Nebraska-Kearney’s Daniel DeShazer got about as bad a draw as you can get if you weigh 133 pounds and were in the field of the 2015 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. When brackets were released last Thursday for the 2015 event, they showed DeShazer opening against the top seed at 133 pounds, Oklahoma’s Cody Brewer, the 2015 NCAA champion in Division I.
Large brackets mean many matches after a first round loss. No problem for DeShazer, who rallied back to win five straight matches over the next 24 hours and eventually take sixth.
The UNK senior rattled off victories over four DI opponents, including Kent State’s eighth-seeded Mack McGuire and Missouri’s 11th-seeded Zach Synon.
“There is no doubt that Daniel’s performance was consistent and gutsy all weekend,” UNK head coach Marc Bauer said. “After his first round loss, he stayed focused and rebounded with confidence. He had to dig deep and perform under pressure all day, and Daniel found a way to shine and get on the board when the match was on the line.
“I’m proud of his effort and fight. As a coach, that’s what you want all your wrestlers to do when they step out on the mat to battle.”
A senior and two-time NCAA DII champion, DeShazer finished fifth in Vegas last season.
California Baptist heavyweight Joe Fagiano, who started his career at Indiana, had a nice weekend as well. The Chicago native dropped an opening round match to Minnesota’s second-seeded Michael Kroells, but made like DeShazer and won five straight matches, the fifth a 36-second pin of Northern Iowa’s Blaze Cabell, ranked among the top eight in DI. In the seventh-place bout Fagiano pinned Jeramy Sweany of Cornell to finish 6-2 over the two days.
“I owe it all to Coach [Lennie] Zalesky and the other coaches for helping me progress and work on my shots,” Fagiano said.
“It’s one of the toughest Division I tournaments in the nation and [Fagiano] places in the top eight,” CBU head coach Lennie Zalesky said. “It speaks very highly about him. He knows what he’s doing, so we just let him go out there and do his thing.”
Four Division II squads competed at the always tough tournament held annually the first weekend of December. A loaded field that included nine of Division I’s top 20 teams kept the DII contingent mainly on the sidelines with only two making it to the second day ― DeShazer and Fagiano.
California Baptist followed up its big dual win over Mercyhurst (Pa.) by winning the most matches (12) among the DII foursome. UNK wrestlers won 11 of 27 bouts, while Newberry (S.C.) and San Francisco State combined to win just seven of their 41 matches combined.
California Baptist finished 27th in the 39-team field with UNK (31st), San Francisco State (35th), and Newberry (38th) rounding out the DII group. Missouri earned top honors with Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Cornell among the top four.
Carolina in my mind
Did you know six of the 15 schools in Super Region II call the Carolinas home? The patriarch of that group, UNC-Pembroke, has been suiting up at the Division II level since 1980. The other five can be considered newbies since they did not come into existence until the 21st century.
• Anderson, in South Carolina, first took to the mats in 2000 and has two top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships. Coached by Dock Kelly, inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1997 as a Medal of Courage recipient, the Trojans picked up their first dual win of the season last Thursday with a 33-3 win over Spartanburg Methodist, a junior college program.
• Limestone College, also in South Carolina, began operations in 2004 and finished 14th at the 2012 NCAA Championships. The Saints’ Dan Scanlon won a national title in 2008 at 197 pounds.
• Newberry College, in Newberry, S.C., competed at its first DII Championship in 2006 and has placed inside the top five twice, including a runner-up showing in 2009. Twelfth-year boss Jason Valek took his ninth-ranked squad to the rugged Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend where his wrestlers won just two of 18 matches.
• Belmont Abbey, in North Carolina, first suited up in DII in for the 2006-07 campaign under 10th-year head coach Kenn Caudill. The Crusaders have a good one in 149-pound junior Scott Bosak, an All-American in 2015 who started his career at Cornell. In last Wednesday’s 35-6 loss to Coker College, Bozak took his second loss in 11 matches this season.
• Coker College, in Hartsville, S.C., moved to 2-0 this season with the win over Belmont Abbey. The youngest of the Carolina bunch, the Cobras first wrestled at a DII national tournament in 2014. Cy Wainwright, a former assistant at DII power St. Cloud State, is in his third year running the program.
