Wrestlers Hit Hard by Death of Koenig

Kolpack, Jeff. "Wrestlers Hit Hard by Death of Koenig." Forum, 23 September 2004.

Quiet, but tough. Good-natured guy. Wouldn't hurt anybody.

The fact former North Dakota State wrestler Lance Koenig was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq hit his former teammates hard.

"People are just in shock right now," said Joel Vettel, who was a co-captain with Koenig in their senior years. "Everyone I've talked to is just in disbelief. Lance was the last person you would ever fathom to be involved in a tragic situation."

Bison head coach Bucky Maughan cut short a recruiting trip in the Twin Cities and was busy consoling and getting a hold of ex-teammates.

"He was a unique person," Maughan said. "Everybody is just saddened by it. Lance was such a good guy."

Maughan had two unexpected encounters with Koenig in the last several months.
Last winter, the Bison wrestled at Air Force Academy when Koenig dropped by to see the match.

He was in Colorado Springs, Colo., for National Guard training.

"Here he was very busy getting ready to be shipped out, but he took the time to come to the match," Maughan said.

Then, while Koenig was back on leave in July, he stopped by the Fargodome to visit his NDSU wrestling friends working the USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national tournaments.

"We talked," Maughan said. "He didn't want to go back (to Iraq) too bad."

Koenig leaves behind a wrestling trail of success starting at Carrington.

He was a three-time state champion and NDSU's No. 1 recruit in 1989.

He won at 138 pounds in 1987, 152 in 1988 and took the 160-pound title in 1989.

"He was one of those guys that put Carrington on the map as far as our wrestling tradition goes," said Carrington head coach Mark Pazdernik, who was also Koenig's teammate at NDSU. "The thing that strikes me is he was such a natural athlete. He didn't say much. He led by example.
"It's just a shock. It still hasn't set in for the most part."

Vettel was on the phone to former wrestlers most of the day on Wednesday. They talked how down to earth Koenig was. They talked how he didn't say much to anybody he didn't know. They talked about how easy going he was.

"We knew he was in the military. We knew he was overseas," Vettel said. "But you never thing a tragic thing like this would affect you."

Vettel said the public circumstances surrounding Koenig's death would probably not sit well with him.

"He's a very private person and this is a public thing," Vettel said. "This would be difficult for him."

Koenig is survived by his wife, Angie, and his two daughters.

"He was completely devoted to his family," Maughan said. "Those two little girls meant the world to him."

Koenig was 72-21-4 in his NDSU career. He was a third team pick on NDSU's Modern Era All-Time team at 167/174 pounds behind Olympian John Morgan and three-time national champion Todd Fuller.

Koenig won a North Central Conference title at 177 his senior year. He was seeded No. 1 at the national tournament, but injured his knee in the semifinals, Maughan said.

"We think he would have been a national champion," Maughan said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

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