Division II Wrestling Notebook

A time or two over the last four years, Edwin Cooper wrestled in front of a “handful of people.” Over the weekend, a handful turned into 42,287.

“Unbelievable,” said Cooper, who suited up for the University of Iowa in an NCAA record-shattering dual meet inside Kinnick Stadium. “To be a part of this is incredible. To think I would be here a few years ago … it’s hard to believe.”

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Cooper’s wrestling journey started at Iowa Central Community College where he was a national champion. After a transfer to Division II Upper Iowa, he advanced to the 2014 NCAA Championship bout where he fell to Notre Dame College’s Jon Rivera. Another transfer landed Cooper in Iowa City where, after a redshirt last season, he finds himself battling for a starting spot in the Hawkeyes’ lineup.

A wild 14-11 loss to Oklahoma State’s Chance Marsteller at 157 pounds was not exactly what Cooper had in mind, but the seven-minute, back-and-forth match might have put the 42,000-plus at its peak decibel level.

“(Division III, Division II) or Division I it doesn’t matter, you have to put in the work,” Cooper said after Saturday’s dual. “This is the highest level and you have to put in the work every day to compete. Maybe all the work I’ve put in to get here paid off and (allowed) me to wrestle in such a big dual. People show up in Iowa, but there’s been some places where it was pretty quiet.

“It was electric. When it was announced I think everybody thought there would be a big crowd, but that many? I don’t think anybody expected this.”

A smaller version

While Mother Nature was the main threat to derailing Saturday’s epic Oklahoma State-Iowa dual meet in Iowa City, the same could not be said for the Bakersfield and California Baptist matchup in Riverside, Calif.  Dubbed “Take it Outside II,”  just over 2,000 watched the D-I Roadrunners take out D-II’s 12th ranked Cal-Baptist, 28-12.

Last November, Stanford visited the Riverside campus for the first edition – a crowd of 2,620 attended.

“I think we established something last year that got the wrestling community excited,” Cal-Baptist head coach Lennie Zalesky, a former star at Iowa and coach at UC-Davis, said.

Freshman Anthony Racobaldo, a New Jersey native, highlighted the Lancers’ day, scoring a fall at 133 pounds. Zalesky’s squad, minus 2015 All-American Jacob Waste, also got a victory from 149-pounder Brady Bersano that tied the dual at 9-9, but Bakersfield reeled off five-straight wins before Cal-Baptist heavyweight Joe Fagiano finished things off with a win for the hosts.

Nice day in Ames

St. Cloud State, the reigning D-II national champions, had a nice day at Sunday’s Harold Nichols Open in Ames, Iowa. Heavyweight Austin Goergen, D-II’s top-ranked big man who finished 33-2 last season, rolled through his bracket with five pins, including flattening Iowa State starter Quean Smith in the title bout.

SCSU’s Clint Poster, also ranked No. 1 to start the season, had an impressive day as well, picking up a pair of pins and a technical all on his march to the finals where he took care of Iowa State’s Tanner Weatherman, 7-6, for top honors at 157 pounds. Two other Huskies reached the finals for head coach Steve Costanzo – 165-pounder Gabe Fogarty won four bouts before falling to South Dakota State’s highly-touted Cody Pack, 5-2, and 2015 NCAA champ Tim Prescott was pinned by Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak in the 125-pound title tilt.

Nebraska-Kearney had a pair of top-three showings in the 30-team event. Two-time D-II champ Daniel DeShazer won four matches for third at 133 pounds, while 184-pounder Zach Stodden dropped an overtime decision to South Dakota State’s Brady Ayers in the championship finals.

Home cooking

Top-ranked Maryville (Mo.) hosted the Kaufman-Brand Open in St. Louis on Saturday and flexed its D-II muscles with five champions. New 141-pounder Nate Rodriquez, a transfer from Ouachita Baptist after two All-America seasons, finished off a strong day with a 3-2 victory over Missouri’s Matt Manley in the finals. Keenan Hagerty (149), Zeb Wahle (174), Nick Burghardt (184) and Ryan Beltz (197) also claimed titles for head coach Mike Denney.

Open season

Mercyhurst (Pa.) won six titles and had nine finalists to open its season, dominating the 11-team Mt. Union Invitational on Saturday. August and Francis Mizia each claimed top honors, along with Jeremy Landowski (149), Willy Bohince (125), Andrew Welton (285), and freshman 157-pounder Keller Watkins, who whipped teammate Mason McCollom in the finals.

The pre-Christmas Open tournament schedule continues this week with a handful of events. Nebraska-Kearney hosts the D-II heavy Holiday Inn Open, while top-ranked Maryville will be at the Lindenwood (Mo.) Open this weekend. The largest, and best gathering of D-II schools is at the Findlay Open where Ashland, Notre Dame, Lake Erie, Mercyhurst, and Tiffin lead a strong field on Saturday.