Alma, Mich. – The 2018-19 Alma College wrestling season came to a close at the NCAA Division III Championships with juniors Brendan Ladd (Ortonville, Mich. / Brandon) and Zachary Cooper (Chippewa Hills, Mich. / Whitehall) both earning All-American honors. This was the second straight year Ladd claimed the recognition while Cooper, in his first season with the Scots, tied the program record for wins in a season with 36.
This season was a special one for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association as the conference was sponsoring the sport of wrestling for the first time in 30 years. Alma ended up finishing in a tie for second place in the league with a 1-2 record against MIAA opponents. Ten wrestlers, one for each weight class, were given the honor as All-MIAA. Four Scots earned the honor in Ladd and Cooper as well as sophomore Austin Wieczorek (Kentwood, Mich. / East Kentwood) and freshman Jacob Ransom (Traverse City, Mich. / Traverse City West). Ladd, Cooper and Wieczorek all went undefeated in conference duals while Ransom was 2-1 in his rookie season.
The Scots began their regular season on November 1with a 21-16 victory at Davenport University. Alma trailed by a point heading into the final two bouts of the dual but wins by both sophomore Austin Fox (Fort Worth, Texas / Timber Creek) and Ransom put the Scots at 1-0 on the year. Two days later, in the first tournament of the season, Cooper earned his first of six first-place finishes he would have during the season and would end up being named MIAA Wrestler of the Week for his 4-0 day. Freshman Jayce Kuehnlein (St. Louis, Mich. / St. Louis) also ran the table to a championship at his weight.
After finishing fourth at the Trine Invitational, Alma went to the Olivet College Comet Duals where they went 1-2 in three matchups. In their lone victory, the Scots won, 24-23, over the University of the Ozarks (AR). Sophomore Austin Popp (Clinton, Mich. / Clinton) earned a big six points with a pin at 197 pounds while Ransom was able to hold of his opponent from scoring any bonus points to lock up the win.
The calendar year was wrapped up with two tournaments in early December. Freshman Dillon Stevenson (Mesa, Ariz. / Desert Ridge) placed eighth in his first appearance at the college level at the Ohio Northern Invitational while Ladd took home his first of what would be four tournament championships during the season at the North Central Invitational.
Alma rang in the new year with finishing in a tie for first place at the Waynesburg Invitational. The effort was led by championships by Ladd and Cooper. Sophomore Mason Priest (Grandville, Mich. / Grandville) made it to the 141 pound final where he lost to Ladd. Kuehnlein claimed third at 157 pounds. It was the first time the Scots had finished atop a tournament's standings in over three years.
MIAA action began on January 10 with the Scots hosting Adrian College. Alma dominated the dual to 29-12 victory that was capped off by a pin by Ransom. In their next conference dual, nationally-ranked Olivet College came to Art Smith Arena. Both teams won five matches each but the Comets pulled off the win, 19-18. Ransom looked to take the victory for the Scots in the final bout of the night as he tried to pin his opponent in the final seconds but had to settle for just a decision win. The Scots finished up their dual season with a loss to Trine University putting their overall record at 3-4 for the year.
In its final action before Regionals, Alma hosted the Mid-State Championships where it finished in second place amongst 12 competing schools. Ladd and Cooper were champion wrestlers at their respective weights while Fox, making his first appearance since November, also shined with his first ever first place finish.
The Scots sent 10 wrestlers to the Central Regional. Ladd, Cooper, Fox and freshman Dylan Seaton (Port Huron, Mich. / Port Huron Northern) all made it to the second day with their eyes on making the NCAA Championships. Ladd and Cooper ended up going undefeated to finish as the top wrestler in the region at their weights while Fox's and Seaton's seasons ended with a sixth and eighth place finish respectively. As a team, Alma took home seventh place, six spots up from last year's regionals.
Ladd and Cooper both ranked in the top five of their class heading into the National Tournament. Ladd's 29 bout winning streak ended in the first day of Nationals while Cooper suffered a disqualification loss in his first match of NCAA's. But both bounced back with wins to advance to the final eight at their weight, clinching All-American honors. Cooper ended up going 4-2 to earn fifth place at 149 pounds while Ladd went 3-2 for a seventh-place finish at 141 pounds. The Scots placed 17th amongst 74 schools in the team standings for their second-highest finish at the Championships in program history.
Alma only has one member of their senior class in Victor Sosa (Wilmington, N.C. / Eugene Ashley). Sosa placed sixth at 125 pounds in the Alma Open on January 19.