If the weekend was any indication of what’s to come, hold on to your hats.
The reigning NCAA champion Iowa Hawkeyes battled Penn State to the wire at the Big Ten Championships. In the end it was the Nittany Lions’ five champions that edged the Hawkeyes 139-138 for the Big Ten Championship in Evanston, Ill.
Eight of the 10 champs in Evanston were No. 1 seeds with eighth-seeded Quentin Wright, the champ at 184, earning Outstanding Wrestler honors.
“It’s what I dreamed about and thought about for the last three months,” said Wright. “It didn’t look like it, feel like it, but don’t ever give up on your dreams. Don’t ever give up on yourself.
“(My shoulder) was pretty bad. It was a factor for a little but and then I let it get in the way. I had an excuse for awhile and a lot of people do that. You give yourself a reason to lose and sometimes you are going to take it. I had to change my attitude around.”
A quick peek around the rest of the Division I qualifiers shows that being a No. 1 seed doesn’t guarantee championships.
At the Big 12 Championships in Ames, Iowa, Oklahoma State also crowned five champions. But top-seeded 125-pounder Jon Morrison suffered a semifinal loss to Nebraska’s unseeded David Klingsheim, who entered the weekend with an 8-9 record. Klingsheim finished off his day with a victory against second-seeded Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma. Morrison, who injury-defaulted his next two matches, and Patterson hit the postseason a combined 42-11 and ranked among the Top 8.
Oklahoma’s Zack Bailey, an All-American in 2010, was the top seed at 141 pounds in Ames. After edging OSU freshman Josh Kindig 3-2 in the semifinals Bailey suffered a 3-2 loss to Missouri’s Todd Schavrien in the finals.
The almost untouchable Jordan Burroughs, seeded No. 1 at 165 pounds, needed a late third period reversal to beat Oklahoma’s Tyler Caldwell in the finals. Burroughs will take a 31-0 record into the NCAA Championships. Caldwell (29-5), an All-American a year ago, will look for another shot at the 2009 NCAA champ.
The hometown crowd in Lewisburg, Pa., saw Bucknell senior 149-pounder Kevin LaValley finish in style. LaValley, seventh at the 2010 NCAA Championships, scored a takedown in double overtime to beat defending NCAA champion Kyle Dake of Cornell in the finals. It was Dake’s second loss of the 2010-11 campaign.
“It’s been an awesome weekend,” said LaValley, who will take a 30-1 record to Philadelphia. “It means a lot to be able to host this tournament and it means a lot to be able to come out here and perform in front of the home crowd, a lot of alumni who have really helped this program out as far as bringing it back and reinstating the program five years ago. (Winning) in front of my family, the fans, my friends, it really means a lot.”
Suffering his first loss of the season was Lehigh heavyweight Zach Rey. The Mountain Hawk junior was beaten by American’s Ryan Flores in Sunday’s finals. Rey nearly won in regulation but couldn’t finish a late takedown attempt. A reversal in the first set of tiebreakers proved to be the difference in a 4-2 Flores victory.
Top-ranked Cornell, with four champions, earned the team title in Lewisburg.
At the ACC Championships in Charlottesville, N.C., on Saturday, it was 174-pound All-American and No. 1 seed Chris Henrich of Virginia who went down, falling to Maryland’s Mike Letts in the finals. Letts was ACC champ in 2007 and ’08 with Henrich claiming league crowns in 2009 and ’10.
It wasn’t easy but North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell became the sixth wrestler to win four ACC titles, beating Virginia’s Derek Valenti in the 149-pound finals. The unbeaten Caldwell, a national champion in 2009, was hit for stalling in the final 20 seconds to tie the match at 3-3. With 3 seconds left on the clock Caldwell scored a takedown to win 5-3.
Maryland outdistanced Virginia Tech by 12 points for the ACC team title.
The Colonial Athletic Conference saw just five No. 1 seeds win titles. Binghamton’s Justin Lister, an All-American a year ago, entered the weekend seeded fourth at 165 pounds. He beat Hofstra’s Paul Gillespie in the finals with No. 1 seed Joe Booth of Drexel taking fourth.
Pittsburgh’s EWL championship was highlighted by 149-pounder Dane Johnson, who entered the postseason with a 16-16 record. The redshirt-freshman beat top seed Torsten Gillespie of Edinboro in the semifinals then followed it up with a narrow decision of West Virginia’s Brandon Rader in the finals.
Pitt’s Ethan Headlee beat West Virginia’s top-seeded Donnie Jones in the 165-pound finals. The Mountaineers also saw top-seeded Alex Meade suffer an overtime loss to Bloomsburg’s Mike Dessino in the 174-pound finals.
The Western Wrestling Conference Championships at the Air Force Academy saw top-seeded 184-pounder Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming fall to Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder in the finals.
On Wednesday the NCAA will announce the 49 at-large selections and the brackets for all 10 weight classes for the 2011 Championships at Wells Fargo Arena. A live special will air Wednesday, March 9, at 6 p.m. ET. on www.ncaa.com. During the broadcast fans are encouraged to participate with questions through www.facebook.com/ncaawrestling.
The Division II and III Championships are set for March 11-12 in Kearney, Neb., and LaCrosse, Wis.