St. Cloud State wins third NCAA Div. II title in last four years, finishing ahead of runner-up Notre Dame

By Roger Moore, Special to | March 11, 2018, 5:06 a.m. (ET)
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Years from now, St. Cloud State wrestling fans will remember Larry Bomstad and Vince Dietz for various reasons. But a Saturday in March 2018 at the US Cellular Center will most likely be at the top of the list.

Stuck in a battle with defending champion Notre Dame College and Cedar Rapids native Lennie Zalesky’s California Baptist Lancers, Bomstad trailed NDC’s Fernie Silva in the 157 pound semifinals 4-2 after a third-period takedown. But Bomstad, a senior, quickly reversed Silva to his back and scored a monumental pin, a career-defining pin at the 5:42 mark. A little later during the semifinal round, it was Dietz’s turn against the formidable Evan Ramos of Shippensburg. Dietz, a junior, rolled up Ramos for a pin at 2:38 at 197 pounds.

“We had a great rally,” said SCSU head coach Steve Costanzo, whose squad trailed NDC when the second day started. “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.”

The Huskies totaled 92 ½ points outdistancing Notre Dame College by 8 ½. California Baptist (70 ½), Upper Iowa (58), and Ashland (55) rounded out the top five. Ashland moved past Pittsburgh-Johnston by ½ point with two champions.

It was the third NCAA Div. II title for St. Cloud State in the last four years, as Costanzo’s troops were also national champions in 2015 and 2016. Last year, Notre Dame was national champion, with St. Cloud State in second.

“It was exciting, obviously,” said Bomstad, who had a similar moment as a freshman during the Huskies’ 2015 title run. “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.”

Bomstad is a senior and has been down this road before.

“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.”

Notre Dame battled back in consolations, trailing by 12 ½ points when the medal matches began. NDC’s Ivan McClay, the 2017 champion at 125 pounds, won a 3-2 third place match over 2016 champion Brett Velasquez of SCSU and the margin was 11 ½. Kellen McKenna’s win for third at 133 and Drew Walker’s 9-3 win over Jarred Oftedahl for third at 141 and the Huskies lead by 9 ½. Another bronze medal win for Fernie Silva at 157 pounds and the margin was 8 ½. But when Falcon 184-pounder Tony Vezzetti could not score a fall in the seventh place bout at 184 pounds, it was a done deal.

During those consolation rounds, Kolten Eischens and Jarred Oftedahl also added pins for an SCSU team that totaled six All-Americans.

“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.”

With the team trophy heading back to Minnesota for the third time in four years, 20 individuals hit the raised stage for a chance at more memories.

Wisconsin-Parkside senior Nick Becker finished his career in D2 at 89-0 with tough 8-4 decision of California Baptist’s Nolan Kistler (27-3), a three-time All-America. The match lasted over 20 minutes due to a handful of blood stoppages and video reviews.

“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.

“I think was is impressive is my coaching staff, my teammates because they helped me get to this point. I didn’t think (Kistler) would come at me like that, but I was ready to battle. It was great way to finish.”

Eli Hale transferred to Central Oklahoma from Oklahoma State last December and, in his first and only collegiate postseason, finished 24-0 and beat hometown hero Maleek Williams of Upper Iowa in the 125-pound title bout. It did not take long as Hale led 14-0 after three minutes and finished a 17-2 technical fall with 1:11 left in the second period.

Williams’ teammate, Josh Walker, who attended high school in Tulsa and barely an hour from Hale’s Miami, capped his career with a 1-0 win over Minnesota State-Mankato’s George Farmah. The Maverick, trailing 1-0 after two periods, chose neutral to start the third, but could not find a takedown. Walker (36-6) wrestled at Labette Community College and Northeastern Oklahoma before finishing his career with two All-America medals, including Saturday night’s title.

“Actually we go way back, but he was always at a different weight,” said Walker of Hale. “We were never at the same weight, but I’ve known him for a long time. Pretty cool for us both, as seniors, to win tonight.”

Two sophomores battled for top honors at 149 pounds. SCSU’s James Pleski (29-2) and California Baptist’s Daxton Gordon (25-2) wrestled through seven minutes tied at 1-1 before Gordon, coached by Cedar Rapids product Lennie Zalesky, scored a takedown in sudden victory for the win.

Pittsburgh-Johnstown senior Cody Law, third in 2017, cooled off Bomstad in the 157-pound final, scoring a first period takedown and building a boatload of riding time. Bomstad, a three-time All-American, scored a third-period takedown to cut it to 5-3, but Law (25-1) cruised to the finish line and gave head coach Pat Pecora his second NCAA champion of the weekend.

UPJ’s Chris Eddins, just a sophomore, ended McKendree senior Darren Wynn’s bid for a second title in three years with a 4-2 decision in the 141-pound final. Eddins (24-2) scored a first period takedown and built up riding time, then fought off a late Wynn takedown attempt. It was Wynn’s first loss in 30 matches this season and ended a career that saw finishes of seventh, first, second, and second.

