ST. LOUIS -- Nathan Tomasello delivered a major body blow. Then, Kyle Snyder provided what might just be the knockout punch at the 2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Tomasello (32-4), a freshman 125-pounder, beat Missouri’s Alan Waters to advance to the 125-pound finals on Saturday night. It was Waters’ first setback in 34 matches this season. A few hours later, Snyder, another rookie for head coach Tom Ryan’s Ohio State Buckeyes, tactically beat another unbeaten Tiger, edging 2014 NCAA champion J’Den Cox 3-2 in a 197-pound semifinal.
“All these guys are 4-point students, guys who do it the right way,” Ryan said. “Without question they have put in the work. When this season started we looked at our lineup and really thought we could have this kind of national tournament.”
Two other Buckeyes -- Bo Jordan at 165 and Kenny Courts at 184 -- each lost semifinal bouts but can finish no worse than sixth place. Jordan, yet another talented freshman, challenged Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer, but lost 6-1.Courts, unseeded, fell to Lehigh’s Nathaniel Brown, 4-0.
Stieber (28-0) continued his march toward a fourth national title with a major decision. He will face Edinboro’s Mitchell Port (36-1), who hammered Old Dominion’s Chris Mecate on the other side of the bracket.
“I’m just trying to enjoy it,” Stieber said.
Friday night was another session filled with surprises.
Right out of the gate, West Virginia’s Zeke Moisey provided another stunner. Not satisfied with just finishing top eight after a quarterfinal victory against Oklahoma State’s Eddie Klimara Friday morning, Moisey continued his run by pinning Iowa’s Thomas Gilman in 52 seconds to advance to the 125-pound final where he will face Tomasello.
“Seeing [Lehigh’s] Darian Cruz go out there and All-American as a true freshman last year gave me the confidence to be able to do the same thing,” Moisey said. “We were workout partners for four years in a row.”
Not long after the top seed went down at 125 pounds, Oklahoma’s Cody Brewer, a 13-seed, gave fans another surprise when he dominated Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes to the tune of 15-3 to move into the 133-pound final. It was Dardanes’ first loss in 27 matches and was Brewer’s fourth bonus-point win of the tournament.
Iowa sophomore Corey Clark (30-5) rallied to beat Penn State’s James Gulibon 7-5 in the other semifinal.
Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis brought a 36-1 mark into Friday night, but he lost to Edinboro’s David Habat (36-2) 3-2. Habat meets Missouri’s Drake Houdeshelt, the top seed, who controlled Cornell’s Chris Villalonga 4-0.
Cornell’s Brian Realbuto (23-2) moved to the 157-pound finals after Minnesota senior Dylan Ness was forced to injury default. Realbuto will meet Illinois rookie Isaiah Martinez, who improved to 33-0 with a 3-2 victory against Nebraska’s James Green.
The Big Red also pushed 184-pounder Gabe Dean (43-2) to the finals. The sophomore survived a marathon against Edinboro’s Victor Avery. Dean will face Brown on the raised platform Saturday night.
Points were few and far between in the 174-pound semifinals where Penn State’s Matt Brown (28-3) edged Big Ten rival Mike Evans from Iowa 1-0 while Pittsburgh’s Tyler Wilps (19-3) scored an overtime takedown to beat Oklahoma State’s Kyle Crutchmer 3-1.
Iowa State senior Kyven Gadson (29-1) was expecting a finals match with Cox, but instead will face Snyder after beating Duke’s Connor Hartman in the other 197-pound semifinal.
The evening finished with another thriller when Michigan’s Adam Coon (32-4) scored an overtime takedown to beat Big Ten rival Michael McMullen of Northwestern. Coon meets 2014 NCAA champion Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State for the title at 285 pounds.