March 5, 2010

By Nick Finch

Special to

CEDAR RAPIDS - The top-ranked Augsburg College Auggies surged into first place in the team competition with a strong evening session in the opening day of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships Friday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

Coe College led the team standings after the morning session but the Auggies' advanced nine qualifiers into the quarterfinals and amassed 69 points for the day to go ahead in the late session.

Wisconsin-La Crosse was in second with 56, Wartburg was third with 53.5, Coe was fourth with 47.5 and Delaware Valley had 41.5.

Coe and Wartburg each brought 10 qualifiers but their window for a team title started to close in the early session. No. 1 seed Tyler Burkle (184) of Coe was the third top seed defeated Friday morning when No. 8 seed Brennan Ward of Johnson & Wales beat him by fall at 4 minutes, 11 seconds. Two other top seeds lost in the morning session.

Seven of the original No. 1 seeds remain in the championship bracket and all six defending national titleists have made the semifinals.

Augsburg and Wartburg are the two schools to have won every Division III national team championship since 1984. Augsburg will take six wrestlers into the semifinals. Wartburg and Wisconsin-La Crosse each have four while Delaware Valley and Ithaca each have three.

In the individual weight classes:

The nation's top seed and the defending 125-pound champion will meet Saturday morning in the semifinals. No. 1 seed Clayton Rush of Coe easily defeated Wesleyan's Dan Bloom to advance. Elmhurst's Jake Oster won the 2008-09 title and survived a tight match with Delaware Valley's Terrance Clendenin. Oster trailed 6-4 in the final minute of the third period before notching two takedowns, including a two-point pickup in the closing seconds to advance with an 8-6 win and draw a date with Rush in the semis.

"In the third period, he was pretty broken and I knew that if I did my stuff on him, it would work out," said Oster. "You have to stay positive the whole time and never get down, just believe you are going to come back in the third period."

Elizabethtown's Tyler Erdman is the No. 3 seed and will meet No. 7 seed Joshua Roberts of Augsburg in the other semifinal.

Bebeto Yewah of Wisconsin-La Crosse used a defensive fall to get past Centenary's William Livingston in the 133-pound class. Yewah, the No. 1 seed, is now 22-1 and will meet Ithaca's Chad Winowich in the semifinals. Augsburg's Paul Bjorkstrand and Nick Nothern of Cornell will meet in the other semifinal.

Three unseeded qualifiers will take a shot in the 141-pound semifinals. Top seed and defending titleist Myanganbayar Batsukh of St. John's advanced and is the only seeded wrestler left. Batsukh will go against Wartburg's Matt Kelly, who has defeated a No. 5 and a No. 4 seed, each by one point.

Southern Maine's Matt Ulrich was the first "giant killer" of the evening, notching a 5-2 decision over No. 2 Jafari Vanier of Augsburg. "Just attack, attack, attack, it's the only way I can win," said Ulrich. "I can defend pretty well and not get scored on."

Ulrich won't have to beat a seeded wrestler next. Ithaca's Jeremy Stierly won a riveting match against Austin Bautista of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The score was deadlocked at 1 through regulation and even into the third overtime period, but Stierly found the extra energy to pull out a 2-1 victory.

"I feel like I died out there," Stierly said as blood dripped from his nose minutes after his win. "Seriously, I think I'm dead." He said, even with the promising start, he is far from perfect.

"People can take my legs too easily and I have to find a way by the next match to take that away. When you get to this level and they can touch your legs, you have a 75 percent chance that you're going down."

The 157-pound semifinals will feature all seeded wrestlers as Wartburg's Adam Weber pulled out a late victory over unseeded Dan Twito of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Weber's takedown in the final seconds secured the 6-4 decision.

In the 165-pound class, unseeded Justin Barowski of Delaware Valley didn't see his first-round upset of No. 1 seed Josh Terrell of Dubuque as the high point for the weekend. Barowski topped that with a win over Heidelberg's Matt Curley to make the semifinals. More upsets followed in the 165 as Augsburg's Orlando Ponce continued the Auggies' strong team showing with a 3-2 decision over No. 2 seed Carrington Banks of Wartburg.

Business went as planned in the 174-pound class, the only bracket in which all the top seeds advanced. Top seed Evan Brown of Dubuque and No. 2 seed Zach Molitor each advanced.

Ward's defeat of Burkle in the 184-pound quarterfinals throws open the weight class. With Burkle out, No. 2 seed Ben Engelland of Wisconsin-Stevens Point moved into the position of highest seed remaining but that only lasted for fifteen minutes. Unseeded Josh Wake of Oneonta State rode out a 6-4 decision over Engelland.

In the 197-pound class, Augsburg's Jared Massey is now 27-0 after a workmanlike win over SUNY Cortland's Martino Sottile. Massey's 10-2 win lands the defending champion in the semifinals against No. 5 seed Byron Tate of Wartburg. No. 2 seed Ryan Malo held off Coe's Rob Kramer to advance.

Hours after knocking off top-seed Mark Corsello of Elmhurst, heavyweight Jon Schmidt of Wisconsin-Whitewater was in another battle, this time with No. 8 seed Andrew Witzel of Augsburg. Schmidt's 7-2 decision sends him to a surprising trip to the semifinals.

"I'm just going to try and set some rest, maybe watch 'Family Guy' and see if I can sleep," said an excited but bloody and bandaged Schmidt soon after his match. "My head is a hazardous zone but I feel mentally strong." Wartburg's John Helgerson is next up for Schmidt.

Defending 285-pound titleist Dan Laurent of Wisconsin-La Crosse will face No. 2 seed Kyle Bilquist of Delaware Valley in the semifinals.

Competition resumes Saturday at 10 a.m. (CT).