The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Clash Duals turned average wrestlers into stars
By Willie Saylor
In any situation, the spotlight often focuses on the person with the superlatives: the smartest, the fastest, the funniest, etc. It’s no different in wrestling, where we pare down the field as the tournament goes on. The finals are often wrestled on a singular mat for all to observe under a microscope. The top guys grab the headlines and all the glory associated with it.
Most of the time.
But duals provide an opportunity for anyone to shine. A wrestler who hasn’t had much success has his points count just as much as his star teammates.
Consider that, in a dual, every bout is a six-point swing at minimum; the three points you get for a win vs. three points you give up for a loss. And with high school duals starting (and ending) at a random weight class, anyone could be the hero of the match.
Nowhere was this more apparent than at Clash X in Rochester, Minn., Dec, 30-31, 2011, when top teams from across the nation battled it out. In this high stakes dual tournament, every bout was critical. Sometimes even an avid wrestling fan could go a whole season without seeing a dual come down to the final bout.
At the Clash, this happened 23 times!
And the onus often fell on the shoulders of some unlikely competitors.
Here, I will shine a light on some of the situations that presented little-known athletes with the opportunity to be heroes for their teams. All of these kids posted pressure-packed wins where, should they have lost, their teams would have also.
Koffi Tchalla (220 pounds) —
Apple Valley (Minn.) vs. Brandon (Fla.)
The Situation: Many folks had Apple Valley penciled in as undefeated and heading to a showdown with St. Edward in the final round. But that almost didn’t materialize. When talking about Apple Valley, with their star-studded line-up, Koffi Tchalla isn’t the first name that comes to mind.
In fact, he wasn’t even listed as a starter pre-tournament. But his efforts against Brandon proved more critical than any other single bout the Eagles wrestled this weekend. Up by just five points with Brandon’s talented lightweights looming, Apple Valley inserted Tchalla into the line-up.
The Result: Tchalla posted a 5-3 win over Brandon’s Jon Summit. To say the three points earned (or 3 points not given up) would be an understatement. Valley went on to edge Brandon, 31-29. Tchalla’s unexpected win made all the difference.
Devin Everk (138) —
Clovis (Calif.) vs. St. Paris Graham (Ohio)
The Situation: In what was the dual of the tournament, and frankly, one of the best dual meets I’ve ever witnessed, you have to pick a hero. Everk was favored in the bout, but his bonus points would be huge. In the last match of Day I, and to decide who got into the championship bracket, every point was crucial.
The Result: Everk pinned Graham’s Chase Crabtree. The dual would be tied 36-36, with Clovis winning on criteria for most falls.
Gabe Lumpp (138) and Brandon Taylor (220) — Christiansburg (Va.) vs. St. Paris Graham (Ohio)
The Situation: Like the Tchalla case, Christiansburg has a ton of familiar stars throughout their line-up. Lumpp and Taylor aren’t two of them. But their points helped the Blue Demons capture one of the most unexpected results of the tournament.
The Result: Lumpp was in the second bout of the dual and recorded a fall to put ‘Burg up by nine points. Later, Taylor bumped up to heavyweight to earn another critical three points. Christiansburg won the dual, 38-27, which propelled them to an unexpected win of the 2nd bracket and 5th-place overall.
Luke McCord (106) – Forest Lake (Minn.) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (Minn.) and Jefferson (Ga.)
The Situation: No team at this year’s Clash outperformed their seed as much as Forest Lake, which entered as the 19th seed and finished ninth. McCord was perhaps the single biggest reason why.
The Result: Forest Lake was wrestling the much more highly-regarded STMA team in the final bout of pool play. The dual would determine who went to the third bracket, with the chance to finish 9th, and who went to the fourth bracket, where the best they could do would be 13th. In the second to last bout of the dual, McCord beat STMA’s Aaron Dick, and Forest Lake hung on for a 30-24 win.
Then, in the match to win the third bracket, McCord beat one of Jefferson’s best wrestlers, Chase Piperato, 4-1, in a desperately-needed decision. The final score was 27-27 with Forest Lake winning on criteria.
Nick Bray (113) – Vacaville (Calif.) vs. Lewiston (Idaho)
The Situation: In another critical dual that determined which bracket the teams would fall into, Vacaville found itself trailing by two heading into the final individual bout.
The Result: Enter unheralded Nick Bray, who promptly got the fall for Vacaville, propelling them to the higher bracket on the second day of the tournament.
Matt Ronsman (126) – Luxemburg-Casco (Wisc.) vs. Coon Rapids (Minn.)
The Situation: In the fourth bracket, Luxemburg-Casco, Wisconsin’s top-ranked team, faced a precipitous situation, trailing by four heading to the last bout of the dual.
The Result: Matt Ronsman packed his opponent, giving Casco a 38-36 win, and kept hopes alive to win the bracket.
Peter Andreotti (152) – Marist (Ill.) vs. Carl Sandburg (Ill.)
The Situation: In a match-up of two of Illinois top teams, odds weren’t on Marist’s side in this bout. It occurred in the middle of the meet, but no other bout would prove as critical. In fact, it was undoubtedly the single biggest individual upset of the tournament, and one that made all the difference in the dual result.
The Result: Just a sophomore, Andreotti was called upon to face Sandburg’s reigning Fargo national champion, Collin Holler. In a thrilling bout, Andreotti didn’t just keep it competitive. He beat Holler outright, 8-7. In what had to be at least a seven-point swing on paper, Marist beat Sandburg, 28-24, in dual that decided what school won the fifth bracket.
Todd Murakawa (132) – Punahou (Hawaii) vs. Arrowhead (Wisc.) and Mitchell (S.D.)
The Situation: The talented team from Hawaii won two duals in Minnesota and a lot of the thanks goes to Murakawa, whose effort was crucial to both victories.
The Result: First he pinned Arrowhead Union’s Austin Yde in a seven-point dual win. Then, in the final bout of their last dual, Punahou was up just one point when Murakawa iced it with a 9-2 decision over Mitchell’s Matt Larson.
Dylan Bollock (113) and Adam Herrick (120) – Mitchell (S.D.) vs. RC Central (S.D.)
The Situation: Facing a six-point deficit with two matches to go, regular decisions wouldn’t do the trick as Central held the criteria should the final score be tied.
The Result: Bollock and Herrick posted back-to-back falls to beat their intrastate foe by six points.
Tyler Ziegler (126) – Moeller (Ohio) vs. Simley (Minn.)
The Situation: Here’s a prime example where even the first bout of a dual might prove to be the most critical. Ziegler was facing Simley star Juan Torres in the first round robin bout of the 2nd bracket.
The Result: Ziegler earned a 4-2 win and a critical three team points in a dual that Moeller would unexpectedly go on to win, 33-27. It turned out to be a much-needed bout, offsetting the result from 195 pounds where Simley’s Cody Hazelett upset Moeller’s Jerry Thornberry.