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Roger Moore | NCAA.com | December 22, 2016

DII Wrestling: Rangers win tough Midwest Classic title

  Bellarmine's men's wrestling program is competing for the first year at the DII level.

Much has happened in the past week for Division II wrestling. Here is what you may have missed:

A few more votes

“RV” means receiving votes and that a team is outside the top 25. The latest Division II team rankings, released a week before the 38th Midwest Classic in Indianapolis, showed Wisconsin-Parkside as one of those “RV” squads. No matter, the Rangers outdistanced the other 29 entries by 18 points and claimed top honors in the annual two-day tournament.


“I'm really pleased with the result, especially since we only had eight guys compete,” said UWP coach Gregg Lewis, whose Rangers were second at the 2015 Midwest Classic. “We talked with the guys about the quality of competition at the Midwest Classic and what we needed to do to be successful. They executed amazingly. We have a great group of wrestlers, great group of coaches.”

It should be no surprise that the Rangers are among the elite of Division II. At the 2016 NCAA DII Championships in Sioux Falls, S.D., UWP was seventh with Nick Becker, only a sophomore, finishing off a 42-0 campaign with a national title at 174 pounds. Becker is back, along with Ronzel Darling, an All-American at 125 pounds, and Montrail Johnson, sixth at 184 pounds. Johnson and Becker won titles at the Midwest Classic, two of five to finish inside the top four in Indianapolis.

Becker beat 2016 NCAA finalist Blaze Shade of UNC-Pembroke in his finals bout, while Johnson won a bracket that included All-Americans Zeb Wahle of Maryville (Mo.) and Aero Amo of Augustana College (S.D.)

RELATED: DII Wrestling Power Rankings

The tournament field included a who’s who of DII frontrunners. Maryville was second, 4.5 points better than Pittsburgh-Johnstown. Northern State (S.D.) and Ashland (Ohio) rounded out the top five.

A number of the finals matches could easily be previews for Birmingham, Ala., the site of the 2017 NCAA DII Championships this March:

  • Mercyhurst (Pa.) senior Francis Mizia, a two-time All-American, beat 2016 NCAA champion Tyler Reinhart of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in the 165-pound final.
  • Maryville’s Nate Rodriguez, a two-time top-eight finisher, beat 2016 NCAA finalist Joey Alessandro of Seton Hill (Pa.) in the 141-pound final. The bracket included 2016 NCAA champion Darren Wynn of McKendree (Ill.) and an NCAA runner-up, Nick Crume of Indianapolis.
  • Another Mercyhurst star, Willie Bohince, beat Newman (Kan.) All-American Dustin Reed for 125-pound gold.

Southern flavor

  Emmanuel College can officially join the DII ranks beginning with the 2017-18 academic year pending the membership committee's scheduled discussion in July 2017.
Emmanuel College is in the third year of its three-year provisional period before it can be approved to join the DII ranks as early as the 2017-18 academic year. Emmanuel College, in Franklin Springs, Ga., began wrestling in 2015-16.

Last weekend, the Lions tied for 11th and had two finalists at the Midwest Classic – Jeremiah Lutz and Cody Chaney. Lutz, a senior from Woodstock, Ga., was 27-4 and third at the NCWA national tournament last season. His first major event in DII saw a 23-second pin of Upper Iowa’s Damian Penichet and a 5-4 victory over Seton Hill’s Ty Lydic, two of the top 149-pounders in the country. Lutz lost to Northern State’s Tyler Stenberg in the finals.

Chaney, a senior from Tampa, Fla., had a similar eye-catching two days. The 184-pounder had two major decisions, then took out Newberry’s Cody Brundage and Maryville’s Zeb Wahle before dropping a finals match.

The Lions seek a second consecutive NCWA team trophy this March.

Another southerner, Limestone (S.C.) College’s Matt Rudy, a sophomore from Summerville, S.C., was the champion in Indianapolis at 197 pounds.

Speaking of new programs

Wheeling Jesuit (W.Va.) had a strong showing at the Desert Duals in Las Vegas on Monday. The Cardinals, ranked 20th in the Division II Coaches Poll last week, beat Minnesota-Moorhead, 34-6, and upset No. 8 California Baptist, 22-17. Head coach Sean Doyle’s team nearly took out Division III power Wartburg, but lost 22-21 on criteria. The win over CBU saw Maxwell Lacey beat Paul Head, 7-3, in the heavyweight bout to clinch the victory.

Dec 19, 2016 at 10:06pm PST

“(Monday) was a big step for our program,” said Doyle, who helped start the program in 2013. “To go 3-1, beat a top 10 team, a top 25 team in the country and lose on criteria to a powerhouse Wartburg program, it says a lot about our guys. We planned this trip to thank our seniors for the commitment to start this program and it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come. Our guys were behind each other all day and battled extremely hard in every position. Wartburg ran a fantastic event. We were happy to be part of it.”

Bellarmine (Ky.), 0-6 in its first season in DII, finished 31st in the 38-team Midwest Classic field. “(The Midwest Classic) is one of the toughest collegiate tournaments in the nation,” said BU head coach Spencer Adams before the meet. “I like to tell our guys that there are two national tournaments each year, and the Midwest Classic is one of them. If you can place here then your shot at making All-American at nationals is very good.”

Adams was a three-time NAIA All-American at Campbellsville in Kentucky. His Knights return to the mat Jan. 14 at the Spartan Mat Classic in Indiana. The second semester schedule includes tough duals with Indianapolis, Wisconsin-Parkside, McKendree, and Maryville.

Quick Hits

  • Notre Dame College’s Ivan McClay and Garrett Lineberger had plenty of success against Division I foes at the Cleveland State Open last weekend. McClay, a junior from Massillion, Ohio, had two technical falls and a major decision against DI wrestlers on his charge to the 125-pound final. Lineberger, a senior from Hughesville, Md., had a technical fall and a major against DI opponents and finished fourth.
  • Tiffin heavyweight Garrett Grey won his second Midwest Classic title last Sunday. He had three pins and is now 24-0 for the season. Since the start of his sophomore season the senior from Martin, Ohio, is 101-9.
  • Colorado Mesa, CSU-Pueblo, and Simon Fraser finished eighth, ninth, and 14th, respectively, at the Reno Tournament of Champions last Sunday. Austin Gaun (third, 184) and Bruno Nicoletti (fourth, 174) led Mesa’s Mavericks, with Pueblo’s Cody Johnson advancing to the 197-pound semifinals and eventually taking sixth.

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