CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Central Oklahoma’s Eli Hale marched into the 125-pound semifinals with a pair of dominating wins and heavyweight Caleb Cotter stayed alive in the consolation bracket on the first day of the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships here Friday, March 9 at U.S. Cellular Center.
The top-ranked Hale, a senior from Miami, outscored two opponents a combined 28-1 in recording a technical fall and major decision, while Cotter, a former All-American from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, rebounded from a first-round upset loss with two lopsided victories.
Both secured All-America status.
UCO’s two-man contingent is 11th in the team standings with 17.5 points. Defending champion Notre Dame (Ohio) leads with 48.5 points, followed by top-ranked St. Cloud State (46.5), California Baptist (41), Nebraska-Kearney (33.5) and host Upper Iowa (33.5).
The two-day tournament concludes with two rounds Saturday.
The championship semifinals and completion of all consolation rounds will start at 10 a.m., followed by the championship finals at 7 p.m.
“Eli just did what he does,” head coach Todd Steidley said. “He’s always on the attack and keeps scoring points. He stays focused on who his next opponent is and doesn’t look ahead.
“I’m really proud of Caleb for bouncing back the way he did after a disappointing loss to start the tournament. He didn’t wrestle well in the first round, but he came back strong and has a chance to come back and get third.”
Hale moved to 22-0 on the season in racking up his 16th and 17th bonus-point wins as he continued to overwhelm every opponent he faced.
The senior standout breezed past fourth-ranked Marcus Povlick of McKendree 11-1 in the quarterfinals, taking control in the first period with an early takedown and four-point near-fall.
Hale, who beat Povlick 3-1 and 7-2 during the regular season, added a takedown, escape, penalty point and riding time point in the final two periods.
He opened the tournament with a 17-0 technical fall over Kutztown’s Austin Petril, collecting two takedowns and a trio of four-point near-falls before ending the match a minute into the second period.
Hale will take on fifth-rated Carlos Jacquez of Lindenwood in the semifinals.
The fourth-rated Cotter fell to unranked Terrance Fanning of Wheeling Jesuit 10-7 in the first round before coming back with a pair of bonus wins.
Cotter picked up a first-period fall in his initial consolation bout, getting a takedown 30 seconds into the match before decking Limestone’s Daniel Bland at the 2:05 mark.
The senior broke away from a 4-4 first-period tie with Findlay’s Mimmo Lytle in the second round with three near-falls in taking a 14-4 lead and cruised to a 15-7 major decision.
Cotter will face No. 7 Damon Sims of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in the consolation finals.