Gabe Dean wins fourth Southern Scuffle title; Oklahoma State breaks team scoring record, led by four champs

By Roger Moore, Special to | Jan. 02, 2017, 9:51 p.m. (ET)

Gabe Dean of Cornell waves to the fans after winning his fourth career Southern Scuffle title after winning the 184-pound crown. Photo by Mark Lundy, LutteLens

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The legend of Gabe Dean, at least collegiately, began inside McKenzie Arena in January of 2014.

After getting pinned by Penn State’s Ed Ruth earlier in the season, Dean, a freshman for the Cornell Big Red, advanced to the 184-pound finals at the Southern Scuffle. Considered one of the bigger upsets in recent memory, Dean ended Ruth’s marathon 84-match winning streak.

Fast forward to Monday night in the same arena, and with his 7-2 decision of Oklahoma State’s Nolan Boyd, Dean joined former Big Red star Kyle Dake and Minnesota’s Cole Konrad as the only four-time Southern Scuffle champions since the event began in 2003.

“It seems like yesterday that I was wrestling here four years ago,” said Dean, now 19-0 after four bonus-point victories over the last two days. “It’s crazy how fast it goes. I’m just thankful for the support I have at Cornell, the coaches, my teammates, my family, everyone who is a part of this.

“Now it’s about getting to work and being prepared for our next matches against Drexel and Missouri. Getting ready for the next match is the focus right now.”

Dean, a two-time national champion, improved to 136-6 for his career.

Oklahoma State scored a tournament-record 198 points to surpass Minnesota’s 2005 total of 192 and claim the team title. The Cowboys, who host Iowa in Stillwater on Jan. 15, crowned Kaid Brock (133), Dean Heil (141), Anthony Collica (149), and Chandler Rogers (165). Three Cowboys, Joe Smith (157), Kyle Crutchmer (174), and Boyd each lost finals bouts. The top-ranked Cowboys had 12 wrestlers among the top eight – teams are allowed to enter up to 10 “extras.”

The battle for second featured Lehigh, Missouri and Minnesota with the Tigers, on the strength of 2016 Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox’s victory in the 197-pound title tilt, earning runner-up honors with 126 points. The margin of victory also set a Scuffle record.

“We will take a lot of positives from this,” said OSU head coach John Smith. “Being in tough matches when you don’t always expect to be in them, having difficulty scoring but finding ways to win against this competition is good. That’s why you come to this tournament.

“We had a number of guys wrestle well and with what we have coming up it’s good to see our guys competing at a high level.”

Monday’s finals had a little bit of everything. Rivalries, rematches, and down-to-the wire finishes.

Last March, Missouri’s Lavion Mayes beat Collica in the bronze medal bout in Madison Square Garden after a 5-2 win during the regular season. Collica beat Mayes in this season’s NWCA All-Star Classic and the two squared off again Monday night in the 149-pound final. Monday night’s slugfest saw Collica (9-0) win a 7-6 thriller that included a late escape to secure that always-big riding time point.

“I feel really good, stronger than I’ve ever felt,” Collica said. “I’ve changed up a few things, really worked to be able to go beyond seven minutes. Every time we wrestle it’s a tough match, always a battle and (Monday) was about as tough as we’ve had. I haven ‘t done well (at the Scuffle), seventh and sixth, so it feels good to win this.”

Rogers provided a “holy cow” moment in the 165-pound finals when he pinned Missouri All-American Daniel Lewis in 1:18. After getting taken down, Rogers (11-2) exploded into a reversal that resulted in Lewis going straight to his back.

Heil, NCAA champion in 2016, won nail-biters both days. In the finals against North Carolina’s Joey Ward, a man who gave Heil his only loss in 2015-16, Heil (14-0) scored a takedown in the final 20 seconds to win 3-1 to claim his second straight Scuffle title. A semifinal victory over Virginia’s George DiCamillo created quite a buzz as Heil received the benefit of a video review and held off a late takedown attempt by the Cavalier senior. The junior from Ohio is not concerned with perception or outside opinion in January.

