February means it’s time to get serious. Some are in peak form already while others are limping to the finish line. Still others are trying to put the best team on the mat with Super Region tournaments just around the corner. It is safe to say that the 2014 Division II champions Notre Dame College of Ohio are the team to beat with last season’s king St. Cloud State, preseason No. 1 Maryville and a few others in hot pursuit.
It’s cliché to say, but, again, the DII race for gold is as competitive as ever.
1 ― Notre Dame College (Ohio): The Falcons will take on Wheeling Jesuit (W.V.) next. Unbeaten, NDU finishes its regular season docket at the Maryville Duals Feb. 14 where the preseason No. 1 Saints, if healthy, might make another run at the top spot.
2 ― St. Cloud State: Head coach Steve Costanzo’s troops will be put to the test this Saturday at No. 15 Minnesota State-Mankato. SCSU’s only loss in 13 duals is to NDU. The Huskies get a warm-up Thursday night with Southwest Minnesota State
3 ― Pittsburgh-Johnstown: UPJ moved to 12-1 after beating No. 16 Wheeling Jesuit last week. The Mountain Cats host Millersville this Friday and travel to Shippensburg and Mercyhurst next week to close the regular season schedule.
4 ― Wisconsin-Parkside: UW-P battles DIII UW-Whitewater in the “Battle for the Sake Bottle” Thursday night and finishes its regular season schedule Saturday at the Don Parker Open in Eau Claire, Wisc. There will be 20 days in between Eau Claire and the Super Region tournament in Indianapolis. Will the Rangers be fresh or rusty?
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5 ― Nebraska Kearney: Winners of seven straight after hammering Newman (Kan.) last week, UNK welcomes No. 10 Lindenwood to Kearney this Saturday. The Lopers (13-2) lost 33-6 to the Lions a year ago, but have their new Missouri rival at home this time around. Getting All-American Destin McCauley back certainly helps.
6 ― Maryville (Mo.): The top-ranked team in the preseason, head coach Mike Denney’s wounded Maryville beat No. 20 McKendree (Ill.), 26-15, Wednesday night. Nick Burghardt started a string of five-straight wins for MU, which has a tough one next Wednesday against No. 10 Lindenwood (Mo.).
7 ― California Baptist: CBU had three champions and won the RMAC Championship, solidifying its claim as “Best in the West” in DII. Heavyweight Joe Fagiano is a legitimate title threat and a handful of others, including 184-pounder Jacob Waste, Nolan Kistler (165), and Paul Head (197) could finish high on the medal stand in Sioux Falls. Colorado Mesa visits Riverside for a big dual this Friday.
8 ― Mercyhurst (Pa.): Since losses at the National Duals, the Lakers (10-3) have reeled off five straight wins, including Wednesday night’s 24-18 closer-than-expected victory over Gannon (Pa.). August Mizia followed up an upset loss by brother Francis with a 19-second pin and Andy Welton’s technical fall in the finale saved the Lakers.MU hosts No. 14 Findlay next Wednesday and has a monster dual with Pittsburgh-Johnstown on Feb. 13 to close out the regular season.
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Knocking on the door
Upper Iowa, Lindenwood (Mo.), Minnesota State-Mankato, Augustana (S.D.), Colorado Mesa