Nebraska-Kearney and Romero Cotton received some good news last week getting word that the two-time NCAA champion was granted an extension by the NCAA for an 11th semester. Student-athletes have 10 semesters of full-time enrollment to use four seasons of competition and Cotton used his 10th this fall. He started at Nebraska in Lincoln, transferred to Hutchinson Community College and ended up in Kearney with the Loper football and wrestling programs.
Cotton, of Hutchinson, Kan., was arraigned in 2008 on charges of aggravated battery and entered a plea agreement in 2009 that he believed would allow him to receive probation and not a prison sentence. He enrolled at Hutchinson CC to play football, but his plea agreement was rejected, forcing him to withdraw from school and go to prison. In doing so, he used a full-time semester. He began competing for the Lopers in the 2013 spring semester.
“[Romero] is the exception to so many missed opportunities by young people who get entangled in the legal system,“ UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said last week. “To me, he deserves another semester of eligibility – because of his great contributions to our campus and because of the admirable way in which he turned his life around.”
On the football field Cotton rushed for 309 yards for the 0-11 Lopers this fall. In three seasons he rushed for 1,866 yards. On the mat is where Cotton has excelled.
“You know, it’s such a load for a student-athlete to do one sport, let alone two,” UNK head wrestling coach Marc Bauer said after the 2014 NCAA Championships. “We don’t get him until second semester, so getting him in shape, getting him going, getting his mind refocused on wrestling, it’s a challenge.
“He’s just a likeable young man. I’ve got a special place in my heart for him because he’s just a great young man.”
Cotton will take the mat for the Lopers in January sporting a 44-3 career mark against DII opponents for his career. UNK won NCAA team titles in 2012 and 2013. With Cotton in the lineup at 197 pounds next semester, the Lopers’ chances of hoisting another trophy increase greatly.
Developing neighbors … rivals?
Two young programs in West Virginia are off to good starts this season. Wheeling Jesuit, in Wheeling, and Alderson Broaddus, in Philippi, are a combined 13-0 in dual meets and will face off Dec. 4 in Philippi.
The Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals, under head coach Sean Doyle who was a three-year starter at Cornell during his competitive days, finished 29th in their first appearance at a NCAA Championship last March. They compete at the National Duals in January and face Mercyhurst, Pittsburgh-Johnstown, and Notre Dame College to fill out a solid schedule. Jesuit improved to 5-0 with a win over West Liberty last Thursday. Leading the charge is sophomore 125-pounder Dustin Warner, an All-American and winner of 39 matches last season. Warner improved to 12-0 with a tournament title at the Findlay Open over the weekend.
The Alderson-Broadus Battlers beat D-III opponents Gettysburg, Maryland-Baltimore County and Penn State-Mont Alto over the weekend. The Battler program started in 2013-14 and has a possible All-America candidate in junior 174-pounder Cody Spinks.
“Cody Spinks is one of the most physically talented kids I’ve ever coached,” first-year head coach Sam Gardner said last week. “He can do things that defy convention, if not physics. Even though he’s ranked at 174, I think if he continues to perform this way at 184 with his energy and passion, we’ll keep him at that weight.”
Grappling at the Garden
A pair of DII programs will compete in Sunday’s "Grapple at the Garden", the fourth annual event held inside historic Madison Square Garden in New York City. The one-day, dual event is highlighted by DI programs Cornell, Nebraska, Illinois, and Northwestern, plus local high school programs, a handful of DIII squads and DII’s Pittsburgh-Johnstown and LIU-Post. Pittsburgh-Johnstown, 2-0 after its win over Kutztown (Pa.) last week, will face DI George Mason, while LIU-Post (1-3) meets DIII’s Wilkes. The Mountain Cats warmed up with East Stroudsburg on Nov. 24.
Turkey week schedule
The Thanksgiving holiday takes a bite out of the schedule this week. The reigning DII champion St. Cloud State visited DIII Saint John’s (Minn.) on Nov. 24, the first dual of the season for the Huskies, while Mercyhurst (Pa.) makes a trip to Riverside, Calif., to dual California Baptist on Nov. 25. Most of the DII elite return to the mats next week.
Tiffin (Ohio) junior heavyweight Garrett Grey, fourth at the 2015 NCAA Championships, rolled through his bracket at the Roughneck Findlay Open on Saturday. Grey, from Martin, Ohio, pinned four opponents on his way to a title, moving his season pin total to eight. Grey flattened 21 opponents last season.
Maryville (Mo.) 141-pounder Nate Rodriguez continues to impress. After winning the Kaufman-Brand Open to begin the season, the Missouri native cruised through the bracket at the Joe Parisi Open on Saturday, beating three straight D-I opponents to claim another tournament title and move to 9-0 heading into Thanksgiving. The top-ranked Saints also saw 165-pounder Dimitri Willis grab a title at the Parisi tournament in St. Charles, Mo.
Shippensburg (Pa.) didn’t have much luck in duals against Division I Purdue and Lock Haven, dropping the two duals by a combined 74-7 on Saturday. One wrestler, 197-pound sophomore Evan Ramos, accounted for all seven points with a major decision against the Boilermakers and a decision against Lock Haven. Ramos, from Hawthorne, N.J., missed last season due to injury after going 21-6 in 2013-14.
St. Cloud State senior 165-pounder Clint Poster went back-to-back, following up his title at the Harold Nichols Open two weekends ago with another gold at the Finn Grinaker in Moorhead, Minn., on Saturday.
Newberry’s Huston Evans had a strong Sunday at the Wolfpack Open, beating three DI opponents before falling to Chattanooga’s John Lampe, 2-1, in the 184-pound finals. Evans, a junior from Springfield, Ohio, is 7-1 to start his junior campaign.