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Top 10 stories in college wrestling in 2012-13
By Mike Finn
In last week’s WIN eNews, we announced 5 of the Top 10 stories — numbers 6 to 10 — that happened during the 2012-13 season. The following completes that list with the top 5 moments.
1. Kyle Dake beats David Taylor three times to clinch Hodge Trophy and set NCAA record — The 2013 NCAA Division I tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, featured ten wrestlers who had already won individual championships, including six who were competing at three different weight classes: the most notable coming at 165 pounds where Cornell’s Kyle Dake defeated Penn State’s David Taylor.
That victory — Dake’s third after also beating the 2012 Hodge Trophy winner at the NWCA All-Star Classic in November and the Southern Scuffle in January — also also sealed Dake’s historic fourth NCAA title. He became just the third wrestler to win four individual championships — joining Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith and Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson (who was in Taylor’s corner) — and the first wrestler to win four titles at four different weight classes (also winning at 141 in 2010, at 149 in 2011 and at 157 in 2012).
Dake, who completed his career with a 137-4 record and 79-match winning streak, was named the winner of the WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented by ASICS.
2. Penn State wins third straight title in talented field — Penn State became just the third NCAA Division I program to win three straight team titles as the Nittany Lions also left Des Moines, Iowa, with five All-Americans. Oddly, all five were finalists: 125-pound Nico Megaludis, 165-pound David Taylor, 174-pound Matt Brown, 184-pound Ed Ruth and 197-pound Quentin Wright.
Only Ruth and Wright won titles for coach Cael Sanderson, whose return to Iowa was a homecoming for the former national champ from Iowa State, which hosted the 2013 Nationals. Wright clinched the team title after the lone senior defeated 2011 NCAA champ Dustin Kilgore, 8-6, for his second national title and fourth All-American honor.
Finishing second was Oklahoma State with seven All-Americans — including champions Jordan Oliver (149) and Chris Perry (174) — and Minnesota was in third with an NCAA-high eight All-Americans, led by two-time heavyweight champion Anthony Nelson.
3. Iowa beats Penn State in dual — The top-ranked Nittany Lions entered Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City with a 20-dual winning streak. It ended there as the Hawkeyes, ranked No. 3, defeated the Lions, 22-16, before a sold-out crowd of 15,077 fans. The critical match came at 174 pounds where Mike Evans, a native of Pennsylvania, countered a shot by Matt Brown to win 4-3 to give Iowa a 19-9 lead.
“Penn State has had the reign for awhile … as long as I’ve been in college,” said the sophomore, who earned prep All-American honors at Blair Academy in New Jersey before joining the Hawkeyes in 2011. “It’s really going to help with the momentum for our fans. We know we can do it and we showed we could do it. It’s got to snowball.”
“Carver-Hawkeye is a lot of fun,” said Sanderson. “You have to really appreciate it if you are coach or wrestler or fan. We have a lot to be positive about. Our team always improves and we will improve this year just like we have every year and we’re going to be tough to beat in March.”
4. Conference Realignment Continues — The sport of wrestling did not start the changing of conference affiliations for Division I schools, but the many moves did have an effect on the state of wrestling.
Another school which will compete in the MAC next year is Old Dominion, formerly of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), which will no longer exist after fellow CAA members Binghamton, Boston U., Drexel and Hofstra announced they would compete in the EIWA. (It may be the only year for Boston in the EIWA after the Terrier administration announced it was dropping wrestling after the 2013-14 season.) Meanwhile, George Mason and Rider will wrestle in the Eastern Wrestling League.
The EWL also will look different in the future after West Virginia first left to compete this past season in the Big 12, while former “Backyard Brawl”-rival Pittsburgh will wrestle next winter in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Even more changes will happen in the future as Maryland of the ACC and Rutgers of the EIWA join the Big Ten … while it appears the remaining teams in the Big 12, Pac 12 and Western Wrestling Conference could compete together in an NCAA-qualifying Western Regional in 2014.
5. Minnesota wins National Duals at home — The ever-changing NWCA National Duals took on a different look in 2012-13 as Minnesota — the winner of the 2012 Duals — earned the right to host eight teams in Williams Arena, Feb. 22-23. And for a second consecutive year, the Gophers defeated Oklahoma State — forced to win one of four regionals the week before — on the strength of pins by Logan Storley over Chris Perry and heavyweight Anthony Nelson over Alan Gelogaev.
“When you wrestle hard, good things happen,” said Robinson, who was forced to sit with a heavy leg brace on during the tournament as his team won 21 of 30 bouts. “I think that’s what those guys learned to do: wrestle hard.”
