LaCROSSE, Wisc. – Derek Arnold is an All-American again – with plenty of glory still left to chase.
Ursinus College's senior wrestling star advanced to the semifinals of the 157-pound bracket on the first day of competition at the NCAA Division III Championship, cementing All-American status for the second time in his career. A fourth-place finisher at 149 in 2015, Arnold handled Spirngfield's Zach Joseph 11-4 on Friday night to set up a semifinal showdown with top-seeded Bobby Dierna of Cortland State, the defending national champion and the nation's top-ranked wrestler.
Arnold etched his name even deeper into Ursinus wrestling lore, joining Mike Troutman (2005-06) as the only two-time All-Americans in school history. Now, he's just two wins away from becoming the program's first national champion.
Arnold (31-1) missed All-American recognition by a single match at last year's national championship. This time he left no doubt, generally dominating all three of his bouts to stretch his personal winning streak to 31 since dropping his first match of the season.
The fourth seed in the 157-pound bracket, Arnold began his day in the preliminary rounds against Augsburg's Grant Parker, the third-place finisher in the West Region. Arnold jumped all over Parker with a takedown and four near fall points in the first period, then tacked on two escapes and another takedown in the second to seal an 11-2 major decision with riding time.
That set up a Round-of-16 showdown with Oswego State's Rocco Russo, who like Parker is ranked just outside the top 10 in the final d3wrestle.com national rankings. Locked in a scoreless stalemate through two periods, Arnold gained control with a reversal and two near fall points, then rode out the rest of the remaining time to secure his place in the quarterfinals with a 5-0 decision.
Arnold's second victory booked a quarterfinal clash with Joseph, Division III's second-ranked wrestler. Joseph, who was runner-up to Dierna at the Northeast Regional championship, was pushed to the limit in his lone bout, trailing Loras' Jimmy Davis 6-3 before scoring eight points in the second period and sealing a 13-12 decision with riding time.
Joseph wasn't so fortunate this time, as Arnold raced out to a 10-1 lead after the first period. Arnold sandwiched a pair of takedowns around a Joseph escape, then tacked on two- and four-point near falls to build an insurmountable advantage. Joseph found his footing in the second period, closing the gap to 10-4 with a takedown and a stalling penalty. Arnold, however, started the third period on top and stayed there for the whole two minutes, eliminating any hope of a comeback.
Now Arnold gets his toughest test yet. An All-American for the third time, Dierna is 19-0 on the season, and all 19 of his victories have come via major decision (5), technical fall (6), or pin (8). The other semifinal pits unseeded Mark Choinski of Wisconsin-Oshkosh against second-seeded Logan Thomsen of Wartburg.
The semifinals get underway Saturday at 11 a.m.