Minnesota verified it was the best dual team in the land this weekend, sweeping through four opponents, including fourth-ranked Cornell in the finals on Monday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. UM is now 13-1 – the one loss coming to Michigan – and has won the last three NWCA National Duals Championships.
Major decisions by David Thorn, Chris Dardanes, and Scott Schiller, plus a pin by Dylan Ness sparked the Gophers to a 24-15 victory against the Big Red.
"I think it helps us with our confidence, but there are things we've talked, about getting everybody on the same page," Gopher head coach J Robinson said. "We still have some guys that aren't there yet, so we've got some work to do over the next three weeks before the Big Ten Tournament."
The loss was Cornell's first this season and came a few hours after the Big Red dispatched Oklahoma in a 23-20 semifinal that saw seven of the ten bouts finish with bonus points for the victor. Gabe Dean's pin at 184 pounds put Cornell up 23-14 and all but wrapped up the win. Chris Villalonga's overtime win against 2013 NCAA champion Kendric Maple proved large in the final outcome.
Ohio State beat Oklahoma for third with Nick Heflin, a former 174-pounder, finishing off his impressive weekend with a 6-4 victory against Travis Rutt at 197 pounds. In the semifinal dual against Minnesota, Heflin beat Scott Schiller, 8-4. Heflin, a native of Massillon, Ohio, started the week with a 16-1 mark and ranked tenth.
Speaking of 197 Pounds
All ten weight classes will be competitive in Oklahoma City come March 20, but 197 pounds might be a little hard to predict. Minnesota's Scott Schiller, previously ranked No. 1, has taken losses to Penn State's Morgan McIntosh and Ohio State's Nick Heflin over the last ten days. Heflin, a two-time All-American, is 20-1 with his only loss coming to Wisconsin's Timmy McCall. Iowa State's Kyven Gadsen has two losses this season, both to Schiller, but has beaten Missouri's J'Den Cox and Oklahoma's Travis Rutt. Cox, a freshman, has beaten McIntosh twice, while Rutt, a former All-American at Wisconsin, has four losses in 2013-14.
That group of five is certainly not alone. Add Bloomsburg senior Richard Perry and Ohio sophomore Phil Wellington to the mix, along with Oregon State's Taylor Meeks, Maryland's Christian Boley and Drexel's Brandon Palik. Perry avenged his only loss this season with a victory over Rutt in Columbus over the weekend. Meeks started the year at the top of the rankings, but has taken five losses in thirty matches.
Another Rec Hall Sellout
Penn State, coming off a loss to Minnesota two weekends ago, bounced back with a 23-12 win against Oklahoma State on Sunday afternoon. It was the Cowboys' first visit to State College for a dual since 1996.
Two-time NCAA champion Ed Ruth provided the first nail in the coffin with a pin of OSU rookie Nolan Boyd at 184 pounds – his 44th career pin – and Morgan McIntosh nailed the coffin shut with a major decision at 197 pounds. OSU's Chris Perry won another marathon with Matt Brown in a rematch of the 2013 NCAA finals at 174 pounds. They wrestled the full eleven minutes, going through two overtimes and two sets of tiebreakers before the Cowboy senior escaped with a 4-3 victory.
Wartburg is 18-0 and, it seems, might never lose another Division III dual let alone an NCAA Championship tournament. Augsburg, the Knights' annual challenger, was seventh in last week's Division III Coaches Association Rankings. So, when the DIII Championships convene in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 14-15, who are the challengers to the 2014 throne? A better question might be: are there any?
At the NWCA National Duals in January, Wartburg, with nine wrestlers ranked among the top ten at their respective weight classes, beat Mount Union, Wisconsin-Whitewater, and Concordia-Moorhead. At the Desert Duals last December, Eric Keller's squad bested Olivet and Cortland State by a combined 63-15. Second-ranked UW-Whitewater boasts six among the top ten, while Messiah, Olivet, Cortland State, and Augsburg each has four.
Wartburg has won the last three and five of the last six DIII national titles. It is a broken record, but still amazing nonetheless, that no program other than Wartburg or Augsburg has won a DIII title since Ithaca in 1994.
Last Friday, Wartburg beat Coe to claim a twenty-second consecutive IIAC Championship and move its dual win streak to 173 against IIAC opponents.
An Old Record
Central Oklahoma's Cory Dauphin moved his win streak to forty-seven with a title at the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association Championships in Hays, Kan., the weekend. Dauphin, the Division II champion at 157 pounds in 2013, tied a school record dating back to 1982-1984 when Ronnie James accomplished the same feat.
Pittsburgh entered last weekend with a 12-1 dual mark, including a win against Oklahoma State. The Panthers suffered a loss to No. 14 Edinboro last Friday and to eighth-ranked Michigan on Sunday.
Where Are They Now?
FILA released its rankings for the world's top freestylers last week. A few notable former NCAA stars are, of course, among the list which, might be noted, includes yet another change in weight classes. Eight of the thirteen Americans ranked wrestled at Big Ten schools. The list includes: Angel Escobedo (Indiana), Zach Sanders (Minnesota). Franklin Gomez (Michigan State), Reece Humphrey (Ohio State), BJ Futrell (Illinois), Coleman Scott (Oklahoma State), Frank Molinaro (Penn State), Brent Metcalf (Iowa), Kevin LeValley (Bucknell), Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska), Moza Fay (Northern Iowa), Jon Reader (Iowa State), Tervel Dlagnev (Nebraska-Kearney), and Tyrell Fortune (Grand Canyon).
All are former NCAA champions except Sanders, Futrell, Humphrey, LeValley, and Fay. Dlagnev and Fortune were champions in Division II. LeValley was the last man to beat four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake in a collegiate match. Gomez now competes for his native Puerto Rico.
Not ranked internationally is former Missouri All-American Nick Marable. That could change shortly as Marable ended Burroughs' 69-match international win streak over the weekend at a tournament in Turkey.