A Regular Late-February Occurrence
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – You can bank on several yearly occurrences in February and March each year; the swallows will return to San Juan Capistrano (google it), the opening of the Moorhead Dairy Queen, and the outstanding success by the Cobber wrestling team at the NCAA West Region Meet.
No.7-ranked Concordia continued its recent success at the NCAA West Regional Meet by having a pair of region champions, six NCAA National Meet qualifiers, nine athletes place in the top 5 of their weight class and earning its fourth straight second-place finish.
The Cobbers excellence at the region meet has also paid dividends for head coach Matt Nagel as he was named the Region Coach of the Year for the second time in the past three seasons. Nagel shared the award on Saturday with Augsburg head coach Jim Moulsoff.
Concordia finished the region meet with 124.0 total team points which marks the fourth straight season the team has scored at least 120 points at the region meet.
One thing is for certain, Nagel knows how to get his team primed and ready for the region meet.
The Cobbers featured seven freshmen or sophomores at the national qualifying meet and three punched their tickets to their very first NCAA National Meet. A fourth earned a repeat trip to nationals after earning the region title at 125.
Cole Sladek, Jake Johnson and Ricky Briggs all came up big in their first region meet and placed in the top 3 to qualify for nationals. Sophomore Jakob Stageberg, who is ranked No.3 in the nation at 125, went 3-0 on the day to win the 125-lb title and earn his second consecutive spot at the NCAA Meet.
While the youngsters gave Concordia depth it was the two lone seniors who led by example. Gabe Foltz and Ben Cousins both earned their second straight to nationals with top 3 finishes.
Foltz placed second at 133 while Cousins aka “The Grinder” outworked his competition on the way to the title at 157.
Cousins went 3-0 on the day and won both his semifinal and championship match in overtime. He has earned the title “The Grinder” for his style of deliberate offense and outstanding defense that wears opponents down and allows Cousins to score victories in the third period and overtime. Cousins is now 27-11 on the year. The 27 wins are a career high and 22 of his wins have been by decision while 10 have come in overtime or by two or fewer points. Cousins placed second at the region meet last year.
Foltz, who is ranked seventh in the latest NWCA poll, had a pair of byes to start the day and then won in the first tie-breaker in the semifinals to earn his spot at nationals. Unfortunately for Foltz the tables would be turned in the title match as he lost in the first tiebreaker.
Stageberg also used the overtime periods to his benefit. After scoring a 16-13 decision in the quarterfinals, he won 3-1 in the first tiebreaker in the semifinals before coming up with the rare pin fall in overtime in the championship bout. Stageberg leads the team in wins with 33 and is 33-7 for the season.
Sladek, Johnson and Briggs all used the underdog role to earn their trip to nationals. Not expecting many qualifiers from the higher weight classes, all three came through in the clutch.
Sladek did the most work of any Cobber at the meet as he wrestled in six matches and went 5-1 to finish third at 165. He recorded a pin fall in the opening round and then lost in the quarterfinals to set up a long road to nationals in the wrestlebacks.
Sladek started the comeback trail with a pin fall and then grabbed a 6-2 decision. He then recorded a major decision in the consolation semifinal to get into the third-place bout. Sladek wouldn’t be denied as he got out to a lead in the opening period and won 9-5 in the match. Sladek is now 16-5 for the year.
Johnson took a similar path as Sladek as he lost in the quarterfinals in 174 and then won four straight matches to get to nationals. Johnson got a pin fall in the first bout in wrestlebacks. He then got a decision and major decision in his next two matches to grab a spot in the national-qualifying third-place match. Johnson was able to get three takedowns and come away with a 7-4 win.
Johnson will enter the national meet with a 19-21 overall record.
Briggs was tough from the start at 184. Both of his wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals were by a single point. He won 4-3 in the quarters and then 3-2 in the semis. His title hopes were dashed with a 6-0 loss in the championship bout.
Briggs’ two wins ups his overall total to 13 and he is 13-9 for the year.
Blane Tschida and Ben Baumgartner narrowly missed a spot in nationals. Both dropped bouts in the semifinals and then lost in the third-place match.
Tschida went 2-2 at 141. He lost to the No.8 ranked wrestler in the country in the semifnals and then fell 6-0 in the third-place match. Baumgartner was 3-2 and lost to the No.10 wrestler in the nation in the semifinals and then fell 9-4 in the national qualifying match.
Junior Justice Davis was the other Cobber to post a top 5 finish. He lost a dramatic 3-1 decision in the sudden victory period of overtime in the quarterfinals. Davis then recorded a pin fall before losing in the consolation semifinals. He rebounded by getting a pin fall in the fifth-place match.
2016 NCAA DIII West Regional results
Concordia will have a two-week training period before heading to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the NCAA National Meet on Friday, Mar. 11 and Saturday, Mar. 12.
NCAA West Regional – Place Winners for Concordia
125 – Jakob Stageberg – 1st place
133 – Gabe Foltz – 2nd place
141 – Blane Tschida – 4th place
149 – Ben Baumgartner – 4th place
157 – Ben Cousins – 1st place
165 – Cole Sladek – 3rd place
174 – Jake Johnson – 3rd place
184 – Ricky Briggs – 2nd place
285 – Justice Davis – 5th place
NCAA West Regional – Co-Coach of the Year: Matt Nagel – Concordia