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Roger Moore | NCAA.com | February 1, 2016

California Baptist continues strong season, claims RMAC title

California Baptist continued its strong season, taking top honors at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship on Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It was the first RMAC tournament since 1996 and a small preview of the battle to come at the Region IV NCAA qualifying meet in Gunnison, Colorado, the last weekend in February.

The Lancers, ranked ninth in the latest Division II Wrestling Coaches Association Poll, crowned three champions and edged No. 17 Western State (Colo.), 133.5-123.5. Colorado Mesa, ranked 11th, finished a distant third with Adams State (Colo.) and Colorado State-Pueblo in a tie for fourth in the 9-team tournament.

“I’m proud of those guys,” said CBU heavyweight Joe Fagiano. “This is my first year being with these guys and I love them. We work hard together and it’s really awesome when you see that hard work pay off. I think it is good being up in Colorado Springs with the high elevation. To get these matches in really lets you know where your conditioning is; I think that is going to help us.”

MORE: CSM senior Paul Wilson balances studies, championship aspirations

Fagiano, giving up 40-plus pounds, beat former CBU All-American Jacob Mitchell in the 285-pound final. Nolan Kistler (165) and Jacob Waste (184) also earned titles with Paul Head (197) falling in the finals to Colorado School of Mines’s Paul Wilson, 9-7 in overtime.

“We’ve just been working hard,” Kistler said. “(Head coach Lennie Zalesky) always says ̒greater later. You are going to have your bad matches, those times when you are down, but never let yourself go flat, keep going, don’t quit.’

“That’s our motto in the room.”

A number of the finals could be previews of big matches in Sioux Falls at the NCAA Championships in March. The 141-pound final featured Western State’s Corbin Bennetts, an NCAA runner-up last March, against Colorado Mesa senior Daniel Salazar.

“Regionals is going to be a very similar tournament to the RMAC with the addition of a couple of teams, so being here and winning it gives you a lot of confidence,” said Bennetts, who beat the second-ranked Salazar, 3-2, in overtime.

Colorado Mesa’s Drew Schumann won a battle of top six 149-pounders, beating Chadron State’s Terrance McKinney in the finals.

For the trophy

Wisconsin-Parkside and Wisconsin-Whitewater, ranked 14th in Division III, wrestle annually for the Sake Bottle Trophy. The contest originated in 1975 when former Wis.-Parkside head coach Jim Koch and former Wis.-W boss Willie Myers toured Japan and Korea with an NAIA All-Star squad. The former head of Japanese amateur wrestling Ichiro Hatta presented the U.S. contingent with a Sake bottle. Twenty seven times the two schools have wrestled for the bottle with Wis.-Parkside holding a 20-7 advantage in the “Sake” series. Whitewater won last season’s meeting, 24-14 and the 2013-14 affair, 44-9. Number 28 in the series is set for Whitewater this Thursday.

The Rangers, No. 6 in DII, are coming off a second place finish at the Pete Wilson Invitational in Illinois. Wis.-P had a pair of champions, Nick Fishback at 165 pounds and Nick Becker, who improved to 32-0 in winning the 174-pound crown.

A new leader

Western State (Colo.) junior 125-pounder Ronald Wardleigh finished second at the RMAC Tournament on Sunday. On his way to the final, the Utah native pinned three opponents and moved his season total to 11, one better than Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Travis McKillop for the top spot of the DII pin leaders. Three of the top 10 suit up for UPJ ― McKillop (184), DJ Sims (285), and Evan Link (125).

Francis and August Mizia each recorded pins for No. 7 Mercyhurst in a 33-13 win over Shippensburg last week. The brothers rank 1-2 in DII in technical falls with seven and six, respectively.

RELATED: Division II power rankings - Week 11

Quick Hits

• No. 15 Minnesota State-Mankato split a pair of nail-biters last week. In a 19-16 win over Augustana (S.D.) on Thursday, the Vikings won six of 10 bouts including Darick Vancura’s major decision at 197 pounds that gave Mankato a six-point advantage heading into 285 pounds. Two days later Mankato dropped an 18-17 dual to No. 8 Upper Iowa on the road. UIU’s Matt Paulus had a big major decision at 133 and Zak Benitz a technical fall at 165. Ryan Parmely’s 3-2 win over Vancura made it 18-12 with one match to wrestle.

• Augustana (15-3), after falling to MSU-Mankato, bounced back to beat Minnesota-Moorhead, 33-7, on Saturday. Viking 184-pounder Aero Amo won his 24th consecutive match.

• Three-time national champion Joey Davis improved to 119-0 for his career with a second-period pin in top-ranked Notre Dame College’s 40-6 win over West Liberty last Friday. The Falcons visit No. 16 Wheeling Jesuit this Friday.

• Second-ranked St. Cloud State won 19 of 20 bouts in North Dakota, outscoring Minot State and Mary, 92-3. SCSU (12-1) is at Southwest Minnesota State on Thursday and at No. 15 Minnesota State-Mankato this Saturday.

• Evan Link’s 6-1 win over All-American Dustin Warner at 125 pounds highlighted third-ranked Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s 32-9 win over Wheeling Jesuit last week. The Mountain Cats (12-1) host Millersville this Friday.

• Ft. Hays State had took two tough losses last week, falling 26-12 to No. 4 Maryville and 20-18 to No. 10 Lindenwood. LU (8-2) needed a major decision by Jake Borgmeyer in the dual’s final bout

• 141-pounder Keith Surber had a 13-second pin in fifth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney’s 40-9 romp of Newman (Kan.). UNK (13-2) hosts Lindenwood this Saturday.

• Coker College (S.C.) hosted and went 4-0 at the Super Region II Duals over the weekend. The Cobras edged Ashland, 21-19, getting a pin by Austin Akins in the final bout. Coker also beat Kutztown in improving to 13-2 for the season. Newberry and Tiffin also went 4-0 in the two-day event that included three of the top 18 DII squads.

• Gannon hammered a starterless No. 12 Lake Erie College, 36-14, last Tuesday but fell to Shippensburg, 20-16, on Saturday. The Raiders won the final three bouts, including freshman Dante Steffenino’s first period technical fall at 125 pounds. Derek Earnest, 0-11 entering the weekend, earned his first collegiate win at 197 pounds for SU.