Virtually every conference saw a smorgasbord of scoreboard results on the last weekend of the regular season.
Three shall be the number and the number of the counting shall be three as South Dakota State emphatically reclaimed the Border Bell over “TTUN” (1) with a 32-3 thumping of double tough North Dakota State. Surely a highlight of the 9 wins out of 10 matches dual victory by Damion Hahns JackRabbits over Roger Kishs Bison was 165lb pinmeister Tanner Cooks OT win over Top 20 ranked Luke Weber. Or perhaps not, as the last time these two tangled two years back Cook only needed 7 minutes to manhandle Weber 17-6. Cooks win broke Webers 5 match win streak and certainly adds fuel to the seeding fire for the BIG 12 Tournament at 165. Missouri’s undefeated Keegan O’Toole is the obvious #1 and at 22-2 WVUs Peyton Hall should be #2 but after that? YEESH. Cook, Weber, Oklahoma States Travis Wittlake, Northern Iowas Austin Yant, YOU fill out THAT bracket.
Different conference, different teams, near identical score as Ryan LeBlancs Citadel squad settled the score with in conference, in uniform rival VMI 32-5. The SoCons two institutions of academic/athletic/military excellence love to tout their amazing achievements post-graduation in virtually any field you can mention. (2) This mat showdown, though, tilted decidedly in favor of the Bulldogs. The Citadel took eight out of ten matches as their “Trio of Terror”, 157lb Dazjon Casto, 165lb Selwyn Porter, and 285lb Mike McAleavey all came through. Casto is on a 6 match win streak, 5 by bonus. Porters won five of seven down the homestretch and should have the #4 seed at SoCons secured. McAleavey, 22-9, has won six straight and will be the #2 seed at SoCon Hvt. behind Campbells Taye Ghadiali. Said it before, saying it again: the SoCon needs 3 bids at 165 and 285, folks. Take the conference names and uniforms out of the equation and examine the results. The Citadel finishes plus .500 for the first time since the Aaron Walker-Matt Frisch led team of 2015. That pack of Bulldogs finished Top 20 at the Scuffle, 4th at the All Academy Championships, and took Bronze at the SoCon. Jim Gibsons VMI squad finished their regular season of seasoning with almost all freshmen and only a few sophomores out on the mat, so a 2-10 ledger is not suprising. 197lb Tyler Mousaw leads the team in wins and has a shot to make the SoCon finals as a presumptive #3 seed.
NIU stands as this years Illinois State MAC Daddy with a 35-3 win over SIUE. A Huskies win was expected, but the Cougars, with new Associate Head Coach Darryl Thomas bringing old Illinois roots and new fire to SIUE, surely planned on more than one match victory. Keep an eye at the MAC Tournament and beyond for NIU stars 165lb Izaak Olejnik and All American Britt Wilson, up at 184. Olejnik began the season with a loss to #1 Evan Wick of Cal Poly and has run off 4, 7, and 8 match win streaks since. Should they meet again at Nationals it will not, with ALL due respect to Evan, be another shutout. Wilson opened the season 16-0, then hit a semi slide with 4 losses in 2 injury filled days. Since his return it’s nothing but W’s for the mullet-topped mat master from Mexico, Missouri.(3)
When you face an old foe with everything on the line, on the road, and it goes South, so can everything else. John Stutzmans Buffalo Bulls undid that common story thread and turned it into a Bobcat trap. Buffalo rebounded from a conference title match defeat to CMU by thumping Ohio 25-10. The Bulls broke the Bobcats three match win streak and their will by running off five straight wins from 133 to 165. The lead off winner and headliner: Derek Spann, whos triumph was a team record 53rd dual match win. Spanns undefeated since the Southern Scuffle the first two days of January. Buffalo finishes the regular season a strong 12-6, Ohio 9-4. Spann and fellow senior 149lb John Arceri should be taking their talents to Detroit this year. For Ohio it’s a potential Fantastic Four, if not more, with post season advancement hopes for the NCAAs. True freshman 174lb Sal Perrine, brother of Gardner Webbs dual threat Hvt/197 brawler Anthony, is the quietest 21-2 wrestler you never heard of. 149lb Senior Alec Hagan, 23-6. 157lb Jordan Slivka, 22-5. Freshman 184lb Zayne Lehman, 20-6. Where has this team been all year, you ask? Well, in East Lansing to start the season where Perrine, Lehman, and Hagan took titles at the Michigan State Open. Then they took 2nd at the Navy Classic with titles by Perrine, again, and Jordan Slivka. Since losing their first dual of the season, Dec. 3rd to Clarion, only powerful Navy and conference champ CMU had beaten the Bobcats till their showdown loss to Buffalo.
