Recap by Curt Heinrichs
The NCAA wrestling tournament has come to an end with a somewhat predictable outcome: the Penn State Nittany Lions ended up on top to win their 3rd consecutive national title. This time, Penn State was challenged a bit more closely by Oklahoma State. Quentin Wright’s victory sealed the Penn State championship, though Chris Perry’s title put the Cowboys temporarily in the lead.
The Buckeyes had a strong tournament and ended with 3 All-Americans in Logan Stieber (1st place at 133 lbs), Hunter Stieber (3rd at 141 lbs), and Nick Heflin (5th at 174 lbs). As a team, the Buckeyes finished in 6th place with 65 points.
The 125 lb weight class was full of upsets and surprises. Illinois’ Jesse Delgado not only won the Big Ten title this year, but managed to score a title on the biggest stage from the #2 seed over Penn State’s 2 time finalist Nico Megaludis. Delgado used a set of 3 backpoints from a cradle late in the 3rd period to earn the 7-4 victory and his first NCAA title.
Buckeye results: Redshirt senior Nikko Triggas ended his career for the scarlet and gray with his 4th trip to the NCAA tournament. Triggas entered the tournament seeded 11th, but stumbled in the opening round against Stanford’s Evan Silver, losing 5-2 in the 1st round. Nikko put a 10-0 beating on Eric Montoya of Campbell in the 1st consolation round before running into 12th seeded Tyler Cox of Wyoming. Cox defeated Triggas 9-4, thus ending Triggas’ career as a Buckeye. Nikko ends his career as one of the most prolific pinners in Buckeye history, finishing in the top 5 in career pins.
Surprises: I was not alone in being shocked when 3 time NCAA finalist and 2 time champion Matt McDonough of Iowa was not standing on the awards podium on Saturday night. McDonough was riding a 40+ match winning streak heading into the Big Ten tournament, but was derailed by Delgado in the Big Ten finals. Since losing to Delgado 2 weeks ago, McDonough didn’t look like his usual dominant self. He lost to Cornell freshman Nahshon Garrett in the quarterfinals 4-2 in a sudden victory match and looked sluggish throughout. North Dakota State’s Trent Sprenkle beat McDonough 3-1 in the match prior to placement, leaving Matt out of the medals for the first time in his career.
Stieber Fever: do you have it? I do, as did much of the Wells-Fargo Arena on Saturday when Ohio State’s Logan Stieber won his 2nd consecutive NCAA title. Stieber beat fierce rival Tony Ramos of Iowa for the 2nd consecutive tournament after winning the Big Ten title in dramatic fashion a few weeks ago. Stieber won a hotly contested match 7-4 over Ramos in a match that wasn’t free of controversy for the 2nd year in a row. Logan stormed out to a quick lead with a pair of takedowns early on, but Ramos was able to adjust to his pace and stymie Logan’s attack. Stieber was defending a takedown and went to his back momentarily. The Iowa faithful felt that Ramos should have been awarded 2 backpoints, but after video review, the referees determined that no points should be awarded. Stieber had previously defeated Jordan Oliver to earn the 2012 title with a controversial non-call on an Oliver takedown as time expired. Stieber is a tough top wrestler, and I believe he won the first ever Most Dominant Wrestler award for his efforts this season.
Buckeye results: Logan Stieber stayed undefeated and won his 2nd NCAA title.
Surprises: The top 8 seeds all earned All-American accolades, finishing in the top 8. Great job by the seed makers.
#2 seeded Kendric Maple kept his undefeated record in tact, winning his first national championship over Edinboro’s Mitchell Port. Maple won 4-3 in a fairly dominant performance.
Buckeye results: #1 seeded Hunter Stieber was unable to match his brother’s championship performance, but was able to improve on last year’s 4th place finish at the NCAA tournament with a 3rd place finish. Stieber’s first and only loss for the season came in the semifinals to Port, who won by a 7-6 score. Stieber nearly lost in the quarterfinals, eking out a narrow win over Franklin & Marshall’s Richard Durso 9-8 with a late takedown. Stieber scored a major decision in the consolation finals over The Citadel’s Undrakhbayar Khishignyam (commonly known as the easier to spell “Ugi”) by the score of 12-4.
