HERSHEY, Penn. -- In the frantic, survive-and-advance world of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships, where split seconds separate success and despair, Jacoby Bergeron's tunnel vision during white-knuckle times helped deliver two taut victories and a spot in Friday night's 141-pound quarterfinals at the Giant Center.
On the precipice of a preliminary-round loss, the third seed and 2014 sixth-place finisher at 133 rallied from a deficit in the final minute of regulation before decking SUNY Cortland's Adrian Berry (24-14) in 7:25 in sudden victory. Nearly 90 minutes later, he survived a tiebreaker against Mount Union's Bryant Roby (28-12) to secure a 2-1 triumph and a matchup against No. 6 Nick Steger of Loras (26-1).
"Honestly, I was pretty nervous those first two matches," Bergeron said. "I just need to loosen up a little bit before I wrestle. I'll be looser for my next match."In this setting for the third consecutive season, Bergeron improved to 37-6 overall and 20-0 against Division III competition because of his experience in dramatic moments. While all of the contenders are known for a certain style, a specific move or even a personality trait, Bergeron, a senior, is best known for winning without necessarily scoring style points.
Instead, the Concordia-Moorhead standout relies on his superior conditioning and being battle-tested against quality Division I and II competition, including grapplers from perennial Division I power Minnesota. After cutting weight to grapple at 133 a year ago, he increased his weight training and cardio workouts this offseason to give himself his best chance to stand atop the medal stand Saturday night.
This is why nothing changed about Bergeron's mentality when he trailed against Berry, saying matter-of-factly, "I knew my conditioning would prevail." Same with his victory against Roby, a wrestler Bergeron previously defeated and against whom he conceded, "I might have been a little too confident coming in."
No matter. In the survive-and-advance world Bergeron knows well, his experience and temperament allowed him to survive for another round.
"I'm kind of known for having tight matches and pulling out wins. I just have to keep my head down and keep wrestling," said Bergeron, who is one win away from tying his school's single-season record for victories.
"I've been in these situations before where I need to score. I'm not necessarily thinking I need to score. I'm just thinking I need to keep wrestling."
Another title contender in Bergeron's bracket, senior and two-time All-American Brandon Jones of New York University, stayed poised under duress after getting taken down and trailing 3-1 with 15 ticks left against St. John's (Minn.)'s Ben Henle (26-9) before escaping and earning a takedown at the edge of the circle nanoseconds before time expired to stay alive with a 4-3 victory late Friday morning.
"I basically went into survival mode. I knew if I didn't get a takedown I was dead," Jones said after improving to 22-3. "I just pushed it and was trying to get in on [his] legs. It was more just having to buckle down [and get the takedown]."
Seeded fourth in the bracket after placing third at the same weight in 2014, Jones (22-3) saw his first two shots stonewalled before his third time succeeded. However, he needed to wait out a video review by officials before finally exhaling and moving on to his fourth matchup this season against fifth-seeded Hunter's Cary Palmer (31-1) in Friday night's quarterfinals. Palmer won the first two bouts before suffering his first loss March 1 in the 141-pound NCAA Division III East Regional title bout.
"It's the best matchup for me," Jones said. "We know each other's styles. I know how to win that match. ... Anyone you put in front of me is the best matchup for me."Two other top seeds needed to grind out first-round victories Friday afternoon. Washington and Jefferson's Nick Carr (24-0), the 2014 runner-up at 165, scored a 6-4 win against Luther's Reed Van Anrooy (11-5) at 157. Minutes earlier, 2014 sixth-place finisher Dan Mirman of John Carroll (26-1) staved off Cornell's Trevor Engle (31-9) for a 7-4 triumph at 149.
At 174, No. 8 Garrett Chase of Baldwin Wallace (4-1) survived Olivet's Nicholas Allen (4-2) 9-7 in sudden victory 2, while fourth seed Brandon Weller of Wartburg (20-8) was not as lucky, succumbing 2-1 in the tiebreaker when Concordia-Moorhead's Sebastian Gardner (24-7) managed an escape.
Another notable result came at the bottom of the bracket at 165, where No. 2 Farai Sewera of Coe (26-2) overcame a 10-4 deficit to defeat Augsburg's Eric Hensel (18-13) by a 17-12 count.
Not every seed proved as lucky, as each bracket except 149 saw at least one top-eight seed relegated to the wrestlebacks. Among the biggest upsets:
• 125: NYU's Jacob Donato (11-9) decked Wartburg's Jake Agnitsch in 1:47 and Central's Daniel Page (25-6) outpointed No. 5 Asher Kramer of Brockport State (23-8), 3-1.
• 157: Wisconsin-Whitewater's (3-1) decisioned No. 4 Jon Garrison of Mount Union (24-5), a sixth-place medalist last March, by a 10-6 score.
• 165: Waynesburg's Sam Guidi (41-4) survived No. 3 Dylan Foley, who took sixth last year 3-1 in sudden victory.
• 184: Heidelberg's Richard Dowdley (38-2) picked up a pair of victories, including a 15-12 triumph against No. 4 Christopher Chorzepa of Williams (38-2). No. 3 Tyler Beckwith of SUNY Cortland (23-5) also fell by a 3-1 score against Wisconsin-La Crosse's Richard Carlson (26-6), while Coe's Ryan Sheldon (25-12) beat No. 6 Ben Swarr of Messiah (18-2) by the same count.
• 197: Coe's Donnie Horner (28-9) tripped up No. 3 Aaron Karns of Delaware Valley 3-2.