• Last, but certainly not least, is UNC-Pembroke, an 11th place finisher at the 2015 NCAA Championships. The North Carolina program has competed in 29 NCAA tourneys at the DII level, finishing a program-best seventh in 2005. Three times Braves wrestlers have won individual titles ― Daniel Ownbey won back-to-back 141-pound gold in 2014 and 2015; Mike Williams was a champion at 165 pounds in 2012. The Braves wrestle at the Newberry Duals this weekend.
Lakers, Mountain Cats lead DII pack at PSAC
Mercyhurst led the DII pack at the PSAC Championships on Saturday, finishing third behind Division I’s Edinboro and Lock Haven. Pittsburgh-Johnstown was fifth in the 12-team field with Mountain Cat 184-pounder Travis McKillop earning Outstanding Wrestler honors. McKillop’s day included two pins, a technical fall, and a major decision; he pinned Lock Haven’s Tristan Sponseller in 1:00 in the title bout.
Six other DII entrees lost in the finals ― UPJ’s Evan Link (125) and Damon Sims (285), Mercyhurst’s Jeremy Landowski (149) and Francis Mizia (165), and Kutztown’s Matt Martoccio (157) and Brandon Clark (197).
Host Mercyhurst also got a pair of bronze medals from 125-pounder Willie Bohince and August Mizia at 174 pounds.
The Simon Fraser University Clan, located in Burnaby, British Columbia, are known as “Canada’s NCAA Team.” From 1977 to 2011 the Clan competed at the NAIA level, winning national team titles in 1988 and 1993. After a year in NCWA, Simon Fraser made the jump to Division II and competed in their first DII Championship in 2013 with Skylar Davis the school’s first DII All-American. No Fraser wrestler qualified in 2015, but head coach Justin Abdou, a four-time NAIA champion and member of the 1980 Canadian Olympic squad, has a handful of potential top eight men this season.
133-pounder Cruz Velasquez entered the weekend with a 19-1 record. Saturday at the Battle of the Rockies in Great Falls, Mont., the redshirt-freshman from Maple Valley, Wash., lost a first round match but won five straight to take third. Morgan Smith, from Lynwood, Wash., lost in the finals at 184 pounds. Tyler McLean, a 165-pounder from Spokane, Wash., and Josh Kim, a 197-pound Canadian, could each finish top four in Region IV. Heavyweight Sean Molle, who did not compete on Saturday, is ranked seventh in the country.
The Clan schedule has just one home date, a January dual against NAIA Southern Oregon. Everything else is on the road, including the Super Region II Championship in Gunnison, Colo.
Top-ranked Maryville (Mo.) had four champions at Saturday’s Wisconsin Open. Nate Rodriguez had four pins at 141 pounds with Keenan Hagerty (149), Nick Burghardt (184), and Ryan Beltz (197) also winning gold. Host Wisconsin-Parkside had two champions ― Ronzel Darling (125) and Nick Becker (174). Head coach Mike Denney will take his Saints to Cedar Falls, Iowa, this Saturday in the Northern Iowa Open.
No. 15 Central Oklahoma won the last four bouts to pull away from Ouachita Baptist, 29-12, last Thursday. It moved the Bronchos to 2-0 for the season and gives 34th-year head coach David James 386 dual wins for his career.
McKendree (Ill.) was the best squad at the Battle of the Rockies on Saturday in Great Falls, Mont., crowing three champions ― Darren Wynn (141), Mech Spraggins (149), and Kevin Cooper (157).
Tiffin heavyweight Garrett Grey continued his pinning ways, picking up three falls on his way to a title at the Ohio Northern Invite.
A 23-12 win for Minnesota-Morehead over LIU Post last week featured two of the top three 133-pounders in the country. Second-ranked Blake Bosch, eighth at the 2015 NCAA Championships for UM-M, edged Post’s Joe Calderone, 5-4. Calderone was fifth at the 2015 NCAAs.
Wheeling Jesuit moved to 7-0 for the season with a 28-6 win over West Virginia neighbor Alderson Broaddus on Friday night and a 44-0 thumping of Ohio Valley on Sunday.
Fort Hays, Kan., played host to the Bob Smith Open on Sunday. Jon Inman (Ft. Hays State) dominated the field at 184 pounds, while CSU-Pueblo’s Kyle Bateman (165) and Western State’s Austin Harris (174) also earned top honors in a tournament that saw Oklahoma State entrees win brackets at 125, 133, 141, and 197 pounds. Central Oklahoma’s Jeromy Davenport, who started his career at OSU, won the 157-pound title.