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.”

Ashland sophomore Brent Romanzak beat CBU senior Christian Smith for gold at 165 pounds. Romanzak finishes 40-4 and was joined at the top of the medal stand by 197-pound senior Luke Cramer (25-1), who bested SCSU’s Vince Dietz.

Neither Notre Dame nor SCSU crowned a champion Saturday night as the Falcons’ last hope, 285-pounder Kameron Teacher, fell to Wheeling Jesuit’s Terrance Fanning in the 285-pound final. Fanning (31-6) is Jesuit’s first NCAA champion in school history. Teacher, a sophomore, was runner-up for the second straight year.

Thirteen teams pushed a man to the finals. The semifinals included plenty of down-to-the-wire finishes and added a few more names to list of “who is that?”

Among them were Torres, who had three narrow wins to reach the big stage. The native of Emporia, Kan., beat Mercyhurst’s Dakota DesLauriers, 2-1, in the first tiebreaker in the quarterfinals Friday night, then scored a takedown in the closing seconds to beat 2017 finalist Nick Fiegener, 3-1, on Saturday morning.

Farmah, a junior, finished third at the NJCAA Championships for Iowa Lakes Community College before joining Mankato’s roster. He earned a 9-5 decision over Wisconsin-Parkside’s Airk Furseth in the semifinals and moved to the finals with a 13-6 record.

In the down-to-the-wire category, Upper Iowa’s Williams trailed Nebraska-Kearney’s Josh Portillo late, but scored an escape, takedown, and back points in the closing moments to win going away. Williams’ teammate, Josh Walker, finished his semifinals with an old-fashioned headlock at the 4:37 mark. Another Peacock, Damian Penichet, dropped a 9-7 overtime bout to CBU’s Gordon at 149 pounds.

The 2019 D2 Championships are set for Cleveland, the site of the D1 and D3 Championships this season.

● The University of Mary’s Jared Reis entered the week as an unknown to many. But the 157-pounder quickly became “known” as he rolled into the semifinals where he squared off with Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Cody Law. Reis wrestled three years at Oregon State, but did not compete in 2016-17. The native of Napoleon, S.D., dropped his match with Law and eventually finished fifth.

● Colorado-Mesa senior 174-pounder Bruno Nicoletti was 26-24 for his career entering his senior year. He picked up a dominating major decision on Saturday afternoon to finish fifth and with 26 victories in 2017-18.

● Wisconsin-Parkside finished with five All-Americans and would have been among the top five in the team race, but due to NCAA sanctions the Rangers were ineligible for any team trophies. First-year head coach Corey VanGroll returns two of those All-Americans next year – Airk Furseth, sixth at 133, and James Lehman, eighth at 197.

● Thirty-six schools had at least one All-American, 19 with a solo top eight finisher.

At Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 9-10

125 pounds
1st - Elijah Hale (Central Okla.) 24-0 by tech fall over Maleek Williams (Upper Iowa) 30-10 (TF-1.5 3:49 17-2)
3rd - Ivan McClay (Notre Dame OH) 32-7 by decision over Brett Velasquez (St. Cloud St.) 30-4 (Dec 3-2)
5th - Josh Portillo (Neb.-Kearney) 13-7 by decision over Carlos Jacquez (Lindenwood MO) 29-5 (Dec 9-5)
7th - Marcus Povlick (McKendree) 28-17 by major decision over Nick Daggett (UNC Pembroke) 33-15 (MD 8-0)

133 pounds
1st - Josh Walker (Upper Iowa) 36-6 by decision over George Farmah (Minnesota St.) 13-7 (Dec 1-0)
3rd - Kelan McKenna (Notre Dame (OH)) 22-8 by decision over Darius Bunch (West Liberty) 29-6 (Dec 4-0)
5th - Bryce Shoemaker (Neb.-Kearney) 21-5 by decision over Airk Furseth (Wis.-Parkside) 31-8 (Dec 3-2)
7th - Nolan Whitely (Newberry) 31-9 by decision over Dustin Kirk (King TN) 18-8 (Dec 14-9)

141 pounds
1st - Chris Eddins (Pitt.-Johnstown) 24-2 by decision over Darren Wynn (McKendree) 29-1 (Dec 4-2)
3rd - Drew Walker (Notre Dame OH) 26-8 by decision over Jarred Oftedahl (St. Cloud St.) 30-5 (Dec 10-3)
5th - Joseph Calderone (LIU Post) 32-9 by decision over Bryce Killian (King TN) 14-6 (Dec 5-0)
7th - Tyler Warner (Wheeling Jesuit) 29-9 by decision over Nick Crume (UIndy) 22-6 (Dec 7-5)

