Roger Moore, NCAA.com
In winning a third consecutive NWCA National Duals title in Division II last weekend, Nebraska-Omaha had an unexpected hero.
Elijah Madison was 35-7 and won the DII national title at 285 pounds as a redshirt-freshman in 2010-11. However, the top-ranked heavyweight was suspended from the team by veteran head coach Mike Denney for an off-the-mat issue last December.
Enter junior Taylor Escamilla.
Escamilla, a native of Fremont, Neb., is no stranger to success, winning his final 75 high school matches and two state titles. In Cedar Falls, Iowa, last weekend Escamilla added to his resume.
UNO beat Minnesota-Moorhead and Upper Iowa to reach the Duals semifinals. Escamilla dropped matches in both meets.
But in the semifinals, UNO and fifth-ranked Newberry were tied at 16 entering the final bout at 285 pounds where Escamilla edged Jake Elkins in overtime to send the Mavericks to the finals against third-ranked Augustana (S.D.).
There would be more dramatics as UNO trailed Augustana, 16-15, entering the final bout. Escamilla took the mat and again picked up a tough victory, beating Lance Peters, 3-1, to give the Mavericks another down-to-the-wire win.
“It just feels really nice to be able to contribute to the team,” Escamilla said after the finals. “I just look at this as a good opportunity. I know [Madison] was younger than me, starting ahead of me, but I just kept working hard and waited for the opportunity.”
The Mavericks play host to the Brand Open this Saturday before opening the dual schedule against Division II power Augsburg on Jan. 20.
Need to Know
• College wrestling’s top rivalry, Oklahoma State versus Iowa, hits the mats Sunday in Stillwater. The two programs have combined to win 57 NCAA Division I titles since the competition began in 1928. The Hawkeyes, currently ranked 10th, have won three consecutive NCAA championships and will bring a 69-match win streak to Stillwater. The Cowboys, coming off a sixth place finish at the National Duals, are ranked seventh. Sunday will mark the first time since Iowa became a wrestling power under Gary Kurdelmeier in the early 1970s that at least one of the teams will not be ranked in the Top 5. The last team to beat Iowa in a dual meet? The Cowboys on Jan. 5, 2008.
• The Division III rankings were shuffled a bit after a wild dual tournament last weekend in Cedar Falls. Wartburg, the champion, reclaimed the top spot with a victory against Wisconsin-La Crosse in the finals. UWL, who beat top-seeded Augsburg in the semifinals, moved to No. 2 in the Brute-Adidas NWCA poll released on Monday. Ithaca moved from 6 to 4.
• St. John’s owns the only victory against Wartburg this season. The Johnnies, however, dropped duals to Coe and Ithaca in Cedar Falls and enter this weekend ranked sixth. They play host to DII power St. Cloud State Friday night.
• Grand Prairie High School in Arlington, Texas, wil play host to the 13th Lone Star Duals on Saturday. No. 9 Oklahoma will face No. 18 American in perhaps the feature dual of the meet. Head coach Mark Cody’s American squad is ranked 19th after upsetting No. 14 Oregon State at the National Duals.
• The weekend schedule also includes No. 15 Illinois at No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 5 Minnesota at No. 13 Iowa State of the Big 12.
Unranked Gannon hammered No.6 Pittsburgh-Johnstown, 28-6, in Erie, Pa., on Thursday night in Division II action. Third-ranked 133-pounder Ryan Link and No. 7 heavyweight Chris Dempsey did not suit up for Pat Pecorra’s Pitt-Johnstown squad. … East Stroudsburg forfeited three matches at DIII No. 18 Wilkes and still almost pulled off an upset, falling 24-22. … DII No. 9 Central Oklahoma used a pair of upsets in beating No. 15 Fort Hays State. Unranked Ky Corley beat third-ranked Andre Harrison at 141 pounds after Trison Graham rallied to beat previously unbeaten and fourth-ranked Alton Isenburg at 133 pounds. … Alex Meade, 125-4 for Caesar Rodney High in Delaware and a starter for Oklahoma State in 2009-10, has joined the West Virginia program. … Penn State rookie 141-pounder Andrew Alton already has 15 pins in 24 matches this season. … Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs is 18-0 with just one of those matches not recording bonus points. The only ‘non’ bonus-point victory came against 2010 NCAA champion Andrew Howe of Wisconsin in the Midlands finals. … DIII No. 5 Newberry steps up in class this weekend, facing Purdue and Kent State at the Wendy’s Duals in Ashland, Ohio. … No. 12 Central Michigan hosts No. 18 Michigan on Sunday. The Chippewas have won 12 consecutive duals against in-state opponents dating back to 2005.