Clint Long enjoys taking jabs at Byron Tate for not pinning anyone.

Tate, in turn, counters the former Clinton  coach and says he gets his share of falls.

Tate, the former Clinton High School wrestler, on Friday showed everyone in the La Crosse Center that he can he can leave opponents flat on their backs.

In a search for his third national title at 197 pounds, Tate recorded a pair of pins Friday and moved into today's semifinals at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships.

"Those were two big victories," he said. "I'm trying to win team and individual titles. I was trying to get pins today. If I do that, I'm pretty sure we'll be in the lead."

His assessment was correct. The Knights put five wrestlers in the semifinals, eight of their wrestlers — including Tate and former Central DeWitt athlete Dylan Azinger — guaranteed themselves All-America status and Wartburg built a 22-point cushion in the team competition. The defending national champions have a 70-48 lead over host Wisconsin-La Crosse, with Augsburg (Minn.) another point back and Coe fourth with 43.

"I feel really good, confident," Tate said. He pinned Darren Faber of Wheaton (Ill.) in 2:57 in his first match, then stuck Adam Latella of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 3:50 in the quarterfinals. "The guy (Latella) was dead tired, so I figured I might as well pin him."

Azinger lost his first match at 184 pounds — 4-3 to Greg Rhoads of Wabash (Ind.) — then won twice to stay alive.

"It feels great," Azinger said. "I didn't quite reach my goals, but that's in the past. I've got to do it for the team."

Azinger, a senior who could get one more year of eligibility, came back to beat Samuel Pennisi of Chicago 20-6 and Mitchell Hagen of St. John's (Minn.) 8-2 in the wrestlebacks.

"I was taking bad shots (in the loss)," Azinger said. "In the next two matches I picked the shots I was going to take."

A third area wrestler, Tim Hood of Morrison, Ill., fell short in his quest to repeat as an All-American at 125 pounds for Cornell.

Hood finished his first match with a three-point near fall to beat Christopher Parker of Centenary (N.J.) 7-5. But, the seventh-seeded Hood then suffered a 5-3 loss to Paul Bewak of Johns Hopkins and was pinned in 3:16 by Charlie Frankel of Delaware Valley (Pa.) in the wrestlebacks.

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