PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Jordan Oliver battled the scales as a first-year Division I starter.
Still, the talented Pennsylvania native battled his way to a fourth-place finish in a senior-laden 133-pound bracket.
The Oklahoma State wrestler let it be known last March that the scale wasn’t going to be a factor in 2010-11. Through four-plus months and two days of the 81st NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Oliver has backed it up with four wins, including a 5-2 decision against Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff in Friday night’s semifinals.
“Last year I made some mistakes in my weight,” said the Easton, Pa., product. “Not getting down as fast and as slowly and being mature about it. But this year coming in, having past experience, I was able to handle things better. It was just a different process.
“I made a pact with myself after last year that I would be back down at 133 and I would do things right this time.”
In 2010, Oliver lost to eventual champion Jayson Ness of Minnesota in overtime in the semifinals. His second tournament includes two first-period pins, a major decision in the quarters and the tough victory against Graff, also an All-American in 2010, on Friday night.
One more weigh-in and Oliver (28-0) will get to wrestle for a championship in front of his home state against Boise State senior Andrew Hochstrasser (27-1), whose only loss this season is to Oliver. The two also met in the preseason NWCA All-Star Classic back in November which Oliver also won.
“It’s really exciting,” said Oliver, a winner of three Pennsylvania state titles in high school. “Just being able to come home and compete for my first national title, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’m enjoying every moment.”
Cowboy head coach John Smith, a two-time gold medalist and two-time NCAA champion, knows his sophomore will be ready for the final.
“This tournament is about being tough, about finding a way,” Smith said. “Jordan found a way in a tough match. He’s got another tough one (Saturday). Everybody talks about (Nebraska’s) Jordan Burroughs as the best wrestler in the country, but Oliver and Hochstrasser are right there. Both of these guys are good in every position.”
Another Pennsylvanian, Quinten Wright of Wingate, Pa., who wrestles for Penn State, had a highlight-reel moment when he pinned Iowa’s Grant Gambrall in the 184-pound semifinals.
Four natives of New Jersey also advanced to the finals.
Jordan Burroughs, from Sicklerville, N.J., continued to roll, beating Ohio State’s Colt Sponseller 14-6 to advance to the final at 165 pounds. The Nebraska senior had two technical falls during the tournament. Two seasons ago, before missing 2009-10 due to injury, Burroughs won a national title at 157 pounds.
Michigan’s Kellen Russell, a product High Bridge and prep school powerhouse Blair (N.J.) Academy, stayed perfect with an overtime win against Iowa’s Montell Marion at 141, while Penn State’s Frank Molinaro, from Barnegat, and Lehigh’s Zach Rey, from Hopatcong, moved into the 149 and 285 pound finals, respectively.