USA Wrestling Session III Notes: R...

Session III Notes: Rising teams making their mark at NCAAs and some other notable achievements

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 17, 2017, 5:24 p.m. (ET)

Seth Gross of South Dakota State, scoring back points during the NCAAs this weekend, has become the first Div. I All-American in program history. Photo by Jim Thrall.

Each session, TheMat.com will post a notebook with interesting things from that session and from the 2017 NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. We lead off with our Session III observations.

Rising wrestling programs making their mark at the NCAAs this year include:

South Dakota State

Seth Gross became the first NCAA Div. I All-American for the Jackrabbits by reaching the 133-pound semifinals. Seeded No. 2, he opened this door for Coach Chris Bono’s team with an impressive 11-1 major decision victory over Nebraska’s No. 7 seed Eric Montoya in the quarterfinals. A transfer from Iowa, he has thrived with his new team. A win in the semifinals over No. 3 Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State, a Big-12 rival, would make him the program’s first finalist.

SDSU opened the third session at 21st in the team standings, and moved up to a tie for 18 with Michigan after the session. Alex Kocer was beaten in the 149 quarterfinals by No. 1 seed Zain Retherford, and needs one more win in the consolation rounds over Steve Bleise of Northern Illinois to become the second Jackrabbit All-American. The other three team members were beaten out of the consolation rounds, Luke Zilverberg (165), David Kocer (174) and Nate Rotert (197). At this point, SDSU is second among Big 12 teams in the team standings.

Virginia

The Cavaliers are not new to success on the national level, but Steve Garland’s team made a big statement in the quarterfinals with victories from lightweights Jack Mueller at 125 and George DiCamillo at 141. Mueller defeated ACC rival and No. 2 seed Joey Dance in the quarters in overtime. Seeded No. 10 and a freshman, Mueller battles No. 6 seed Ethan Lizak of Minnesota in the semis. He is in the half-bracket which was vacated by the injured No. 3 seed Nick Suriano of Penn State, and has taken full advantage.

Senior George DiCamillo is a feel-good story at 141. Seeded No. 6, he beat No. 14 seed Thomas Thorn of Minnesota in the quarters, 5-2. He faces dangerous No. 10 seed Bryce Meredith of Wyoming in the semifinals. Meredith was a NCAA finalist last year and seems to rise for the big meet, but DiCamillo is competing with confidence now. The Cavs have never had an NCAA champion, so if either Mueller or DiCamillo gets on a run, it could be a historic weekend.

The Cavs had two other qualifiers, both who were knocked out with 0-2 records. Virginia was fourth in the ACC this year, an increasingly difficult conference for sure. In spite of this, Mueller and DiCamillo have placed Virginia at No. 12 in the standings going into the semifinals, and if they could both punch their ticket into the finals, a Top 10 finish is possible.

Northern Illinois

With three athletes remaining in the consolation rounds heading into Session IV, Northern Illinois of the MAC is in 24th place. Still in the hunt for All-American status are Brock Hudkins (125), Steve Bleise (149) and Shawn Scott (197). The Huskies had five qualifiers this year, and all of them won at least one match during the tournament, with Trace Engelkes going 2-2 at 174 and Shaun Que McMurty finishing 1-2 at 165.

The Huskies were fifth in the nine team MAC this year, but are fourth among MAC teams after three rounds at the NCAAs. If Coach Ryan Ludwig’s three remaining wrestlers find a way to earn All-American status and compete on Saturday, they would for sure move up from their current No. 24 place in the standings. The other MAC teams are aware of Northern Illinois’ improvement, and now the rest of the nation is finding out. Northern Illinois has not had an NCAA champ since Roy Conrad in 1960. Their last All-American was Ben Heizer in 2004. But this current crop shows that success possible not only now but in the future.

Princeton

This program was not competing at a high level among EIWA teams when coach Chris Ayres took over the helm for the Tigers. That is no longer the case, as evidenced by their strong third-place finish at the EIWAs this year and seven NCAA qualifiers. Freshman Matthew Kolodzik reached the 141 quarterfinals, where he lost a 6-2 match to All-American Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers. With one more win over EIWA rival Tyler Smith of Bucknell in Friday night’s consolation round, No. 4 seed Kolodzik clinches All-American status and can still make a run to the bronze medal.

Pat D’Arcy made some noise in the first round with a win over two-time All-American Earl Hall of Iowa State, but has been eliminated at 133. Jordan Laster went 2-2 at 149 pounds before being eliminated with a loss to Justin Oliver of Central Michigan. Princeton’s 27th place at this time may not sound like a rising team, but in comparison to how far the team has come, this is a program that has broken through and will be a force moving forward. And it has been since 1951 when Princeton had its last NCAA champion, Brad Glass at heavyweight, and this team has shown that getting back on top of the podium is a very realistic goal.

Notable achievements from different campuses

• Wisconsin has two semifinalists for the first time since 2011and two All-Americans for the first time since 2015

• Tim Lambert leads all Husker starters this season with 9 pins after his fall in the consolation 3rd round.

• Isaac Jordan is the fifth four-time All-American in Wisconsin program history

• Gabe Dean breaks the Cornell all-time win record with 151 wins and is Cornell’s seventh four-time All-American

• Cory Clark is Iowa’s 19th four-time All-American,.

• Zahid Valencia moves to 36-0 and is tied for 18th on ASU's single season victories list with Robles (10-11), Fluckiger (02-03), Strand (98-99)

• Tyler Berger becomes the 102nd All-American in Nebraska program history

• Ethan Lizak is the 94th different Gopher wrestler to earn All-America honors, and the first under head coach Brandon Eggum

• Bryce Meredith is just the seventh Poke to earn All-American honors at least twice in a career

• Darian Cruz earns Lehigh’s 146th All-America medal and is the 22nd 2-timer. First semifinalist since Nate Brown in 2015.

• With 17 career NCAA wins, Gabe Dean ranks #6 all-time for Cornell. Dylan Palacio is 11th with 13, Realbuto #20 with 9

• Zane Richards moved into 13th place on the Illini all-time wins list. His 108 career wins passes B.J. Futrell