Three teams still in hunt entering final day of exciting NCAA Championships
Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry celebrates his semifinal win at the NCAA Championships on Friday night. John Sachs photo.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Forget that other NCAA tournament.
We’ve got all the drama and then some right here at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
The top three teams are within just 3.5 points of each other after a wild and crazy semifinal round Friday night before a crowd of 15,375 fans Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Top-ranked Penn State, seeking its fourth straight team title, holds a slight lead with 91 points. Second-ranked Minnesota is right behind with 90.5 and third-ranked Oklahoma State is a close third with 87.5.
Penn State has two finalists and five other All-Americans who have opportunities to put up more points in the wrestlebacks. Minnesota has two finalists and five in the wrestlebacks. Oklahoma State has four finalists and one in the wrestlebacks.
"We always want more points,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “We need to keep fighting. How we finish tomorrow is very important to how we end up as a team."
Penn State stars David Taylor (165 pounds) and Ed Ruth (184) are the two finalists for the Nittany Lions.
The top-seeded Taylor, an NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner, earned a 13-5 major decision win over No. 4 Steven Monk of North Dakota State in the semis. Taylor becomes a four-time NCAA finalist.
Taylor will face past NCAA runner-up Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State in the finals. Taylor beat Caldwell 5-2 in a dual meet this season.
“Tyler’s a very tough opponent,” Taylor said. “He’s strong and hard to score on. It’s just a matter of trying to get to my offense.”
The second-seeded Ruth, a two-time NCAA champion, avenged his only loss from the last three seasons with a 5-3 win over No. 3 Gabe Dean of Cornell in the semis.
Oklahoma State is seeking its 35th national team title.
“It was a good effort,” OSU coach John Smith said. “For the most part, scoring points was the key and the difference. We put ourselves in the position to have a shot. That is all you can really hope for. Giving ourselves a shot is what we did this weekend. Tomorrow, we will see."
Minnesota senior Tony Nelson moved within one win of his third NCAA title at heavyweight. He is looking to become his school’s first three-time national champion. He will face North Carolina State’s Nick Gwiazdowski in the finals.
Nelson beat Gwiazdowski this season. Gwiazdowski beat Nelson twice in freestyle at the U.S. World Team Trials last year.
Returning champion Chris Perry of Oklahoma State outlasted Iowa’s Mike Evans in overtime to reach the 174 finals. Perry will meet No. 2 seed Andrew Howe of Oklahoma in the finals. Howe, a 2010 NCAA champion for Wisconsin, reached the finals for the third time.
Perry and Howe split a pair of matches this season, with Perry winning the most recent meeting at the Big 12 tournament.
“I need to get my offense going early,” Howe said of the finals match with Perry. “It was definitely a kick in the butt and lit a fire under me after our last match. I want to finish up strong.”
Minnesota junior Dylan Ness is back in the finals for the second time in the last three seasons. Ness edged No. 4 seed Ian Miller of Kent State 6-4 in the 157 semis. The ninth-seeded Ness will face No. 3 Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State in the finals. Dieringer won a Junior World silver medal in 2013.
Two-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State downed Penn State true freshman Zain Retherford 7-3 in the 141 semis. Stieber is a past Junior World silver medalist and Retherford won a Cadet World title in freestyle.
“I just wrestled my match and controlled the pace with my takedowns,” Stieber said. “I rode him when I needed to ride him and I did what I needed to do.”
Stieber, a junior, is trying to stay on course to become a rare four-time champion. Just three wrestlers have accomplished that feat.
Stieber will face Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter in the finals. Carter won the Dave Schultz Memorial International in freestyle last year. Carter returned late in the season despite suffering a torn hamstring in December.
Returning champion and No. 1 seed Jesse Delgado of Illinois advanced to the finals with a 9-6 win over No. 5 Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa. Delgado will face No. 2 Nahshon Garrett of Cornell, who outlasted two-time NCAA runner-up Nico Megaludis 6-4 in the 125 finals.
Delgado beat Garrett in the Grapple at the Garden event in New York City this season.
“This year has been a different journey and it has presented its challenges for me,” Delgado said. “I’ve got one more match to accomplish what I set out to do here. I just need to focus on one more match. I know I’m seven minutes from another title.”
Iowa senior Tony Ramos hit a dramatic five-point move in the final minute to earn a 5-1 win over No. 2 seed A.J. Schopp of Edinboro to earn his second trip to the 133 finals. Ramos was second last year.
Schopp rode the third-seeded Ramos, second in the NCAAs last year, for the entire second period to gain control early. Ramos chose neutral in the third period in a scoreless match before taking Schopp to his back for a takedown and three-point near fall to prevail.
“I wasn’t worried,” Ramos said. “I knew I was going to get to him. I could feel him wearing down. As soon as I locked him up, I could hear him screaming and I knew it was over.”
Ramos will face long-time rival Tyler Graff of Wisconsin in the finals. The fifth-seeded Graff topped No. 1 Joe Colon of Northern Iowa 6-4 in the semis. Ramos beat Graff in the Big Ten finals two weeks ago.
Fifth-seeded Northwestern freshman Jason Tsirtsis spun free for an escape in the closing seconds to knock off No. 1 seed Drake Houdashelt of Missouri 2-1 in overtime in the 149 semis. Tsirtsis, a 2013 Junior World Team member, will face No. 11 seed Josh Kindig of Oklahoma in the finals.
Big Ten champion Nick Heflin of Ohio State will face Mid-American Conference champion J’Den Cox of Missouri in the 197 finals.
The NCAA consolation semifinals are set for 10 a.m. Saturday with the third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches to follow. The finals are scheduled for 7 p.m. in Oklahoma City.
Team scoring (Top 10)
Penn State 91, Minnesota 90.5, Oklahoma State 87.5, Iowa 67, Ohio State 52, Edinboro 48.5, Cornell 46.5, Virginia Tech 45.5, Oklahoma 45, Illinois 37
Jesse Delgado (Illinois) vs. Nahshon Garrett (Cornell)
Tony Ramos (Iowa) vs. Tyler Graff (Wisconsin)
Logan Stieber (Ohio State) vs. Devin Carter (Virginia Tech)
Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) vs. Josh Kindig (Oklahoma State)
Dylan Ness (Minnesota) vs. Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State)
David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State)
Andrew Howe (Oklahoma) vs. Chris Perry (Oklahoma State)
Ed Ruth (Penn State) vs. Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland)
Nick Heflin (Ohio State) vs. J’Den Cox (Missouri)
Tony Nelson (Minnesota) vs. Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State)