A Husky March
St. Cloud State has been about as good as it gets in dual meets over the past five years, winning 97 of 102 starts. But head coach Steve Costanzo’s crew was unable to hoist the NCAA Championship trophy. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, SCSU finished second at the NCAAs, the 2013 runner-up showing by a slim three points to Nebraska-Kearney.
Last March in St. Louis the Huskies finally closed the deal, out-pointing second place Nebraska-Kearney by eight points.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Costanzo said. “There are so many people involved in winning a championship, so many hours of work, so much effort put into this thing. There are a lot of good programs in Division II and it’s only going to get tougher.”
SCSU qualified six for the 2015 NCAA Championships and all six earned top eight finishes. Tim Prescott led the charge by winning the 125-pound title. Heavyweight Austin Goergen was a finalist, while Gabe Fogarty (165) and Clint Poster (157) each finished third. Mike Rhone (133) was fifth and freshman Larry Bomstad (149) took seventh.
All six return for 2015-16.
“We want to use last year as momentum going into this year, but we don’t want to be going in thinking we already have it,” said Prescott, a senior from McPherson, Kan. “Everyone is bringing everyone back, we aren’t the only ones, so this year is going to be another battle.”
Prescott, Poster, Fogarty, and Goergen start this season ranked No. 1, a season that starts Sunday at the Harold Nichols Open in Ames, Iowa.
UNK, under 16th-year head coach Marc Bauer, finished second for the second straight season after winning back-to-back NCAA titles in 2012 and 2013.
Two champions return for Bauer – Daniel DeShazer (133) and Romero Cotton (197) – and three Lopers start this season ranked No. 1 – DeShazer, Destin McCauley (149), and Keith Surber (141). Romero, a two-time champ, plays football in the fall.
Maryville, Notre Dame (Ohio), and Mercyhurst (Pa.) each return a boat-load of talent. The 2016 NCAA Division II Championships are in Sioux Falls, S.D.
If everyone stays healthy and has their best lineup, expect a fight to the finish.
A new Saint
Maryville (Mo.) hosted the 2015 NCAA Championships and finished third. Head coach Mike Denney, former leader of the Nebraska-Omaha juggernaut, was brought aboard at Maryville to build a program – it has not taken long.
The Saints open the 2015-16 campaign with nine All-Americans in their lineup. Heavyweight Donnell Walker, a top-eight guy in 2014 as a freshman, was injured last season and missed the postseason. But the biggest addition to this season’s lineup is two-time All-American Nate Rodriguez, a transfer from Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) who was 33-3 and third at the 2015 NCAA Championships. Rodriquez, a junior from Neosho, Mo., won three Missouri state titles and will move up from 133 to 141 pounds in 2015-16.
There will not be a lot of news concerning Notre Dame (Ohio) College’s Joey Davis the first two months of the season. The senior will not compete, but is expected back on the mat in January to begin his quest for Division II history. The Compton, Calif., product is 111-0 for his career with three NCAA titles on his resumé.
DII has seen four, four-time NCAA champions – Central Oklahoma’s Cole Province (2001-2004), Portland State’s Dan Russell (1988-1991), Nebraska-Omaha’s Les Sigman (2003-2006), and Southern Illinois Edwardsville’s Tim Wright (1984-1987). None finished their careers unbeaten.
Davis won his first at 165 pounds and the last two at 174 pounds. Next March, he will most likely seek his fourth at 184 pounds.
Another first semester absence
Another 2015 champion, UNK’s Romero Cotton, will not be on the mat until January. The Hutchinson, Kan., native has 309 yards rushing and five pass receptions for the Loper football team this fall. Cotton, also an NCAA mat champion in 2014 and finalist in 2013, rushed for 746 yards last fall and 801 yards as a sophomore.
To say Cotton is multi-talented is an understatement. At Hutchinson High School, the Lopers’ 197-pounder was a 10-time state champion. He won four state wrestling titles, four in football and was a two-time champion in power lifting.
Speaking of two-sport stars
During the late 1980s, Carleton Haselrig was Division II’s top star. A heavyweight from Johnstown, Pa., Haselrig wrestled freestyle during his high school years because Johnstown High did not have a wrestling program. He won Junior World titles in freestyle and Greco, and as a high school senior administrators allowed him to compete in the Pennsylvania state championships as an individual. No surprise, he was a champion.
At Pittsburgh-Johnstown he won three NCAA DII titles. During that period, DII champions also competed in the DI bracket. Haselrig, an athletic big man, won three DI titles as well from 1987 to 1989 and finished an incredible career with a 143-2-1 record that included a 122-match win streak.
In 1989 Haselrig was a 12th round pick by the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers. The defensive lineman was a Pro Bowl pick in 1992. Off-the-field substance abuse issues ended his playing career, but last week Haselrig received news that he would be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum next June as a Distinguished Member.
Wyoming’s Cowboy Open saw some DII fun on Saturday, especially the 149-pound bracket. All-American and top-ranked Destin McCauley of Nebraska-Kearney was pinned by Western State’s Tyler Adams in the quarterfinals. A round later, Chadron State’s Terrance McKinney pinned Adams and went on to win the tournament. McKinney, a sophomore and native of Spokane, Wash., had three pins and a major decision in the tournament.
Division I powers Oklahoma State and Iowa meet Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. Yes, that’s Kinnick “football” stadium with an expected crowd of at least 30,000 ready to brave the elements. The weather will most likely be a bit better in California when Bakersfield, winner of eight DII titles before joining DI, meets California Baptist in Riverside the same day.
November annually means Open tournaments. Things get busy this weekend with top-ranked Maryville hosting the Kaufman-Brand Open on Saturday and UNK and St. Cloud State sending wrestlers to the Harold Nichols Open in Ames, Iowa; Ashland, Findlay, Notre Dame, and Tiffin compete at the Michigan State Open in East Lansing on Sunday.