CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa –– Not every sporting event has a defining moment, that “I can’t believe what I just saw” highlight that brings everyone out of their seats.
At the 2018 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships last weekend, St. Cloud State and Larry Bomstad certainly provided a moment to remember.
Defending champion Notre Dame College led the Huskies after the first day of wrestling and sent Fernie Silva to the mat against Bomstad in a key semifinal bout at 157 pounds. A big third period takedown gave the talented Falcon a 4-2 lead, but Bomstad, a senior, reversed Silva to his back and scored a monstrous pin that brought the SCSU fans out of their seats. A weight class later it was James Pleski flattening Wisconsin-Parkside’s Frank Yattoni; Vince Deitz finished off a big semifinal round with a pin in the 197-pound semifinals.
SCSU took a lead it would never relinquish and outdistanced NDC by 8 ½ points in the final tally. Throw in Jarred Oftedahl and Kolten Eischens, who each had pins in the consolations, and the 10 points from pins over the course of two hours was the difference.
“We had a great rally,” said head coach Steve Costanzo, who’s led SCSU to national titles in three of the last four seasons. “The guys were really feeding off each other. If you could have written the script it was ideal. One of the things I told our kids this morning was that we owed it to them to give our best effort because I thought we had more to give (on Friday). Our crowd wasn’t loud enough because we weren’t entertaining enough.
“We were much more entertaining (Saturday), got some excitement built up.”
During the Huskies’ 2015 championship run Bomstad also had a big pin in consolations that sparked the team.
“Bomstad really ignited our team (in 2015),” Costanzo recalled. “We only had six qualifiers and he had a big pin in the blood round to give us six All-Americans. He really sparked of that tournament for us, the guy that really let us know we could do this. He kind of did the same this morning; a senior, great kid, great to have a big moment like that as a senior to help us win a national championship.”
Although Bomstad fell in the finals to Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Cody Law, three All-America seasons and helping his team win a title will not soon be forgotten.
“It was exciting, obviously,” Bomstad said. “I was tired, exhausted, but I told myself ‘this is your last tournament ever to wrestle, just do everything and anything possible to push through.’
“Coach (Costanzo) told us that most of us might never get the chance again; I’m graduated so I won’t get another chance. I just kept telling myself, get (Silva) to his back and pin him because if I win the team wins and those points were big.”
SCSU went 0-3 in the finals, but no team could catch them after the third session. NDC had a tournament-high seven All-Americans, but just one finalist. The 8 ½ point margin wrapped up the team title before the finals began.
“We had a good tournament. We brought seven and had seven All-Americans,” said NDC coach Frank Romano. “St. Cloud State was just better. I really thought we came back strong (in consolations) after we had fallen behind. You want to win championships and we have a really strong group of recruits coming in.”
Wisconsin-Parkside’s Nick Becker was rightfully named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler. The senior 174-pounder capped off an 89-0 career with a third national title by beating the talented Nolan Kistler in the finals. Kistler, a three-time Elite 90 Award winner, scored the bout’s opening takedown, but Becker, a beast on top and solid defensively, earned an 8-4 decision. Becker’s final bout included a number of stoppages due to flowing blood from Becker’s nose.
Blood and sweat has earned him an 89-0 career at Division II. Becker is a THREE time NATIONAL CHAMPION. He defeated Nolan Kistler 8-4 for the 174 lb. title. pic.twitter.com/Yb1QtAO6lH— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) March 11, 2018
“Felt like a normal match, but there was way too much blood time,” Becker said. “It was tough, but you have to keep wrestling. I’m guessing (I broke my nose) because I haven’t bled like that in two or three years.
“Winning three or 89-0? I don’t know which is bigger. I think what is impressive is my coaching staff, my teammates because they helped me get to this point.”
Other champions items:
1.) Central Oklahoma’s Eli Hale wrestled four years at Oklahoma State before deciding to transfer as a senior to get a shot to wrestle in the postseason. Hale finished 24-0 and with a dominating 17-2 technical fall in the 125-pound final.
2.) UPJ had two champions – Law and 141-pound sophomore Chris Eddins. The duo gave 42-year head coach Pat Pecora more joy.
“It never gets old. I was 22 when I started coaching and it never changes. To see that young man’s face light up knowing that he accomplished something he might not have thought he could and that you had something to do with that. Our program is about doing it together and trying to accomplish something that neither one of us can do alone. It’s the whole synergy of the program. I’m just as nervous before a match now than I was at 22.”
3.) Newman senior Noel Torres capped an impressive 40-4 campaign with a win over Colorado State-Pueblo’s JaVaughn Perkins in the 184-pound final. A third-period takedown gave the Kansas school its champion in D2.
“I started late, in the eighth grade, but I finished strong,” said Torres, never an NCAA qualifier. “I went to the NCAAs last year and watched Dustin Reed finish his career as an All-American. I told myself after (last March) I was going to get here and win the school’s first NCAA title.”
4.) Wheeling Jesuit also crowned its first champion, heavyweight Terrance Fanning (31-6), who beat NDC sophomore Kameron Teacher, also a finalist in 2017.
FIRST IN SCHOOL HISTORY— NCAA Division II (@NCAADII) March 11, 2018
Unranked Terrance Fanning of Wheeling Jesuit beats #1 Kameron Teacher of Notre Dame (OH) for the 285 title. pic.twitter.com/0vrtG5PCxN
5.) Ashland sophomore Brent Romanzak beat California Baptist senior Christian Smith for gold at 165 pounds. Romanzak finished 40-4 and was joined at the top of the medal stand by 197-pound senior Luke Cramer (25-1), who bested SCSU’s Dietz.
6.) CBU, in its final year of DII before transitioning to DI, crowned Dax Gordon at 149 pounds; he beat Pleski in a battle of two sophomores with a combined 54-4 record this season. The Lancers are coached by Cedar Rapids product Lennie Zalesky.
7.) The hometown fans got a lift when Upper Iowa’s Josh Walker edged Minnesota-State Mankato’s George Farmah for top honors at 133 pounds. Walker went to high school in Oklahoma, wrestled at Labette Community College and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, then stepped away for a year, before finally finding his way to Upper Iowa.
St. Cloud State totaled 92 ½ points to edge NDC and its 84 points. California Baptist (70 ½), Upper Iowa (58), and Ashland (55) rounded out the top five, Ashland moving past Pittsburgh-Johnston by ½ point with its two champions. Thirty-six schools had at least one All-American, 19 with a solo top eight finisher.
The 2019 DII Championships are set for Cleveland.