Learning to expect the unexpected
Top 25: Big weekend on tap in Arizona for Division II teams
Roger Moore, NCAA.com
Penn State’s Ed Ruth stole this week’s headlines when he knocked off the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds while winning the 174-pound title at the Southern Scuffle in Greensboro, N.C. A redshirt freshman from Harrisburg, Pa., Ruth (17-1) beat Cornell’s top-seeded Mack Lewnes, 11-6, in the semifinals and followed with another upset, beating Virginia’s Chris Henrich, 7-2, which included 2 ½ minutes of riding time. Lewnes lost in the NCAA finals last March while Henrich finished third.
For his efforts, Ruth was given the tourney’s outstanding wrestler award.
Penn State heavyweight Cameron Wade beat Michigan’s Ben Apland in the final bout of the Scuffle, forging a tie in the team race between the Nittany Lions and Cornell at 151.5 points. Penn State crowned David Taylor, Ruth and Wade while the top-ranked Big Red saw Kyle Dake (149) and Justin Kerber (165) win titles. Dake beat PSU’s Frank Molinaro in the 149-pound final. The Big Red won 3 of 4 finals with only Steve Bosak losing to Edinboro’s Chris Honeycutt in the 184-pound finale. Oregon State, Michigan and Minnesota rounded out the top five in the 34-team field.
In another surprising result at the 48th Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill., the 18th-ranked Missouri Tigers claimed the team title, outdistancing No. 4 Wisconsin by eight points (103.5-95.5). The Tigers had six wrestlers among the top eight with no finalists. Freshman 125-pounder Alan Waters finished third with four other Tigers placing fourth. Lehigh, Iowa and Pittsburgh rounded out the top five.
A few highlights from the tourneys include…
• Oklahoma’s Chase Nelson, a sophomore transfer from Wichita, Kan., entered the Midlands with a 9-4 record at 165 pounds. Seeded eighth at 157, Nelson pinned Jake Patacsil, a former star at Purdue, while trailing 12-0 in the quarterfinals. Nelson then pinned Clarion’s James Fleming in the semifinals before beating Maryland’s Kyle John, the seventh seed, in the final.
• Minnesota freshman Dylan Ness, younger brother of 2010 NCAA champion Jayson Ness, moved all the way to the 149-pound semifinals at the Midlands before losing to top-seeded Kevin LaValley of Bucknell. Ness is redshirting this season. Another Gopher rookie, Nick Dardannes, was seventh at 141 pounds.
• Heard of George Mason’s Cale Byers? The junior from Chugiak, Alaska, sat out last season due to injury after qualifying for the NCAA Championships as a freshman and sophomore when he won 67 total matches. Byers upset top-seeded Dustin Kilgore of Kent State before dropping a 5-4 overtime bout to Cam Simaz of Cornell in the final.
• Division III’s Wartbug's Byron Tate, a national champion in 2010, finished second at 197 pounds at the Midlands in Evanston. Tate, a junior, beat former Illinois starter top-seeded Nate Patrick in the semifinals. Tate’s teammate, heavyweight John Helgerson, finished fifth.
Need to Know
• Round 1 of Andrew Howe versus Jordan Burroughs took place Dec. 30 in the 165-pound final at the Midlands Championship when Burroughs picked up a 10-7 victory. A native of New Jersey and national champion for Nebraska in 2009 before an injury sidelined him a year ago, Burroughs has now won 48 of his last 49 matches. Howe, as a sophomore, won his first NCAA title for Wisconsin last March and entered with a career record of 81-4 after going 37-0 a year ago. Howe took a 51-match win streak into Thursday night before falling to the Cornhusker. If there has ever been more of a lock for two athletes meeting in an NCAA final, I haven’t seen it.
• Division III Wilkes University hosted the 78th Wilkes Open on Tuesday. Known as the “Rose Bowl of Wrestling” the one-day tournament was held in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., despite Mother Nature’s efforts to shut down the East Coast. American University, ranked 22nd nationally, crowned three champions at the tournament. Division II Pitt-Johnstown had a pair of champions – third-ranked Ryan Link at 133 pounds and Keith Ryan at 157. Rutgers’ Jordan Beverly, the champion at 149 pounds, was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. One of the top names in wrestling, John Reese, coached Wilkes from 1953-96. Elected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999, Reese’s Colonials won 541 dual meets and the 1974 Division III championship.
• A handful of Division II’s top programs are headed to Arizona for the Grand Canyon Duals on Saturday, Jan. 1. If you are looking to build a successful program quickly, the host Antelopes have a good blueprint to look start with. Head coach RC LaHaye, an Arizona native, saw the Antelopes go 0-24-1 in dual meets in 2007-08 and 1-16-1 in 2008-09. Last season, the ‘Lopes finished 12-8, placed 19th at the Division II NCAA Championships and crowned the program’s first two All-Americans in Ryan Becerra and Victor Carazo. Four top 15 teams are scheduled to attend – No. 2 St. Cloud State, No. 5 Newberry, No. 8 Nebraska-Kearney and No. 11 Grand Canyon. Chadron State, Kutztown State and Mesa round out the eight-team field.
• With a victory over Arizona State on Sunday night, John Smith would become the first Oklahoma State wrestling coach to win 300 dual meets. Smith is in his 20th season and owns a 299-44-5 dual record. The second-ranked Cowboys are 3-0 this season with wins over No. 3 Minnesota and No. 8 Oklahoma. Edward C. Gallagher, Art Griffith, Myron Roderick, Tommy Chesbro, Joe Seay and Smith have combined to lead the program to a 995-111-22 dual record with 34 NCAA championships. The 24th-ranked Sun Devils should provide a tough test on Sunday. Shawn Charles’ squad could be favored in four of the 10 bouts.
• Cedar Falls, Iowa, will host the National Duals on Jan. 8-9. Teams from across all divisions - Division I to NAIA - will be in the house with the notable exception of reigning Division I champion Iowa. Oklahoma State will be in the field for the first time since 2007.
Northwestern’s Brandon Precin beat 2010 NCAA champion Matt McDonough of Iowa in the 125-pound final at the Midlands. Precin redshirted last season after earning a pair of All-America finishes and will most likely be one of at least four new No. 1’s in the next rankings... The much anticipated debut of 2009 NCAA champion Darrion Caldwell never materialized at the Southern Scuffle as he did not compete, while Penn State’s newest 133-pounder, Andrew Long, also sat out. Both are expected to step on the mat in January... Adding Long, a 2010 NCAA runner-up at 125 pounds, makes an already impressive Penn State lineup even more formidable as the transfer was 27-7 for Iowa State as a redshirt-freshman last season.