One thing that is certain when Southwest Minnesota State senior heavyweight Cole Wilson steps on the mat to compete in the NCAA Division II Super Regional Feb. 27-28 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is he will be focused.

In the previous two years, Wilson has made it out of regional and into the NCAA Division II championships.

This year, Wilson will have more of a target on his back to reach the national championships. On Feb. 4, Wilson beat then No. 1 ranked and undefeated Austin Goergen of St. Cloud State.

“This time of year, big wins like that obviously helps you get to the next level,” Southwest Minnesota coach Jesse Nelson said. “It is a momentum builder for him going into the regional tournament.”

Wilson said it is always exciting beating a wrestler of that caliber.

“But at this time of the year, you have to learn to keep your cool,” said Wilson, who is 24-3 this season. “You have to keep your focus the rest of the season because there are bigger accomplishments to achieve later on in the next couple of weeks.”

Staying focused is a trait that has always been with Wilson. He arrived at Southwest Minnesota playing football and wrestling.

“There was a huge time commitment, not to say wrestling by itself isn’t a huge time commitment,” Wilson said. “I went from fall football, to wrestling to spring football. There was really no rest.”

Wilson, though, still found time to excel in the classroom. He has been named Academic All-American by several organizations.

“He is a four-time NCAA Academic All-American,” Nelson said. “All-around, academically, athletically and socially, he has just been a great example to all our wrestlers.”

Nelson said Wilson and all of his wrestlers have put in the time and the commitment to be ready for Super Regional.

“It is a very exciting time,” Nelson said. “Now we tell them to focus one match at a time, one round at a time. It is a lot of fun.”

After Wilson concludes his collegiate wrestling career, whether it is at Super Regional or March 11-12 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the national championships, he wants to coach.

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Wilson will receive his master’s degree in education this spring.

“I would like to coach at the college level,” Wilson said. “I do have a passion for teaching, but my passion for coaching greatly outweighs that.”

Nelson said Wilson has all the attributes to be a good coach.

“I think he will do exactly how he has done as an athlete and student,” Nelson said. “He is going to be driven, focused and help mentor young adults to become the people they want to become and help them reach and obtain their goals.”

Missouri Western women’s basketball team on the road to NCAA Tournament

Missouri Western senior Mhykeah Baez scored a career-high 18 points and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds in the Griffons sixth straight victory, beating Northwest Missouri 66-59 Saturday afternoon.

The thing that excited Baez was the way the Griffons continued to play as a team. They showed that unity by winning their first 18 games. They stuck together during a brief, two-game losing in late January.

“I am actually blessed to have a group of girls who come out and play hard and get the job done,” Baez said. “We bond together on and off the court. I feel like once you bond off the court and bring it on the court, it so much easier to play. We don’t have selfish players. We all pass the ball to each other and we just play.”

Missouri Western, ranked No. 7 in the coaches poll, is 24-2 overall and 18-2 and in first place in the MIAA, one game ahead of Fort Hays State with two games remaining in the regular season.

“I think all good teams have to be able to learn how to handle failure,” said Rob Edmission, who is in his fourth season as head coach at Missouri Western. “You sure want that experience to happen before you get to that game that knocks you out of a tournament and ends your season.

“It gave us a taste of what it feels like and it humbled us and allowed us to get back focused on what we need to do.”

All season, Missouri Western has been focused on one goal and that is to reach the NCAA Division II Tournament.

“It has been so long since Missouri Western has been in, back in the tradition days of 15, 20 years ago,” Edmission said. “Our ultimate goal is to get in the tournament. The byproduct is if we can win the conference and the conference tournament championship that would be great.”

Missouri Western is not only nearly a lock to reach the NCAA Division II Tournament, the Griffons are in position to play host to the Central Regional. They are currently ranked first in their region.

“At this point, this team has done great, to be 24-2 in the MIAA,” Edmission said. “There is no doubt this is the toughest conference in the country. When you look at the fact that the last place team in the conference can compete with you all the way down the stretch, it is tough.”

The top three teams in the Central Regional are in the MIAA. Fort Hays is second and Pittsburg State, which is on a 12-game winning streak, is third. And Emporia State, which won the Central Regional last year and made it to the Final Four, is sixth.

Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball team excels on the court and in the classroom

Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball coach Josh Schertz wants his team to win on the court, and the Railsplitters have been doing that in a big way.

On Saturday, No. 4 Lincoln Memorial beat No. 6 Queens (N.C.) 92-66. It was a matchup between the top two teams in the Southeast Regional. Lincoln Memorial is 24-2 overall and 20-0 in the South Atlantic Conference.

Schertz, though, also wants his team to win in the classroom. While he hopes his team is playing deep into March, Schertz will fill another sense of pride when seven of his players walk across the stage later this spring to receive their degrees.

“The most important aspects of our program is we want to win games and we want to be successful, but the No. 1 goal is for these guys to be more successful in life, having come through our program,” Schertz said. “We do a job to help them develop athletically, academically and socially so when they walk across that stage in four or five years they are set up and have the habits to be successful in life.

“Obviously, getting your degree is a huge part of that. It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but without a degree, it closes a lot of doors for a lot of people. I think you can have an elite program with academic integrity. It is important to us to get guys who want to graduate.

“I’m awed by them by not just how good they are on the basketball court, but they type of human beings they are.”

Johnson’s 300 victory ignites three-game win streak for Fort Hays State men’s basketball team

It would have had a storybook feel to it if Fort Hays State men’s basketball coach Mark Johnson could have picked up his 300th career victory on Feb. 11 when the Tigers’ played at Pittsburg State. Johnson, now in his 15th season at Fort Hays, played basketball and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Pittsburg State.

Fort Hays entered the game, struggling on the road and it continued with a sixth straight road loss.

Two days later, the Tigers snapped the road losing streak with a win at Missouri Southern. It was Johnson’s 300th career victory. Since then, Fort Hays has won two more.

Now at 302-135, Johnson is the first basketball coach at Fort Hays, men or women, to reach the 300-win milestone