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What teams left the NCAAs happy … or disappointed?
By Mike Finn
When wrestling coaches and athletes show up for the three-day NCAA national tournament, they arrive with high hopes.
Unfortunately, not all teams leave the Nationals feeling the same way. The following is a look at key NCAA Division I teams and how they may have felt after the 2012 NCAAs, which wrapped up March 17 in St. Louis, Mo.
• Penn State — Not only did the Nittany Lions defend its national title but coach Cael Sanderson returns two of three champions — 165-pound David Taylor and 174-pound Ed Ruth — and the other three All-Americans: 125-pound runner-up Nico Megaludis, 157-pound Dylan Alton (3rd) and 184-pound runner-up Quentin Wright (who won the 2011 national championship).
The only question for 2013 is who will fill the varsity spots. Expect Andrew Alton (the twin brother of Dylan who redshirted after winning the Schalles Award for pins in 2011) to move up to 149 pounds and replace 2012 national champ Frank Molinaro, who graduated with three All-American honors.
There is some thought that 197-pound true freshman Morgan McIntosh might redshirt and that either Wright might move up to 197 and make room for freshman Matt Brown to compete at 184 or at 174 where he actually gave Ruth his toughest competition of the year.
• Minnesota — The second-place Gophers had their best national tournament since winning the NCAAs in 2007 and heavyweight champion Anthony Nelson heads up a list that includes five of seven All-Americans returning for the 2012-2013 season.
That includes a talented freshmen class which gave coach J Robinson three more All-Americans to his quarter-of-a-century resume: Chris Dardanes, who finished fourth at 133 as a No. 10 seed; Dylan Ness, who finished second at 149 pounds as a No. 7 seed and Logan Storley, the 2011 Junior Hodge winner, who finished sixth at 174. And don’t forget 184-pound sophomore Kevin Steinhaus, who earned his second AA honor with a fifth-place finish in St. Louis.
• Cornell — This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for coach Rob Koll, yet the Big Red produced five All-Americans, three of whom claimed championships: 157-pound junior Kyle Dake (who became the first wrestler to win three NCAA titles at three different weights) and seniors Steve Bosak (184) and Cam Simaz (197). Also walking on the medal stand for the red men with the big C on their chests were senior Frank Perrelli (4th at 125) and sophomore Mike Nevinger (who finished seventh at 141 as an unseeded wrestler).
Koll also returns three other national qualifiers: 133-pound sophomore Nick Aurjau, 149-sophomore Chris Villalonga, 165-pound Marshall Peppelman.
• Ohio State — A year ago, the Buckeyes finished in 29th place so coach Tom Ryan looked to the youth on his team and redshirts in 2012 as OSU featured seven freshmen … and three left St. Louis as All-Americans. They accounted for all but one of the Buckeyes’ All-American medals.
Those three OSU freshmen all hail from Monroeville, Ohio, led by 2012 national champion Logan Stieber (who defeated 2011 champ Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State) for the 133-pound title as a redshirt freshman … and was joined by younger brother and true freshman Hunter Stieber (6th at 141) and true rookie Cam Tessari (4th at 149).
Also returning for the Buckeyes is junior-to-be Nick Heflin, who finished fifth at 174 pounds … as well as 2012 national qualifiers: freshman Johnni DiJulius (125), freshman Josh Demas (157), freshman Andrew Campolattano (197) and sophomore Peter Capone (Hwt).
• Appalachian State and Binghamton — These programs don’t make news that frequently at the national tournament and Binghamton has only been competing on the NCAA Division I level for four years.
But each team gave their programs a historical footnote in St. Louis:
Appalachian State of the Southern Conference turned in its highest finish (21st) and Austin Trotman (3rd at 184) and Kyle Blevins (4th at 165) produced the program’s first AA honors since 2003 and the school’s most since 1941, when the North Carolina school earned two All-American honors (from Charles Parks, 4th at 121, and Al Crawford, 2nd at 175).
Unfortunately for coach JohnMark Bentley, both Trotman and Blevins were seniors in 2012.
