Penn State takes early but slim lead to open DI championships; Mizzou strong
Handful of individual surprises highlight opening session
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The four team favorites, led by reigning champion Penn State, lead the pack after the first session of the 83rd NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships inside Wells Fargo Arena. The Nittany Lions were not perfect, winning just seven of 11 bouts, but the usual bonus-point frenzy gave head coach Cael Sanderson’s squad a 1.5-point lead against Oklahoma State, which won seven of 10 to open the tournament. Minnesota won eight of 10 and sits in third, with Iowa in fourth.
Every coach knows the three-day NCAA championships are a marathon, not a sprint. Missouri, a program still knocking on the door, had a strong first session, pulling of a pair of upsets. Drake Houdeshelt beat Penn State’s Andrew Alton at 149 pounds and Kyle Bradley knocked off fourth-seeded James Green of Nebraska at 157.
“We’ve got seven rolling on the front side, and all we can do is focus on who we have next,” said Missouri head coach Brian Smith, who also saw two of his wrestlers lose overtime matches Thursday morning. “These guys have been believing they can win a trophy since the day after last year’s NCAAs.
“[Bradley] beat [Iowa’s Derek] St. John a couple of weeks ago and we beat [Oklahoma State’s Chris] Perry earlier this year. We have some guys capable of winning big matches. We have to come back [Thursday night] and do it again.”
Missouri’s round also included tough wins by top-seeded 125-pounder Alan Waters (30-0), who knocked off Minnesota’s David Thorn, and Mike Larson, who edged Brown’s Ophir Bernstein at 184. Top-seeded heavyweight Dom Bradley (36-1) also advanced.
Penn State got pins by David Taylor (27-1) and Ed Ruth (29-0), plus a technical fall from Nico Megaludis (25-3) and a major decision by Matt Brown (26-4).
Oklahoma State took a hit at 184 pounds where ninth-seeded Chris Chionuma lost to Pittsburgh’s Max Thomuseitt and escaped disaster at 174 pounds where top-seeded Perry edged Oregon State’s Cody Weishoff 5-4. At 197 pounds, 11th-seeded Blake Rosholt needed a video review to help get by Purdue’s Braden Atwood.
The first session provided plenty of “holy cow” moments.
The first shocker came at 125 pounds where Appalachian State’s Dominic Parisi beat Virginia Tech’s fifth-seeded Jarrod Garnett 7-6, after building an early 4-1 lead.
At 149 pounds, third-seeded Donnie Vinson of Binghamton won a preliminary match, but lost to American’s Kevin Tao in the first round. It was Vinson’s second loss of the season. At the 2012 championships, Vinson lost in the first round and came back to win seven matches and finish third.
The bracket at 157 pounds is already a bit odd.
Joining Green, the fourth seed, to lose was third-seeded Joey Napoli of Lehigh, who lost to Indiana’s Taylor Walsh. The No. 11 seed, Harvard’s Marshall Peppelman, was pinned by Ohio’s Spartak Chino. The eighth seed, Bloomsburg’s Frank Hickman, also fell into the wrestlebacks. Top-seeded Jason Welch of Northwestern had to rally in his opener against Buffalo's Nestor Taffur.
Cornell’s Kyle Dake (33-0) opened his run to a fourth NCAA title with a 3-0 decision against Ohio State’s Mark Martin. Dake will take a 73-match win streak into Thursday night's second-round bout with Indiana’s Ryan LeBlanc.
Wrestling continues at 7:30 p.m. ET.