CEDAR RAPIDS – The Cornell senior wrestler entered the arena Saturday night to chants of "Let's Go Coolidge!" Minutes later, he left the raised center mat to roaring calls of "Alex Coolidge!"
That's Alex Coolidge, 2014 NCAA champion.
The top-seeded Coolidge brought home Cornell's first national title in 24 years with a dramatic 6-5 come-from-behind victory over No. 2 Shane Siefert of UW-Whitewater in the 197-pound final at the NCAA Division III Championships in the U.S. Cellular Center.
It was sweet redemption for Coolidge, who finished second in the finals a year ago.
"Every second of hard work was well worth it," said Coolidge, the ninth NCAA champion in the program's storied history. "It's an unbelievable feeling. Right now, the high is phenomenal."
Coolidge is the first Ram to claim individual gold since Shawn Voigt took the 150-pound title in 1990. The Gillette, Wyo., native now has a spot saved on Cornell's wall of national champions, which includes the likes of Voigt, Jim Gass (1963), Walter Romanowski (1951), Lowell Lange (1947, 1949-50), Richard Hauser (1947) and Dale Brand (1937).
"I'm happy I can carry on the tradition," Coolidge said. "I knew it was a rich tradition when I chose Cornell. I'm glad I could build on it. I'm very fortunate for this opportunity and I'm glad I could take advantage of it."
Coolidge (29-4) and Siefert (41-5) split two tight regular-season matches, and went down to the wire in this one. Siefert led 3-2 after one period, an escape by Coolidge made it 3-3 after two.
Siefert went back ahead, 5-3, on a reversal in the third. With time quickly running down, Coolidge escaped and recorded the go-ahead takedown with less than 30 seconds to go. Coolidge was able to ride him out the rest of the way for the coveted NCAA crown.
"A lot of times when you escape, you're in position to score if you go immediately," Cornell head coach Mike Duroe said. "Alex has been practicing that all of his life and executed it when he had to."
"I couldn't be more proud of Alex. I know how hard he worked and trained for this."
Coolidge won the final 15 matches during his championship run. A three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time region champion, Coolidge closed his decorated career with a 105-32 record. He is No. 11 on the program's all-time wins list.
Coolidge made history earlier in the day in posting a 3-1 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Joe Giaramita (37-8) of SUNY-Cortland. Coolidge broke a 1-1 tie with a decisive takedown on the edge of the mat with 13 seconds left in the third period.
With his advancement, Coolidge became Cornell's first two-time NCAA finalist in 63 years.
Romanowski (1950-51), Lange (1947, 1949-50), Brand (1936-37) and Lyle Morford (1930-31) are the only others in program history to reach the NCAA championship finals twice in a career. Coolidge is the first to do it at the Division III level.
Coolidge's win boosted the Rams to 16th in the final team standings with 23.5 points. It marked the seventh time in the last eight years Cornell finished in the top 25.
Cornell hosted the two-day event, which set a new Division III attendance record with 8,787 fans in all sessions.