ST. LOUIS -- When it comes to competitive team races, sometimes fans like to adopt a wrestler that has nothing to do with their team colors.
Missouri, Ohio State and Iowa fans accepted West Virginia’s Zeke Moisey into their programs after he beat Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett Thursday night. Those same MU fans, along with the Buckeye faithful, added Penn’s C.J. Cobb to their list of favorite wrestlers after he beat Iowa rookie Brandon Sorensen in a 149-pound match.
“It’s fun to be a part of that,” Cobb said.Michigan’s Brian Murphy became a favorite of the front-runners when he beat Ohio State’s Josh Demas at 157 pounds. During the first session, it was Oregon State’s Joe Lathan who brought Iowa, Oklahoma State and Ohio State fans to their feet when he knocked off the Tigers’ John Eblen at 174 pounds.
Although American and Illinois are not part of the team race, any time a top seed or the crowd senses an upset the building stirs. Jesse Delgado, a two-time NCAA champion for the Illini, wrestled a wild match with American’s David Terao on Thursday night. Terao (39-5), who beat five-seed Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa in the first round, beat Delgado 4-2.
“It was electric,” said Terao, who faces Missouri’s Alan Waters (32-0) in the quarterfinals. “I don’t know if they were backing me up, but it helped me.”
Terao may have heard the crowd getting behind Moisey, who was beating Garrett at the same time.
“Take a knee, slow him down, frustrate him,” said Moisey (29-13) of his strategy against the athletic Garrett. “I don’t always hear the crowd.”
It was all part of a wild first day that saw plenty of surprises and has a number of programs right in the thick of things. Nobody is in complete control of the team race. Seven teams, led by Ohio State, are within 5.5 points of first. Oklahoma State, Iowa, Penn State and Missouri are all ready for a second day of survival on Friday.
The Buckeyes had a mixed bag like everybody else. Rookies Nathan Tomasello (125), Bo Jordan (165) and Kyle Snyder (197) each won two matches Thursday, joining superstar Logan Stieber, who had a technical fall and pin. Kenny Courts, an unseeded 184-pounder, also had two wins.
“A lot of guys got bonus points for us and Logan [Stieber] is a machine, so we did well today,” said Jordan, who takes a 19-1 mark into Friday. “I’m really happy for the team.”
Iowa finished a tough day on a positive note when heavyweight Bobby Telford, an upset loser to Maryland’s Spencer Myers in the first round, scored a fall to bring the Hawks to within two points of Ohio State. Head coach Tom Brands’ squad has quarterfinalists at 125, 133, 174 and 197 pounds.
The surprise winners were hard to keep track of on the first day. Thirty four-seed wrestlers lost in the opening round. That trend continued in the evening gathering.
The 125-pound bracket lost the five-seed, Chattanooga’s Sean Boyle, who fell victim to Edinboro’s Kory Mines in the second round.
Missouri’s Lavion Mayes entered Thursday night 34-2 and with two victories over Dean Heil of Oklahoma State. But Heil, a redshirt freshman, secured an overtime takedown for a 3-1 victory. The Cowboys also got a boost from 174-pounder Kyle Crutchmer, who edged Virginia’s fifth-seeded Blaise Butler, 5-2, to advance to the final eight.
“It was a good day, considering where our seeds were,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. “It’s a competitive tournament where a lot of high seeds are getting beat. It’s good to be on the right side of those.
“You have to win tough matches today, tomorrow, and Saturday. Upsets are going to happen. There will be more over the next couple of days.”
Two other high seeds, Arizona State 184-pounder Blake Stauffer, who entered the week 31-1, and Virginia’s Nick Sulzer, who brought a 26-2 standard to St. Louis, also tasted defeat.
Stauffer lost to Penn State’s Matt McCutcheon, while Sulzer was pinned by Northern Iowa’s Cooper Moore in a 165-pound second rounder.
The hits kept on coming when Old Dominion’s Jack Dechow, the fourth seed at 184 pounds, fell to Edinboro’s Victor Avery.
Seeding this tournament is never easy. Consider Oklahoma’s Cody Brewer, an All-American last season who was a No. 13 seed this week. He took just one loss during the regular season and avenged that defeat at the Big 12 Conference Championships. Brewer rolled to two victories on Thursday, hammering the fourth-seeded Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State Thursday night.
“Not a lot of people believe in me,” Brewer said. “To be honest it was kind of disrespectful. I don’t want to be rude to anybody because I think the NCAA Committee does a great job. But there is no way I should have been [No. 13] because I am going to be No. 1 by the end of the tournament.
“They are going to be a little off with the 13 seed.”
And with the victory against the Buckeye, a Sooner became liked by Tigers, Hawkeyes, Cowboys and Nittany Lions.