CEDAR RAPIDS – Alex Coolidge's run at a national title was stopped short Saturday night in the 197-pound final at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships, hosted by Cornell College in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena
Coolidge finished an outstanding 32-4 junior campaign as NCAA runner-up after a 7-2 loss to fourth-seeded Mike Benefiel of Elmhurst. It was Coolidge's lone setback in 26 matches against Division III foes this season.
Coolidge, the No. 2 seed, was the fifth Ram wrestler ever to reach the NCAA Division III finals. He had won 14 consecutive matches prior to the title tilt.
Coolidge had a tough task against Benefiel (25-3), who earned the tournament's award for most falls in the least amount of time (three in 5:56). Benefiel set the tone with a takedown 17 seconds into the match and led Coolidge 2-0 after the first period.
Benefiel added a second-period takedown before Coolidge got on the board with a stalling point to make it 4-1. Coolidge gave up a third takedown in the final period, then recorded an escape before time expired. Benefiel received a point for riding time to provide the final margin.
Coolidge advanced to the title match with his third consecutive overtime win of the tournament Saturday morning, a 3-1 sudden victory in the semifinals over third-seeded Aaron Karns of Delaware Valley.
Coolidge and Karns battled to a 1-1 tie through three periods, taking the match to an extra one-minute session. Coolidge countered a Karns attack, wheeled around and covered for the winning takedown with 16 seconds remaining to punch his ticket to the finals.
The Rams finished the two-day tournament with 16 points, tying Coe for 21st place in the 64-team field.
NWCA Scholar Honors – Cornell sophomore 174-pounder Brent Hamm has been named a 2012-13 NWCA Scholar All-American, it was announced at this weekend's Championships.
Hamm was among 107 wrestlers recognized in Division III. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must carry a grade point average of at least 3.20 – cumulative or over two semesters – and place in the top six at an NCAA Regional or compile at least a 67.0 winning percentage.
Hamm, an Iowa City native majoring in kinesiology, finished 24-18 in his second season as a varsity starter. He placed fifth at the Central Region Championships March 2 in Dubuque.