The 37th Midwest Classic in Indianapolis provided a nice preview of the battle that lies ahead in Division II circles. Maryville held off Wisconsin-Parkside, a team that will continue to move up if they wrestle like they did over the weekend. Nebraska-Kearney and Notre Dame College are no doubt gearing up for January with St. Cloud State, the defending champions, circling the National Duals. We might find out a thing or two about California Baptist when they suit up for the Nebraska-Kearney Duals Jan. 16 and face Central Oklahoma, Western State (Colo.), Adams State (Colo.), and Mary (S.D.).
What have we learned heading into the Christmas break? That as many as seven programs have the potential to hoist the DII trophy in Sioux Falls, S.D., this March.
1 ― Maryville (Mo.): Minus two starters and a third injured during the tournament, the Saints still managed to win the Midwest Classic in Indianapolis last weekend. “It was the toughest Midwest Classic we’ve competed in over the last five years,” Maryville head coach Mike Denney said. We will find out if Maryville is DII’s top dual team January 8 at the NWCA National Duals in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
2 ― St. Cloud State: The 2015 champions have been thinking turkey and holidays over the last few weeks and will gear up in early January for the National Duals. The first few months of the season have shown SCSU to be a worthy opponent for anybody in DII. As many as four SCSU wrestlers could win individual titles come March. If that happens, Steve Costanzo’s group will be hard to beat.
3 ― California Baptist: Lennie Zalesky’s Lancers might not be here in March, but they’ve had a great start to 2015-16. CBU will be at the Midlands Championships the last weekend of December and face DI Stanford Jan. 9 in Palo Alto. Joe Fagiano is among a long list of heavyweight contenders.
4 ― Mercyhurst (Pa.): The Lakers outscored two opponents, 82-4, after losing to California Baptist. A Jan. 2 dual with Lake Erie College (Ohio) opens 2016 with the National Duals ready and waiting. The second semester will also see duals with Findlay(Ohio), Pittsburgh-Johnstown, and an improving Wheeling Jesuit (W.V.). The Super Region I Championships are on home mats for the Lakers.
5 ― Pittsburgh-Johnstown: Senior 184-pounder Travis McKillop (18-0) has led the Mountain Cats, who own a dual win over DI George Mason, and were solid at both the PSAC and Midwest Championships. Head coach Pat Pecora has one of his program’s better squads since UPJ won NCAA titles in 1996 and 1999. Might the 20-year anniversary of the first title be memorable?
6 ― Nebraska-Kearney: The Lopers showed a small chink in their armor, edging unranked Chadron State, 20-18, on the road last week. Senior 197-pounder Romero Cotton returned to the lineup and saved the day for UNK who, when they get their full squad on the mat, has plenty of firepower. If Marc Bauer’s squad is in full at the National Duals, expect them to be a tough out.
7 ― Notre Dame College (Ohio): NDC did not wrestle a dual first semester and open 2016 with a trip to the LIU-Post Duals and the National Duals. It’s been a broken record the first few months, but when Joey Davis, an unbeaten, three-time NCAA champion returns, the Falcons become significantly better.
8 ― Wisconsin-Parkside: It’s hard to ignore the Rangers’ performance at the Midwest Classic last weekend, taking top-ranked Maryville to the wire and finishing in front of Pittsburgh-Johnstown and a few other top 15 squads. The scary thing is UWP challenged without All-American 125-pounder Ronzell Darling finishing among the top eight. We did learn that Nick Becker, formerly of Central Michigan, will be a factor at 174 pounds.
Knocking on the door
Lindenwood (Mo.), Lake Erie College (Ohio), Upper Iowa, Augustana (S.D.), Indianapolis, Ashland (Ohio), Findlay (Ohio), Wheeling Jesuit (W.V.)