Shutouts are special and worthy of mention if only for their rarity at the Division One level. (4) Appalachian State of the SoCon shut out VMI and Presbyterian and held Gardner Webb to 3 points. UTC finished at 9-10 but had a 4 match win streak to end the regular season. Wins 6-8 on the year for the Mocs were, remarkably, ALL shutouts of conference foes. Also important, the 21-15 w over BIG 10 team Indiana on the road to end the regular season. The Mocs did that the hard way, too, after lightweight sparkplugs and 20 match winners Fabian Gutierrez and Brayden Palmer both lost in the duals first two matches.
You want close? Plenty of that this weekend also, so many it would be tough to say which was better. Maybe it was Arizona States 21-17 win over Lehigh, decided when Sun Devil AA Hvt Cohlton Schultz beat 2X AA Jordan Wood of Lehigh to seal the deal. Schultz finishes the regular season unbeaten as does Sun Devil 157lb Jacori Teemer, who gave Lehigh star Josh Humphreys only his second loss this year. Perhaps it was Wisconsins 19-16 barnburner over Cornell, a 5-5 match split dual where stardom was both affirmed and solidified. Solidified as 2X National Champ Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell and fellow 149lb star Austin Gomez of Wisconsin threw a Home Depot full of hardware at each other for 7 minutes as Yianni D. posted a 12-6 win. Affirmed for Wisconsins baby faced assassin at 165lbs, Dean Hamiti. Hamiti went full Austrian baker mode on Cornells Top Ten 165lb Julian Ramirez, pretzeling the Big Red star left, right, up, down and flat for a 2nd period pin. Hamiti has lost (once) won 20 times, earning a staggering 19 bonus point victories. SHOUT OUT to hard luck transfer senior 174lb Andrew McNally, whos laundry list of illness and injuries this year cut short a promising final campaign. His 7-2 win over Andrew Berreyesa may, just may, offer a glimmer of hope for a good showing at the BIG 10 tournament. Northwestern beat Purdue 20-15 in a 5-5 match split with 125lb Devan Schroeder and 197lb Thomas Penola earning quality wins in a losing cause. Harvard took down Binghamton in another 5-5 split 19-17. The Crimson have been without star Hvt. Yaroslau Slavikovski since he injury defaulted out of the Cliff Keen Tournament in December. Their backup was no match for PA tough Bearcat Hvt. Joe Doyle. Doyle worked for a major decision win but even a pin would have left the Bearcats short, as Harvard had two bonus point wins. Northern Colorado and Air Force couldn’t have made it any closer as the Bears beat the Falcons 19-18 on criteria. It was 18-18 after all ten matches, but Northern Colorado had won six of them. Stanford took the unofficial California wrestling title over the past 10 or so days defeating Cal State Bakersfield and Cal Poly but ceded the 2nd spot in the PAC 12 to Oregon State. That one wasn’t close as the Beavers took seven out of ten matches. By far the biggest result, 141lb Grant Willits pin of Stanfords Real Woods. It was Willits 22nd win and his 15th in a row. Beavers Hvt. Gary Traub has won 18 straight. Folks, the Beavers are coming in hot. Expect all kinds of fireworks at the PAC 12 Tournament.
Folks, please remember, support your state by attending/reading about/ commenting on your states scholastic wrestling activities. Many of these tournaments are going on right now. Let them know you know and let them know you care. And, on that note, congratulations to ALL our Region 4 wrestlers here in South Texas. Finally, to our columns adopted HS wrestler of the year, Josh Johnson of Miami Coral Gables, heading into the always tough FHSAA 3A Region 4 as the #2 finisher from District 16. Settle down and take em down, Josh!
See you sometime soon!
(1) That Team Up North, surely one of the descriptions the JackRabbits use for their BIG 12 Bison not so buddies.
(2) BOTH schools truly excel in their post grads F.U.B.G. degrees/success. SOMETHING to do with bad guys. Just sayin. 👏
(3) This is half the fun of writing these columns.
(4) Unless of course you are Penn State, who usually shuts out one or two teams a season. This year the blankees were Maryland and Rider with Sacred Heart a close third, falling to the Nittany Lions 47-3. Hmm, just like App State shutting out…..but surely you noticed that already. SOMEBODIES somewhere sure need to.