NCAA wrestling: Army wins 1st All-Academy title since 2008
Logan Everett earned a 6-5 decision in the 141-pound final. Andrew Mendel scored a takedown in the closing moments for a 7-6 victory to claim the 165-pound title. Brian Harvey edged Navy’s Jadaen Bernstein, 4-2, for gold at 174 pounds. And 197-pounder Bryce Barnes sealed the deal as Army held off Navy on a back-and-forth Saturday to win its first All-Academy Championship since 2008 in Lexington, Va.
“All 10 wrestlers contributed, all 10 wrestlers scored team points,” said Army second-year head coach Kevin Ward, whose squad has six in the finals. “We were close to winning last year, so getting everyone to score points makes a difference.”
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It is just the third championship for Army in 22 All-Academy tournaments.
“It’s not like I’m starting from scratch, we’re not building a program from scratch,” said Ward, whose first Black Knight squad finished 50th at the 2015 NCAA Championships. “We’ve made progress and that is a testament to the guys on the team. There’s work to be done; we were good (Saturday) but we have to get better.”
Everett, a junior from Pennsylvania, was a runner-up at the 2015 All-Academy tournament. He improved to 18-10 with four victories in Lexington. Mendel, an Ohio product, pushed his record over .500 with four wins. Harvey, a senior from Indiana, is now 20-7, while Barnes, a junior from Virginia, is 19-7. Russell Parsons, a 157-pounder who attended Blair Academy in New Jersey, is 22-8 after his second place showing.
The Midshipmen had a pair of champions ― sophomore Zack Davis upended Air Force veteran Josh Martinez for top honors at 133 and Matt Miller had a pin to finish off his run through the 174-pound bracket. Navy has won 13 of the 23 tournaments contested and were champions 10 times from 2004-15.
“As a team, we just left too many points off the board,” said Navy first-year head coach Joel Sharratt, former coach at the Air Force Academy. “We found ourselves winning by decision and shorting ourselves that bonus point that in the end proved costly. That said, our team chemistry is gelling at the right time and we will continue to hone our skills as we have a number of competitive dual matches remaining in the month of February.”
To say Nebraska has wrestled a tough schedule this season is a bit of an understatement. The 11th-ranked Huskers competed on home mats just once through the first two-plus months, a November dual victory over Wyoming. Head coach Mark Manning’s squad managed to win nine of its first 10 duals, including victories over Lehigh, currently ranked sixth, and No. 15 Cornell, plus challenging Iowa at the Midlands Championships in late December.
The January schedule has been brutal. After opening the new year with wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota, NU traveled to No. 1 Penn State and fell 24-10. Two days later, 2015 NCAA champion Ohio State gave the Huskers a 21-17 setback. A week after losing in Columbus, NU took a 21-11 loss at No. 2 Iowa in Lincoln.
This weekend concludes the gauntlet as NU (9-4) hosts No. 13 Illinois on Friday and upstart North Carolina State (19-0), ranked third.
“It’s a process, that’s what we’re learning right now,” said NU junior 184-pounder T.J. Dudley after the loss to the Hawkeyes. “These matches matter, but in March, they don’t. It’s about going out there and wrestling hard each match. It’s not about the result tonight. It’s about getting better so you can accomplish what you want in March.”
Down the stretch they come
The first weekend in February features a few you-don’t-want-to-miss dual meets, two of them in Lincoln, Neb. After hosting Illinois on Friday, the Huskers welcome unbeaten North Carolina State, who improved to 20-0 with wins over Pittsburgh and West Virginia last week. The Wolfpack host No. 10 Virginia Tech on Feb. 12 and No. 5 Missouri Feb. 14. Already with attention-getting wins over Minnesota and Oklahoma State, head coach Pat Popolizio’s crew could remain in the title-contending conversation with big performances in February.
“There’s always trends and things always happen in cycles. It’s never been done, which is not to say it can’t be,” said Popolizio leading up to last Monday’s dual with in-state rival North Carolina. “If you look at those states that are doing it, you’ve got little kids where that’s everything in the world to them to one day wrestle for Oklahoma State, one day wrestle for Iowa, one day wrestle for Penn State.
“We have to create that here. As college coaches, we’ve got to create that environment for kids to one day aspire to be in our programs.”
Top-ranked Penn State, still unbeaten after mauling Michigan, hosts Ohio State on Friday. Depending on who the Buckeyes suit up, it could be a close dual or another Nittany Lion rout. Illinois and Michigan, both among the top 15, combined to score 22 points The Wolverines will try and rebound from its 35-7 loss to PSU at Rutgers. The Scarlett Knights are 13-3 and will be tough in Piscataway.
A rare meeting between tradition-rich Oklahoma State and Cornell will take place Sunday in Ithaca, N.Y. The two schools have only met four times.
• With a pair of wins last week, North Carolina State heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski improved to 100-2 while wearing a Wolfpack singlet. An All-American as a freshman at Binghamton, Gwiazdowski is 130-11 for his career.
• Princeton ended a 24-match losing streak to Penn with a 19-15 win over the Quakers last Saturday. Brett Harner (197), Ray O’Donnell (285), and freshman Pat D’Arcy (125) each won bouts to complete the comeback.
“This is huge for our program and our alumni, which came out in force (Saturday),” head coach Chris Ayres said. “It’s been one step at a time. Iearned quickly that this would take time, and we all stuck to it together. The game plan is to keep working our way, keep knocking them down until we’re the best team in the country.”
Princeton (4-6) is at Harvard this Saturday.
• Second-ranked Iowa stayed perfect this season, beating Minnesota, 34-6, in Iowa City. It was the largest margin of victory in the series since 1996.
• Arizona State picked up another win over a ranked opponent, topping No. 20 Oregon State, 24-10, last Friday in Tempe.
• Ohio won six bouts and edged Northern Iowa, 18-17, in Cedar Rapids. It was the Bobcats’ fourth straight dual win.
• Michigan State gave head coach Tom Minkel a victory in his final home dual. The Spartans (1-12) beat Northwestern, 19-15, when heavyweight Dimitrius Renfroe beat Conan Jennings. NU’s only win in 10 duals this season came against Franklin & Marshall on Nov. 29.