“I had a lot of close matches this tournament, closer than I would have liked,” Heil said. “But it comes with me not wrestling to my full potential and not being myself after that second match. But I still found a way to finish on top and win tough matches. I had to battle against top kids all week, guys who are gunning for me and going to give me everything they have and more. I had to really gut things out this week, whatever it takes to win matches.

“People will look at this week and say that Dean Heil is just surviving. But it’s the middle of the season and finding ways to win against good competition helps you down the road.”

Lehigh’s Scott Parker tied the 133-pound final with Brock at 4-4 early in the third period, but during an edge-of-the-mat scramble Parker injured a knee and could not continue with 1:36 left. Brock, a year ago in the same venue, had a season-ending injury during a Scuffle semifinal with Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett.

Parker’s teammate, redshirt-freshman Jordan Kutler (9-1) added his name to the surprise list with a 7-1 victory over Oklahoma State’s Joe Smith in the 157-pound final. Kutler came out of a scramble with six points in the final 20 seconds

Wrestling unattached, Penn State freshman Mark Hall served notice he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017-18 after a redshirt season. Hall used a takedown and turn early and eventually pulled away from Crutchmer to win 9-3 to claim the 174-pound title. Plenty of eyes were on the 174-pound semifinals where Hall appeared to be headed to defeat against Lehigh’s Ryan Preisch. The Mountain Hawk sophomore scored a takedown in the third and led 3-1 and was on a leg again when, calmly but with authority, Hall pulled out a cement-mixer for a pin at 6:29.

“You just hit it, kind of wait for him to think a stalemate is coming,” said Hall after the semifinals. “Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t, but in that situation I wasn’t getting to his legs very well and (the mixer) had to work. Usually I’m better about getting to the legs but (Preisch) had a game-plan. I lost a little focus, didn’t do some of the things I needed to do in a couple of situations. My dad will remind me of those things.”

Quietly, but dominantly going about his business was 2016 Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox of Missouri. The two-time NCAA champion cruised through four opponents, then squared off with Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr, ranked second in the country after a bronze medal at the 2016 NCAA Championships. Pfarr and Cox, a possible preview of St. Louis, were tied 4-4 in the third period when Cox exploded for a double-leg takedown in the final 10 seconds to win. A handshake and mutual respect followed as the two know they will most likely meet again.

Duke’s Jake Kasper surprised the 285-pound field with athleticism and “want-to” over the two days. In Monday’s final he beat Minnesota All-American Michael Kroells, 5-3. Kasper, a former 184-pounder who redshirted in 2015-16, won one of the wilder matches of the tournament Sunday night when he won a throw-fest with Appalachian State’s Denzel Dejournette. Kasper turned an Austin Schafer (Oklahoma State) double-leg attempt into a 6-pointer in the semifinals and knocked off the top seed, 10-3.

“I certified my freshman year of high school at 119 and in seventh grade I wrestled at 92 pounds,” said Kasper, a native of Lexington, Ohio. “I think being smaller I developed a lot of wrestling skills, tryed to get into proper wrestling positions. That’s where I feel like I’m stronger than these guys. Against these big boys who are really strong I have to use what I’ve got, that quickness and being able to scramble. (This week) I just wanted it more.

“I don’t necessarily know if I saw this happening, but I set high goals for myself. My goal this year is to be an undefeated national champion and the undefeated part is done so far. I didn’t go home for Christmas to stay back and train; I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am. I think I deserved it more than I saw myself deserving it because I’ve been working really hard.”

The 125-pound bracket did not live up to its pre-tournament seeding. The semifinals included the 5, 6, and 7 seeds with an unseeded man. In the end it was Minnesota sophomore Ethan Lizak (17-1) who controlled Virginia freshman Jack Mueller to the tune of 10-2 with 4:55 of riding time.

