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|Top-Ranked Nebraska-Omaha Holds Team Lead After First Day of Competition at NCAA Division II National Championship|
By Brian Zins Mankato State
Findlay, Ohio --- By sending six wrestlers to the semifinals and keeping one alive in the consolations, two-time defending champion Nebraska-Omaha finished the first day of competition at the 2006 NCAA Division II National Championships in first place with 63 points. That puts the Mavs 10.5 points ahead of neighbor Nebraska-Kearney which has five wrestlers still in contention for an individual national title.
All three of UNO's returning national champions from last season are in the hunt for another. Senior Les Sigman was dominating in two matches, earning a fall in 6:07 to open competition and moving to the semifinals with a 17-1 technical fall over Andrew Ubben of Fort Hays State, a two-time All-American himself. Sigman is aiming to be just the fourth four-time champion in the history of NCAA Division II wrestling.
Junior Patrick Allibone added a 4-1 quarterfinal win to his fall from earlier in the day to keep hope alive of a repeat title at 157 pounds. Teammate J.D. Naig used a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals over Quinn Tolbert of Newberry to advance at 174.
Head coach Mike Denney, in his 27th season at UNO, was pleased with his team's performance in the first two sessions but cautioned that there was more work to be done.
"This is a special bunch of guys we have here," he said. "They have given us everything we have asked for and then some but we still need to take care of business tomorrow. It is still anyone's title at this point."
At 133 pounds, returning champ Andy Uhl of host Findlay needed a takedown in the waning moments to win his quarterfinal match with Raymond Dunning of Adams State and advance in the top bracket. Senior Thad Benton of Pittsburgh-Johnstown earned another workmanlike win, this one by a score of 9-1 to advance to the semifinals at 141 pounds. Two wrestlers, Corey Jacoby of Shippensburg and Jeff Sylvester of Nebraska-Kearney, are still in the hunt for top billing at 197.
Jacoby won the title last season and moved on with a 6-0 win in the quarterfinals over Casey Woodall of Adams State. Sylvester was a titlist in 2004 and stayed in the mix to regain it with a fall in 6:28 over Chris Taylor of West Liberty State.
The second session was chock full of exciting matches and upsets. In the quarterfinals at 125 pounds, freshman Cody Garcia of Nebraska-Omaha knocked off Rob McCabe of Adams State 11-4. McCabe was a fourth-place finisher a season ago. At 141 pounds, Patrick Sharp of New Mexico Highlands scored late to upend second-ranked Mitch Waite of Nebraska-Omaha. Waite would then fall in the consolations by a score of 9-8 in the first tie-breaker session to J.J. Zanetta of Mercyhurst.
Top-ranked 149-pounder Ronald Paterniti of Gannon, recovered from his first-round loss to win twice in the consolations and ensure himself an All-American finish.
In consolation action at 157, unranked Stephen Humprey edged Mathias Bitz of Minnesota State by a score of 2-0 to advance to the consolation semifinals. Bitz was a third-place finisher last season and held the #3 national ranking entering the weekend.
Two mild upsets also came in the quarterfinals at 165. Fifth-ranked Cort Peterson of Central Oklahoma edge second-ranked Andy Pickar of Minnesota State 6-3 while sixth-ranked Ross Taplin of Nebraska-Omaha nipped third-ranked Blake Peterson of Truman State by a score of 7-5. The 197-pound weight class held few surprises, as all four of the wrestlers ranked in the top four heading into the tournament have advanced to the semifinals. A finalist from last season at heavyweight, sixth-ranked Chris Tuchscherer of MSU Moorhead slipped past second-ranked Jacob Lininger by a score of 5-3 in the quarterfinals.
In the consolation portion of the heavyweight bracket, Heath Soderstrom locked up All-American status by beating fifth-ranked Andrew Ubben 7-2 in a tie-breaker session.
The field of 160 wrestlers has been pared down to 80 All-Americans who will vie for position tomorrow. Team leader Nebraska-Omaha has six wrestlers in the top bracket while second-place Nebraska-Kearney and third-place Central Oklahoma have five apiece and one each in the consolation bracket.
In fourth, Minnesota State has three wrestlers in the semifinals and three more in the wrestlebacks. Rounding out the top-five is Augustana with two competitors in the semifinals and four still alive in the consolations.
Action gets underway at the Koehler Center at the University of Findlay at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.