Surprises: Iowa’s Mark Ballweg fell one match short of All-American status, losing to Maple in the quarters and then Cornell’s Mike Nevinger in the 4th consolation round. Ballweg wrestled well at the Big Ten championships and was seeded 7th at the NCAA tournament. Though Ballweg wasn’t one of the homerun hitters for Iowa, I was a bit surprised to see him fall short of the podium, especially after wrestling well in the Big Ten tournament.
After being spurned by the aforementioned non-call against Logan Stieber in last year’s finals, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver earned his 2nd NCAA title with a win over Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain 3-2. Chamberlain was able to defend against most of Oliver’s attacks, but Oliver maintained a high volume of offense and was able to score a late takedown to win the match. Oliver finishes as a 4 time All-American with 3 finals appearances in his last 3 years and a 4th place finish as a freshman. Oliver is another Cowboy wrestler (following in the footsteps of Okie State’s Johny Hendricks, who is now one of my favorite MMA fighters because the dude brings a serious boom with his left hand) that I really don’t want to like, but I enjoy watching him because of his high-paced style.
Buckeye Results: Late replacement Ian Paddock replaced previous All-American Cam Tessari in the lineup at the Big Ten tournament, much to the surprise of many of the Buckeye faithful. Paddock is now a 3 time NCAA qualifier, but was unable to generate any momentum in this year’s tournament. Paddock competed in the pigtail of the 149 lb bracket against 3 seeded Donnie Vinson of Binghamton and then fell to Cleveland native David Habat, ending his run in the consis.
Surprises: Penn State’s Andrew Alton did not reach the podium, only winning 1 match in the consolation bracket. Alton was knocked off in the 1st round by Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt (more on him later), defeated Daniel Young of Army, and then was eliminated by TSUN’s Eric Grajales. Grajales was then knocked out by Donnie Vinson, thereby leaving Grajales off of the podium. Here was my reaction. Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt got hot at the right time despite not being seeded. Houdashelt bumped off the #11 and #6 seeded wrestlers en route to the semifinals. Houdashelt finished in 6th place, earning All-American credentials.
Derek St. John of Iowa improved on his runner up performance from a year ago and won his first national title with a 3-2 win over Northwestern’s Jason Welch. This was one of the most wide-open weight
classes heading into the tournament, but DSJ was able to stay perfect against the ever-funky Welch. St. John was (SPOILER ALERT) Iowa’s only champion in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Buckeye Results: Columbus native Josh Demas knocked off the #10 seeded Roger Pena and former high school teammate #7 seeded Jesse Dong before falling to eventual champion DSJ in the quarterfinals. Demas fell to Clarion’s #5 seeded James Fleming, falling short of the medal round by 1 match.
Surprises: Nebraska’s James Green earned the 4th seed, but lost his first round match. In the consolation bracket, he rattled off 4 straight bonus point victories before a loss, earning 7th place for the tournament. Joseph Napoli of Lehigh lost his first 2 matches and didn’t win any matches, despite being the #3 seed.
This was the clash of the titans, with the tournament ending at this weight class. Cornell’s Kyle Dake won his 4th NCAA title, becoming only the 3rd wrestler to do so in Division I history and the first to do it at 4 different weight classes, defeating Penn State’s points machine David Taylor in the finals. Dake had a late takedown to seal the 5-4 victory in what may have been the most anticipated final in NCAA championship history.
Buckeye Results: Freshman Mark Martin had the unfortunate draw of starting his tournament against Kid Dynamite Kyle Dake. Martin slowed the bout down and only lost to Dake 3-0. Martin won 2 bouts in the consis before falling to Michael Moreno of Iowa State (but the Buckeyes would have the last laugh against Iowa State this weekend, right Aaron Craft?). A 2-2 record at his first NCAA championships will certainly give Martin something to build on next year.
Surprises: David Taylor of Penn State is an absolute freak. The kid scores points as easily as anyone I’ve ever seen. He gave Dake a great run, and will cruise to his 2nd NCAA title next year. Taylor earned 4 straight falls, including a 0:24 second fall against Conrad Polz in the quarters. Taylor is undoubtedly one of the best wrestlers in NCAA history, and should be commended for butting heads with Dake instead of going up or down in weight in order to win a title.
Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry proved that his #1 seed was justified when he won his first NCAA title over Penn State’s Matt Brown 2-1 in the tiebreaker round. Perry is the brother of former NCAA champion Mark Perry and is the nephew of his coach, the legendary John Smith. Like 157, this was a wide open weight class, but 174 had a number of wrestlers that could have won a title. Any of the top 8 seeds could have conceivably wrestled for a championship on Saturday night without turning any heads.
Buckeye Results: Nick Heflin of the Buckeyes took eventual champion Perry to the brink of defeat in the quarterfinals, but was unable to escape from the bottom and lost 3-2. Heflin then won 2 matches in the consolation bracket before falling to rival Logan Storley of Minnesota in the consi semifinals. Heflin pinned mustachioed Iowa wrestler Mike Evans to finish 5th. Heflin has a long way to go if a mustache contest between he and Evans breaks out. There’s always next year.
Surprises: Perry went to extra wrestling in each of his last 3 bouts en route to winning the title. 6 of the All-Americans in this weight class were representing Big Ten schools.
Ed Ruth of Penn State did what Ed Ruth does and won his 2nd consecutive NCAA title with a 12-4 win over Robert Hamlin in the finals. Ruth put on a takedown clinic as he is prone to doing. Ruth will be back next year to likely win his 3rd title. The guy is on another level.
Buckeye Results: Senior 4 time NCAA qualifier Cody Magrum went 1-2 in his final run at the NCAA tournament. Magrum is a feel-good story, having been beaten out for the starting spot for most of the season by Kenny Courts. More important than his wresting achievements, Magrum was able to excel at a high level in the classroom, earning multiple Academic All-American awards throughout his career. While athletic achievements are important, Magrum has the opportunities to reap the benefits of his academic achievements for the rest of his life. Congratulations to Cody on an outstanding career both on the mat and in the classroom as well.
Surprises: The top 4 seeds advanced to the semifinals. Great work seed makers!
Penn State’s Quentin Wright matched up with Dustin Kilgore of Kent State in a matchup of previous NCAA champions. In a matchup of opposing styles, Wright was able to change angles and take Kilgore down and he won 8-6. With Kilgore being a Berea, Ohio, native, I really wanted him to win and was disappointed when he lost. Wright is a funky wrestler, unique for the upper weights and gives opponents a hard time matchup-wise. Kilgore took an Olympic redshirt last year, and will likely have an excellent international career competing for the US.
Buckeye Results: After wrestling a great Big Ten tournament, I had high hopes for Andrew Campolattano. Camp lost to Micah Burak of Penn and then Jace Bennett of Cornell, cutting his run short. Campolattano is an explosive wrestler, and has many good matches ahead of him.
Surprises: I was pretty much in shock when Camp went 2 and out. Matt Wilps of Pitt is built like a G.I. Joe and wears a halo-style headgear. He really strongly resembles Schute from Vision Quest.
Minnesota’s tradition of fine heavyweights continues as Tony Nelson won his 2nd consecutive national title. Nelson defeated Northwestern’s Mike McMullan 6-2.
Buckeye results: 265 was the only weight that a Buckeye did not qualify for the tournament.
Surprises: The championship bout was surprisingly (to me) entertaining. I typically don’t enjoy the heavyweights unless they’re like Tommy Rowlands or J.D. Bergman and score lots of points. To me, most elite heavyweights are like dancing bears and 1-0 or 2-0 bouts bore me. Nelson and McMullan had a nice match and scored 8 combined points. As my favorite Twitter follow Mark Niemann said a time or 2 (@cruiser96), Alan Gelogaev of Oklahoma State wore his singlet backwards in the NCAA semifinals. If you check the hash tag #hissingletwasbackwards on Twitter, 90% of them are probably Coach Niemann’s.
With the conclusion of the NCAA tournament, that brings an end to the regular wrestling coverage for the year, but I’ll be periodically updating you with recruiting news and notes during the offseason. You can follow me on Twitter @CurtHeinrichs for college football, MMA, and Cleveland sports musings. I’d give me a follow if I were you. Also, thank you to the staff at Eleven Warriors for the opportunity to cover the Buckeyes and thank you to the readers. You guys are the best!