Meanwhile, Missouri finished third with an 18-16 win over Iowa as two Tigers — Alan Waters (125) and Kyle Bradley (157) — upset a pair of top-ranked Hawkeyes, Matt McDonough and Derek St. John, respectively.
The other Top 5 moments, listed in WIN’s May 16 eNews were:
6. NWCA All-Star Classic packs house in D.C. — The 47th annual National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic packed the gymnasium in American University’s Bender Arena, Nov. 3, in Washington D.C … primarily because NCAA champions Kyle Dake of Cornell and David Taylor of Penn State agreed to face each other in an exhibition.
And while the final results did not affect the wrestlers’ records or NCAA seeding, Dake did win in a 2-1 tiebreaker in their 165-pound match. Meanwhile, two eventual NCAA champions lost that night: 125-pound Jesse Delgado (Illinois) who lost to Penn State’s Nico Megaludis, 4-3; and 197-pound Quentin Wright (Penn State), who was pinned by Pitt’s Matt Wilps with ten seconds left in the match.
7. Wartburg’s Jim Miller retires with tenth NCAA title — The NCAA Division III school from Waverly, Iowa, made sure their retiring coach went out on top, literally. Knight wrestlers carried coach Jim Miller on their shoulders to receive the tenth team trophy earned by his wrestlers since he took over the program in 1991.
“I didn’t know until right then (that his team was planning that),” said Miller, whose final team out-distanced second-place Elmhurst (Ill.) by 21 points. “I already had one hip replaced. I was worried about the other one.”
But when it came to winning this coveted tenth championship — pulling within one of Augsburg’s Division III record of 11 titles — there was nothing to worry about for Miller and his ten wrestlers who collected seven All-American honors while completing a third straight team title and fifth of the last six years.
“I’m elated they get a chance to know what it feels like to win another national championship,” said Miller, who pointed to the numerous fans dressed in orange who helped make up the 2,398 fans who were in attendance at the final session of this year’s tournament. “I’m elated for our fans, our college and program as a whole. I have a great group of young men. I’m really proud to be associated with them.”
8. Illinois edges Virginia Tech in 50th Midlands — The legendary tournament celebrated a half-century of existence in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 29-30 … and Illinois and Virginia Tech made sure it would be memorable as the Illini topped the Hokies by just a two-point margin (99.5-97.5) in the final standings.
Oddly, Illinois did not feature a champion, but did see five wrestlers earn placements in the longest-running regular-season tournament. Virginia Tech, meanwhile, saw two wrestlers, Jarrod Garnett at 125 and Nick Brascetta at 149, win individual titles with Garnett’s win coming in sudden victory over eventual NCAA champion Jesse Delgado.
And one of the most notable arenas in the East is New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Yet, the famous facility, just south of Times Square, had never hosted a college event … until Dec. 16, when several of the nation’s top schools competed in the “Grapple at the Garden.”
“It’s the world’s greatest arena in the world’s greatest city,” said McCoy, the head coach at Maryland and a NYC native who competed in the Garden in the 2003 Worlds as a freestyle heavyweight. He hopes MSG will host a future NCAA tournament. “It would be great for the sport.”
Among the more notable dual matches of top teams, Oklahoma State defeated Cornell, 21-16.
“What a great vibe to be wrestling here,” said OSU’s Jordan Oliver, who first earned prep All-American honors at Easton, Pa., before travelling to Stillwater, Okla. “I grew up about an hour away and have always known of the great events that happened here, so to get the chance to wrestle here is great and I am taking full advantage of this opportunity.”
10. Grand Canyon’s Tyrell Fortune named Div. II Wrestler of the Year — With the 2013 NCAA Division II Nationals being held in a state lacking a college wrestling program, Alabama. The wrestling event was part of the NCAA’s Division II Winter Sports Festival in Birmingham, March 8-9. Possibly the most notable match of the tourney, Grand Canyon’s heavyweight Tyrell Fortune defeated two-time champion Matt Meuleners of Northern State in the finals.
But that victory — which capped off a season that saw the junior win 37 of 38 matches and 20 by fall — helped the native of Portland, Ore., and two-time NJCAA champion from Clackamas Community College earn the highest honor presented by the National Wrestling Coaches Association as the Division II Wrestler of the Year.
Fortune is the sixth recipient of the award, voted on by eight coaches from around the country. The Region IV representative edged St. Cloud State senior and Region III Wrestler of the Year Shamus O’Grady by one point for the top honor.