DUBUQUE – Junior Alex Coolidge captured the 197-pound crown and freshman runner-up Trevor Engle (149) also secured an NCAA berth to lead the Rams at the NCAA Division III Central Region Wrestling Championships Saturday at the Five Flags Center.
Cornell's young lineup produced five placewinners in a tough regional lined with seven nationally-ranked teams and 22 rated individuals. The Rams took sixth with 72 points in the 11-team field, won by Wartburg with 161.
Coolidge and Engle will represent the Rams at the NCAA Division III Championships, hosted by Cornell March 15-16 in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Coolidge (29-3) returns to nationals for the second year in a row. Engle (29-8) became the fourth freshman to qualify in Coach Mike Duroe's eight seasons at the helm.
"I'm thrilled for Alex and Trevor," Duroe said. "Coolidge looked good in the finals and illustrated how dominant he can be when he's moving and attacking. Engle was down 8-2 in the semifinals, but didn't lose his cool and battled back to win. He's a real competitor. He used his superior conditioning to his advantage."
The top three finishers in each of the 10 weight classes earned automatic NCAA berths. Junior Carl Gaul (29-13) came up just short, placing fourth at 285. Sophomores Colin Bertucci (165) and Brent Hamm (174) both won their final matches and finished fifth. Freshman Danny Klema was sixth at 157.
"Our guys wrestled hard, and most of them wrestled above their seeds," Duroe said. "But in the end it just wasn't enough. Sixth place is not where we want to be as a team or a program. The positive thing is none of our guys are seniors. I like the guys on our team. We'll continue to train and get better."
The second-ranked Coolidge stayed true to his No. 1 seed and remained unbeaten against Division III foes this season. He scored an 8-3 decision over sixth-ranked Puna Soriano of Wartburg in his championship match.
Coolidge opened the day with a 21-4 technical fall over Dubuque's Cody Ortmann. He then outlasted Coe's 10th-ranked Donnie Horner in the semifinals, 4-3.
Engle advanced to the 149-pound final before falling 15-1 to Wartburg's top-ranked Kodie Silvestri. Engle, the No. 2 seed, earned a 12-2 major decision over Coe's Chris LeClere in the quarterfinals. He then posted a 14-10 semifinal win over Dubuque's third-seeded Eric Powell.
Gaul was edged, 3-2, by Luther's Nick Pearch in the third-place bout at 285. Gaul bounced back from a quarterfinal loss – 8-7 to Pearch – and won three consecutive matches to put himself in contention for a national berth. He recorded a 9-0 major decision over Coe's fifth-ranked Alex Burkle in the consolation semifinals. Gaul also tallied quick pins over Simpson's Tony Saucedo (1:00) and Knox's Stephen Bora (2:39).
Bertucci (15-11) earned a 7-4 victory over Loras' Joe Butler in the fifth-place bout at 165. He finished 2-2, which included a pin in the consolation round.
Hamm (24-18) prevailed 3-2 in his fifth-place match against Stephan Birt of Loras. He finished the day 4-2 with a fall in the quarterfinals.
Klema (13-24) lost by fall to Luther's Blake Letney in the place match for fifth. He wound up 3-3 in the tournament, which included a quarterfinal setback to eventual champion Cole Welter of Wartburg.
Cornell junior Ben Rosen (125) and freshmen Zachary Henning (133), Todd Murakawa (141) and Kevin Stahmer (184) all finished 0-2 in their first varsity postseason action. The sixth-seeded Rosen was dealt a 3-2 quarterfinal loss to Jimmy Gotto of Coe. He dropped another tight decision, 7-5, to Dubuque's Nicholas Rivera in a wrestleback.
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