PUEBLO, Colo. – When wrestling started Saturday morning, it looked like Nebraska-Kearney would run away and hide at the Division II Wrestling Championships. The Lopers, champions in 2008, had six in the semifinals. No other team had more than three.

UNK’s Dalton Jensen (141), Raufeon Stots (149) and T.J. Hepburn (157) each advanced to the finals, but the other three tasted defeat in their semifinal bouts.

In the meantime, St. Cloud State, which started the day 15.5 points back, mounted a charge.

Husky junior Shamus O’Grady pinned Findlay’s Michael Lybarger in a wild consolation semifinal bout that required overtime. It momentarily gave SCSU, second in 2011, the lead in the team race. Moments later, UNK’s Ross Brunkhardt picked up a 3-2 decision in his consolation semi and the Lopers were back in front.

DII CHAMPIONSHIP
Brackets and Standings
Session Two: UNK takes lead, but battle brewing
Session One: Several teams ready to challenge
Feature: UNK's 'Big Four' lead pack
Feature: Lensing makes triumphant return

Steve Costanzo’s St. Cloud squad counter-punched with a decision by senior 197-pounder Lucas Munkelwitz and the lead changed hands again.

Before the team scores were updated, the Lopers’ freshman heavyweight Kevin Barrett pinned Newberry’s Jake Elkins in the first period and UNK and St. Cloud State were tied entering the medal matches.

In a rematch of the quarterfinals from Friday night, UNK’s Joey Wilson and SCSU’s Tad Merritt faced off for third place at 165 pounds. It was also a rematch of the bronze medal match from last March. Merritt’s third period ride-out led to a 3-0 win and the Husky faithful let the arena know who was in front in the team standings.

A weight later it was O’Grady and Western State’s Elliot Copeland for third at 174. The UNK fans quickly adopted Copeland as one of their own, exploding during three first-period takedowns by the WSC freshman. Copeland won 10-5, keeping a few extra points off the SCSU ledger.

Brunkhardt then edged Central Oklahoma’s Tanner Keck for third at 184 and the top of the ladder saw a tie.

Both sides had a chance to take the lead, but Munkelwitz dropped a 7-5 bout to East Stroudsburg’s Eddie Ebewo in the 197-pound third place match, and Barrett falling to Ashland senior Jacob Southwick for third at 285.

With one session remaining, the championship finals, Nebraska-Kearney and St. Cloud State each have 91 points and three in the finals. No finals match features a head-to-head meeting between a Husky and Loper.

SCSU will send out 133-pounder Andy Pokorny against 2011 champion Trevor Franklin (30-0) of Upper Iowa, 184-pounder Derek Skala against Findlay’s Adam Walters and Jake Kahnke against 2011 champion Matthew Mueleners at 285 in a rematch of last season’s final won by Mueleners, a junior for Northern State.

Findlay is a distant third, 33 points behind the leaders. Grand Canyon and Newberry round out the top five.

The 174-pound semifinals included Grand Canyon senior Victor Carazo, now a three-time All-American, advancing to his first final. Carazo (30-1) used a beautiful foot sweep for five points late in the second period and eventually beat Newberry’s Travis Sheehy 7-2. The other semi featured Luke Rynish’s first-period takedown that held up for a 3-2 victory against 2011 165-pound champion Lybarger. Rynish forced a stalemate after a fantastic scramble midway through the third initiated by the Findlay senior’s attack. Rynish, a senior for Wisconsin-Parkside, improved to 46-4. He was a runner-up in 2011 at 174 pounds.

Keenan Hagerty, a true freshman, advanced to the 149-pound final with a dominating 7-1 decision againts Bobby Ward of Grand Canyon, a former Division I national qualifier for North Carolina State. Hagerty, a native of Missouri, would have joined the Nebraska-Omaha program but instead went to Maryville (Mo.) with Mike Denney, the leader of the first-year program. Hagerty had knee surgery last week.

Limestone College’s Dan Scanlon (24-0), off the mat since winning a title in 2008, goes against Adams State’s Luke McPeek (27-4) for the 197-pound championship.

The champion will not be determined until late into Saturday evening. And, for your consideration, there has never been a tie at the Division II Championships.

DIVISION II FINALS
Weight Matchup
125 Cody Lensing (Augustana, 21-5, Sr.) vs. Kyle McCrite (Grand Canyon, 41-6, Jr.)
133 Andrew Pokorny (St. Cloud State, 25-6, So.) vs. Trevor Franklin (Upper Iowa, 30-0, Jr.)
141 BJ Young (Newberry, 39-9, So.) vs. Dalton Jensen (Nebraska-Kearney, 31-4, Sr.)
149 Keenan Hagerty (Maryville, 32-4, Fr.) vs. Raufeon Stots (Nebraska-Kearney, 17-3, Jr.)
157 Jarrod Shaw (West Liberty, 25-5, Sr.) vs. TJ Hepburn (Nebraska-Kearney, 37-3, Sr.)
165 Mike Williams (UNC-Pembroke, 32-1, Jr.) vs. Mason True (Findlay, 29-14, Jr.)
174 Victor Carazo (Grand Canyon, 30-1, Sr.) vs. Luke Rynish (Wisconsin-Parkside, 46-4)
184 Derek Skala (St. Cloud State, 32-3, Sr.) vs. Adam Walters (Findlay, 26-9, So.)
197 Luke McPeek (Adams State, 27-4, Sr.) vs. Dan Scanlon (Limestone, 24-0, Sr.)
285 Jake Kahnke (St. Cloud State, 38-2, Jr.) vs. Matt Mueleners (Northern State, 33-2, Jr.)