McComb Fieldhouse is not the shiniest, most modern facility in the country. Built in 1971, the facility is home to the Edinboro Fighting Scots, perhaps one of the most underrated wrestling programs in the country. And last Friday, head coach Tim Flynn’s squad, mainly underclassmen, battled perennial power Oklahoma State for two hours in an atmosphere worthy of any venue nationwide.
On the short end of a 24-12 score, Flynn likes what he saw from his team.
“You don’t have to say anything about Oklahoma State. You know what you are going to get with them,” Flynn said. “The atmosphere was great. I think that’s what wrestling needs and that’s the advantage. I thank Eric (Guerrero) and John (Smith) for coming out. It helps our program tremendously to have the number-one ranked team or a team with that kind of history come (to Edinboro).”
The unbeaten Cowboys appeared in control after wins by Kaid Brock (133), Dean Heil (141), Anthony Collica (149), and reserve Davey Dolan (157). But Edinboro junior 165-pounder Austin Matthews brought the McComb crowd to life when he pinned Chandler Rogers with a quick-strike cradle. The next two matches included an overtime win by Kyle Crutchmer at 174 pounds and a fantastic match at 184 pounds where it took everything and more for All-American Nolan Boyd to get by true freshman Dakota Geer; a takedown with 10 seconds remaining was the difference in a 10-8 match.
“Dakota (Geer) is going to be a good one for us,” said Flynn of the Franklin, Pa., native who takes a 24-7 record into this weekend’s duals. “He doesn’t back down from anybody. That match (Friday against Boyd) was a tough match. Both those guys gave everything which is what you love to see. We’ve got a young team and still have work to do. But I like where we are headed.”
Four of Flynn’s starters have at least 24 victories this season, including Pat Lugo (149), Sean Russell (125), and Billy Miller (285), all sophomores.
“I think what (Friday) showed was that we are not that far away from a top team,” said Matthews, who started his career at Clarion and has battled back from injury. “Our crowd was really into it. Duals in gyms (like McComb) are always fun and tough for the road team.”
“To get out of there with a win was big,” said OSU head coach John Smith. “(Edinboro) always has tough wrestlers. We had to scrap, battle, to win that dual.”
Eastern Wrestling League foes always find it tough against the Scots. Flynn’s group takes a 22-match EWL win streak into Friday night’s match with Cleveland State; a win would mark EU’s fourth straight unbeaten EWL dual campaign.
A big one down south
Like Edinboro, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State are trying to chase down the Big Ten powers annually. But none of that will matter Saturday night in Blacksburg when the Hokies (15-1) battle the Wolfpack (12-1) for Atlantic Coast Conference bragging rights. Under head coach Kevin Dresser, the Hokies have been a consistent member of the top 15. NCSU bolted into the nation’s top 10 last year with victories at Iowa and Oklahoma State. Since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign, head coach Pat Popolizio’s group is 35-2.
EDINBORO UPDATE— VT Wrestling (@VT_Wrestling) February 4, 2017
“I want to say it was going to be a ‘reloading’ year, but we’re just not there as a program,” Popolizio told the News & Observer on Thursday. “It was more of a rebuilding phase. We’ve got a whole different lineup but the guys’ mentality and attitude has been phenomenal.”
Two-time national champion and three-time finalist Nick Gwiazdowski was the face of the program, bringing plenty of attention to Raleigh. All-American Tommy Gantt is also gone. All-American Kevin Jack, who is 25-1 this season at 141 pounds, leads the Wolfpack.
“We don’t have the horses we had, with Nick (Gwiazdowski), Tommy (Gantt) and Pete (Renda) in the lineup, but I feel like these guys want to prove themselves,” Popolizio said.
Getting by Dresser’s squad will be a tall order. Senior 125-pounder Joey Dance has one loss in 20 matches and from 174 through 285 pounds Tech is as good as anybody with Zach Epperly (15-1), Zack Zavatsky (19-1), Jared Haught (18-2), and Ty Walz (16-2).
Last season’s meeting saw the Hokies edge NCSU, 19-14, in Raleigh.
Chaos out west
Stanford beat Arizona State two weekends ago. The Cardinal then dropped a dual against rejuvenated Oregon State on a Monday night. Last Sunday, the Sun Devils whipped Oregon State, 33-11.
