|Two-Time Defending Champion Nebraska-Omaha Holds Early Lead at 2005 NCAA Division II National Championships|
By Brian Zins Mankato State
Findlay, Ohio --- The University of Nebraska at Omaha began its quest for a third consecutive national title by advancing eight of 10 wrestlers to the quarterfinal round of the 2006 NCAA Division II National Championships, hosted by the University of Findlay. The Mavs earned 16 team points in the first round of competition, pulling ahead of second-place Nebraska-Kearney with 10.5. The Lopers pushed six of their eight wrestlers through the first round, as did third-place University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
The tournament features six wrestlers looking to defend national titles from last season and all six were victorious to start competition. At heavyweight, UNO senior Les Sigman began his personal drive toward a fourth individual championship with a first-round fall at 6:07 over Josh Ohl of Ashland. Sigman is looking to become just the fouth wrestler in the history of NCAA Division II to capture four individual titles and entered the weekend with a perfect 19-0 record.
Another returning champion from a year ago, Andy Uhl of host Findlay, took the first step toward a repeat performance with a 9-2 decision at 133 pounds. At 141, defending champ Thad Benton of Pittsburgh-Johnstown earned a 7-0 decision over Shane Walton of MSU Moorhead. Two more Nebraska-Omaha titlists from last season, Patrick Allibone at 157 and J.D. Naig at 174, posted bonus point wins to advance to the quarterfinals.
Allibone posted a fall in 3:27 while Naig earned an 11-0 major decision. Naig was the 165-pound champion last season and has moved up to 174 where he has gone 28-3. The final returning champion, Corey Jacoby of Shippensburg, advanced with a 7-3 win over Ben Janike of Minnesota State. Another wrestler, Jeff Sylvester of Nebraska-Kearney, won 9-0 to move toward regaining the title he won in 2004. He finished seventh last season.
A handful of returning All-Americans will have to battle through the consolation rounds to regain a place on the podium. At 141 pounds, Patrick Sharp of New Mexico Highlands upended Wade Kilgore of Central Missouri State, a seventh-place finisher last season. In the same weight class, Willie Hilton of UNC-Pembroke topped Andre VanderVelde of Augustana, a fourth-place finisher in 2005.
Sophomore 157-pounder Zach Lee of Western State upset last season's seventh-place finisher Austin Scarset of Augustana 3-2 while Scott Cleve of Adams State sent third-place finisher Mathias Bitz of Minnesota State to the consolations with a 5-0 win in the second tie-breaker. At 165, top-ranked Zach Schafer pinned Cody Henriksen of Augustana in 4:25. Schafer took fourth-place last season while Henriksen was sixth. In the same bracket, sophomore Blake Peterson of Truman State dominated Evan Copeland of Adams State, a third-place finisher a season ago, by a score of 9-0.
At 174 pounds, Michael Jackson of Indianapolis topped Timothy Johns of Southwest Minnesota State 11-9 with a takedown in the sudden victory session. Jackson placed third last season while Johns was fifth. Nathan Jones of Carson-Newman earned a 5-1 win over last season's fifth-place 184-pounder Mark Murphy of Shippensburg while Cody Mumma of Western State slipped past John Goral of Wisconsin-Parkside, a sixth-place finisher last season, at 197 by a score of 5-4.
The second round of competition, featuring the second round of championship and two rounds of consolation action, begins at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.