Being ranked first in a weight class has been anything but easy this season. That difficulty continued this weekend in North Carolina and Wisconsin.
During Nebraska's dual victory against Wisconsin on Friday in Madison, previously unbeaten James Green, who entered the weekend at 26-0 and ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds, lost a 3-1 overtime decision to Isaac Jordan. The Badgers' freshman took a 21-4 record into the weekend and adds his name to an already long list of championship contenders. Iowa's Derek St. John is the defending champion; he has taken losses to Green, Minnesota's Dylan Ness, and Jordan in 2013-14. Jordan beat St. John in Sunday's dual in Madison. Oklahoma State's Alex Dieringer has lost once in 28 matches, that coming to St. John.
In Durham, N.C., on Saturday it was Nick Gwiazdowski's (34-2) turn to shake up the 285-pound rankings. The All-American two seasons ago for Binghamton beat Northwestern's Mike McMullen. The top spot at heavyweight has been a lot like a game of musical chairs. Let's just throw the top eight guys into a hat and see what happens in Oklahoma City.
Of the nine former NCAA champions competing this season, only Penn State's David Taylor and Oklahoma's Andrew Howe have not tasted defeat.
Ready for Primetime
Division II and III get serious this weekend with qualifying tournaments for the NCAA Championships. DII Super Regionals will be hosted by Pittsburgh-Johnstown, Tiffin, Central Oklahoma, and Colorado Mesa. Competition gets underway on Friday in Johnstown, with the other three hitting the mats on Saturday. The gathering in Edmond, Okla., will be a bit rugged with five of the top ten teams including reigning NCAA champion Nebraska-Kearney, St. Cloud State, Central Oklahoma, Upper Iowa and Lindenwood. Top-ranked Notre Dame (Ohio) is at Johnstown. The top five finishers at each weight class qualify for the DII Championships in Cleveland, March 14-15.
The DIII format has six regionals. The host schools are: Loras, Augsburg, Wabash, York (Pa.), King's (Pa.) and Wesleyan (Conn.). Reigning DIII king Wartburg will be at Loras.
Few and Far Between
Taylor and Howe are among a select few who have been perfect this season. Maryland senior Jim Sheptock (24-0) has not lost at 184 pounds, while two 141-pounders have not suffered a loss – Edinboro's Mitchell Port (21-0) and Penn State's Zain Retherford (25-0). Retherford owns an early-season victory against 2013 NCAA champion Logan Stieber, who won the 133-pound bracket last March.
Iowa 125-pounder Cory Clark, a talented freshman, has battled fellow rookie Andrew Gilman for the starting spot in the Hawkeye lineup all season. Gilman was ranked as high as third; Clark was sixth last week and moved stayed perfect with a pin on Sunday.
All-American Ryan Loder, a senior 184-pounder for UNI who has battled injuries all season, took his first loss of the season on Sunday to Old Dominion's Jack Dechow. The Panthers beat ODU and finish the dual season unbeaten, something nobody else accomplished among DI contenders.
Speaking of Taylor ... and Ruth
Penn State's combination of David Taylor and Ed Ruth have been nothing short of incredible throughout their collegiate careers. The duo wrestled for the last time in front of the home crowd on Sunday, working a total of 1:16. Taylor moved to 126-3 with a pin in eleven seconds. The Ohio product has forty nine career pins, four shy of a school record. Ruth, now 127-3 in a PSU singlet, pinned Clarion's Dustin Conti in 1:11. It was the Pennsylvanian's forty-fifth career pin.
The Nittany Lions routed Clarion 43-3 in front of a nineteenth consecutive sellout for a home dual.
Dethroning Nebraska-Kearney in Division II will not be easy. The Lopers' lineup received a major addition when Destin McCauley, who spent the fall semester at the University of Nebraska after spending two years at the Olympic Training Center, showed up in Kearney. McCauley, a 149-pounder, was a five-time state champion in Minnesota. He enters the postseason ranked third behind Central Missouri's Frank Cagnina and Upper Iowa's Edwin Cooper. Cagnina started his collegiate career at Division I Lehigh.
Navy beat Army for the fourteenth consecutive time last Friday, winning eight of ten bouts in a 29-9 rout in Annapolis, Md. The Midshipmen own a 48-5-5 all-time mark against their friends and rivals
UNC Pembroke upset Newberry last week, 18-15, on the strength of wins by Stuart Nadeau at 197 and Chris Giddens and 285 pounds. Giddens, ranked sixth this week, beat Matt Wade, who was ranked second last week, in the dual's final bout to secure the victory. Newberry dropped from second to sixth in the DII rankings.
Michigan State finished the dual season on a three-match win streak, beating Central Michigan 18-14 on Saturday in Mount Pleasant.