DII Wrestling: California Baptist knocks off Mercyhurst, joins power rankings
Goin’ back to Cali
California Baptist had a little Thanksgiving turkey a day early, beating fourth-ranked Mercyhurst (Pa.), 23-18, last Wednesday in Riverside, California. The Lancers’ Joe Fagiano, a transfer from Division I Indiana, knocked off Mercyhurst All-American Andrew Welton, 7-4, in the final bout at 285 pounds to secure one of the biggest dual wins for a program that has only been around since the 2008-09 season.
“I came to win a match and win it for the team,” said Fagiano, a graduate student. “It’s good to know where I’m at with the rest of the country, so it’s good, it’s a good feeling.”
CBU, the NWCA champions in 2013 before joining Division II, are coached by Lennie Zalesky, a three-time All-American at Iowa and coach of UC-Davis for nine seasons. He took over the CBU program in June of 2011.
Francis and August Mizia had back-to-back wins at 165 and 174 pounds, respectively, to put the visitors up 18-14 with three bouts to wrestle. But CBU’s Bradley Christensen, a sophomore from Murietta, Calif., filling in for Jacob Waste at 184 pounds, beat Angelo Bortoluzzi, and Paul Head picked up a 6-2 win to put the hosts up 20-18 before Fagiano’s clincher.
Peter Cunningham had a pin at 141 pounds, and Brady Bersano added a technical fall at 157 pounds for the Lancers, who jump into competitive waters in December when they send wrestlers to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Midlands Championships.
Start spreading the news
Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Mountain Cats took down Division I George Mason, 21-19, at Sunday’s Grapple at the Garden inside New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Travis Shaffer, a transfer from DI Pittsburgh, had a technical fall at 149 pounds and Travis McKillop scored a fall in his bout at 184 pounds as UPJ improved to 4-0 for the young season.
George Mason led 16-12 entering 184 pounds, but McKillop’s 48-second pin of Luke Ludke gave DII’s sixth-ranked squad an 18-16 advantage. Tyler Oliver followed with an 8-7 win at 197 pounds for a six-point margin, and when GMU’s Matt Voss failed to pin UPJ’s Josh Duplin, the Mountain Cats secured the win.
Earlier in the week, the Mountain Cats won the final five bouts in a 33-15 win at East Stroudsburg. UPJ competes in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships on Saturday in Erie, Pa.
DII’s LIU-Post also competed at the Grapple at the Garden, dropping a 30-6 dual to DIII’s 22nd-ranked Wilkes (Pa.). Joe Calderone (133) and Matt Langan (157) each picked up decisions for the Pioneers (1-4).
The man, so far
Maryville’s Nate Rodriguez was named the D2wrestle.com Wrestler of the Week last week after winning his second tournament title of the season. Rodriquez, a two-time All-American who transferred to Maryville from Ouachita Baptist, is 9-0 with tournament titles at the Joe Parisi Open and Kaufman-Brand Open this season.
Power Rankings, Week 4
Only a handful of Division II squads hit the mats during the holiday week, but California Baptist and Pittsburgh-Johnstown made a little noise on opposite coasts.
1 – Maryville (Mo.): The top-ranked Saints took Turkey week off and return to the mats at Saturday’s Wisconsin Open. Head coach Mike Denney and crew will challenge Division I Northern Iowa on Dec. 12 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
2 – St. Cloud State: The 2015 NCAA champions opened their dual season with a 45-3 beat down of D-III St. John’s (Minn.), last Tuesday. The Huskys return to competition Dec. 9 at Concordia College (Minn.) before hosting the Holiday Inn/Husky Open on Dec. 12.
3 – Nebraska-Kearney: The Lopers took the week off, but return to action at the DI-heavy Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational this Friday and Saturday.
4 – Pittsburgh-Johnstown: With the addition of DI transfers Troy Dolan (Missouri) and Travis Shaffer (Pittsburgh) the Mountain Cats move into the 2016 NCAA title chase.The addition of 149-pounder Travis Shaffer puts the Mountain Cats in the 2016 NCAA mix.
5 – Notre Dame College (Ohio): DII’s 2014 champs return to the mat Dec. 12 at the Cleveland State Open. The Falcons will not begin to flex their muscles until January.
6 – California Baptist: On the strength of its victory over Mercyhurst (Pa.) last Wednesday minus starting 184-pounder Jacob Waste, Lennie Zalesky’s Lancers go from knocking on the door to No. 6. CBU joins UNK in Las Vegas this weekend.
7 – Mercyhurst (Pa.): The Lakers lost at No. 12 California Baptist last Wednesday and return to the mat this Saturday when they host the PSAC Championships in Erie.
8 – Lake Erie (Ohio) College: The Storm returns to the mat Dec. 19 at the Midwest Classic in Indianapolis. Circled on the calendar is a Jan. 2 matchup at Mercyhurst.
Knocking on the door – Tiffin (Ohio), Ashland (Ohio), Newberry (S.C.), Augustana (S.D.), Findlay (Ohio)