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Snyder provided exciting ending to 2016 NCAAs on bittersweet night for team champ Penn State
NEW YORK — The 2016 NCAA Division I Championships did not prove to be a perfect ending for eventual team champion Penn State, but the first-ever nationals held in Madison Square received an exciting ending from perhaps the most hyped heavyweight bout in NCAA history.
The Nittany Lions, which led the tournament from the quarterfinals and placed five wrestlers in Saturday night’s finals, did indeed to hold to winning its fifth team championship in six years. But only two of the Nittany Lions — senior Nico Megaludis (125) and sophomore Zain Retherford (149) — left the historic athletic arena with individual championships.
“When you win the national championships, you’ve got to be pretty happy and pumped,” said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson. “It was obviously a great team effort with five guys in the finals, six All-Americans. We’re happy. But we leave here ready to improve and build and get some freshmen to the next level. And we’re happy we won but we’re excited about the future also.”
“I’m the champion,” said Megaludis, who defeated Iowa’s Thomas Gilman, 6-3, after the senior redshirted last season after claiming second in 2012 and ’13 and third in 2014. “I don’t want to be talky by saying that or anything. But it just feels good. Feels good.”
Retherford, who also redshirted last year after placing fifth in 2014, more than duplicated his Big Ten championship victory over Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen with a 10-1 major decision.
He was quick to credit Sanderson and the program’s system for his success.
“The coaches are great at making sure that the guys are confident and having fun,” he said. “That’s a big part of it. You’re not just robots or running into brick walls. We’re having fun doing stuff. We play dodgeball with the coaches, it’s a lot of fun. Play handball most days in practice. It’s light but they keep it competitive.”
While Penn State’s first national title since a one-year absence may have lacked perfection — when Lions Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197) settled for second place, the main and final event left a capacity crowd of 19,270 stunned when Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder rallied to beat NC State’s Nick Gwiazdowski in overtime of their heavyweight battle.
Snyder, who considered taking an Olympic redshirt after winning a World freestyle championship last September before returning this second semester, scored two takedowns against the Wolfpack heavyweight; the first coming with 21 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and the second coming with 35 seconds left in sudden victory.
“It was a fun match,” said Snyder, who wrestled just 12 bouts this winter after finishing second at 197 pounds in the 2015 NCAAs. “I think it will go down as one of the most exciting heavyweight matches in NCAA history. And obviously I’m happy that the end result was to get my hand raised. But I think I improved as a wrestler throughout the match, too, and that was fun.”
Snyder’s victory also guaranteed that the Buckeyes — last year’s national team champions — earned a third-place finish as Ohio State claimed two championships; the first coming from true freshman Myles Martin, who upset Penn State’s top-ranked redshirt freshman Bo Nickal by an 11-9 margin in the 174-pound final.
The young Buckeye, who first fought the idea of taking off his redshirt early in the season, claimed that losing to the Nittany Lion three times this year helped in the NCAA final.
“If I didn’t wrestle those other three I wouldn’t have been able to compete like I did today,” said Martin. “Before I approached my match differently than I did today. I approached it with just going out there in a wrestling position and just be free and open. Before I didn’t wrestle like that. So having those two matches under my belt helped me compete like I did today.”
Finishing second in the team race was Oklahoma State, which saw sophomore Dean Heil (141) and Alex Dieringer (165) claim championships. Dieringer became the school’s 15th all-time three-time champion.
“You’ve got to be relaxed,” said Dieringer, who won his first title at 157 pounds in 2014 before claiming the 165-pound championships the last two seasons. “If you think about it too much, it will get to your head in a very, very hard sport. I’ve always gotten progressively better. I think I really developed a lot of mental toughness over the years, just being around Coach (John) Smith. He’s all about being tough. And I think I got a lot of that from him.”
Two other wrestlers who earned a second consecutive championship: 165-pound sophomore Isaiah Martinez of Illinois and 184-pound junior Gabe Dean from Cornell.
Martinez, who dealt with the pain of seeing his stepfather die before the start of the season, defeated Penn State’s Jason Nolf — the only man to beat the Illini in two years earlier this season — by a 6-5 margin when he scored a takedown with 20 seconds left.
“Coach is screaming, go get one,” said Martinez. “I said I need to do this right now to seal up the match and thank God I got my head through the hold, got enough to get the takedown.”
Dean, meanwhile defeated Nebraska’s TJ Dudley for his second straight title at 184 pounds.
“I remember coming into Cornell when I was a kid, getting the crap kicked out of me every day by (former Cornell All-American) Cam Simaz,” Dean said. “It’s great to be on the other end of that now and not getting my head shoved into the bleachers every day.”
