Breaking down the NCAA finals
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships conclude Saturday night with the finals on the big stage. Ten weight classes will crown national champions beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The team race still has a heartbeat, but a very faint one. Penn State is in position to win its first championship since 1953. By the end of the first session on Saturday, the trophy will be headed to University Park.
In the immortal words of "Dandy" Don Meredith, turn out the lights the party's over, unless you wear Nittany Lion colors.
|125||Matt McDonough (Iowa, 27-1) vs. Anthony Robles (Arizona State, 35-0)|
|McDonough, a sophomore from Marion, Iowa, won the title as a freshman in 2010. Robles, a senior from Mesa, Ariz., is a three-time All-American and the top seed. The two have never met.|
|133||Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State, 28-0) vs. Andrew Hochstrasser (Boise State, 27-1)|
Oliver finished fourth as a freshman in 2010 and is the top seed in 2011. The Easton, Pa., product beat Hochstrasser, a senior from Toole, Utah, in the NWCA All-Star Classic last November and again in a regular-season meeting. Hochstrasser did not compete at the 2010 Championships and was the seventh seed way back in 2005.
After a Mormon mission, Hochstrasser finished fourth in 2009.
|141||Kellen Russell (Michigan, 37-0) vs. Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly, 27-1)|
|Russell went to a second tiebreaker to beat Oklahoma’s Zack Bailey and Iowa’s Montell Marion on Friday. The High Bridge, N.J., native beat Novachkov in the Las Vegas Invitational last December, Novachkov’s only loss.|
|149||Kyle Dake (Cornell, 30-2) vs. Frank Molinaro (Penn State, 32-2)|
|Dake, a New York native, won the 141-pound title as a freshman in 2010. Molinaro, a New Jersey product, is a two-time All-American.|
|157||Bubba Jenkins (Arizona State, 20-3) vs. David Taylor (Penn State, 38-0)|
Jenkins spent four years on the Penn State roster before transferring to Arizona State. He lost in the 2008 NCAA 149-pound final to Iowa’s Brent Metcalf and will finish his collegiate career against a wrestler from Penn State.
“People don’t forget,” Jenkins said. “I was there, they used to cheer for me, they used to love the “Super Duck” and the “Mixer” and stuff like that. So if I hit it (Saturday) hopefully they feel the same way about it.”
The change of environment from Pennsylvania to Arizona was good for Jenkins.
“Being at Penn State, you go into the grueling wrestling room, you come out and it’s freezing cold,” he said. “Going to Arizona you don’t have any problems going in there for 45 [minutes] to two hours, just busting it out because outside it’s 75 degrees, the birds are chirping, the girls are walking around.”
Jenkins, a Virginia native, will finish his career as a three-time All-American. Taylor, a freshman from Ohio, has been a scoring machine all season. He beat American’s Steve Fittery in the semifinals 7-1.
|165||Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska, 35-0) vs. Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma, 32-5)|
A rematch of the Big 12 Conference final won by Burroughs 2-1 on a late reversal. Burroughs, from New Jersey, also beat Caldwell, from Wichita, Kan., in a regular-season meeting.
A 2009 NCAA champion, Burroughs started his senior season in 2009-10 but was injured. He was awarded another year by the NCAA with a medical hardship case. It worked out that Burroughs would get to finish his career less than 30 minutes from his hometown.
“Everything worked out,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. A lot of crazy things went on last year. I was one match under medical redshirt rule percentage, and my grandfather had died a week before the match. I had wrestled against Minnesota, so I had to miss a match to go to my grandfather’s funeral. And that one match under was the match that I missed to go to the funeral.”
|174||Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford, 31-3) vs. Jon Reader (Iowa State, 38-0)|
Amuchastegui, a junior from Oregon, has been the giant killer this week. The two-time NCAA Elite 88 winner beat second-seeded Ed Ruth of Penn State in the quarterfinals then knocked off third-seeded Mack Lewnes of Cornell in the semis.
Reader, from Michigan, was unchallenged until Friday night’s semis where he beat Virginia’s Chris Henrich 4-3. The senior is a three-time All-American.
|184||Quentin Wright (Penn State, 20-6) vs. Robert Hamlin (Lehigh, 32-2)|
Hamlin, a sophomore, is the first All-American from Vermont. He is from Jonesville, population 995. Three of his matches this week have been decided by two points or less including an overtime win against Cornell’s Steve Bosak in the semifinals.
Wright, the No. 9 seed, beat top-seeded Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro in the quarters and pinned Iowa’s Grant Gambrall in the semis. The Big Ten champion was an All-American two seasons ago.
|197||Clayton Foster (Oklahoma State, 26-0) vs. Dustin Kilgore (Kent State, 37-2)|
Foster, sixth in 2010 at 184 pounds, gutted out a 4-3 win againstt Wisconsin’s Trevor Brandvold on Friday night. The Idaho senior has two major decisions and an 8-2 win in the tournament.
Kilgore, seventh in 2010, beat Cornell’s top-seeded Cam Simaz 10-9 on Friday night. Kilgore also has two major decisions in the tournament. Kent State has never had an NCAA champion.
|285||Zach Rey (Lehigh, 33-1) vs. Ryan Flores (American, 26-5)|
A rematch of the EIWA final where Flores beat Rey in overtime. Rey, a New Jersey product, was third in 2010 and has been ranked No. 1 all season. He could be Lehigh’s first heavyweight champ since 1936 when Howell Scobey won a title.
Flores is from California and transfer from Columbia.