The best way to describe the 2017 NWCA National Duals at the Division II level is chaos. The semifinals included a pair of known commodities in top-ranked St. Cloud State and Wisconsin-Parkside, winners of the rugged Midwest Classic in December. The bottom half, however, was where chaos ensued as upstart Wheeling Jesuit of West Virginia squared off with Colorado State-Pueblo. The Nos. 2 and 3 seeds – Notre Dame College and Maryville (Mo.) – did not make it out of the quarterfinals.
In the end, it was St. Cloud State, winners of the last two NCAA Championships, who went 4-0 to claim the program’s third National Duals title in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The Huskies won Duals titles in 2012 and 2013 and lost to Notre Dame College in the 2016 championship match. SCSU bested San Francisco State (37-11) and Pittsburgh-Johnstown (37-6) on Thursday and Wisconsin-Parkside (27-9) and Wheeling Jesuit (35-6) on Friday.
“A lot of them weren’t pretty, but our guys got the job done.”
The final dual was tied at 6-6 after four weight classes before the Huskies won the final six bouts. Larry Bomstad (157), Vince Deitz (197), and Austin Goergen (285) each scored falls with Goergen, the top-ranked heavyweight in Division II, improving to 14-0 this season.
“(Austin) Goergen is our team leader, the catalyst of the team,” said Costanzo of the three-time All-American. “He loves to compete, can’t wait to get out there and anytime you have a guy like that up top, you are going to win a lot of duals.”
Wisconsin-Parkside beat Colorado State-Pueblo in the third place dual, winning 30-13. After falling in the opening round to an injury-depleted Pittsburgh-Johnstown squad, McKendree (Ill.) battled back to beat San Francisco State, Notre Dame College, Upper Iowa, and Nebraska-Kearney to take fifth.
New kids on the block
While St. Cloud State was rolling to the National Duals title, two programs stole the show.
The Cardinals’ semifinal opponent pulled off a pair of upsets. The Thunderwolves opened with a win over Mercyhurst, then took out defending champion Notre Dame, 18-17, in the quarterfinals. CS-P and the Falcons split 5-5 with JaCobi Jones’s overtime pin at 165 pounds proving large.
As expected, the Thunderwolves and Cardinals had a down-to-the-wire affair in the semifinals. Jacob Donahue (125) and Nania (149) had falls for WJU; Jones and JaVaughan Perkins (184) had pins for Pueblo. Each team added three decisions, with Wheeling Jesuit’s Maxwell Lacey’s 5-0 decision at 285 pounds tying the dual at 22. The tiebreaker? Total points scored favored the Cardinals, advancing them to the finals.
“Through our four years, there has been such an emphasis on growth, learning and the process and this is just another step towards our biggest goal of winning a national title,” said Wheeling Jesuit head coach Sean Doyle. “We went 0-3 last year and took second in the nation (Friday). That’s a memory that will last a lifetime.
“St. Cloud is such a great program and wrestles extremely hard in every position.”
When the Division II rankings were released last week, Colorado-State Pueblo was No. 21 and Wheeling Jesuit was receiving votes.
Central Oklahoma entered the rankings last week for the first time this season. The Bronchos scored 3 ½ points and finished 35th at the 2016 NCAA Championships, uncharacteristic for a program with seven NCAA team titles. Under first-year head coach Todd Stiedley, UCO is 7-0 with 125-pound freshman Josh Lindsey (19-4), 197-pounder Greg Wilson (174), and heavyweight Caleb Cotter (20-2) all off to good starts. UCO will see where it stands at next weekend’s UNK Duals hosted by Nebraska-Kearney.
New Nos. 1?
Eight of Division II’s top-ranked wrestlers were in Ft. Wayne. Two national champions from last March tasted defeat. St. Cloud State's 125-pounder Brent Velasquez dropped a 3-2 decision to Wisconsin-Parkside All-American Ronzell Darling, then fell 6-2 to Colorado-State Pueblo’s Jacob Donahue in the Huskies’ 35-6 romp in the final dual. Nebraska-Kearney’s Destin McCauley, national champion at 149 pounds last season, lost a 5-4 match to UW-P’s Brett Scoles.
Six others – Maryville’s Nate Rodriguez (141), Findlay’s Nic Goebel (149), Mercyhurst’s Francis Mizia (165), UW-P’s Nick Becker (174), Notre Dame College’s Garrett Lineberger (184), and SCSU’s Goebel (285) made it out unscathed.