Seven of the 10 NCAA champions from 2013 returned for this season. And if the first two months are any indication, repeating will not be easy. Only Iowa 157-pounder Derek St. John, who beat No. 2 Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State last Friday, remains perfect at 18-0. An anticipated match with No. 4 Taylor Walsh of Indiana did not happen on Sunday, as St. John did not suit up.

The other six returning champions have each tasted defeat.

I’m just a small-town kid from Michigan, so all the credit goes to my coaches for getting me ready for this.
-- Cornell's Gabe Dean
The biggest shocker so far? Penn State’s Ed Ruth falling to Cornell freshman Gabe Dean in the finals of the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 2. Ruth entered his match against Dean with a 119-2 career record and an 85-match win streak, but coming off a suspension. Dean, an unheralded recruit from Lowell, Mich., beat the senior 7-4.

“All you can do is wrestle for seven minutes, wrestle as hard as you can for the entire match,” said Dean after the victory. “The first time [Ruth pinned Dean in a November match] I played it conservative and it cost me with that cross-face cradle. You have to avoid that against [Ruth] if possible.

“I’m just a small-town kid from Michigan, so all the credit goes to my coaches for getting me ready for this.”

Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple finished 30-0 and won the 141-pound title last March. The senior dropped an overtime match to Bryce Busler of Bloomsburg in November, then fell to Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig three matches later. The same afternoon Maple fell to Kindig, Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry, champion at 174 in 2013, lost to OU’s Andrew Howe, who won a 165-pound title way back in 2010.

The 125-pound champion last season, Illinois’ Jesse Delgado, lost to Iowa rookie Thomas Gillman at the Midlands Championships in December, while two-time heavyweight king Tony Nelson of Minnesota dropped a NCAA finals rematch with Northwestern’s Mike McMullen last Friday night. It was Nelson’s fourth loss in 78 matches since the start of his sophomore campaign.

Along with Dean, another rookie, Penn State’s Zain Retherford, provided another early-season surprise when he beat two-time champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State in a December dual meet. The loss was Stieber’s third in 74 career bouts.

One veteran who knows a thing or two about freshman success is Penn State’s David Taylor, a three-time NCAA finalist and champion in 2012.

“Some of these young guys show up ready to compete; they are used to winning at a high level,” said Taylor after his Scuffle title. “[Retherford] is tough. We’ve known that since he stepped into our room. These young guys aren’t intimidated by anyone.”

Newbies

Division II newbie Notre Dame (Ohio) ended St. Cloud State’s Division II record 54-match win streak on Sunday morning, then followed it up with a dominant 28-3 victory against Newberry to claim top honors at the 2014 NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday. The Falcon program, led by former Kent State boss Frank Romano, has an amazing pedigree since its founding in 2006. The Ohio school won the 2010 and 2011 NAIA national championship and finished third at the 2013 DII Championships.

Without longtime head coach Jim Miller on the sidelines for the first time since the 1990s, Wartburg did not miss a beat under new boss Eric Keller, hammering Concordia-Moorhead 29-6 to claim a fourth consecutive DIII Duals title and eighth since the tournament’s inception in 2002.The Knights have won 45 consecutive dual meets; top-ranked 133-pounder Kenny Anderson has won 51 consecutive matches.

Rare Rout

The 48th all-time meeting between rivals Oklahoma State and Iowa produced a rare rout last Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. More than 10,000 fans watched the Hawkeyes win eight of 10 bouts and roll to a 24-6 victory, the most lopsided in the series since a 30-10 win by the Cowboys in 2004. Top-ranked 157-pounder Derek St. John beat No. 2 Alex Dieringer thanks in part to a late second period reversal and Tony Ramos won an anticipated match with fellow Illinois product Jon Morrison in a battle of All-Americans. St. John and Ramos are a combined 61-0 for their careers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Sophomore Brody Grothus (149) and junior Nick Moore (165) provided upset victories for Tom Brands’ Hawks.

The usually offensive-minded OSU had just two takedowns in the 10 bouts.

“For this team to go forward, we have to keep hammering home the things that we have to do to create separation,” Brands said. “What it boils down to is scoring points. Specifically, it’s front head locks, it’s being aggressive in certain positions, being confident to take risk, and let it fly instead of not being confident.

“In order to get into the ballpark of Penn State, we have to do that.”

Said OSU head coach John Smith, “We got punched in the mouth by a good Iowa team and didn’t know how to respond. We just laid down.”

Iowa’s only loss in 10 duals this season came to Penn State 24-12 on Dec. 21.

Noteworthy

• Virginia won its first Virginia Duals title on Saturday, edging Edinboro 20-19 in the championship dual. The Cavaliers, who lost to Virginia Tech in the 2013 finals, won six of 10 bouts against the Fighting Scots, including five in a row from 157 to 197 pounds after falling behind 13-3. North Carolina State won the first Virginia Duals in 1981.

• Oklahoma State sophomore 157-pounder Alex Dieringer is 51-4 for his career. Three of his four losses have come to Iowa’s Derek St. John.

• Indiana’s Taylor Walsh is off to a pin-happy start to his junior season. Of the 157-pounder’s 27 victories this season, 23 have come by pin. The New Jersey product has already shattered Victor Sveda’s 2001 school season pin record of 16 in 2001. His 44 career pins are three behind Sveda’s career record of 47.

• Two-time Washington state champion Skylor Davis has been a bright spot for first-year Division II program Simon Frasier. The 125-pounder is ranked No. 1 and owns a 25-3 record for the first Canadian school to receive NCAA affiliation.