ST. LOUIS -- St. Cloud State University was founded in 1869. And since the days of athletic competition at the NCAA level no athletic team from the Minnesota school could claim the title of national champion.
Steve Costanzo’s wrestlers changed that at the 2015 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships. The Huskies, second in 2011, 2012, and 2013, had their finger tips on the team trophy following the medal rounds Saturday afternoon. When junior 125-pounder Tim Prescott scored a third-period takedown to beat Augustana’s T.J. North to claim Saturday night’s first individual title, SCSU’s trophy case had its first addition.
“It’s hard to put into words right now,” said Costanzo, who brought six wrestlers to St. Louis and finished with six All-Americans.“We brought six guys and felt like we had a chance. Hats off to our guys, just a tremendous team effort.
“It’s our first national championship in school history. And that is dating back to the 1800s. For the community and the alumni that have been so supportive this is for them, for everybody who wrestled at St. Cloud.”
Prescott finished a 21-8 campaign and avenged two losses to North (26-4), also a finalist in 2014.
Heavyweight Austin Goergen (32-2) was a second finalist for Costanzo but ran into unbeaten senior Ziad Haddad of Kutztown State in the tournament’s final bout. Haddad (30-0), also the 2014 champion, cruised to a 6-2 victory to close the festivities inside Chaifetz Arena.
It was certainly a team effort for the Huskies over the last two days.
Junior 157-pounder Clint Poster brought a perfect 36-0 mark into Friday. He lost a heartbreaking overtime tiebreaker match to Colorado-Mesa’s James Martinez in the semifinals Saturday morning, but came back with a pin and a thrilling win against 2014 champion Jon Rivera of Notre Dame (Ohio) to finish third.
“Coming here with six guys we felt like we would have six All-Americans,” Poster said. “It’s a tight group of guys that sticks together and supports each other. We knew we had the potential in the room to do this.
“I lost a heartbreaker [in the semifinals]. I didn’t reach my personal goal, but coach told me to shake it off and came back strong to help us win this team title. It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s pretty great to be a part of this.”
The top-eight finish was Poster’s third. Gabe Fogerty also rebounded from a semifinal loss with a pair of wins to take third at 165 pounds. He, too, is a three-time All-American.
Mike Rhone was fifth at 133 pounds and perhaps the straw that stirred the drink all weekend was true freshman 149-pounder Larry Bomstad. Despite finishing seventh he recorded three pins, including a flattening of Maryville’s Keenan Hagerty on Friday night.
“Every one of the six guys, all their roles were pivotal in winning a team championship,” Costanzo said. “We weren’t going to do it with five. We got some major bonus points and that made the difference. Not just winning medals, but scoring bonus too. Larry Bomstad, a true freshman, gets three pins in this tournament and that is huge.
“It’s hard to describe what kind of performance these guys had this week. We had to be flawless coming in and we were pretty good.”
Nebraska-Kearney was in solid position entering Saturday with five in the semifinals. But a 2-3 round and some tough losses in the wrestlebacks kept the Lopers just outside the reach of SCSU.
Loper junior Daniel DeShazer used a fantastic, lightning-quick duck-under to take a 4-3 lead on Ashland’s Michael Labry in the final 30 seconds of the 133-pound final. An escape by Labry 15 seconds later sent the two to overtime where :04 of riding time was the difference for DeShazer (39-5) in a 7-6 double-tiebreaker marathon. It was the Loper’s second title in three years. The loss for Labry, a three-time All-American, was just his second in 44 matches in 2014-15.
UNK added a second champion when junior Romero Cotton (18-5) scored an overtime takedown to beat Newberry’s Huston Evans. It was Romero’s second title and third finals appearance in three seasons.
“I knew [Wahle] was going to try and keep it close, so I was trying to stay patient and get my takedown,” Davis said. “I tried to wrestle smart and get my title. [Wahle] didn’t shoot at all, so I tried to stay technical in my game.
“It means a lot to win a third title and to go undefeated. I’m overwhelmed.”
North Carolina-Pembroke senior Daniel Ownbey (33-2) capped his nice career with a second consecutive national title and a fourth All-America finish. Ownbey scored a pair of first period takedowns and cruised by Western State’s Corbin Bennetts 13-5. A happy Ownbey celebrated with a back flip, then by tossing Pembroke head coach Othello Johnson with a lateral drop.
Joining DeShazer and Ownbey as a two-time champ was Central Missouri 149-pounder Frank Cagnina (24-1), who scored a pair of third period takedowns to beat Lindenwood’s Terrel Wilbourn, 5-2. Cagnina won three New Jersey state championships and was a national qualifier for Division I Lehigh before finishing at CMU. Wilbourn was attempting to become Lindenwood’s first NCAA champion in its second year at the DII level.
Anderson (S.C.) product Sean Turner and Colorado-Mesa’s Martinez, both seniors, provided a nice change of pace in the 157-pound final. Anderson scored 38 points in his three matches prior to the finals and was clinging to a 7-6 lead when Martinez, a three-time All-American scored a high-flying takedown at the buzzer to win 8-7. A video review ensued and officials ruled the takedown was in time. Mesa finishes 39-3 and is the Mesa’s first national champion.
“It’s incredible,” Martinez said. “A fifth-year senior, I can’t even put it into words right now. Right now I’m so excited for my team, my coach, my family. This is my 20th wrestling season, so it’s been a long time coming.”
Waiting on the video review wasn’t easy.
“I came off the mat and [coach Chuck Pipher] told me '15 seconds for the rest of your life.’ I just dug in with that shot and the last few seconds were a blur. Everything just kind of meshed together. I didn’t know what to do during [the review], whether to cry or what. When it came out in my favor I was so excited I almost passed out. Just a great feeling.”
Ouachita Baptist’s Dallas Smith and Central Oklahoma’s Chris Watson, both seniors, earned something they had been chasing for four years.
Smith, a four-time All-American and finalist two seasons ago, beat Maryville’s Nick Burghardt in the 174-pound final. Smith (29-1) also becomes Baptist’s first national champion.
Watson, a finalist in 2014, was too good in the third period in beating Lake Erie’s Matt Vandermeer in the 165-pound title tilt. Watson, who earned the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award, finished his final campaign 42-0 and was 80-3 over his final two seasons for longtime head coach David James. Watson is UCO’s 39th national champion, a DII best.