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    UNO wins third straight Division II title

    Related Link: Results/Brackets

    KEARNEY, Neb. -- Three was the magic number on Saturday night for the top-ranked UNO Maverick wrestling team, as the Mavs claimed their third straight national championship after three individual titles by the Maverick seniors at the NCAA Division II National Championships at the UNK Health & Sports Center.

    Mario Morgan, Ryan Pankoke and Aaron Denson all finished off magical senior seasons with their first career national championships. The trio lifted UNO to its seventh national championship in school history, the sixth in the last eight years and third in a row.

    UNO had not had three individual champions in the same year since 2006. It's the fifth time in school history that the Mavs have claimed three titles in the same year.

    The Mavs entered the final round with 90.5 points, four points ahead of St. Cloud State, the only team within striking distance. But UNO earned 12 points with its three victories for a total of 102.5. St. Cloud State got one national champion to finish with 90.5 points. Augustana finished third at 81.5.

    With UNO clinging to just a four-point leading entering the finals, No. 1 Mario Morgan got UNO off to a tremendous start with a 12-5 decision over No. 3 Dalton Jensen of UNK at 141 pounds. Morgan earned a takedown after an exciting scramble to begin the match, then earned another in the first period after Jensen escaped to take a 4-1 lead. Jensen earned a penalty point and an escape in the second period to draw within 4-3 heading into the third.

    In the final frame, Morgan escaped from the down position, then took Jensen down and added two near-fall points to take a controlling 9-3 lead. Morgan set Jensen free, then took him down one more time in the match. Morgan earned a riding time bonus point for the 12-5 margin, earning his third win in three tries over Jensen this season.

    Morgan, a four-time nationals qualifier who finished second in 2010, third in 2009 and did not place in 2008, ended his season with a 30-4 record and ended his career with a 130-38 record, placing him in a tie for ninth in school history in all-time wins.

    Top-ranked Ryan Pankoke clinched the team title for the Mavericks with a 3-2 decision over No. 6 Luke Rynish of Wisconsin-Parkside at 174 pounds. Rynish, who was ranked No. 1 most of the season, escaped from the down position to take a 1-0 lead in the second period, but Pankoke took the lead with a takedown. Rynish tied it up entering the third period with an escape, but Pankoke held a 1:16 advantage in riding time.

    In the third period, Rynish rode Pankoke for 17 seconds before Pankoke escaped, just barely long enough to eliminate the riding time factor. But Pankoke's escape was the final point he would need, as he countered any attack Rynish threw at him.

    Pankoke, who finished third place in 2010 in his only other nationals appearance, ended the season with a 41-2 record and a 116-29 career record. The Beaver Crossing, Neb., native led the Mavs in wins and closed his career with 34 straight wins.

    At 184 pounds, No. 3 Aaron Denson broke through for his first national title with a 6-4 decision over No. 2 Charlie Pipher of Western State. The Millard South grad took a quick 2-0 lead on a takedown, then accumulated 2:30 of riding time in a dominating first period.

    Denson added two more points in the second period on a takedown before Pipher reversed Denson to make it 4-2. Pipher tied the match with a takedown in the third period. However, Pipher needed to make up more than a minute of riding time, so instead chose to cut Denson loose for an escape. Denson held on to the 5-4 lead, turning away all of Pipher's attacks down the stretch.

    Denson finished the season with a 34-6 record and a 123-31 record for his career. Denson placed seventh as a freshman in 2008, second as a sophomore in 2009 and did not place in 2010, before adding the national championship to his resume this year.

    Other UNO All-Americans
    Earlier in the day in the consolation bracket, top-ranked George Ivanov bounced back from his first round loss on Friday to win five straight matches to finish in third place. Ivanov defeated No. 7 Jordan Shields of Mercyhurst to win the third-place match and secure 10 team points for the Mavericks. Ivanov finished his outstanding sophomore season with a 35-4 record while earning his second top-three finish in a row.

    No. 1 Esai Dominguez finished seventh at 149 pounds after a forfeit win in the seventh-place match. Dominguez was knocked into the seventh-place match by Jacob Horn of St. Cloud State on Saturday morning, 5-4. Dominguez ended his third straight All-American season with a 39-5 record.

    No. 3 Matt Baker fell to Carl Broghammer of Upper Iowa in a 3-2 decision at 197 pounds on Saturday morning to also be sent to the seventh-place match. Baker ended up eighth after falling to Daniel Stevenson of Findlay, 2-1, in the seventh-place match.

    Taylor Escamilla lost his semifinal match at 285 pounds to top-ranked Jacob Kahnke of St. Cloud State, 4-1. Escamilla was then defeated by No. 5 Jacob Southwick of Ashland in the consolation bracket, 2-1. Escamilla finished sixth after dropping a 3-1 decision to No. 7 Christopher Dempsey of Pitt-Johnstown in the fifth-place match.

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