OKLAHOMA CITY -- This crazy wrestling continued with its crazy theme on Thursday.
The contenders each took body blows on the first day of wrestling at the 2014 NCAA championships inside Chesapeake Energy Center.The reigning champions, Penn State, saw fourth-seeded 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh fall into the wrestlebacks after a second-round loss to Virginia Tech's Chris Penny. It was his fourth loss this season.
Minnesota saw both Dardanes brothers lose on Thursday. Nick, the second seed at 149 pounds, was shocked by Citadel's Matthew Frisch in the first round. Chris, the sixth seed at 141 pounds, lost a back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire 10-8 match to Northern Iowa's Joey Lazor. Tied at eight, Lazor scored at the buzzer for the victory in what may be the best match of the day.
Oklahoma State was bit by the upset bug when Oklahoma's Cody Brewer pinned Jon Morrison in the first period. Morrison, now 26-2, had beaten Brewer (22-7) in all three meetings in 2013-14. The Cowboys put the shoe on the other foot later Thursday night when Josh Kindig beat sixth-seeded Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska 7-5 at 149 pounds, and when Austin Marsden knocked off 2013 finalist Mike McMullen of Northwestern in the 285-pound bracket.
Iowa had a pair of No. 5 seeds taste defeat on the first day. At the end of the carnage, the Gophers and Hawkeyes kept six in the winner's bracket with Oklahoma State and Penn State each pushing five into Friday's quarterfinal round.
In other words, this thing is going to get testy come Friday morning.
Penn State (26 ½), Minnesota (21 ½), Oklahoma State (21 ½), Iowa (20 ½), and Oklahoma (20 ½) are the top five after the first day.
"Everybody took a couple of hits today," UM head coach Robinson said. "We lost a couple of heartbreakers with the Dardanes boys, and they have to come back through the [wrestlebacks]."
Despite a few setbacks, the Gophers pushed six to the quarterfinals. David Thorn (26-6), Dylan Ness (21-5), Logan Storley (32-5), Kevin Steinhaus (23-6), Scott Schiller (31-4), and Tony Nelson (28-4) each won two matches.
"Friday morning, and then of course if you get to the semifinals … you can get a lot of points there," Robinson said. "I think our guys know the importance of tomorrow morning's round and have to be ready to compete. A lot will be decided by this time tomorrow night."
The Nittany Lions hold the lead in the team race thanks in part to two pins from national champion David Taylor (31-0) and a pin and technical fall from Ed Ruth (31-1), a two-time champion. Nico Megaludis, a two-time finalist, improved to 28-3 with a victory versus Oklahoma State's Eddie Klimara in the second round at 125 pounds. Rookie Zain Retherford (31-1) and 2013 finalist Matt Brown (30-4) also pushed through in the winner's bracket.
"Any time you lose matches you don't need to lose, it's frustrating," PSU head coach Cael Sanderson said. "I think we had some gutsy performances.
"Tomorrow's a big day. It always is, Friday."
The Cowboys, second to Penn State a year ago, bounced back after Morrison's loss. After Kindig's victory at 149, Alex Dieringer (29-1) picked up a pin at 165, Tyler Caldwell (26-3) earned a decision, and 2013 champion Chris Perry (27-1) moved to his fourth consecutive NCAA quarterfinal appearance with a major decision at 174.
Oklahoma quietly pushed four into the quarters with Jarrod Patterson (125), Kendric Maple (149) and Andrew Howe (174) joining Brewer.
Iowa's Corey Clark (19-2), Tony Ramos (29-1), Derek St. John (27-4), Mike Evans (27-4) and Bobby Telford (24-5) were expected in the final eight. They were joined by 197-pounder Nathan Burak (18-5), who scored a takedown with :01 on the clock to beat sixth-seeded Richard Perry of Bloomsburg. It was Perry's second loss in 34 matches and summed up a wild Thursday night.
The 149-pound bracket is a little disheveled. The bottom half includes the 10, 11, 12, and 15 seeds. Virginia Tech's Zach Niebert (24-7), the 10th seed, leads a group that includes Kindig, Oregon State's Scott Sakaguchi and Lehigh's Mitch Minotti.
Morrison was not the only No. 4 seed to go down on the first day. Air Force's Josh Martinez entered the evening session with a 33-3 record. He fell to Iowa State's Earl Hall. The four seed at 184, Pittsburgh's Max Thomuseitt, was 19-2 before falling to Old Dominion's Jack Dechow, the No. 13 seed.
With all the carnage, only five unseeded wrestlers remain in the championship bracket. Hall, Bloomsburg's Josh Veltre at 165, Arizona State's Blake Stauffer at 184, and Duke's Conner Hartman and Binghamton's Cody Reed at 197. The Blue Devil beat Oklahoma's Travis Rutt on Thursday night, while Reed knocked off Ohio's eighth-seeded Phil Wellington (34-4).
Getting his sea legs
Virginia Tech's Devin Carter entered this week with just 14 matches under his belt. An injury was expected to keep him out the rest of the season, but Carter, a former All-American, was released in early March to compete. A 141-pounder, Carter responded with two wins on Thursday, including a tough win versus Michigan's Stephen Dutton III in the second round.
"He's a tough kid and obviously not 100 percent," Virginia Tech coach Kevin Dresser said. "We knew [Dutton] was going to be tough, but [Carter] is going to keep getting better each round. He's kind of defied the odds, being here.
"He's getting in shape during the tournament."
Carter faces Franklin & Marshall's Richard Durso (36-3) Friday morning.
Edinboro's one-two punch
Fighting Scott teammates A.J. Schopp and Mitchell Port, both All-Americans in 2013, opened their week with three pins and a decision. Port, a finalist last March and the top seed at 141 pounds, improved to 28-0 with two pins and will face North Carolina's Evan Henderson on Friday morning. Schopp moved to 33-1 with a pin and a 6-2 win against Michigan's Rossi Bruno. Schopp gets Purdue veteran Cashe Quiroga in the 133-pound quarterfinals.