At Chattanooga, Tenn., January 1-2

1st - Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) maj. dec. Jack Mueller (Virginia), 10-2
3rd - Darian Cruz (Lehigh) dec. Sean Russell (Edinboro), 2-1
5th - Gabe Townsell (Stanford) dec. Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State), 4-3
7th - Nathan Kraisser (Campbell) dec. Barlow McGhee (Missouri), 1-0

1st - Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) dec. Scott Parker (Lehigh)
3rd - Josh Alber (Northern Iowa) dec. Kevin Devoy (Drexel), 7-4
5th - John Erneste (Missouri) maj. dec. Mitchell Mckee (Minnesota), 9-0
7th – Korbin Myers (Edinboro) dec. Colby Smith (Appalachian State) 7-4

1st - Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. Joey Ward (North Carolina), 3-1
3rd - Joey McKenna (Stanford) pin George Dicamillo (Virginia), 1:06
5th - Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) inj. dft Tristan Moran (Oklahoma State), 3:38
7th - Thomas Thorn (Minnesota) dec. Zach Synon (Missouri), 6-0

1st - Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State) dec. Lavion Mayes (Missouri), 3-1
3rd - Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) dec. Patricio Lugo (Edinboro), 3-1
5th - Laike Gardner (Lehigh) dec. Matt Cimato (Drexel), 6-2
7th – Matthew Zovistoski (Appalachian State) dec. Nick Montgomery (Cleveland State), 8-3

1st - Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) dec. Joe Smith (Oklahoma State), 7-1
3rd - Joey Lavallee (Missouri) dec. Andrew Atkinson (Virginia), 9-5
5th - Jake Short (Minnesota) dec. Taylor Simaz (Cornell), 6-2
7th - Mitch Finesilver (Duke) dec. Chase Delande (Edinboro), 7-3

1st - Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) pin Daniel Lewis (Missouri), 1:18
3rd - Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) dec. Nick Wanzek (Minnesota), 5-3
5th - Cole Walter (Lehigh) dec. Keilan Torres (Northern Colorado), 5-2
7th - Chad Pyke (NC State) pin Drew Longo (Lehigh), 3:19

1st - Mark Hall (Penn State) dec. Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State), 10-3
3rd - Ryan Preisch (Lehigh) dec. Ethan Ramos (North Carolina), 14-7
5th - Casey Kent (Penn) maj. dec. Connor Bass (Duke), 12-2
7th – Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa) dec. Jaeden Bernstein (Navy), 16-9

1st - Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State), 7-2
3rd - Bryce Carr (Chattanooga) dec. Dakota Geer (Edinboro), 5-2
5th - Hunter Gamble (Gardner Webb) med. fft. Drew Foster (Northern Iowa)
7th - Chip Ness (North Carolina) dec. Dylan Gabel (Northern Colorado), 3-2

1st - J'den Cox (Missouri) dec. Brett Pfarr (Minnesota), 6-4
3rd - Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State) dec. Derek White (Oklahoma State), 1-0
5th - Frank Mattiace (Penn) dec. Owen Scott (Cornell), 4-3
7th - Ben Honis (Cornell) maj. dec. Ben Darmstadt (Finger Lakes Prep), 14-5

1st - Jacob Kasper (Duke) dec. Michael Kroells (Minnesota), 5-3
3rd - Austin Schafer (Oklahoma State) dec. Nathan Butler (Stanford), 5-2
5th - Mike Hughes (Hofstra) dec. Jared Johnson (Chattanooga), 4-3
7th - Billy Miller (Edinboro) dec. Denzel Dejournette (Appalachian State), 7-3

Team Standings
1 Oklahoma State 198
2 Missouri 126
3 Lehigh 124.5
4 Minnesota 118
5 Northern Iowa 87.5
6 Edinboro 73
7 Virginia 64
8 Cornell 63
9 North Carolina 56
10 Stanford 55.5
11 Chattanooga 46
12 Drexel 43.5
13 Duke 40.5
14 Appalachian St 36
15 Northern Colorado 29.5
16 Gardner Webb 27.5
17 Campbell 27 -
17 Penn 27
19 Navy 22
20 Utah Valley 21
21 Cleveland St 15.5
22 Air Force 13.5
23 North Carolina St 11.5
24 Citadel 5.5
25 Penn State 4
26 Finger Lakes Prep
26 Hofstra