The best way to describe the 2017 NWCA National Duals at the Division II level is chaos. The semifinals included a pair of known commodities in top-ranked St. Cloud State and Wisconsin-Parkside, winners of the rugged Midwest Classic in December. The bottom half, however, was where chaos ensued as upstart Wheeling Jesuit of West Virginia squared off with Colorado State-Pueblo. The Nos. 2 and 3 seeds – Notre Dame College and Maryville (Mo.) – did not make it out of the quarterfinals.

In the end, it was St. Cloud State, winners of the last two NCAA Championships, who went 4-0 to claim the program’s third National Duals title in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The Huskies won Duals titles in 2012 and 2013 and lost to Notre Dame College in the 2016 championship match. SCSU bested San Francisco State (37-11) and Pittsburgh-Johnstown (37-6) on Thursday and Wisconsin-Parkside (27-9) and Wheeling Jesuit (35-6) on Friday.

Despite a very competitive field, St. Cloud State went 4-0 to claim the program’s third National Duals title.
St. Cloud State Athletics
Despite a very competitive field, St. Cloud State went 4-0 to claim the program’s third National Duals title.
“The scores indicated a lot of landslides in a lot of those duals, but they were a lot closer than the score indicated,” said SCSU head coach Steve Costanzo, whose squad is 6-0 with a home match against Central Missouri next Friday. “Even (Friday) wrestling (Wisconsin) Parkside in the semis, they have a great team and we won a lot of close matches, some matches that were right down to the wire. We had to keep wrestling for seven minutes and because of that we ended up winning those matches.

“A lot of them weren’t pretty, but our guys got the job done.”

The final dual was tied at 6-6 after four weight classes before the Huskies won the final six bouts. Larry Bomstad (157), Vince Deitz (197), and Austin Goergen (285) each scored falls with Goergen, the top-ranked heavyweight in Division II, improving to 14-0 this season.

“(Austin) Goergen is our team leader, the catalyst of the team,” said Costanzo of the three-time All-American. “He loves to compete, can’t wait to get out there and anytime you have a guy like that up top, you are going to win a lot of duals.”

Wisconsin-Parkside beat Colorado State-Pueblo in the third place dual, winning 30-13. After falling in the opening round to an injury-depleted Pittsburgh-Johnstown squad, McKendree (Ill.) battled back to beat San Francisco State, Notre Dame College, Upper Iowa, and Nebraska-Kearney to take fifth.

New kids on the block

While St. Cloud State was rolling to the National Duals title, two programs stole the show.

Despite only being in existence for four years, the Wheeling Jesuit wrestling team has a solid showing.
Wheeling Jesuit Athletics
Despite only being in existence for four years, the Wheeling Jesuit wrestling team has a solid showing.
The Wheeling Jesuit program has been in existence all of four years and went 0-3 at the 2016 National Duals. The 2017 visit to Ft. Wayne opened with a solid win over a good Findlay (Ohio) squad on Thursday morning. A few hours later, the Cardinals stunned Maryville (Ohio), 18-17, thanks in part to a huge pin by Dominick Nania at 149 pounds and a trio of decisions by Greg Brusco (157), Nic Skonieczny (165), and Reyse Wallbrown (174) that put the underdogs up 18-7. The third-seeded Saints won the final three bouts, getting a major decision from All-American heavyweight Donnell Walker, but Wheeling Jesuit held on for the one-point victory.

The Cardinals’ semifinal opponent pulled off a pair of upsets. The Thunderwolves opened with a win over Mercyhurst, then took out defending champion Notre Dame, 18-17, in the quarterfinals. CS-P and the Falcons split 5-5 with JaCobi Jones’s overtime pin at 165 pounds proving large.

As expected, the Thunderwolves and Cardinals had a down-to-the-wire affair in the semifinals. Jacob Donahue (125) and Nania (149) had falls for WJU; Jones and JaVaughan Perkins (184) had pins for Pueblo. Each team added three decisions, with Wheeling Jesuit’s Maxwell Lacey’s 5-0 decision at 285 pounds tying the dual at 22. The tiebreaker? Total points scored favored the Cardinals, advancing them to the finals.

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“Through our four years, there has been such an emphasis on growth, learning and the process and this is just another step towards our biggest goal of winning a national title,” said Wheeling Jesuit head coach Sean Doyle. “We went 0-3 last year and took second in the nation (Friday). That’s a memory that will last a lifetime.

“St. Cloud is such a great program and wrestles extremely hard in every position.”

When the Division II rankings were released last week, Colorado-State Pueblo was No. 21 and Wheeling Jesuit was receiving votes.

Climbing back

Central Oklahoma entered the rankings last week for the first time this season. The Bronchos scored 3 ½ points and finished 35th at the 2016 NCAA Championships, uncharacteristic for a program with seven NCAA team titles. Under first-year head coach Todd Stiedley, UCO is 7-0 with 125-pound freshman Josh Lindsey (19-4), 197-pounder Greg Wilson (174), and heavyweight Caleb Cotter (20-2) all off to good starts. UCO will see where it stands at next weekend’s UNK Duals hosted by Nebraska-Kearney.

New Nos. 1?

Eight of Division II’s top-ranked wrestlers were in Ft. Wayne. Two national champions from last March tasted defeat. St. Cloud State's 125-pounder Brent Velasquez dropped a 3-2 decision to Wisconsin-Parkside All-American Ronzell Darling, then fell 6-2 to Colorado-State Pueblo’s Jacob Donahue in the Huskies’ 35-6 romp in the final dual. Nebraska-Kearney’s Destin McCauley, national champion at 149 pounds last season, lost a 5-4 match to UW-P’s Brett Scoles.

Six others – Maryville’s Nate Rodriguez (141), Findlay’s Nic Goebel (149), Mercyhurst’s Francis Mizia (165), UW-P’s Nick Becker (174), Notre Dame College’s Garrett Lineberger (184), and SCSU’s Goebel (285) made it out unscathed.