Binghamton, which nearly saw its program in upstate New York cut, meanwhile claimed its highest finish (14th) ever in marking the first time the Bearcats claimed as many as two All-American honors in the same tournament in 149-pound Donnie Vinson (who won seven straight wrestlebacks to claim third) and heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski (8th). And what makes this even better is that both wrestlers return for coach Pat Popolizio.
• Iowa — For the second straight year, the Hawkeyes finished third in the national tournament, but third place is not where coach Tom Brands wants to be, especially trailing two conference foes who also topped the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten tournament two weeks earlier.
While junior Matt McDonough, a three-time national finalist, claimed his second national championship at 125 pounds; senior Montell Marion (141) and sophomore Derek St. John (157) finished second; 133-pound Tony Ramos (3rd); heavyweight Bobby Telford (5th) and 174-pound Ethen Lofthouse (7th) helped the Hawkeyes claim the second-most All-American honors, but there were at least two other national qualifiers who left disappointed.
Freshman Mike Evans was seeded fifth at 165 pounds but lost in the second round to No. 12 seed Paul Gillespie of Hofstra before he was eliminated in his first wrestleback. Junior Grant Gambrall was unseeded at 184 pounds after the 2011 All-American dealt with the effects of an off-season concussion, and lost in the first round to Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder and was eliminated in his third consolation bout.
Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, all but Marion return in 2013.
• All four Big 12 teams — This power conference is going through a bit of a flux now after Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Missouri is conference-less (wrestling-wise) after the school announced it would join the SEC, which does not have wrestling.
Despite these question marks, including where the remaining three Big 12 schools and newcomer West Virginia will try to qualify for the 2013 Nationals, the Big 12 sent 32 of a possible 40 wrestlers to St. Louis.
Unfortunately, only five wrestlers earned All-American honors: three from Oklahoma State and two from Oklahoma. Neither tournament-host Missouri — the only school to send all ten wrestlers to the NCAAs — and Iowa State medaled.
In early February, Oklahoma State was considered the biggest threat to unseat Penn State. But after losing the nation’s No. 2-ranked heavyweight Alan Gelogaev to a season-ending injury, the Cowboys eventually finished sixth in St. Louis. Coach John Smith’s group was in place to finish fifth, but defending national champion Jordan Oliver lost in the 133-pound final to Logan Stieber of Ohio State, which moved ahead of the Cowboys in the final standings.
Sophomore Chris Perry, the nephew of coach Smith, claimed third place after entering the Nationals as the No. 2 seed at 174 pounds.
Probably the only Oklahoma State wrestler who was pleased with his performance was 197-pound senior Cayle Byers, who lost his place on the starting roster at midseason before regaining it before the NCAAs. He finished third at 197, where his only loss was to eventual champ Cam Simaz.
Meanwhile, the Sooners of Oklahoma claimed two AA honors: from 141-pound Kendric Maple, who settled for fourth place after entering the tourney as the No. 2 seed before falling to Iowa’s Marion and Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov; and from Nick Lester, who finished eighth at 149 pounds as an unseeded wrestler. Unfortunately for first-year coach Mark Cody, he saw one other seeded wrestler leave St. Louis without an AA medal: 125-pound Jarrod Patterson (7th).
Missouri coach Brian Smith, whose team won the Big 12 tournament in their final year, knew it would be a tough mission for his Tigers, considering only two of the ten national qualifiers were seeded among the top eight wrestlers at their weight. And unfortunately both Alan Waters (No. 3 at 125) and Brent Haynes (No. 6 at 197) didn’t make the medal stand. Waters lost in the second round and Haynes reached the quarterfinals before losing back-to-back bouts.
Iowa State, which saw its NCAA qualifiers drop from six to five when Chris Spangler (174) was unable to wrestle because of injuries, had a legitimate All-American shot at 165 pounds, where senior Andrew Sorenson was seeded No. 3. But the senior lost to No. 11 seed Brandon Hatchett in the quarterfinals before dropping his wrestleback to Wisconsin’s Ben Jordan (who won four straight consolation bouts and claimed seventh place).
