CEDAR RAPIDS – Cornell’s Alex Coolidge was excited and energized.
The Rams senior 197-pounder was in his corner and already shedding his warm-up clothes with 30 seconds left in the match that preceded his quarterfinal. He was chomping at the bit to earn a spot in the national semifinals.
Coolidge didn’t disappoint, transferring that enthusiasm to the mat and recording an 8-4 quarterfinal win over Wabash’s Austin O’Neil last night during the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Coolidge was a national finalist last year, battling through some nerves. He has been more impressive this time around, wanting to avoid any regrets when his career comes to a close.
“What have I got to lose? I’m not defending a national title,” Coolidge said. “I have to go out and get mine. It is the last tournament of my college career, so I might as well leave it all out there.”
The day opened with a third-period fall. Coolidge controlled O’Neil, starting the scoring with a freight train double-leg takedown in the first. He added two more and a point for riding time.
“I feel good,” said Coolidge, noting Cornell Coach Mike Duroe has emphasized work on being a tough rider. “I felt the last two matches I really did what I’ve been learning on top. It has brought great outcomes for me.”
Coolidge secured his second straight All-American performance. He continued toward his goal of becoming Cornell’s first NCAA champion since Shawn Voigt in 1990. Now he can refocus for even tough tests.
“It’s a feeling of relief to be honest,” Coolidge said. “The first day is done.
“I’m one step closer and I have to get ready for a tough semifinals match.”
He will face SUNY-Cortland’s fourth-seeded Joey Giamarita (37-5), who placed eighth at heavyweight last year. Giamarita has scored 25 points in two matches, including an 11-6 win over Wartburg’s Puna Soriano. The match promises some fireworks, which suits Coolidge.
“If someone wants to put their guns a-blazing, then I’m ready to start shooting,” Coolidge said. “Those are the matches I love.”
Wartburg took control of the team race, advancing five wrestlers into the semifinals. The Knights had 56 ½ points, while second-place Messiah (Pa.) had 38. Wartburg is looking to become the first NCAA Division III program to win four straight national team titles.
The Knights’ two-time NCAA champion Kenny Anderson used a reversal late in the third to drop Wilkes’ Myzar Mendoza, 2-1, keeping his hopes for a third title alive.
Anderson was not pleased with the performance, but wins are the only things that matter.
“I’m here to get a title,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by one point or 100 points. I didn’t win the way I wanted to, but I’m the one going to the semifinals.”
Wartburg heavyweight Ryan Fank capped the solid quarterfinal effort with a 2-0 win over Heidelberg’s Nino Majoy. Fank used an escape and riding time for the difference.
Fank assured himself of his third All-American finish, reaching the semifinals for the first time. He has lost by a point in the quarterfinals the last two years.
“This means a lot for me,” Fank said. “I got over that hump. I’ve gotten over a lot of humps this year. It seems like an uphill drive, trying to hit my peak for tomorrow.”
They were joined in the semifinals by teammates Gilberto Camacho (125), Cole Welter (165) and former national champion and top-seeded Landon Wiliams at 174.
Dimitri Boyer will represent Coe in the semifinals. He did not give up a point in the first day, posting a 4-0 win over Wheaton’s Mark Savenok at 157. Boyer, a two-time national qualifier, earned his first All-American finish.
“It means a lot but it’s not what I came here for,” Boyer said. “I’m here to win a national title and that is what I’m looking forward to.”
Coe was sixth after the first day with 28 points. The Kohawks have four All-Americans. Senior Ethan Ball (174), Ryan Sheldon (184) and 197-pounder Donnie Horner moved into the top eight of their weight classes with consolation wins last night.
Loras heavyweight James Buss powered his way to the semifinals, beating Bridgewater State’s Ricky Caruso, 5-0. The returning All-American will have a huge chore in the semifinals, facing Augsburg’s top-seeded Chad Johnson.Johnson edged Delaware Valley’s Zach Roseberry, 3-2, to become Augusburg’s sixth four-time All-American. Johnson, who placed seventh as a freshman and won the last two national titles, could become the third NCAA Division III heavyweight to win three NCAA crowns.