149 pounds
1st - Daxton Gordon (California Baptist) 25-2 won in sudden victory - 1 over James Pleski (St. Cloud St.) 29-2 (SV-1 5-1)
3rd - Frank Yattoni (Wis.-Parkside) 28-8 by major decision over Damian Penichet (Upper Iowa) 29-12 (MD 12-2)
5th - Isaiah Kemper (McKendree) 30-16 won in sudden victory - 1 over Taylor Misuna (Notre Dame OH) 27-4 (SV-1 3-1)
7th - Natrelle Demison (Adams St.) 27-11 by decision over Efe Osaghae (Fort Hays St.) 31-14 (Dec 3-2)

157 pounds
1st - Cody Law (Pitt.-Johnstown) 25-1 won by decision over Larry Bomstad (St. Cloud St.) 29-5 (Dec 6-3)
3rd - Fernie Silva (Notre Dame OH) 22-4 by decision over Matt Malcom (Neb.-Kearney) 21-7 (Dec 12-7)
5th - Jared Reis (Mary) 11-5 by decision over Tyler Mies (Newman) 22-6 (Dec 5-3)
7th - Ryan Strope (McKendree) 41-13 by decision over Eric Milks (UNC Pembroke) 28-17 (Dec 2-1)

165 pounds
1st - Bret Romanzak (Ashland) 40-4 won by decision over Christian Smith (California Baptist) 21-7 (Dec 3-2)
3rd - Blake Perryman (Northern St.) 25-4 by decision over Tyler Mann (Ouachita Baptist) 26-9 (Dec 3-1)
5th - Rodney Shephard (UNC Pembroke) 15-4 by fall over Shane Ruhnke (Millersville) 27-9 (Fall 3:47)
7th - Devin Austin (Pitt.-Johnstown) 19-8 by decision over Seth Elwood (Minnesota St.) 16-11 (Dec 3-2)

174 pounds
1st - Nick Becker (Wis.-Parkside) 24-0 won by decision over Nolan Kistler (California Baptist) 26-4 (Dec 8-4)
3rd - Brandon Supernaw (Western St.) 33-5 by decision over Nick Foster (McKendree) 30-6 (Dec 5-3)
5th - Bruno Nicoletti (Colorado Mesa) 26-11 by major decision over Kolton Eischens (St. Cloud St.) 32-7 (MD 10-1)
7th - Zach Johnston (Minnesota St.) 24-8 by decision over Zach Stodden (Neb.-Kearney) 32-15 (Dec 12-5)

184 pounds
1st - Noel Torres (Newman) 40-4 won by decision over JaVaughn Perkins (Colorado St.-Pueblo) 16-3 (Dec 3-1)
3rd - Jordan Murphy (Ashland) 27-1 by decision over Nicholas Fiegener (California Baptist) 20-7 (Dec 6-4)
5th - Jeff Reimel (Kutztown) 17-10 by major decision over Bradley Metz (Findlay) 33-8 (MD 11-3)
7th - Aero Amo (Augustana) 17-4 by decision over Tony Vezzetti (Notre Dame OH) 17-8 (Dec 7-0)

197 pounds
1st - Luke Cramer (Ashland) 25-1 won by decision over Vince Dietz (St. Cloud St.) 34-3 (Dec 5-1)
3rd - Morgan Smith (Simon Fraser) 41-4 by decision over Evan Ramos (Shippensburg) 29-4 (Dec 4-2)
5th - Matthew Rudy (Limestone) 24-6 by medical forfeit over Konnor Schmidt (Western St.) 22-6 (M. For.)
7th - Nick Baumler (Upper Iowa) 33-11 by decision over James Lehman (Wis.-Parkside) 30-12 (Dec 8-4)

285 pounds
1st - Terrance Fanning (Wheeling Jesuit) 31-6 won by decision over Kameron Teacher (Notre Dame OH) 28-3 (Dec 8-2)
3rd - Matt Halverson (Wis.-Parkside) 19-3 by fall over Cody Johnson (Colorado St.-Pueblo) 24-11 (Fall 2:23)
5th - Caleb Cotter (Central Okla.) 34-5 by major decision over Mitchell Eull (Minot St.) 32-7 (MD 12-2)
7th - Damon Sims Jr. (Pitt.-Johnstown) 18-9 by fall over Jarrod Hinrichs (Neb.-Kearney) 40-10 (Fall 7:00)

Team Scores
1 St. Cloud St. 92.5
2 Notre Dame (OH) 84.0
3 California Baptist 70.5
4 Upper Iowa 58.0
5 Ashland 55.0
6 Pitt.-Johnstown 54.5
7 McKendree 52.0
8 Neb.-Kearney 44.5
9 Central Okla. 36.5
10 Minnesota St. 30.5
11 Colorado St.-Pueblo 30.0
12 Newman 27.5
13 Wheeling Jesuit 25.5
14 Western St. 20.5
15 UNC Pembroke 19.0
16 Simon Fraser 15.5
17 Kutztown 13.5
18 Northern St. 12.5
19 King (TN) 12.0
20 Colorado Mesa 11.5
20 Ouachita Baptist 11.5
20 Shippensburg 11.5