semifinals.

Buss, who lost 6-2 to Johnson in the 2013 NCAA Division III Tournament, defeated Johnson 7-5 to advance to the national championship bout where he beat Fank. In his two-year career at Loras, Buss’ record is 64-9.

“(Johnson) hadn’t lost since his freshman year,” Buss said. “And I lost to him the year before.

“This time, I had to go out and wrestle my match and get the first takedown. I had to be completely confident and focused because I knew if I made a mistake, he would take advantage of it.

“I went out there and wrestled with complete confidence and came out with a victory.”

Buss, who resides on Chicago’s Southwest Side near Midway Airport, credits the support of his family, coaches and teammates for helping him win the title.

“My dad came down to watch me wrestle along with my two brothers, my aunt and my uncle,” Buss said. “And the guys on the team also came down to support me. My brother, Brandon, raced down to the tunnel after I won. He hugged me and picked me up. I didn’t think he was that strong.

“My coaches were excited. They were like, ‘Holy crap. You did it.’ They were in utter shock. They’re so proud of me. They knew I was capable of doing it. I just had to go out and wrestle.”

Dynamic duo

Two Southland residents were honored by the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin for their efforts in women’s basketball during the 2013-14 season.

Illinois Wesleyan senior guard Colleen McMahon (Sandburg) was named to the All-CCIW First Team. She led the conference in scoring at 18.2 points per game. The 5-foot-8 McMahon, who also averaged 2.7 rebounds, added 73 assists, 57 steals and 12 blocked shots as the Titans finished 19-8 overall and 12-2 in conference.

Carthage senior guard Haley Stercic (Marist) garnered a place on the All-CCIW Third Team after pacing the conference in three-pointers (84) and three-point percentage (47 percent; 84-of-180). The 5-5 Stercic averaged 9.1 points per game to go along with 36 assists and 16 steals. The Lady Reds were 26-4 overall and 13-1 in the CCIW.



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