ST. LOUIS -- Zeb Wahle remembers an overtime loss to Joey Davis.
“I’m actually really excited for [Saturday night] because the last time he beat me he yelled out ‘100-0,’ ” said Wahle, who faces the unbeaten Davis in tonight’s championship match at 174 pounds for a Division II Championship. “We had a 5-6 match at the National Duals in the finals and he took me down in overtime at our home Lombardi Duals … a couple of nail-biters.”
This weekend, Davis, who is now 107-0, has a major decision and two workmanlike victories to advance to his third consecutive Division II title bout.
“Everything is on the line,” said Davis after his semifinal victory against Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s John Blankenship. “I’m looking forward to wrestling Wahle again. I kind of thought I’d be wrestling him again in the finals. I’m looking forward to putting on a show for the fans.
“I’m 107-0 and just wrestling for my father, and God, and I’m going to leave it out there on the mat.”
Wahle (26-6) expected to attend Omaha like older brothers Blu and Henry, but followed coach Mike Denney to St. Louis. He has a pair of pins and a win against Meryhurst’s August Mizia this week
What do the foes expect tonight?
“We wrestled my freshman year and I kind of found where he found some shots on me,” Wahle said. “The last time we wrestled I corrected that but he was a little quicker and I was tired late. I expect a tight match. He wrestles me different than everybody else. It is a brawl. I think it is going to come down to the end and who is in better shape.”
Said Davis, “[Notre Dame coach Frank Romano] told me not to be cautious, to go to my attacks.
“Our team has worked extremely hard this year and to see them not come here and perform like I know they are capable it hurts. I’m going to do what I have to do to represent my school and to bring them another national championship.”
With a victory, Davis would put himself in position to compete for a fourth national title next March. Only Central Oklahoma’s Cole Province, Portland State’s Dan Russell, Omaha’s Les Sigman and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville’s Tim Wright have four DII individual championships.
The 174-pound final will be among the most anticipated Saturday evening. It will be part of what could be a very festive evening for St. Cloud State fans. The Huskies and their across-the-board effort, led by four in the wrestlebacks, clinched at least a tie for the team title.
SCSU holds a 12-point lead; Nebraska-Kearney needs two pins and no wins by the two SCSU finalists to forge a tie. Barring some strange happenings, St. Cloud State will be the 2015 champions. It marks the first NCAA title in any sport for the school.
When Saturday’s first session started, St. Cloud State held a 2.5 point lead. SCSU’s Tim Prescott picked up a victory in the 125-pound semifinals and the Huskies lead moved to 9.5 points. But Nebraska-Kearney’s Daniel DeShazer, a champion two seasons ago at 133 pounds, grinded out a 2-1 tiebreaker win in the semifinals and UNK was within six points of the lead.
UNK then dropped back-to-back semifinal matches at 141 and 149 and also saw Devin Aguirre lose in the 165-pound semifinals. Head coach Marc Bauer’s group ended the round on a positive when 2014 champion Romero Cotton scored an overtime takedown to beat his finals opponent, McKendree’s Julien Smith 3-1.
SCSU took two hits in the semifinals when Clint Poster suffered his first loss in 39 matches at 157 pounds and Gabe Fogerty ran into the 41-0 Chris Watson of Central Oklahoma at 165 pounds. The Huskies finished the semifinal round strong when heavyweight Austin Goergen scored a takedown in the final 20 seconds to complete a come-from-behind 9-7 victory.
Notre Dame’s bad week got worse when 2014 champion Jon Rivera ran out of gas in the third period of a 12-10 loss to Anderson (S.C.) Sean Turner. Rivera led 5-0 early, but was hit for stalling and taken down in the final 30 seconds. In three matches during the past two days, Turner has scored 38 points.
With all the contenders fighting for their lives, the afternoon wrestlebacks took on added significance. SCSU led UNK by eight and Maryville by 14.5 when the third, fifth and seventh place matches got underway.
Mike Rhone, one of six All-Americans for SCSU, earned an important point with a victory in a fifth-place match at 133 pounds. At the same weight, Maryville lost a chance when Dakota Bauer dropped his third place bout with Ouachita Baptist’s Nate Rodriguez.
It is hard to think a seventh place could be the difference, but true freshman Larry Bomstad (28-7) scored a first-period fall at 149 pounds and the Huskies’ advantage grew to 11 points. Bomstand added a few more key points when he pinned two opponents on Friday.
“We brought six guys and felt like we had a chance,” SCSU coach Steve Costanzo said. “Hats off to our guys, just a tremendous team effort. Getting bonus points was huge. 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.”
UNK’s Destin McCauley kept the Lopers hanging around, but Poster’s come-from-behind win against Rivera of Notre Dame in a 157-pound bronze medal bout had the Huskies tasting a title. A weight class later the Huskies’ Fogerty may have provided the final nail in the coffin when he beat Aguirre for third.
Entering tonight’s finals, St. Cloud State leads second place Nebraska-Kearney by 12 points. What is required for the Lopers is pins by Cotton and DeShazer in the finals and no SCSU victories to forge a tie.
The Huskies have finished second three times. Odds are that will change on Saturday night.
A good week
Mercyhurst, located in Erie, Pennsylvania, had never finished higher than ninth at an NCAA Tournament entering this week. Head coach Mike Wehler’s Lakers had Willie Bohince (125), Jeremy Landowski (149), Francis Mizia (157), August Mizia (174), Dakota DesLauriers (184) and Andy Welton (285) among the top eight and will be fourth in 2015.
Central Oklahoma and Newberry, two programs generally in the hunt annually, combined for just two All-Americans in 2015. The Bronchos own seven national titles and 19 top five finishes in 28 all-time NCAA appearances. Only Cal Poly and Bakersfield, now members of Division I, have more team titles than UCO. This season marks only the fourth time head coach David James’ squad has finished outside the top 10 since 2000.
In 10 NCAA appearances, Newberry has a pair of top five showings, including a runner-up medal in 2009. They can finish 17th with a victory by Huston Evans in the 197-pound final Saturday night.
• West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit qualified a wrestler for the DII Championships for the first time. The Cardinals actually qualified three and Dustin Warner, a freshman 125-pounder, finished a 35-12 campaign with a fifth-place finish this weekend.
• LIU-Post produced an All-American in its first year of competition since the 1987-88 season. Freshman 133-pounder Joe Calderone (29-11) was sixth this week.
• Shorter, a Georgia school, had its first All-American in 184-pounder Terrence Smith (25-7).