10 minutes into the NCAA Men's Division 1 Medal Round Saturday morning - where consolation matches took place to decide the finishing order of competitors from 3rd place and below - Penn State secured their Team Victory when their own Andrew Long pinned Cornell's Mike Grey to place 3rd at 133lbs but more significantly boosted the team into an unrecoverable points lead ahead of main challenger Cornell. The writing was on the wall when PSU's Quentin Wright scored a pin in the semi-finals Friday night against Iowa's Grant Gambrall at 184lbs; Long's victory along with 174lbs' Edward Ruth's decision win for 3rd place over Cornell's Mark Lewnes sealed the deal. The Nittany Lions' fans roar was deafening amid the 17000+ in attendance.
4 minutes 16 seconds into the 157lbs final later that evening however a roar of shock and disbelief erupted as No#4 seed Senior Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State pinned odds-favourite No#3 seed Freshman David Taylor of PSU who had looked unstoppable coming into the bout. The first 3 minute period consisted of fighting off each other's tie up attempts with neither being able to score. The second period started with Taylor in the Down position with Jenkins behind and the first point of the match was scored via a quick escape from Taylor. To quote Dana White, from here many expected it to be Business As Usual for Taylor as he shot in with an aggressive single leg, but Jenkins was to play spoiler. Taylor over committed in trying to score with a takedown allowing Jenkins to adjust, shift out to the side to hook up a cradle, suicide roll over his own shoulders and score with the eventual match ender. It was very much a case of experience triumphing over youth.
NCAA.com said it best: Jenkins stole Penn State's thunder. Want to know what made the victory sweeter? Jenkins used to be a PSU team member before being transferred (read: kicked off) after a falling out with coach Cael Sanderson. The victory was very personal for Jenkins who in July 2010 said of Sanderson "I don't like him at all ... He's not someone I would send my kid to or want leading my team. It was time to move". Last night's win was Jenkins' ultimate vindication, and he now carries with him a Division 1 Championship as he sets out on a professional MMA career.
The prospect of a Team Victory with no individual champion must not have sat well with Coach Sanderson especially considering moments before Taylor's shock loss, PSU's 149lbs finalist Frank Molinaro lost a lopsided decision to defending champion Kyle Dake of Cornell. Dake amazingly had managed to accrue over 6 minutes of riding time by punishing Molinaro using a Power-Nelson with both hooks in, cranking down on Molinaro's neck to the legal limit afforded by American Folkstyle Wrestling until he succeeded with a turn taking him to 5-1 before later scoring a reversal giving him the match 8-1. Molinaro's lone point came by way of Dake being penalised by the referee much to the confusion of the audience and consternation of his coaches as it's still unclear what it was for.
Sanderson, a 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, had some of the bitterness of defeat washed away as PSU's Quentin Wright - who wowed in the Semi-Final with a super clean cradle pin of his own - managed to beat Lehigh's Robert Hamlin in the 184lbs class by 5-2 decision and take home Penn State's sole individual championship to accompany their team title. The story of the match was Wright being able to finish his double leg takedown attempts and build up the score only giving away a couple of points for quick escapes from Hamlin. Interestingly according to The Mat's coverage of the tournament, Wright is the lowest ranked seed to win a National Championship since MMA fighter Jake Rosholt won in Kansas City at 184lbs in 2003. Quite the turn around for a wrestler who was struggling to find his place mid-season. In the post-match interview he was asked by ESPN when everything began to click, but Wright was out of breath and clearly taken aback by his victory
Continue reading the remaining match rundowns after the jump.
133lbs - Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State took first beating Boise State's Andrew Hochstrasser 8-4 Decision, capping off an undefeated season. Oliver took an early lead with a successful double leg takedown and later had a near fall situation on Hochstrasser not long after he'd scored with an escape. Another takedown and Oliver assured his championship as time ran out.
141lbs - Chuck Liddell's old stomping grounds Cal Poly go without a title this year as Borislav Novachov loses a close decision to the impressive No#1 seed Kellen Russel of Michigan. Both scored an escape each in the 2nd and 3rd periods, with Novachkov losing the fight when he attempted a go behind that was countered by Russell with just over 30 seconds of the bout remaining.
165lbs - Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs again proved too much with 5 grease lightning take downs against Oklahoma's Tyler Caldwell gaining a 11-3 major decision becoming the first 2X NCAA champion in Nebraska's history.Burroughs is incredibly athletic and if he were to fight MMA and compete at 170lbs I'd argue he'd have the best take downs of the division. And yes, that includes the mighty UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre.
174lbs - Iowa State's Jonathan Reader clashed with Stanford's Nick Amuchastegui in more ways then one as he sustained a bad cut by his eye early on and fought the remainder of the bout with his head and jaw wrapped by a bandage. It didn't stop him gaining a 10-3 decision via two take downs, two near falls and an additional point from riding time. The match was stopped several times to address Reader's bleeding and adjust his bandages and even Amuchastegui ended up with a cut as the match went on. Still, not even a spec compared to the mess Diego Sanchez was in the other week.
197lbs - Kent State's first NCAA Champion Dustin Kilgore made an impressive comeback after trailing 5-1 to Oklahoma State's Clayton Foster until he managed a Hail Mary pin fall after re-countering Clayton's single leg takedown defense.
285lbs - Zachery Rey doesn't make it look pretty, and if he gets hold of you there's a good chance you're not staying on your feet. Part technique part bear mauling in his take downs Rey only just managed a 2-1 decision over rival Ryan Flores of American. The two are one a piece after Flores beat Rey in the finals of the EIWA tournament. I have a mawkish intrigue to see Rey compete at Heavyweight - the division is starved of wrestlers and Rey could probably take down anyone he wanted to, but he's so big and lumbering he'd have to lose a lot of weight before he even cuts to 265lbs and even then I've no idea how his cardio would hold up. If you've not seen Rey before, he looks like what the possible result would be if Brock Lesnar and Roy Nelson were launched from opposite ends of the Hadron Collider.
NCAA.com video highlights: