ST. LOUIS -- Hunter Stieber failed to score a point this week. But ask anyone around the Ohio State program and they will tell you the junior 149-pounder has played a key role in the Buckeyes’ success.
“[Hunter] Stieber has been one of the pillars this weekend,” said Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan, whose squad pushed five into tonight’s semifinals at the 2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships. “He’s been a pillar for the last two years. When you watch your teammate fight like he was willing to fight with no arms, literally no arms, it changes your perspective on how hard you can fight.
“As tough as these guys are they need to be reminded sometimes.”Stieber’s promising career has been derailed by injury. As a sophomore two seasons ago, he was third at the national tournament. A redshirt season followed in 2013-14 and only three times did he step on the mat this season. Stieber made a go of it at the Big Ten Championships, helping his squad earn a first-place tie; he qualified for his third NCAA tournament.
On the opening day in St. Louis, the junior 149-pounder, with both elbows heavily taped, battled Hofstra’s Cody Ruggirello to a 9-7 outcome. In the wrestlebacks Thursday night, Stieber injury defaulted after 3:39 to end his season.
As the Buckeye coach said, the rest of the team battled in his wake. Five, including three freshmen, advanced to the semifinals. Rookie 125-pounder Nathan Tomasello and three-time national champion Logan Stieber picked up technical falls. Rookie 165-pounder Bo Jordan one-upped his teammates with a pin in the 165-pound quarterfinals.
“I’m just trying to keep up with Nathan [Tomasello],” Logan Stieber said after his third bonus-point win of the tournament. “He’s killing it right now, a bonus-point machine. Everyone is trying to do their job.
“The main thing is to advance, but if you can get bonus points get them.”
Kenny Courts threw in an overtime victory in the 184-pound quarterfinals, while Kyle Snyder, a freshman 197-pounder, edged Minnesota’s Scott Schiller.
The rest of the field is trying to chase down the front-runners through wrestlebacks. Entering tonight’s wrestling, Ohio State (64.5 points) leads Missouri (49), Iowa (47.5), Cornell (41.5), Edinboro (40.5), Nebraska (36.5), Oklahoma State (36) and Penn State (33.5).
Iowa advanced three to the semifinals -- Thomas Gilman at 125, Corey Clark at 133, and Mike Evans at 174 -- and got wrestleback victories by 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen and heavyweight Bobby Telford. Nathan Burak, at 197, and Sam Brooks, at 184, each lost in the quarterfinals and will be back on the mat tonight.
Missouri advanced Alan Waters (125), Drake Houdeshelt (149) and J’Den Cox (197) to the semifinals. Lavion Mayes (141), Mike Englund (165), Willie Micklus (184) and Devin Mellon (285) each won twice in the first session Friday keeping the Tigers alive.
Cornell’s Brian Realbuto and Gabe Dean moved into the final four. Realbuto, the second seed at 157 pounds, appeared to be toast against Kent State’s Ian Miller. But the Big Red sophomore rallied late with a takedown, then secured an 11-9 win with an overtime decider. Dean, the top seed at 184, held off Iowa’s Brooks in the quarters.
Edinboro and Oklahoma State each pushed two to the semifinals, two expected and two unexpected. Mitchell Port for the Fighting Scots improved to 35-1, while 13th-seeded Victor Avery won his third match at 184 pounds.
The Cowboys’ Alex Dieringer, a champion last March, improved to 32-0 with a major decision at 165 pounds, while teammate Kyle Crutchmer, a 12th seed, got by Oregon State’s Joe Latham in a 174-pound quarterfinal.
Penn State is also hanging around, advancing James Gulibon (133) and Matt Brown (174) to the semifinals. Brown lost in the 2013 NCAA final. Three other Nittany Lions lost in the quarterfinals and dive into wrestlebacks this evening.
Prior to Friday morning the top seeds had avoided the upset bug buzzing around the arena. But Nebraska senior 174-pounder Robert Kokesh, who entered the day 36-0, dropped a 3-2 match to Pittsburgh’s Tyler Wilps to become the first top dog to lose.
Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh entered as the second seed at 197 pounds. But Duke junior Connor Hartman, an All-American in 2014, held off a late flurry to win 3-2.
Expecting the unexpected is the norm at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. That trend certainly continued.
Three unseeded wrestlers are in the semifinals.
West Virginia’s Zeke Moisey and North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack joined Ohio State’s Courts in punching their tickets to Saturday with victories in Friday’s quarterfinals. A ticket to Saturday means a top-eight finish and status as an All-American.
“There are no words to really describe it,” said the freshman Jack. “It’s amazing, my first tournament here and to make it this far is great. I just went in with the mindset that I could win. In this tournament it’s been about attacking for me. I didn’t take that into the [Atlantic Coast Conference championships] but I have this week.”
Jack knocked off Iowa’s Josh Dziewa, the fifth seed, in the first round. The second round saw a victory against North Carolina’s Joey Ward. Friday morning, Jack trailed Virginia Tech All-American Devin Carter, a finalist in 2014, in the third period. A late rally resulted in a 10-8 victory and a date with Ohio State’s Logan Stieber tonight in a 141-pound semifinal.
Moisey entered the week unseeded in the 125-pound bracket. He product opened with a 14-6 major decision in the first round, then beat second-seeded Nahshon Garrett of Cornell Thursday night. His unlikely run continued in the quarterfinals where he beat Oklahoma State’s seven-seed Eddie Klimara, a wrestler he lost to twice this season.
Making a point
Oklahoma junior Cody Brewer, the No. 13 seed at 133 pounds, continued his statement-making run. An All-American a year ago, Brewer whipped Virginia’s George DiCamillo 14-5 in the quarterfinals for this third bonus-point win of the week. Brewer (20-1) faces Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes (26-0) tonight.
Iowa’s Evans and Minnesota’s Logan Storley met for the seventh time in the first session. The two had split the first six matches with Evans winning the last three in overtime. You guessed it, the two needed extra time once again with Evans earning a 2-1 tiebreaker victory.
Illinois 125-pounder Jesse Delgado, winner of the last two NCAA titles at 125 pounds, limped off the mat Friday morning after an injury default. Delgado finishes his senior campaign 10-5.