Watson
UCO

PUEBLO, Colo. -- In 2007, Central Oklahoma was crowned NCAA Division II champion. The way the Bronchos started Friday it looked they might be in line for the 2012 crown.

However, if anything, Friday's first session of the 2012 Division II Championships proved it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

Dustin Reed gave UCO fans something to cheer about, pinning Evan Yenolevich of Kutztown after trailing 5-0 in a 133-pound bout. Cody Rowell (141 pounds), Ky Corley (149), Chris Watson (165) and Tanner Keck (184) added decisions with Cory Dauphin adding a big pin at 157 pounds. UCO won six of nine in the opening session after starting the day 5-0, and trails Nebraska-Kearney by a point. The Lopers went 7-1 to start the tournament.

“We got off to a great start,” said UCO head coach David James, now in his 30th year. “To get a pin down 5-0 that kind of sparked us. But we didn’t finish like we needed to. A bit disappointed at heavyweight. We’ve beaten the guy before but didn’t show up today.

“I don’t know if we have the finals power. We are going to try and do this with numbers. We knew that coming in.”

UNK and St. Cloud State have that finals power. 2011 finalists Dalton Jensen and TJ Hepburn, competing for UNK at 141 and 157 pounds, respectively, each advanced to Friday night's quarterfinals, along with five Lopers, the DII champs in 2008.

SCSU went 6-1 in the first round with All-Americans Tad Merritt (165), Shamus O’Grady (165) and Jake Kahnke (285) all staying in the winners' bracket. Husky senior Derek Skala won a big match at 184 for head coach Steve Costanzo.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you win them,” said Costanzo, whose squad finished unbeaten in duals this season and was second to Nebraska-Omaha a year ago. “I don’t think we wrestled particularly well. We have to regroup and come back out firing this evening because the matches get tougher.

“[The Skala] match was big. [Skala] has great scrambling ability and he really had to in that match. He just continued to wrestle in every situation and that is what we need from everyone.”

2012 DII CHAMPIONSHIP
Brackets/Standings
Handful of teams could challenge

Skala (28-3) won a back-and-forth 7-5 thriller against Fort Hays State’s Walker Clarke, a former JUCO national champion.

Wisconsin-Parkside, Ashland and Augustana (S.D.) round out the top five entering Friday's second session. St. Cloud sits in sixth with major points being scored.

“It’s important, at this point, to keep as many in the tournament as you can,” James said. “This thing is going take two full days of wrestling. Tonight will be a big round.”

Augustana (S.D.0 won six of seven and faces off against UNK in a big bout at 149 tonight where All-American Nate Herda meets UNK’s Raufeon Stots.

UW-Parkside was four for four with two pins and a technical fall. The only non-bonus win came from 2011 NCAA runner-up Luke Rynish, who won 12-6 at 174 pounds.

One of the pretournament favorites, Newberry went 3-4 to start the weekend, needing overtime from 2011 All-American heavyweight Jake Elkins in his first rounder against Grand Canyon’s Jordan Johnson.

Pittsburgh-Johnstown went 1-5 to start the week. 157-pounder Zach Lundgren, who entered 27-5, dropped an overtime decision to Limestone College’s Jeremy Bommarito.

Firsts
Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Dave Fogle won the first match of the tournament, pinning Dustin Stiegemeyer of Western State at 125 pounds.

Ouachita Baptist, in its second year of existence, picked up its first DII tournament victory when freshman Josh Myers rode out the third period to beat Fort Hays State’s CJ Napier in a 141-pound bout.

A strange first for Maryville (Mo.) head coach Mike Denney came when John Hagerty beat Truman State’s Ryan Maus in a 149-pound first-round match. Denney coached Nebraska-Omaha to three consecutive DII titles before the program was dropped after the 2011 Championships. Former UNO wrestlers went 6-1 in the first round.

Hagerty happens to be the son of longtime official Mike Hagerty, who will not be working the 149-pound division this weekend.

Best of the best
Maybe the best match of the opening session came at 157 pounds where Upper Iowa’s Winston Robbins rolled around with Grand Canyon’s Teddy Bristol. The 13-12 festival saw Bristol, fifth at the 2011 Championships, cradle Robbins twice and score a reversal in the final 20 seconds to advance to the next round. Bristol beat Robbins in the 2011 quarterfinals.

Joining the Division II elites
Thursday night seven individuals were inducted into the Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame – five wrestlers and two coaches. Dax Charles, a national champion in 1992 and current head coach of Colorado State-Pueblo, joined Chris Currier, a national champion for CSU-Pueblo in 1999 and the duo’s former coach, Doug Moses, who coached CSU-Pueblo to seven RMAC titles and mentored 73 All-Americans from 1982-2001.

Colorado School of Mines’ John Simpson, a DII national champion, and Glen Frank, a four-time All-American, were inducted alongside their former coach Dan Lewis.

Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Troy Barbush rounded out the field. He was part of the Mountain Cats’ two national championships squads, was a four-time All-American and also a four-time NWCA Academic All-American.