By Jim & Tony Nordland
Defending team champion Iowa won the 80th annual NCAA Wrestling Championships before 15,919 fans at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The Hawkeyes amassed 134.5 points, crowned three champions amongst their five finalists, and garnered eight All-Americans en route to their 23rd mat title. Winning titles were two-time titlist Brent Metcalf (36-1, 108-3 career) at 149, freshman Matt McDonough (37-1) at 125 and unbeaten Jay Borschel (37-0) at 174 pounds.
Rounding out the top teams were Cornell (90), Iowa State (75), Wisconsin (70.5) and Oklahoma with 69 points. The Big Red of Cornell were paced by freshman phenom Kyle Dake (34-2) at 141, finalist Mack Lewnes (40-1) at 174, Cam Simaz (42-5), 3rd at 197 and seniorTroy Nickerson (19-3), 4th at 125 pounds. Dake defeated Reece Humphrey (Ohio State), 3-2 overtime, in the semifinals and scored with his scramble takedowns and tilts to post a solid 7-3 verdict over Iowa's Montell Marion in the finals. Iowa State had two winners including four-time All-American and two-time champion Jake Varner (41-0, 120-10), along with top-seeded David Zabriskie (26-2) at 285. Varner used a front headlock throw by and added a late double leg takedown to defeat two-time runner-up Craig Brester (Nebraska), 5-2, for the 197-pound crown.
Minnesota's Jayson Ness (31-0) raillied with a bear hug and near fall with eight seconds remaining in his 133-pound championship bout and stunned Iowa's Daniel Dennis, with a 6-4 victory. For his heroics, he was voted the tournament's outstanding wrestler award. J.P.O'Connor (35-0) of Harvard used his high crotch takedown and counters, along with his lifts and a strong ride to defeat rival Chase Pami (Cal Poly), 6-4, for the 157-pound title. Other NCAA winners were undefeated Andrew Howe (37-0) of Wisconsin at 165 and Missouri's Max Askren (20-5) at 184 pounds.
Cornell's former NCAA champion Troy Nickerson (97-8 career mark) finished as a four-time All-American with placings of 2-3-1-4. Nickerson turned in a gutsy performance as he wrestled with a severe shoulder injury throughout the three-day grueling tournament. In the consolations he defeated fan favorite Anthony Robles (Arizona State), 2-1, and was edged by former NCAA champion Angel Escobedo (Indiana) 2-0, in the bronze medal match. Congratulations to Cornell head coach Rob Koll on their recent NCAA finishes, 5th in 2009 and their runner-up team finish at the 2010 meet. Confident and care-free champion Kyle Dake stated: "I knew Cornell was going to be something special and I just wanted to be a part of that. And it's really close to my house (5.2 miles), so I always have my family support there. I can go home and have my Mom do the laundry or something." Three-time All-America J.P. O'Connor (5-6-1) finished his stellar career with 132 victories and became the third wrestler from Harvard to win an NCAA title. O'Connor said: "I was just trying to follow in the footsteps of former national champions, John Harkness (1938) and Jesse Jantzen (2004), while creating ny own path. I looked up to Jesse; as a great wrestler as he is even a better person. I consider it to be a honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with him." The Empire State finished with two champions and had seven All-Americans. Earning All-American honors were the aforementioned champions, Dake and O'Connor, along with placer Nickerson. Others were Torsten Gillespie (32-15) of Edinboro, 6th at 149, Kyle Borschoff (26-8) of American, 8th at 149, Justin Lister (32-10) of Binghamton, 4th at 157 and Steven Brown (17-6) of Central Michigan, 8th at 157. Congrats to coach Pat Popolizio and Binghamton for their highest ever NCAA finish.The Bearcats finished with 26 points and landed in 21st place. Army tallied nine points and Hofstra scored one point in the tournament. New York and Iowa were the only home states to crowned two champions. Pennsylvania led all states with eight All-Americans. Oklahoma State's Zach Bailey had nine matches and went 7-2 overall, he finished fourth at 141 pounds. Five former NCAA champions had to settle for All-American status; Nickerson and Escobedo, along with Franklin Gomez (3rd at 133) of Michigan State, Jarrod King (3rd) at 165 of Edinboro and Missouri's Mark Ellis, 6th at 285 pounds. Only five NCAA champions remained unscathed, Ness, O'Connor, Howe, Borschel and Varner.The combined record of the ten Division I champions was an unbelievbale mark of 324 victories and just 11 losses.The total attendance for the six sessions was 94,004. Special thanks to Laurie Cannon, Assistant Director of Media Cordiantion for the NCAA Championships, for her outstanding work with the NCAA updates and working so well with everyone. The 2011 Championships will be held at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA, on March17th-19th...