| Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) after winning his first NCAA championship
in a thrilling 7-5 overtime match with Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State).
Photo: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
NEW YORK – It was billed as the most anticipated heavyweight match in NCAA wrestling history when two-time NCAA champion Nick Gwiazdowski and the youngest World champion in U.S. men’s freestyle history Kyle Snyder met on Saturday night.
The heavyweight clash for the ages delivered on the grandest stage college wrestling has ever seen, a sellout crowd of 19,270 fans at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in New York City with the Buckeye sophomore reigning supreme.
Gwiazdowski entered tonight’s finals on an 88-match win streak for the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Snyder had only wrestled 10 matches this season after electing to pull an Olympic redshirt over in January.
The match began with both men firing off single leg attempts, but both were able to evade surrendering up points. An exciting first period ended 0-0. Gwiazdowski appeared to seize control of the match in the later stages, scoring two takedowns and building a 5-3 lead with one-minute remaining. From that point on it was all Snyder.
With short time left in regulation Snyder hit a low single to knot things up a 5-5 and force sudden victory. Shortly after the first overtime whistle blew Snyder was in on the legs and, just like he did in crunch time during the gold medal match at the 2015 World Championships, Snyder converted the clutch takedown he needed to win.
“Nick's a great wrestler, great competitor,” Snyder said. “But it was a fun match. I think it will go down as one of the most exciting heavyweight matches in NCAA history. And obviously I'm happy that the end result was to get my hand raised. But I think I improved as a wrestler throughout the match, too, and that was fun.”
After winning his first NCAA title Snyder will now focus on making the U.S. Olympic Team in three weeks in Iowa City, Iowa. In addition to Snyder who was already qualified, the nine other NCAA champions qualified themselves for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
One of the night’s other more anticipated matchups, Isaiah Martinez of Illinois vs. Jason Nolf of Penn State part III at 157 pounds, gave fans everything they wanted and then some.
Martinez and Nolf traded takedowns and escapes in the first period to head into the second tied, 3-3. One escape apiece in the second and third periods made it 4-4 as time ticked down in the third. With overtime looming, Martinez fired off a match winning shot with under 15 seconds to remaining to claim a 6-5 win and his second NCAA championship.
“Wow. I'm extremely pleased just with the win, especially a competitor like that. He's definitely special. And he gave me a hell of a fight. And I just knew if it came down to the end that I was going to get it done. And looked up at the clock with, like, maybe 20 seconds to go. Coach is screaming, go get one. And I said I need to do this right now to seal up the match. And thank God I got my head through the hold, got enough to get the takedown,” said Martinez.
Entering this year as a sophomore, Martinez was undefeated with one NCAA title to his name. Nolf ended Martinez’s undefeated streak by fall in the Illinois-Penn State dual meet on Jan. 23. Martinez won the rematch in the Big Ten finals two weeks ago in an overtime thriller, 4-3, on riding time.
The Illini standout is now halfway to becoming the fifth four-time NCAA Division I champion in history.
Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer etched his name into the record books by winning his third NCAA title this evening, the 16th Cowboy to do so.
Dieringer, a four-time All-American, cruised to his third title with an impressive 6-2 victory over No. 2 Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin at 165 pounds. The Cowboy led after the first period, 2-0, courtesy of a takedown and ride out. In the second, it was Dieringer scoring an escape and second takedown to take a commanding 5-0 lead. Two Jordan escapes and a Dieringer riding time point concluded the scoring and Dieringer ended his college journey in style.
“There's a lot of emotions there,” Dieringer said. “I was kind of a little conservative, but in the situation I was in it was hard to get overaggressive. But I know I was very pleased, 82 matches in a row with a third national title in the most historic arena in the world. So it's a pretty amazing feeling.”
Penn State clinched the team title prior to the championship finals, but the Nittany Lions had unfinished business with five wrestlers competing for individual titles. Nico Megaludis got PSU off to quite the start in the first final of the evening.
The climb to the top was a long and difficult one for Megaludis, but the journey was more than worth it for the Penn State senior and now NCAA champion. Megaludis made his third trip to the NCAA finals on Saturday night, but for the first time it was his hand raised high in the air as the champion at 125 pounds.
“I'm the champion. I don't know, man, nothing else to it. I'm the champion. It's a pretty good feeling,” said Megaludis.
A four-time All-American, Megaludis capitalized on a late first period takedown and ride out to steal the match momentum early over No. 2 Thomas Gilman of Iowa. He never looked back, topping Big Ten rival Gilman 6-3.
“I'm just relieved,” Megaludis continued. “I knew I was going to be the champion. It was a done deal a year ago when I signed everywhere – my room, Penn State, my room at home, my bathroom at home, my wrestling room at home, my car steering wheel: I am 2016 national champion.”
Sophomore Zain Retherford won the second Penn State title of the night. He continued his punishing ways en route to becoming the 149-pound NCAA champion with a 10-1 major decision victory over No. 2 Brandon Sorensen of Iowa.
Retherford scored four takedowns and accumulated 3:03 of riding time in the finals. He scored three falls, one technical fall and one major decision throughout his five matches at the NCAA Championships.
“I have a great coaching staff and great opponents that push me every day. We've got five guys in the finals and I wrestle every one of them. And even the guys that aren't out there wrestling right now, they're back home, second, third string guys, they work hard. They push me in summer training, go on runs and stuff and just push each other to get better. We have fun in the process, that's a big part,” said Retherford.
The remaining three Nittany Lion finalists did not fare as well as Megaludis and Retherford. Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197) all lost one takedown matches in the finals.
OH-IO pulled the biggest upset of the championship finals when true freshman Myles Martin took out No. 1 Nickal, 11-9, in a high-flying affair that saw both men launched to their back during the match.
Nickal went for a double overhook throw right off the whistle, but Martin countered nicely for the takedown. Two escapes and a takedown for Nickal, followed by a Martin escape, made it 4-3 in favor of Nickal before Martin launched a body lock toss, putting Nickal on his back and taking command of the match, 9-4. Nickal launched a furious comeback, throwing Martin to his back in the third period, but it would not be enough. Ohio State crowned a freshman NCAA champion for the second-straight season.
“My mindset going in before was, like, he beat me three times already. He pinned me at Big Tens. I'm, like, it can't get any worse than that. So the match, I figured I would go out there and wrestle and compete as hard as I can. I've been doing it at practice. Did it all during the year. If I just stick to what I do best, and just have fun, that's the main thing about it, have fun and just wrestling position, and I competed and I was able to win,” said Martin.
Martin lost to Nickal three times during the course of the season, including losing to the Nittany Lion by fall at the Big Ten Championships. He was pulled from redshirt in January of this year alongside Snyder.
Two years after winning a NCAA title as a true freshman, Missouri 197-pounder J’den Cox finds himself back on top. Cox downed three-time All-American McIntosh, 4-2, in the championship match.
Tied 1-1 late in the third period after both men earned escape points, Cox hit a low single leg and finished with :11 left to take the victory. McIntosh was the top-seed at 197 pounds entering this weekend and previously unbeaten.
“This one it's more so great because how much I had to change and give up and sacrifice and train and do certain things that changed myself and changed my body. It made me have to – it was a growth period. And to see that stuff pay off is what makes this one so great. That's why afterwards you don't see a great celebration, because it was more of – I was more proud of everything I had gone through and everything I had to do,” said Cox.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys capped off an impressive second place performance with two NCAA champions, Dieringer and Dean Heil.
Top-seed Heil stopped No. 14 Bryce Meredith’s Cinderella run in the 141-pound finals as he outlasted the Wyoming Cowboy in a wild 3-2 bout. Heil fended off a game Meredith with scramble after scramble to become the 140th NCAA champion in Oklahoma State history as only a sophomore.
