CSU-Pueblo, Wheeling Jesuit, Baker shake up NWCA Multi-Divisional brackets

By Andy Hamilton for the NWCA | Jan. 05, 2017, 9:58 p.m. (ET)
Colorado State-Pueblo wrestlers watch the final moments of the Thunderwolves' 18-17 win against No. 2 Notre Dame College at the NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Photo by Sara Levin.

Fort Wayne, Indiana – Sean Doyle squirmed in his matside chair Thursday afternoon — at least during the moments when he wasn’t almost on his belly shouting instructions as Wheeling Jesuit closed in on the biggest victory in the young history of its program.

The Cardinals have only been wrestling for four years, but they’ve never experienced better times than what they had on the opening day of the NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals.

A year after going winless inside Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, unranked Wheeling Jesuit produced a stunning return by toppling No. 8 Findlay and No. 3 Maryville in succession to set up a Cinderella showdown with No. 21 Colorado State-Pueblo in Friday’s semifinals.

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Doyle’s Cardinals used overtime wins from freshman Greg Brusco (157) and Nic Skonieczny (165) before Maxwell Lacey wiggled off his back in a heartstopping heavyweight bout that put the lid on Wheeling Jesuit’s 18-17 win against Maryville in the Division II quarterfinals.

“It’s been kind of a crazy month,” Doyle said. “We had our first Top 10 win in Vegas (at the Desert Duals) when we knocked off Cal Baptist. We lost a tie to Wartburg, which was a big dual, fun dual. We learned a lot. We had Findlay first round here, who’s another Top 10 team and then we had Maryville.

“Our guys are obviously pumped right now. We were 0-3 here last year and we went home kind of like, ‘This is part of the process of learning what it means to compete at a big national event.’ This is the biggest win we’ve had.”

The Wheeling Jesuit win set the stage for a Friday morning dual with the other other surprise semifinalist in Division II.

Colorado State-Pueblo went 2-11 in duals last year, but three All-Americans and a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships gave the Thunderwolves a jolt that carried into this season.

“Did I see it coming? No,” coach Dax Charles said. “We just put work in every day. … We’ve got a lot of good things and things have fallen into place We’re a long way from being done. A long way.”

But Thursday was quite a start for the Thunderwolves.

A fall from heavyweight Augustine DeSantis launched CSU-Pueblo to a 27-20 win against No. 6 Mercyhurst in the opening round and the Thunderwolves continued their blaze through the bracket by taking out No. 2 Notre Dame College 18-17 in the quarterfinals.

CSU-Pueblo won three bouts by a combined five points, but the tipping point might have been at 165 when No. 3 JaCobi Jones pinned No. 7 Isaiah White in overtime.

“The kids want to wrestle for each other,” Charles said. “When you have team unity and you have kids who train hard, push themselves to do it for the team, you get these type of results.”

The upsets weren’t contained just to Division II.

Baker knocked off No. 6 Oklahoma City and No. 7 Southern Oregon on its way to the NAIA semifinals. The Wildcats got pins from Zane Baugh (125) and Colby Watters (133) in Baker’s first two bouts and coach Cody Garcia’s squad rode the wave of bonus points throughout the day. The Wildcats collected five pins and two major decisions in their 10 wins, including a fall from heavyweight David Dow that clinched a 23-18 win against Southern Oregon.

“Our theme this year is ignite your passion,” Garcia said. “You’ve got to have some fire starters in the beginning to kind of ignite the rest of the lineup and have a performance that inspires the next guy who steps on the mat. Not only the effort and attitude they’re bringing to the mat, but to have that lead, I think that’s important for us.”

Baker faces the ultimate measuring stick in NAIA on Friday when the Wildcats wrestle No. 1 Grand View, which outscored its first two opponents by a combined 79-12 count in its pursuit of a sixth straight title.

“It’s something you’ve got to embrace,” Garcia said. “I’m excited about it. I think these guys are ready for it. We kind of talked about chasing the lion all week and we’ve got a lion in front of us right now. You’ve got to be excited about that.”

Life University and Indiana Tech advanced to the other semifinal in NAIA.

The tournament’s top seeds marched along Thursday with little trouble.

Grand View coach Nick Mitchell was less than impressed with his team’s performance, even though the Vikings won 16 of their 20 matches and racked up nine pins in the process.

No. 1 St. Cloud State outscored its two opponents 74-17 en route to a Division II semifinal dual with Wisconsin-Parkside.

Wartburg got off to a great start in its pursuit of a seventh straight Division III title. The Knights won 18 of their 20 bouts Thursday. The Knights will face Johnson & Wales in the semifinals. Augsburg will clash with Ithaca in the other Division III semifinal.

No. 1 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M cruised into the junior college semis with a 31-15 win against Western Wyoming College. Iowa Central ripped through the bottom side of the bracket, winning 19 of its 20 bouts Thursday to set up a semifinal against Clackamas.

Top-ranked King University registered six pins and two technical falls on its way to a 43-7 victory against Life University in the women’s quarterfinals. The Tornado will take on Campbellsville, which clipped University of the Cumberlands 23-21. McKendree will face Oklahoma City in the other semifinal.