Cobber Wrestling: Will There Be A Return To The Top 15?

MOORHEAD, Minn. — Another year and another NCAA National Meet that will feature multiple Concordia wrestlers. The Cobbers will bring six athletes to the national meet in Cedar Rapids, Iowa starting on Friday in the hopes they can produce multiple All-Americans and another top 15 finish.

No.7-ranked Concordia will also be looking to erase the memory of last year’s NCAA Meet where they brought nine athletes, had only one All-American and finished in 27th place.

Concordia CobbersSince 2010 the Cobbers have brought multiple athletes to the NCAA National Meet. During the past six years CC has qualified 35 wrestlers for nationals, had 11 All-Americans and placed in the top 15 in every one of those seasons except last year.

A total of 180 wrestlers from 58 different schools will compete at the NCAA Division III Championships. The first session is set to begin at 11:00 a.m. (CST) on Friday with the first two preliminary rounds as well as the first consolation round. The final session on Friday is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., and consists of the championship quarterfinals and the second and third round of consolations.

NCAA National Meet Links
– 2016 NCAA Meet Brackets
– 2016 NCAA Meet Live Video – Friday
– 2016 NCAA Meet Live Video – Saturday
– 2016 NCAA Meet Live Stats
– NCAA Digital Program

Saturday’s action will begin with the championship semifinals at 10:00 a.m., followed by the consolation quarterfinals and semifinals and then the placement matches (third through eighth). The parade of All-Americans will take place at 6:30 p.m. with the championship finals to follow at 7:00 p.m.

To earn All-America accolades, a wrestler must place in the top eight of their respective weight class. If they are still alive in the tournament (championship or consolation bracket) at the conclusion of Friday’s sessions, they have assured themselves of being an All-American.

This year’s contingent of NCAA qualifiers headed to Cedar Rapids has a decidedly young look. Of the six athletes to make the national meet, four are either freshmen or sophomores. However, at second glance, half of Concordia’s group is headed to nationals for the second straight season so they will also have experience on their side.

The three wrestlers who are appearing in their second straight NCAA Meet are seniors Gabe Foltz and Ben Cousins and sophomore Jakob Stageberg.

Foltz heads to Cedar Rapids ranked seventh in the nation at 133 in the latest NWCA coaches’ poll. For the NCAA Meet he earned the No.8 seed. Foltz has a career-high 25 wins for the year and enters the final tournament 25-5.

He will be hoping to erase last year’s memory of the NCAA Meet where he lost both of his matches. Foltz was the runner-up at the West Regional Meet and has won 16 of his last 18 matches. Foltz will start his 2016 national meet against Devin Broukal of Wabash (Ind.). Broukal is 20-7 on the season and finished third at the Midwest Regional Meet.

Cousins continues to be a great story for the Cobbers. Born with autism, Cousins has posted higher and higher win totals in each of his seasons for Concordia. This year he is three victories away from a 30-win season as he enters the NCAA Meet with a 27-11 record.

Cousins won the 157-lb weight class at the West Region Meet and will hope his “grinding” style of wrestling will pay off in Cedar Rapids. Like Foltz, Cousins fell in both of his matches last year at nationals.

Cousins will start his campaign for All-American honors when he squares off against fourth seeded Logan Meister of Ferrum College (Va.). Meister also won his regional championship when he went 4-0 at the East Regional Meet. He is 31-1 on the year

Stageberg has led the team in wins from his spot at 125 lbs. all season long. He enters the NCAA Meet with a 33-7 mark and has won 11 straight matches including four at the West Region meet to earn the title at 125.

Last year Stageberg went 1-2 at the national meet but both his losses came by four or fewer points.

Stageberg is ranked third in the NWCA poll and was also given the No.3 seed for the national meet. He starts his quest for All-American honors by stepping in the circle against Brenden Velez of Delaware Valley. Velez finished third at the East Regional Meet to earn his spot at nationals. He is 19-10 on the season and has won six of his past seven matches.

Cole Sladek, Jake Johnson and Ricky Briggs are the three first-time NCAA Meet qualifiers for the Cobbers. All three have taken different paths to get to the national meet and all three have a chance to get to the podium on Saturday.

Sladek is a sophomore transfer who started his season after the Christmas break and since then has had success. He is 17-5 at 165 and was briefly ranked in the top 10 of the nation. Sladek finished third at the region meet. He lost his opening match but then stormed back to win four straight to earn his trip to Iowa. He has won eight on his last nine matches.

Sladek will kick off his first national experience by battling No.3 seed Nolan Barger of Lycoming (Pa.). Barger was second in the Mideast Region and is 31-1 on the year with his only loss coming in the title match of the regional. Barger finished third at the NCAA Meet last year in Hershey, Pa.

Johnson is probably the biggest surprise for Concordia at the national meet. He has a losing record on the year (19-21) but has shown up huge in the biggest matches at 174. He beat the No.1-ranked wrestler in the country to give the Cobbers a win over No.3-ranked Wis.-La Crosse at the National Duals Meet. Johnson then lost his first match of the regional meet and then, facing the end of his season, won three straight matches to get to Iowa.

It’s a case of good news, bad news for Johnson at the national meet. The good news is that he is at the meet and has a chance to pull off another stunner. The bad news is that he will face a familiar opponent in No.4-seeded Ryan Harrington of Coe. The two squared up at the National Duals with Harrington posting a 17-1 technical fall.

Briggs is the final member of Concordia’s NCAA Meet crew. He has had an up-and-down season at 184 and looks to be peaking at the perfect time. Briggs took second place at the West Regional Meet and has won nine of his past 13 matches. He is 12-9 on the year after starting the season at the start of December.

Briggs is the only Cobber wrestler that drew a “pigtail” match to start the national meet. He will go up against Jeff Palmeri of Brockport State (N.Y.). Palmeri earned his spot in Iowa by finishing third at the Mideast Region Meet. He wrestled in a remarkable seven matches on the day of the region meet and went 6-1. He is making his second straight trip to nationals and is 35-8 on the year. Last year Palmeri went 0-2 at the national meet.

The winner of the “pigtail” match will enter the championship round against unseeded Brandon Conrad of Rhode Island College.

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