Rankings are reflective of the Jan. 9 Division II rankings
First Round Previews
(Seed) National Rank, Team
(1) #1 Nebraska-Kearney vs. Carson-Newman
The top-ranked Lopers are one of the most impressive teams in Division II, as they should be with five returning All-Americans and seven wrestlers ranked in the top eight. The only matchup between ranked wrestlers comes at 149 pounds where Carson-Newman’s returning national runner-up Mike Rogers will face off with #8 Ryan Etherton. Returning NCAA champion Tervel Dlagnev leads the charge at heavyweight and other returning All-Americans that will get the Lopers off to a fast start against unranked Carson-Newman are 141-pounder Jeff Rutledge, 157-pounder Joe Ellenberger, 165-pounder Taylor May and 197-pounder Kelsey Empting.
(8) #9 Western State vs. #15 UW-Parkside
Both Western State and Parkside bring three ranked wrestlers into their opening round match. The only match between ranked wrestlers is at 165 pounds where Parkside’s Kyle Becker will take on returning All-American Zach Lee. Lee was sixth last year and is ranked third, while Becker is ranked sixth. Parkside also brings third-ranked Craig DeGreef at 133 and 184-pounder Luke Haag, ranked seventh. Western counters with third-ranked 149 pounder Camille Dupont and top-ranked Larry Wilbanks at 197. Wilbanks was fourth in D2 last year. Dupont is a 2006 All-American, finishing eighth.
(5) #6 Pitt-Johnstown vs. Central Missouri
Pat Pecora has over 400 coaching wins to his credit as coach of the Mountain Cats and his fifth-seeded team will take on the Mules of Central Missouri, the only team in the field without a ranked wrestler. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, as three Mules placed at the Midwest Classic, led by 149-pounder Kenzie McClain. UPJ on the other hand has three returning All-Americans from last season and five nationally ranked wrestlers. 133-pounder Brandon Reasey is the top Mountain Cat in the rankings, coming in second. Derrek Bosso at 125 and Mike Corcetti at 184 are both ranked third and are returning All-Americans. Corcetti was the 2006 runner-up at 184. Shane Valko (141) and Albert Miles (174) are also ranked.
(4) #4 Minnesota State-Mankato vs. #12 Chadron State
Jim Makovsky has a formidable squad, bringing six nationally-ranked wrestlers and three returning All-Americans to Cedar Falls. The one match to watch here is definitely at 165 pounds where it’ll be a rematch of the Division II championship last year. Top-ranked and returning champion Brett Hunter of Chadron will take on second-ranked Andy Pickar. Anytime you’ve got #1 vs. #2, its worth watching. Pickar’s looking for revenge after getting pinned in the finals last season. Mankato can add a fourth All-American, as Nick Smith finished third in 2006, but didn’t place last year. Mankato will also bring top-ranked Jason Rhoten to the mat at 157 pounds and will be joined by the third top-ranked wrestler in this dual – returning 197-pound champion Josh Majerus. Three #1’s in one dual and a #1 vs. #2 make this a great first rounder to keep an eye on.
(3) #3 Central Oklahoma vs. West Liberty
While not exactly a down year for coach David James and the Bronchos of Central Oklahoma, the third-seeded team in the event brings just four ranked wrestlers into the dual, and three of the four are returning national finalists. The top match here is at 141 pounds with national champion Kyle Evans of UCO facing off with returning fourth-place Doug Surra. Expect this one to be close as Evans beat Surra in the semifinals last year in Kearney in sudden victory. UCO also brings in top-ranked Tyler Zukeman, a returning finalist at 125 pounds and fifth-ranked Jason Leavitt, ranked #5 even though he was a runner-up last season. West Liberty’s Matt Mossor is ranked seventh at 133 pounds.
(6) #7 Upper Iowa vs. #11 Indianapolis
They don’t have anyone ranked in the top three, but Upper Iowa has already made an impact in its short time in Division II, bringing in seven ranked wrestlers and two returning All-Americans. Indianapolis has four ranked wrestlers, led by returning All-American Shane Perkey at 133 pounds. Perkey will face fourth-ranked Jacob Pederson in the opening round. Two more matches feature two ranked wrestlers: 157 pounds with #7 Michael Horton of UIndy taking on #8 Travis Eggers and All-American Dan Goodson of UIU will take on #8 Lynn Panko.
(7) #8 Ashland vs. #17 Minnesota State-Moorhead
There’s only six ranked wrestlers between the two teams, and at two weights – 174 and 197 – Moorhead’s ranked guys will match up with Ashland’s. Second-ranked Tyler Tubbs of Moorhead will take on eight-ranked Justin Ferguson at 174 pounds and 197-pounders Josh Uhl (Ashland) and Matt Nelson will mix it up. Uhl’s ranked fourth, Nelson ranked eighth. 149-pounder Shane Walton of Moorhead comes in ranked sixth at 149, while Ashland’s Muhammad Abdur-Rahman comes in #4 at 157. Should be a pretty back and forth dual as Ashland has some very good, young lower weights.
(2) #2 Nebraska-Omaha vs. #16 Mercyhurst
Bolstered by the return of 2006 Division II National Champion Cody Garcia, Mike Denney’s UNO Mavericks will make a serious charge for the championship. In addition to Garcia, who sat out last season recovering from a knee injury, UNO had three returning All-Americans including 149-pound champ Todd Meneely and 184-pound runner-up Austin Boehm. In all, the Mavs have seven ranked wrestlers in their lineup. Mercyhurst has risen to become one of the East’s top Division II programs. Brian Pogel’s ranked at 149 pounds and has recently seen time, but Don Cummings has some big wins at 149 this season, including one over Maryland’s Eric Medina. Not ranked but a returning All-American is Andrew Lamancusa, who placed 6th last year.
Looking ahead ...
If the seeds hold, here’s what we might expect in the quarterfinals. All-Americans Taylor May (Kearney) and Zach Lee (Western State) will meet at 165 if both teams advance, while ranked wrestlers Ryan Etherton and Camille Dupont could do battle. Larry Wilbanks should face off with Marty Usman ... UPJ and Mankato will have three bouts with a ranked wrestler each, highlighted by 125-pounders Nick Smith (Mankato) and Derrek Bosso. Smith was third in 2006, Bosso sixth in 2007. ... Central Oklahoma and Upper Iowa could pair All-Americans at 125 pounds as Tyler Zukeman (UCO) will tangle with Tyler Mumbulo should both teams advance. ... Third-ranked Jacob Marrs of UNO could face fourth-ranked Josh Uhl of Ashland at 197, or eighth-ranked Matt Nelson of Moorhead, depending on who wins the opening round dual.