ST. LOUIS — The reigning NCAA champions opened their defense with a strong first session at the 2012 Division I Wrestling Championships inside Scottrade Center on Thursday.
Minnesota wasn’t too bad either.
After one round of wrestling, Penn State, with 25.5, leads the Gophers by one-half point. Each squad lost just one match — the Nittany Lions at 133 pounds, and UM at 165 pounds. As expected, PSU picked up a significant amount of bonus points, getting pins by All-Americans David Taylor (28-0 at 165) and Ed Ruth (27-0 at 174). Heavyweight Cameron Wade had a technical fall and Nico Megaludis, Frank Molinaro, Dylan Alton and Quentin Wright all added major decisions. Only rookie 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh, who had a 9-3 decision, didn’t provide a bonus for head coach Cael Sanderson’s group. PSU’s only setback came thanks to 2011 NCAA champion Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State, who pinned Frank Martellotti.
Minnesota, seventh last season, got pins by three-time All-American Zach Sanders (26-3 at 125), rookie Chris Dardanes (24-10 at 133) and All-American Kevin Steinhaus (28-4 at 184). UM also picked up major decisions by Nick Dardanes and Tony Nelson. Dylan Ness and Sonny Yohn each won close decisions in the opening session.
Oklahoma State went 6-3 in the first round and totaled 17.5 points after the first round, dropping two overtime decisions. Fourth-seeded Michael Mangrum (35-3) of Oregon State needed a reversal in the first set of tiebreakers to beat the Cowboys’ Josh Kindig 6-4 and West Virginia heavyweight Brandon Williamson rode out the second tiebreaker after escaping in the first to beat Oklahoma State freshman Austin Marsden 5-4.
Oliver (25-1 at 133) was joined by Jon Morrison (20-8 at 125), who had a technical fall; Cayle Byers (24-3 at 197), who had a major decision against former All-American Brent Chriswell of Boise State; and Dallas Bailey (15-14 at 165), who majored sixth-seeded Peter Yates of Virginia Tech among the four who picked up bonus points for the 34-time NCAA champions.
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Iowa and Cornell each sit at 17 points and tied for fourth. The Hawkeyes won eight of nine, the only loss coming at 184 where Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder (33-4) beat 2011 All-American Grant Gambrall thanks to a riding time point. 2010 NCAA champion Matt McDonough (33-1 at 125) opened with a pin. Derek St. John (19-2 at 157) picked up a major decision. The rest of the Hawks advanced by decision.
Cornell got a boost by at-large heavyweight Maciej Jochym, who knocked off 11th-seeded Tucker Lane of Nebraska in the first round. All-American Cam Simaz (27-1 at 197) had a major and two-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake (31-0 at 157) needed barely a minute to move into Friday’s second round.
Thursday morning’s session wasn’t a good day for No. 4 seeds. Three weight classes – 149, 157 and 197 – each saw the No. 4 seed lose. Two others, 141 and 197, required overtime.
Binghamton’s Donald Vinson entered the week 33-5 but dropped a 9-4 decision to Oklahoma’s Matt Lester (22-10). A weight later, Harvard’s Walter Peppelman (26-6) fell victim to Northern Iowa’s David Bonin (31-7), who secured a fall with five seconds left in the opening period. The trifecta was complete when Binghamton’s Cody Reed (25-16) beat Maryland’s Christian Boley 2-1. It was Boley’s third loss in 33 matches this season.
The biggest scare of the first round came at 285 where 2011 NCAA champion Zach Rey of Lehigh held off a number of shots by Indiana’s Adam Chalfant in overtime, and eventually scored the winner in the closing seconds of the first one-minute overtime period. Rey moved to 24-2. Rey’s opponent in the 2011 final, American’s Ryan Flores (21-0) went to overtime in a pigtail match with Missouri’s Devon Mellon before scoring a fall.
2011 NCAA champion Kellen Russell of Michigan improved to 30-1 with a 6-1 decision in his opener.
Only one team — Missouri — brought all 10 wrestlers to St. Louis. Five squads started the week with nine in the bracket including Penn State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Cornell and Minnesota. Overall, 70 schools have at least one wrestler in the field.
Only three times since 1990 has the team champion failed to score at least 100 points. Iowa won the 2009 championship with 96.5 points; Minnesota won in 2007 with 98; Oklahoma State won in 1994 with 94.75. Not since 2003 has a runner-up reached the 100-point plateau. The scoring system has changed but the magic number is still 100.
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Action Thursday night resumes at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The 2011 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia drew 104,260 fans, the first time the tournament reached 100,000 since its inception in 1928. Attendance figures were not kept until 1952 when 3,000 watched the finals at Colorado State. Penn State hosted in 1953 and 15,000 attended the tournament. St. Louis drew 97,336 in 2009. St. Louis hosted the tournament for the first time in 2000 and 2012 marks the fifth time downtown St. Louis has been the site of the Division I Championships.
Eight of the last 10 Outstanding Wrestler Awards have gone to seniors. Iowa’s Brent Metcalf won the 149-pound title as a junior. A year later the Hawkeye lost in the final to North Carolina State’s Darrion Caldwell, a junior who was named OW. Arizona State’s Anthony Robles won the award in 2011.
Penn State’s Ed Ruth won the Manual Gorrarian Award in 2011. The 174-pound freshman had two falls in 1:06. Seven times the winner of the award for most falls in the least amount of time has gone to a wrestler with five falls in the tournament. Iowa State’s Dan Gable did it twice. No wrestler has reached five in the tournament since 1986 when Nebraska’s Gary Albright pinned five opponents in 15:34. Four wrestlers – Gable, Albright, Dan Hodge (Oklahoma), Ted Ellis (Oklahoma State) – each won the award twice. Heavyweights have claimed the hardware 16 times, 11 more than any other weight class.
Four times the Gorrarian winner was also named OW — Gable (1969), Iowa’s Bruce Kinseth (1979), Oregon State’s Howard Harris (1980) and Oklahoma’s Dick Delgado (1959).
Eight head coaches in the tournament have worked at least 20 NCAA tournaments. West Virginia’s Craig Turnbull leads the pack with 34 seasons in the books. Rider’s Gary Taylor (33 years), Pittsburgh’s Rande Stottlemyer (32 years) and Boston’s Carl Adams (31 years).
Pride of Oklahoma
As far as All-Americans by high school, Oklahoma owns five of the top eight. Tulsa Central produced 65 All-Americans from 1931-61, 15 more than St. Edwards in Ohio. Stillwater High School, Tulsa Webster, Ponca City and Perry are also among the top eight, along with Blair Academy in New Jersey, which has produced 31 All-Americans since 1975. Mark Perry, a two-time champion for Iowa, started his high school career at Stillwater but attended Blair during his last three years of high school.