“Nobody ever likes me, nobody ever gives me the respect I feel I deserve. That always drives me,” Heil said. “Going into this tournament, being the 1 seed, I was projected to lose by National, by McKenna, by Ward. That is what drives me, always having people doubt me. And maybe this time it will make people stop doubting me. But it won't stop the fire burning inside. I'll always remember the people who always have my back.”
Cornell boasts two NCAA champions as well with Nahshon Garrett and Gabe Dean putting together masterful finals performances.
At 133 pounds, four-time All-American Garrett of capped off an undefeated senior season in style with a 7-6 win over Iowa’s Cory Clark in the finals. Garrett notched three takedowns throughout, controlling the match from the neutral position. Clark kept it close courtesy of three stalling calls against his Cornell opponent, but couldn’t muster enough offense to match Garrett.
“It's awesome. It's easy to get caught up in when they were singing the National Anthem I was in tears because I was overwhelmed by the glory of the spectating and just everything emanating from me and from everybody else and it's just a, it was a pretty amazing thing,” said Garrett.
Garrett now owns finishes of third, second, fifth and first at the NCAA Championships. His first three All-American honors came at 125 pounds before moving up to 133 pounds for his senior campaign.
Cornell picked up its second NCAA champion of the tournament when Gabe Dean unleased a barrage of single leg attacks to stifle No. 7 Timothy Dudley of Nebraska, 5-3. Dean is now a three-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion with one year of eligibility remaining.
“I'm really fired up, actually. I'm containing myself because I have to be professional. But, man, from where we started to where we are now as a group, I remember coming into Cornell when I was a kid, getting the crap kicked out of me every day by Cam Simaz. But the point was these kids, not just me but my whole class, we kept coming back and didn't take no for an answer. And you know what, we didn't have the perfect NCAA Tournament, but we got a lot of fighters on our team and a lot of support. And I'm just happy to be a part of it,” said Dean.
It was the fifth NCAA championship in six years for the Cael Sanderson led Penn State program. The Nittany Lions are fifth all-time with six total NCAA team championships.
“I think, when you win the national championships, you've got to be pretty happy and pumped,” Sanderson said. “Obviously a great team effort – five guys in the finals, six All-Americans. We're happy. But we leave here ready to improve and build and get some freshmen to the next level. And we're happy we won but we're excited about the future also.”
In order, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech round out the top four teams from this year’s championships. Virginia Tech won its first team trophy in school history.
Iowa went 0-3 in the final session and fell to fifth place overall. This marks the first year Iowa has not captured a team trophy since Tom Brand’s first season as head coach in 2007.
Penn State, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Iowa led the field with six total All-Americans on the weekend.
The 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are set for March 16-18 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
2016 NCAA DIVISION I WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
March 17-19 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, N.Y.
1. Penn State 123.0
2. Oklahoma State 97.5
3. Ohio State 86.0
4. Virginia Tech 82.0
5. Iowa 81.0
6. Missouri 74.5
7. Cornell 67.0
8. Nebraska 58.0
9. Michigan 50.5
10. North Carolina State 49.0
125 lbs. – No. 3. Nico Megaludis (Penn State) dec. No. 4 Thomas Gillman (Iowa), 6-3
133 lbs. – No. 1 Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) dec. No. 2 Cory Clark (Iowa), 7-6
141 lbs. – No. 1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 14 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming), 3-2
149 lbs. – No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa), 10-1
157 lbs. – No. 1 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) dec. No. 3 Jason Nolf (Penn State), 6-5
165 lbs. – No. 1 Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 2 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin), 6-2
174 lbs. – No. 11 Myles Martin (Ohio State) dec. No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State), 11-9
184 lbs. – No. 1 Gabe Dean (Cornell) dec. No. 7 Timothy Dudley (Nebraska), 5-3
197 lbs. – No. 2 J’den Cox (Missouri) dec. No. 1 Morgan McIntosh (Penn State), 4-2
285 lbs. – No. 2 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) dec. No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State), 7-5 SV1