116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
EVANSTON, Ill. — The trip home promises to be much more pleasant than the one here for the Cal Baptist University wrestling team and Coach Lennie Zalesky.
Of course, it couldn't get much worse.
The Lancers endured frustrating flight delays only to arrive in the early morning hours the first day of Northwestern's Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. The NCAA Division-II program will tote home a Midlands medal after senior heavyweight Joe Fagiano placed eighth Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
With inclement weather moving through the Midwest Monday, Zalesky said a four-hour flight turned into a 12-hour excursion, including a six-hour wait to be cleared to fly to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
'We left,' said Zalesky, noting they got off the plane once in California and missed the first clearance forcing everyone to remain on the rest of the delay. 'Once we got to Chicago, they had us sit on the runway for another two hours, because they couldn't find a place to put us.
'We had a four-hour flight as well. Everything was slow, getting a rental car. I think we got in at 12:30 a.m. to the hotel.'
The Lancers had returned from a mandatory week off, according to NCAA D-II rules. Travelers were impatient anyway and his wrestlers were dealing with an impending weigh-in Tuesday morning.
'They handled it well, especially the guys who were cutting weight,' Zalesky said. 'They worked out that night and went to bed around 3 a.m. They got up around 5:30 a.m. to get them over here (arena).'
Fagiano, a native of Chicago, finished with a happy homecoming, securing the program's first Midlands medal. In doing so, Fagiano beat Oregon State's Amarveer Dhesi, 3-1, in sudden victory. Dhesi is coached by Zalesky's brother and former Iowa three-time NCAA champion and coach Jim Zalesky.
Fagiano, a former NCAA qualifier for Indiana and Hofstra, placed seventh at the Cliff Keen Invite in Las Vegas in early December, but suffered a knee injury that kept him out until the Midlands.
'It was good to place, especially since he hasn't been working out for six weeks,' Zalesky said. 'He took seventh at Vegas and he injured his knee there, so he's been out since then.
'He had a great tournament anyway.'
Zalesky, a 1977 state champion for Cedar Rapids Prairie and former three-time All-American and assistant coach for the University of Iowa, is in his fifth season leading the Lancers. He said it is the third season since the transition from NAIA. Even though he still considers Cedar Rapids and Shueyville his true home, Zalesky is happy with the program in Riverside, Calif., drawing in national recruits and a talented prep scene in the state.
'It's a good place to have a team,' said Zalesky, who coached UC Davis for nine seasons before the program was dropped. 'There are a lot of California kids that need a place to wrestle.'
MOORE IS BETTER
Northern Iowa 165-pounder Cooper Moore's tournament ended earlier than expected Tuesday.
Moore, seeded fifth, opened with a 16-0 technical fall and then lost by injury default to Buffalo's Tyler Rill after just 1:35 had elapsed. Moore experienced a blow to the head and then wasn't allowed to continue when training staff determined he didn't pass new concussion protocol, removing judgment from the situation.
'It's a whole different world now with any head injury or suspected concussion,' UNI coach Doug Schwab said. 'It's way different from what it ever used to be. If that was 10 or 15 years ago, you'd just 'Are you ready to go? OK.' So, it's good. You're thinking of the safety of the athlete.'
Moore entered the tournament with a 6-3 mark. He is a two-time NCAA qualifier and Mid-American Conference champion.
'It's a bad situation, because here you have a guy that I think can win the dang tournament,' Schwab said. 'You have to be smart. It's just the way it is.'
The Panthers were also without All-American 125-pounder Dylan Peters, who injury defaulted out of the Cliff Keen in Vegas.
'Midlands isn't the end all,' Schwab said. 'March still is what you're building for, so you have to give some guys time to get healthy.'
STEVENS GOES INTO MIDLANDS HALL
Wrestling announcer and Cedar Rapids native Sandy Stevens was one of two inducted into the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships Hall of Fame. Stevens, now of Glen Ellyn, Ill., has announced events across the country for 40 years, announcing her first Midlands tournament in 1984. Stevens, who has announced the NCAA Championships the last 34 years, was recognized in a ceremony before the final round.
She was inducted with Midlands tournament coordinator Jack Leese.
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