CEDAR RAPIDS – Alex Coolidge joined a select group in Cornell College’s storied wrestling tradition.
The junior 197-pounder placed second at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships on Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Elmhurst’s Mike Benefiel, a former Northwestern and Oklahoma State wrestler, prevented Coolidge from grabbing a gold medal with a 7-2 victory in the championship. Coolidge will use the experience as fuel for next season as he resets his title aspirations.
“I’ll build off of it,” Coolidge said. “I fell short. It’s just a steppingstone for next year.”
Benefiel scored takedowns in all three periods and added a point for riding time. He controlled the match. Coolidge wasn’t able to force scoring chances. Points were at a premium for Coolidge, who gutted out three overtime wins to reach the finals.
“I didn’t get to my offense,” Coolidge said. “That’s not going to get me the national title.”
Coolidge (28-4) continued his successful junior campaign, marching to the finals in his second NCAA tournament appearance. The loss doesn’t overshadow a great season that included a win over Iowa’s Nathan Burak, who placed fourth at last weekend’s Big Ten Championships. He only lost once to a Division III foe.
“Second place in the nation is a significant accomplishment. We’re going to celebrate it,” Cornell coach Mike Duroe said. “He’s the kind of kid that will use that as a motivator and maybe even take it to another level.”
Duroe was proud of the strides Coolidge has made this season. He is as impressive off the mat as he is on, according to his coach.
“He’s been a leader in the program all year,” Duroe said. “He’s a first-class individual.”
Coolidge gave the host crowd plenty to cheer the entire tournament. He scored with 16 seconds left in sudden victory for a 3-1 win over third-seeded Aaron Karns of Delaware Valley in the semifinals.
“It was great,” said Coolidge, from Gillette, Wyo. “I had a lot of friends and family come to town. It was a privilege.”
Coolidge became the 23rd national finalist at all levels in the storied program. Coolidge is just the fifth Division III finalist for the Rams and first since Nick Nothern in 2009. The achievement might mean more once the immediate sting wears off.
“A little, but right now it doesn’t,” Coolidge said. “I’m bitter about the loss. Who knows? Maybe a week will go by and it will feel better. I still have next year.”
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