March 10, 2011
Red Dragons hope to shine at nationals
All five of Cortland’s NCAA entries have chance to place
SUNY Cortland’s Corey James is certainly a physical oddity for someone who wrestles among the behemoths who make up the 285-pound weight class on the collegiate level.
Packing all of his pounds on a squat 5-foot-7 frame, the sophomore from Kingston offers a unique challenge for any opponent — which James hopes works to his benefit when the NCAA Division III Championships get underway on Friday morning at the La Crosse Center in Wisconsin.
James is among a Cortland contingent of five who arrived in land of lakes yesterday with hopes of standing upon the medal podium when the two-day event winds up on Saturday night.
Three of those Red Dragons are seeded in their weight classes. Cortland senior Aljamain Sterling (24-5) is seeded third at 141 pounds, sophomore Jared Myhrberg (26-2) fifth at 197 pounds and James (28-1) sixth at 285 pounds. And Cortland coach Brad Bruhn — who grew up a half-hour away from the La Crosse Center and did undergraduate work at tournament host Wisconsin-La Crosse before also coaching there — feels his other two national competitors could have easily been seeded, too.
Senior Dave Colagiovanni (11-4) is unseeded at 125 pounds, as is sophomore Troy Sterling (29-8) — Aljamain’s ‘little brother’ — at 157 pounds.
“If we get them all to the podium it would be impossible not to be in the Top 10,” said Coach Bruhn of Cortland’s chances to be among the top schools on hand.
“I’m about as confident as I’ve ever been going there. At least we’re not fighting anything else except for the people we’re going up against,” he added, saying the week started with his team healthy as can expected at this juncture of a long season. “They’re all on the right page physically and mentally right now, so hopefully we can keep it going over the next couple of days.”
Wrestling starts Friday with the preliminary round at 11 a.m. and continues throughout the day. The semifinals and consolations will get things going at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with the title matches spotlighted on one mat at 7 p.m. that evening.
— James has not lost since a season-opening overtime setback in the Ithaca Invitational semifinals back in November, and qualified for nationals by winning the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Championship title at 285 pounds with a 6-2 victory over Ithaca College’s Matthew Mahon in the finals.
He will face Tom Bouressa (23-6) from Concordia-Moorehead in the opening round, and any James opponent can’t afford to make the assumption that this shorter foe is a pushover.
“He’s a tough guy to wrestle because of the way he’s put together,” says Coach Bruhn of James. “He’s got very quick feet and he’s explosive, though he doesn’t look it. He’s way more athletic than he looks, and the big thing about him is that throughout the year his confidence has grown.”
Though he missed some key matches because of a January shoulder injury, James continued to make strides once he return to action.
“He knows he has the confidence that he will score and guys will have trouble scoring against him,” said Bruhn. “He definitely has the confidence now to go out there and attack a little bit more. We’ve seen it in his matches, that if he attacks he’s hard to stop.”
John Helgerson (41-4) from Wartburg is the top seed at 285.
— Third-seeded Aljamian Sterling got to nationals as a wild-card entry after losing the 141-pound ECWC title match to Ithaca’s Jeremy Stierly. The upperclassman out of Uniondale is hoping for a rematch with the second-seeded Stierly in the semifinals. In the first round he will face the winner of the preliminary match-up of Jacob Narveson (36-10) from the Milwaukee School of Engineering against Nick Garber (20-4) from Waynesburg.
Stierly is the only Division III wrestler to beat the older Sterling brother this season, and that was a narrow 2-1 decision.
“We thought we had him in the conference tournament,” said Bruhn of that close call. “The 141 class is just very, very deep and there are four or five kids who can win that. Al’s been there so he knows what it’s all about.”
Sterling was a wild-card entry at 133 pounds a year ago.
l The fifth-seeded Myhrberg, out of Queensbury, has no losses against Division III foes this season at 197 pounds. But this is a loaded weight class led by defending champion Byron Tate (38-1) from Wartburg in Iowa.
If Myhrberg can get past first round foe Chad Gregory (15-8) from Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a quarterfinal match-up fourth seed Ryan Malo (37-8) from Williams College looms — with Tate probably awaiting that winner. Myhrberg met Malo in a pre-season tournament, so he’s familiar with the fourth seed.
“Jared had a cold in the conference tournament and he didn’t look as good as he could have,” said Bruhn, though Myhrberg handled Lycoming’s Russell Korbul 10-5 for the ECWC crown. “He’s got that through his system and he’s wrestling well now. He’s still learning technique, but he’s powerful and flexible. He has all those traits in there and he can score points in a lot of different places.”
— Senior Colagiovanni will be making his third appearance at nationals, earning this final trip with an overtime decision victory over Ithaca College’s Max Cohen two weekends ago.
The Mahopac native has held his own this winter against some of the 133-pounders who will be at nationals, which is why Coach Bruhn felt he should have been considered for a seed at 125 pounds. Having only 15 matches going into nationals, injuries and a concussion among the physical woes he’s experienced, may wind up helping Colagiovanni.
“He’s wrestling as well as I’ve seen him wrestle. Keeping him out of harm’s way may have been the best thing for him,” said Bruhn, hoping having less wear and tear will be a plus for his team captain.
Colagiovanni didn’t get the best of draws – wrestlers drawn blind into the brackets after the top eight seeds are handed out. He will face eighth-seed Alex Crown (30-2) from Waynesburg in the opening round. That winner will most likely meet top-seed Clayton Rush (31-1) from Coe College in the quarterfinals.
— The unseeded Troy Sterling is in the same situation as Colagiovanni at 157 pounds. He will take on eighth-seed Dat Twito (17-5) from Merchant Marine in the first round, with top-seed Derek Brenon (23-1) from Ithaca the expected quarterfinal round foe.
Having wrestled well against Brenon in the past, including a 3-2 loss in the ECWC title match, gives the younger Sterling the confidence he can get things done in this weight class. “He believes he can beat anyone right now,” says his coach.
Confidence will be crucial in carrying all of Cortland’s matmen through the tournament. “For the first time in a few years, all five could place,” noted Bruhn of the Red Dragons competing, eager to see where his team could wind up in the final team standings.
The Cortland coach is also happy to be back in his old stomping grounds.
“I’m excited about being back in the area,” says Bruhn, hoping that adds some extra Cortland rooters to the crowd. “It was a great place to go to school and where it’s set up it’s very convenient. You won’t have to be running around trying to find things.”
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