PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Penn State dominated the headlines at the 81st NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships all week.
Bubba Jenkins stole the show on Saturday night.
David Taylor rolled into the 157-pound final with a 38-0 record, part of a monster youth movement for Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson.
Jenkins wrestled for four seasons at Penn State but left the program with mixed feelings. He headed to Tempe, Ariz., and Arizona State, and, as luck would have it, faced Taylor in the final on Saturday night in front of the second-highest NCAA finals crowd ever (17,687). The six sessions in Philadelphia broke the attendance record with a new mark of 104,260 fans.
In a flash, Jenkins ended it.
Taylor got to the leg of Jenkins (21-3). But the Virginia product locked up a cradle and rolled the PSU rookie to his back for a stunning pin at the 2:14 mark.
“[No hard feelings] toward David [Taylor],” said Jenkins, who lost in the NCAA final in 2008. “[But] definitely towards Cael [Sanderson]. He didn’t think I was good enough or the right kid to win it at that weight class or any weight class. I wanted to go 149. But he had other ideas and he got rid of me.
“And one man’s trash is a whole country’s treasure.”
Taylor was trying to become just the fourth undefeated freshman champion, joining Oklahoma State’s Richard Hutton and Iowa’s Joe Scarpello, who each won titles as undefeated freshman in 1947. The 24 year olds were World War II veterans. Since then only Iowa State’s Sanderson has won an NCAA title and gone undefeated as a freshman. Sanderson was 159-0 in college.
Only two Division I wrestlers have won four individual championships – Sanderson and Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith.
Iowa’s Matt McDonough won as a freshman but it was Arizona State’s amazing Anthony Robles who kept the Hawkeye sophomore off the top of the medal stand in 2011.
Robles (36-0), an athlete with just one leg, capped his career with two first-period near-falls and a 7-0 lead, eventually winning 7-1.
“I had a lot of butterflies going out there,” said Robles, a three-time All-American who finishes his career with a 122-23 record. “I’ve dreamt about stepping on that stage a dozen times, and this whole year I’ve been preparing for that moment.
“And I was scared. I was scared out there, but as soon as I hit that first takedown I sort of relaxed. I said, okay, back to business. Same drill as every other match.”
Cornell, No. 1 in the team standings for most of the year, did not hoist the trophy but sophomore Kyle Dake gave the Big Red fans something to cheer about with the title at 149 pounds. Dake (31-2) beat Penn State’s Frank Molinaro 8-1 for his second title, piling up more than six minutes of riding time.
The run toward four continues.
“Next year I can’t win four national titles; I can only win three,” Dake said. “So take it year by year, match by match, season by season. Just focus on the goals at hand and take it one year at a time.”
Quentin Wright (21-6) sent the PSU fans home happy, beating Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin 5-2 in the 184-pound final. Wright was the lowest seed, at No. 9, to earn a championship.
Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver, a Pennsylvania native, capped a 29-0 sophomore season with a solid 8-4 win against Boise State senior Andrew Hochstrasser in the 133-pound final. Oliver, from Easton, scored with two powerful double-legs and a slick back trip in the second period for four points to jump out to an 8-3 advantage.
“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” said Oliver, a three-time Pennsylvania state high school champion. “But I know it’s been a great journey, and a lot of hard work and dedication has gone into it.
“And I don’t regret any minute of it.”
Nebraska senior Jordan Burroughs finished his career with a second title, beating Oklahoma’s Tyler Caldwell 11-3 in the 165-pound final. Burroughs, from Sicklerville, N.J., a half hour from Philadelphia, was unbeaten in 36 matches.
“New Jersey guys are great wrestlers,” Burroughs said. “Always the laugh is being in the Midwest and saying New Jersey is the greatest wrestling state in the nation. We turn out champions year after year.”
Burroughs joked about having to follow Jenkins’ highlight finish.
“You know what stinks?” Burroughs said. “This is the second time I won my national title immediately after the biggest upset in the tournament.”
In 2009 Burroughs won his first title after North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell upset Metcalf.
“It’s always a hard act to follow when I go out there,” Burroughs added.
Iowa State’s Jon Reader capped a 39-0 season with a dominating 10-3 win against Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui in the 174-pound final. Reader is the third national champion from Davison, Mich.
New Jersey native Kellen Russell finished a 38-0 season with a 3-2 win against Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov at 141 pounds. Russell took advantage of a bad Novachkov shot late in a 1-1 match for the decisive points.
Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore kept Oklahoma State from claiming a second title, pinning Clayton Foster in the second period while trailing 5-1. Kilgore (38-2) and Foster got tangled up and Kilgore came out of a scramble with Foster trapped on his back at 4:56. It was Foster’s first loss in 27 matches this season.
Kilgore is the first NCAA champion in program history.
Lehigh’s Zach Rey avenged a loss to American’s Ryan Flores in the EIWA final with a 2-1 victory in the final bout of the NCAA tournament. Rey (34-1) was third in 2010 and went wire-to-wire as the No. 1-ranked man at 285 pounds this year.
Penn State totaled 107.5 points in the tournament, claiming top honors for the first time since 1953. Cornell (93.5), Iowa (86.5), Oklahoma State (70.5) and American (65) rounded out the top five.
Penn State 174-pounder Ed Ruth won the Gorrarian Award given to the wrestler with the most falls in the least time.
The NWCA Coach of the Year went to American’s Mark Cody. His Eagles finished fifth in the team race.
The Outstanding Wrestler Award went to Robles.
The 2012 NCAA Championships return to St. Louis, Mo.