• Wyoming — the Cowboys of Mark Branch were looking to finish in the Top 10 for the first time ever considering the group from Laramie was ranked No. 6 in WIN Tournament Power Index (TPI) prior to the NCAAs and featured two wrestlers who were seeded either No. 1 (Joe LeBlanc at 184) and No. 2 (Shane Onufer at 165).
But LeBlanc, a four-time All-American, lost in the quarterfinals to Austin Trotman of Appalachian and later to Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus in the consolation quarters before settling for seventh place. Onufer, meanwhile, lost to NCAA-rival Josh Asper of Maryland, in the quarterfinals and was eliminated by Peter Yates of Virginia Tech in a wrestleback.
In the end, Wyoming finished in 19th place, which was nine places higher than last year. But considering LeBlanc and Onufer were seniors, it was a big disappointment for the Cowboy program.
• Maryland — A year ago, the Terps of coach Kerry McCoy finished 18th and had high hopes after winning their 24th all-time ACC title and sending the likes of returning All-Americans like Josh Asper (seeded No. 7 at 165) and heavyweight Spencer Myers (8th) to St. Louis, as well as 197-pound freshman Christian Boley (seeded No. 4 at 197).
Unfortunately, while Asper did finish sixth, neither Boley nor Myers, nor the four other national qualifiers earned All-American honors.
Boley was upset in the first round by Binghamton’s unseeded Cody Reed and was eliminated in his second wrestleback. Myers, meanwhile, lost in the first round to unseeded Andrew Delaney of the Citadel and eliminated by Arizona State’s Levi Cooper in his first wrestleback.
2012 NCAAs: Rating Team Performances
The following breaks down the Top 15 teams at this year’s NCAA Division I national tournament, March 15-17, as well as other teams that sent at least six wrestlers to St. Louis.
Rk. Team (Qualifiers) Ch/AA Points W-L Bonus• +/- seeds
1. Penn State (9) 3/6 143 33-9 25.5 +18
2. Minnesota (9) 1/7 117.5 35-15 16.5 +23
3. Iowa (8) 1/6 107.5 31-11 15 -8
4. Cornell (9) 3/5 102.5 27-12 13.5 +14
5. Ohio State (8) 1/4 68.5 25-15 8 +19
6. Oklahoma State (9) 0/3 66 21-16 10.5 -15
7. Illinois (7) 0/4 62 24-16 18 -4
8. Lehigh (8) 0/4 61 15-15 4 +15
9. Northwestern (5) 0/2 42.5 14-9 8 +9
10. Oregon State (8) 0/3 40.5 19-16 4.5 +1
11. Michigan (7) 1/2 39 17-12 1 -2
11. Virginia Tech (6) 0/2 39 15-12 12 +2
13. Oklahoma (9) 0/2 38 16-19 11.5 -4
14. Binghamton (5) 0/2 36 18-10 9.5 +4
15. Pittsburgh (6) 0/2 35 15-12 3 0
Other Schools with at least six qualifiers
17. Edinboro (6) 0/1 32.5 12-11 6.5 -4
19. Wyoming (6) 0/2 31 13-15 6.5 -14
21. Nebraska (8) 0/2 28 17-17 3 0
23. Hofstra (6) 0/2 27.5 11-14 4 +9
24. Central Michigan (7) 0/1 24 10-15 7 -4
26. Missouri (10) 0/0 20 15-20 7 -16
27. Kent State (7) 0/1 19.5 7-14 4 -8
28. Purdue (6) 0/0 17.5 9-12 5.5 0
28. Virginia (6) 0/0 17.5 13-12 3 -4
31. Maryland (7) 0/1 15.5 8-15 1.5 -10
37. Michigan State (6) 0/0 10 6-12 2 0
43. West Virginia (6) 0/0 7 4-12 2 0
55. Old Dominion (7) 0/0 2.5 3-14 0 0