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Small colleges: Elmhurst wrestlers on serious roll

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Updated: February 25, 2013 12:55PM

With a No. 2 national ranking, a second-place finish in the National Duals in Springfield two weeks ago and a victory last weekend in the Hanke Invitational it hosts each year, Elmhurst’s wrestling team is on track for a special season. By Bluejays standards, that’s saying something.

In 10 years under coach Steve Marianetti, Elmhurst has won five CCIW championships and has had five top-10 finishes in NCAA Division III. That includes last season, when the Bluejays finished seventh in the nation. That squad included two All-Americans: Joe Rau, who finished third in the NCAA meet at 184 pounds, and Dalton Bullard, who finished third at 133.

Rau, Bullard and national qualifier Ryan Earley are seniors this season, helping Elmhurst to its lofty ranking.

“We knew we had a special group,” said Marianetti, the NCAA Division I champion at 150 pounds for Illinois in 1995. “We have a lot of senior leadership. That’s always the tough thing, to get that many seniors at one time hitting on all cylinders. Then we had Mike Benefiel transfer in for his last year, and he’s a guy I’ve known for a long time. He’s wrestled for Oklahoma State, so he comes in with a lot of experience. And then we have some younger guys who have stepped up tremendously, maybe even more than I expected.”

Elmhurst athletes have been named most outstanding wrestler in the meets of the last two weekends. First it was Earley, undefeated at 141 after qualifying for the NCAAs at 149 last year. Then in the Hanke meet, it was Rau, back at 184.

“Joe has probably been the face of this program because he placed at the Midlands tournament last year, which is a huge honor,” Marianetti said. “He’s coming in as a two-time All-American. He spends his time traveling around the country, training. The guy lives it, so he’s a great example of what hard work can bring.”

Football change

Elmhurst has promoted defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Joe Adam to head football coach. He replaces Tim Lester, who resigned last week to become quarterbacks coach at Syracuse. Lester coached the Bluejays to a 10-2 record this season, including Elmhurst’s first trip to the NCAA Division III playoffs. Adam, the 18th head coach in school history, joined the staff in 2007.

Cougars on rise

After big victories at Cardinal Strich on Saturday in Milwaukee, the St. Xavier men’s and women’s basketball teams moved up in the NAIA Division II rankings. The men (19-4, 15-2 CCAC) moved up two spots to No. 16 after senior point guard Roosevelt Green’s 22 points and five assists helped upend the then-No. 3 Wolves 66-62. Cardinal Strich (20-3, 16-1) dropped to No. 5 in the latest poll.

In a battle of ranked women’s teams, Suzie Broski had 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Cougars (18-3, 13-3) topped the Wolves 67-60. St. Xavier moved up four spots to No. 8, while Cardinal Strich (19-4, 13-3) dropped one to No. 15.

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