March 5, 2010

By Nick Finch

Special to the NCAA

CEDAR RAPIDS - All six defending national champions avoided early exits to open the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center on Friday, but plenty of contenders saw their hopes of a championship dashed.

Two No. 1 seeds and three No. 2 seeds did not advance past the opening match. Justin Barowski continued Delaware Valley's strong early performance in the first round with a win by fall at 5 minutes, 48 seconds over Dubuque's Josh Terrell, the No. 1 seed, in the 165-pound class. Wisconsin-Whitewater's Jon Schmidt (11-5) defeated top seed and 2008-09 runner-up Mark Corsello (32-1) of Elmhurst with a 3-1 decision.

But Elmhurst's Jake Oster (125), St. John's Myanganbayar Batsukr (141), Wisconsin-LaCrosse's Matt Mauseth (149), Dubuque's Evan Brown (174), Augsburg's Jared Massey (197) and Wisconsin-La Crosse's Dan Laurent (285) scored first-round victories. Oster, the No. 4 seed in 125, had to go one better by winning his opening round after having to wrestle in a preliminary bout.

Only seven of 10 No. 2 seeds advanced in the championship bracket. Among those who were upset was Wartburg's Mark Kist (125), who had hopes of meeting conference rival and No. 1 seed Clayton Rush of Coe in the finals, but was beaten by unseeded Lloyd McKinney of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 9-6. McKinney was one of two in the 125 class to knock off seeded opponents. In the 133-pound class, North Central's Nathan Fitzenreider, the No. 2 seed, cannot finish higher than third after a 1-0 decision to SUNY Cortland's Aliamain Sterling and Dan Twito of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy knocked off Cornell's Nicholas Loughlin (No. 2).

Twito and another unseeded USMMA teammate, Vincent Renaut (165), were able to knock off seeded opponents to move on.

"That match, I had to dig down deep for that and I said, 'I'm not giving up on this one'," said Renaut after his 4-2 decision over No. 5 seed Christopher Dahlheimer of Lycoming. "I could be the top seed and be nervous. Anybody can beat anybody."

All of the seeded wrestlers in the 197 class advanced to the quarterfinals, the only bracket of the 10 without an upset. Top-seed Jared Massey of Augsburg is now 26-0. Williams College's Ryan Malo sits on the other side of the bracket with a 44-4 record after claiming his opening victory.

Familiarity is the theme in the 285 class, even though Elmhurst's Mark Corsello made an early exit from the championship bracket. Coe's Mitch Sander will face No. 2 seed Kyle Bilquist of Delaware Valley just after defending titlist Dan Laurent of Wisconsin-La Crosse tries to get past Adam Sutter of Lakeland. Sutter, the No. 6 seed, could come in with a slight advantage as he had an opening round bye.

In the team standings, the primary focus is on who will win between national powers Augsburg, Wartburg, Coe and Wisconsin-La Crosse. Both Wartburg and Coe brought 10 wrestlers to the tournament, and Augsburg had nine qualifiers.

In the heavier classes, the pendulum swung back to Coe College. The Kohawks posted victories in all of the final five weight classes, with Nick LeClere (165), Seth Rehn (174), No. 1 seed Tyler Burkle (184), Rob Kramer (197) and Mitch Sander (285) winning their matches.

"We had guys on the backside who came up big in the team competition," said Coe head coach John Oostendorp. Coe led the team standings after the first session with 19 points as six of its 10 remained in the championship bracket.

Augsburg also rode to a solid start in the team competition, with all nine advancing. Defending champion and No. 1 seed Jared Massey (197) led the charge but No. 2 seeds Jafari Vanier (141), Tony Valek (149) and Zach Molitor (174) avoided the early upsets to advances to Friday night's quarterfinals. Augsburg and Wartburg were tied for second in the team points with 14.

But a pair of upsets could keep the Knights from winning the team competition. No. 2 seed Mark Kist (125) and No. 7 seed Jacob Groth each dropped their early matches while unseeded Matt Kelly (141) upset No. 5 Ben Anderson of Concordia-Moorhead.

Wisconsin-La Crosse brought seven wrestlers to the nationals and six advanced, including No. 1 seed Bebeto Yewah (133) and defending national champions Mauseth and Laurent.

Delaware Valley also had a strong opening round, as five of six Aggies won, including Barowski's upset of the top seed in the 165 class. The Eagles and Delaware Valley were tied for fourth place with 13 points each.