EVANSTON, Ill. – Cornell College has a storied wrestling tradition and Alex Coolidge has added to it.
The Rams senior 197-pound NCAA Division III runner-up made his debut in one of college wrestling most recognized regular-season events.
Coolidge is believed to be the first Cornell wrestler to compete in Northwestern’s Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Coolidge posted a 6-4 win over Tommy Petersen, of North Dakota State, in his opening match.
He understands the significance of it all, especially since Cornell won an NCAA Division I title in 1947.
“It’s unbelievable,” Coolidge said. “It’s awesome, coming from the rich wrestling tradition that Cornell has and being the first to compete here from Cornell is an honor.
“I will do everything I can to take full advantage of this opportunity and come home with a plaque.”
Coolidge had Cornell assistant Matt Fields, who was an All-American at University of Iowa, in his corner, as the rest of the Rams traveled to Florida for a tournament. He had to shake some jitters to post a come-from-behind win in the first round. He trailed 3-1 midway through the second period. He tallied two takedowns in the final period to come away with a win.
“In the end, he gassed out,” said Coolidge, who dropped a 4-1 decision to Maryland’s second-seeded Christian Boley in the second round. “I was able to beat him later on in the match.”
One of the major goals is for the opportunity to help him later in the season when he is contending for a Division III championship in March, which Cornell is hosting at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. The competition, the atmosphere and the crowd cannot be duplicated.
“It’s an experience,” Coolidge said. “Nationals and conference tournaments can’t really compare to this. It is immeasurable.”
He had a little cheering section with him. His parents flew in from Gillette, Wyo., and he had some friends that came from nearby Deerfield, Ill. Coolidge appreciated the following.
“It’s awesome to have their support,” Coolidge said. “I’m very fortunate for that.”
Herman looks to improve
Luther heavyweight and former Cedar Rapids Jefferson state champion dropped two tough matches to NCAA Division I wrestlers at the 51st Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. He said wrestling at this level is different and there are strides to make.
“It’s coming together,” Herman said. “I can see some things I need to work on, and I can see things I am getting better at.”
Herman challenged Virginia Tech’s No. 9 seed Tyler Walz, wrestling just about even to the final period before losing 9-6. Purdue’s Alex White beat him, 3-1, in the consolation round.
“They are hard fought matches, but you have to do enough to win those matches,” Mitchell said. “When you wrestle this type of competition, you have to be aggressive enough to win those matches.
“We need to be more aggressive.”
He is trying to be as patient as possible, returning from knee surgery that kept him off the mat for an entire year. He tore multiple ligaments in his left knee during the 2012 football season. Herman wrestles with a large brace. Conditioning has been an issue since he couldn’t run much, but it is being addressed. He is trying to get more comfortable on his knee again.
“It will come with confidence with the knee,” Herman said. “Not wrestling for a year, not trying to make excuses, but it throws you off.”
Mitchell said Herman needs to rediscover his mobility and his natural skill to get make to his previous form.
“He’s a good athlete and he’s not using his athleticism, right now,” Mitchell said. “He’s just not being as explosive as he used to be.”
The Cedar Rapids Metro area was also represented by UNI’s Zach Witte, who was a two-time state champion and three time finalist for Cedar Rapids Prairie. Witte finished 0-2 as well, losing both by decision.
No Midlands for Loder
University of Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder was a notable scratch from the field before Sunday’s competition. Loder received the No. 3 pre-seed before the tournament and placed fourth here last year.
“He’s got to get healthy,” UNI Coach Doug Schwab said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Schwab said the returning All-American is “day-to-day” but did not specifically identify the issue.
“He’s dealing with some things,” said Schwab, whose Panthers return to action on Jan. 4 at Buffalo.
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