Dean’s championship was the second for Cornell as 133-pound Nahshon Garrett added a first-ever title to its three previous All-American honors.
Also winning a second title was Missouri’s 197-pounn J’den Cox, who defeated Penn State’s McIntosh, 4-2 on a late takedown. The Tiger junior also won a title in 2014 in Oklahoma City, but settled for fifth-place last March when he lost to McIntosh.
“Oklahoma City felt great because I was really young and I had done something that was very rare,” Cox said. “This one it’s more so great because how much I had to change and give up and sacrifice and train and do certain things that changed myself and changed my body.”
Fourth-place Virginia Tech, without a finalist, earned its first-ever NCAA trophy, by scoring one more points (82) than fifth-place Iowa (81), which failed to see any of its three finalists — Thomas Gilman (125), Cory Clark (133) and Brandon Sorensen — win on Saturday night.
Top 10 Team Finishes
|1.||Penn State (2/6)||123.0|
|2.||Oklahoma State (2/6)||97.5|
|3.||Ohio State (2/4)||86.0|
|4.||Virginia Tech (0/6)||82.0|
Championship Match Highlights
125 — #3 Nico Megaludis (Penn State) dec. #4 Thomas Gilman (Iowa), 6-3 — The Nittany Lion’s first of two takedowns came midway through the first period after a crazy scramble where it appeared the Hawkeye might score. Megaludis, a three-time AA and two-time finalist, clinched his first NCAA title with a second takedown at 1:12 left in the second period before adding a third-period escape and a 1:28 riding time advantage.
133 — #1 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) dec. #2 Cory Clark (Iowa), 7-6 — The three-time AA earned his first national title by scoring a takedown in each period: a low single with 2:13 left in the first; a low single with 1:55 left in the second and a power double wit 49 seconds left in the bout. Clark, now a two-time NCAA runner-up, scored his points on four escapes and two stalling points against Garrett.
141 — #1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. #14 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming), 3-2 — In a battle between Cowboy sophomores, Heil scored the bout’s only takedown with 12 seconds left in the first period, then avoided a Meredith takedown after a great scramble in the third. Meredith’s points came off escapes.
149 — #1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) major dec. #2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa), 10-1 — In a repeat of the 2016 Big Ten final, the Nittany Lion’s riding ability helped the sophomore amass over three minutes of riding time over the Sorensen. Two of Retherford’s takedown came in the first period, and then added doubles in both the second and third periods, the final coming with 11 seconds left to create the major decision.
157 — #1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) dec. #3 Jason Nolf (Penn State), 6-5 — An impressive duck-under by the Illini sophomore with 11 seconds left provided the winning margin and a second straight national championship for Martinez. Martinez scored the bout’s first takedown with 1:36 left in the first before Nolf, the only man to beat the Illini this year, scored a takedown on a throw-by with 13 second left before Martinez escaped to tie the bout, 3-3, after one period. Both wrestlers earned escapes before Martinez’ winning takedown.
165 — #1 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) dec. #2 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin), 6-2 — The three-time national champion placed himself amongst OSU’s all-time best wrestlers when Dieringer scored two takedowns: the first on a throw-by in the first period and a second on an ankle pick with 38 seconds left in the second. The Cowboy ended the scoring from his 2:51 riding time advantage.
174 — #11 Myles Martin (Ohio State) dec. #1 Bo Nickal (Penn State), 11-9 — The true freshman solidified his coach’s decision to take off a redshirt when he scored two takedowns, including the second with 20 seconds left in the second when he rolled through with a throw attempt by Nickal that put the Lion on his back for a four-point nearfall and 9-4 lead by Martin. Nickal scored a takedown with 1:15 left but could not dent the defense of the Buckeye, who added a 1:08 riding time advantage.
184 — #1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. #7 Timothy Dudley (Nebraska), 5-3 — The Big Red junior trailed 1-0 in the second period when he scored the first of two takedowns on an inside single with 51 seconds left in the second, then added a bout-clinching takedown on a snapdown with 1:36 left.
197 — J`Den Cox (Missouri) dec. Morgan McIntosh (Penn State), 4-2 — The Tiger junior, who won a championship in 2014, clinched a second title when he scored the bout’s only takedown on a low double with 10 second left in the bout. A 1:03 riding time advantage provided the final point.
Hwt — #2 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) dec. #1 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State), 7-5 sv — Down 5-2 with 1:12 left after the two-time national champ scored a second takedown, the 2015 World freestyle champion ended the nationals with two exciting takedowns: the first coming on a low double with 21 seconds left before adding another low takedown with 35 seconds left in overtime.