“Overall, it was a good effort,” said ASU head coach Zeke Jones, whose squad improved to 9-4 with a win over California Bakersfield Thursday night. “We went from three-a-days last week to two-a-days this week so the extra rest made them feel like animals. It’s still too early to rest so we’ll ramp it back up next week.”
ASU redshirt-freshman 174-pounder Zahid Valencia picked up his 30th win against no defeats with a pin against Bakersfield. The Bellflower, Calif., product is also among the NCAA leaders in the Most Dominant Standings released this week, ranking eighth. He now has 10 pins, eight major decisions, and three technical falls.
Stanford hosts the Pac 12 Conference Championships on Feb. 26.
Big Ten gauntlet continues
Since early January, the Big Ten Conference has featured a monster dual almost every week. This week’s selection is Iowa (10-2) and Nebraska (12-1), both ranked among the top six in the latest NWCA/USA Today Coaches Rankings. The two meet on Sunday in Iowa City. But before the Huskers can think about black and gold, they must first focus on the scarlet and gray of fourth-ranked Ohio State (9-2) on Friday night in Lincoln.
The league also features No. 1 Penn State (12-0) against No. 10 Illinois (8-2) Friday night in State College, Ohio State at No. 12 Minnesota (6-4) on Sunday, along with No. 14 Michigan (8-5) against No. 18 Wisconsin (3-5) in Madison.
The biggest news out of the Big Ten last week was Iowa 125-pounder Thomas Gilman’s rally from an 8-0 deficit against Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak. The top-ranked Hawkeye pinned Lizak to remain unbeaten at 21-0 heading into this week’s probable matchup with NU’s third-ranked Tim Lambert (25-3). The Big Ten features six of the nation’s 10 top-ranked wrestlers – Gilman, Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello (12-0, 133), Penn State’s Zain Retherford (16-0, 149), Jason Nolf (16-0, 157), Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez (21-0, 165), and Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder (7-0, 285).
A busy week
Oklahoma State (12-0) hosts Wyoming Friday night and Oklahoma on Sunday. The Cowboys of head coach Mark Branch wrestle OU in Norman at noon and travel north to Stillwater Friday evening before returning home to host North Dakota State on Sunday. Among the “matches to see” this weekend is Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith (23-4) against Dean Heil (21-0). The two met in the NCAA finals in 2016 with Heil winning a scramble-crazy match. Branch knows plenty about Stillwater and Norman. “I believe the scariest thing about Gallagher is if you start out intimidated,” Branch said. “We have to believe that we have a chance to come away with wins. I have a lot of respect for that program but at the same time I want us to compete. I spent a lot of years there and I have a lot of pride for OSU, but I want all of our guys to get their arms raised on Friday night.”
Wyoming (7-5) opened its busy week by beating Northern Colorado, 28-10, in Greeley, Colo., on Wednesday night.
● In three years at Appalachian State, head coach JohnMark Bentley has led his team to two Southern Conference Championships, the second coming with last Tuesday’s 38-6 dual win over Virginia Military Academy. The Mountaineers (12-2) are ranked 17th in the country and will host a Bowl Dual Series match on Feb. 19. Since December of 2015, ASU has won 22 of 26 dual meets. Senior heavyweight Denzel Dejournette improved to 22-5 with a pin on Tuesday.
● South Dakota State(12-3) picked up another big win last week, knocking off Oklahoma, 20-19, when 133-pounder Seth Gross (23-1) scored a fall in the last bout. The two teams tied at 19 with SDSU earning the tiebreaker with 50 total points to the Sooners’ 47.
“I’m excited for the program. We’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, not just myself, but I keep bringing back the administration that has done this all,” said SDSU head coach Chris Bono after the victory over OU. “It’s a lot of excitement for where we’ve come. We are starting to build this fan-base and it is an amazing place we’ve come in five years.”
● Seventh-ranked Missouri (10-3) faces No. 19 Northern Iowa (9-3) for Mid-America Conference bragging rights Sunday in Columbia. “It’s for a conference title, and that is a big deal,” said UNI head coach Doug Schwab this week. “They’ve kind of run the conference for the last few years. (Missouri) has been winning the duals and winning the traditional. We obviously want to go down there and represent ourselves very well.”
● Cornell’s Ivy League streak is at 76 entering this weekend’s matches against Penn and Princeton. The Big Red (10-2) last lost an Ivy League match during the 2001-02 season.