NCAA SESSION VI NOTES: Rutgers (and New Jersey) athletes make history, and other fun facts from the finals

By Mike Willis, USA Wrestling | March 23, 2019, 11:38 p.m. (ET)
Mehki Lewis, a New Jersey native, became the first NCAA champion ever for Virginia Tech. Photo by Larry Slater.

As the 2019 NCAA Championships concludes, there are many intriguing story lines and interesting tidbits from the championship round.

History was Made! Then it was made again… Then it was made again…
Nick Suriano made history for Rutgers by becoming the school’s first national champion when he defeated Daton Fix in the 133-pound match. Two weight classes later, Anthony Ashnault became Rutgers’s second national champion defeating Micah Jordan in the 149-pound bout. At 165 pounds Mekhi Lewis became Virginia Tech’s first national champion. He was the lowest seeded wrestler to win a title coming in as No. 8.

Jersey Strong
The Garden State crowned four national champions at this tournament, the most of any state. At 133 pounds. Nick Suriano (Rutgers) took home the title, followed by Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) at 149 pounds, Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) at 165 pounds, and Anthony Cassar (Penn State) at 285 pounds.

East Coast Beast Coast
In addition to the four wrestlers from New Jersey, the East Coast claimed three more champions with Spencer Lee at 125 pounds (Iowa) and Jason Nolf at 157 pounds (Penn State) from Pennsylvania, and Yianni Diakomihalis at 141 pounds from New York (Cornell). The remaining three champions were California’s Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) at 174 pounds, Iowa’s Drew Foster (Northern Iowa) at 184 pounds, and Texas’s Bo Nickal (Penn State) at 197 pounds.

Tough Night for both OSU(s)
Despite finishing second and third respectively in the team race Neither Oklahoma State or Ohio State crowned a national champion. Ohio State went 0-3 with Joey McKenna (141), Micah Jordan (149), and Kollin Moore (197) all falling. Oklahoma State went 0-2 with Daton Fix and Derek White finishing as runners-up. This is the first year since 2011 that Ohio State has not had a national champion and the first since 2012 for Oklahoma State.

NCAA finals featured many age-group World medalists and World Team members
NCAA public address announcer Jason Bryant, when giving the credentials of the 2019 NCAA finalists, mentioned numerous times about the achievements of the athletes in the international styles. This group of finalists have already made a name for themselves on the world circuit throughout their careers.

Eight of the finalists boast World medals, including Junior World champions Mark Hall of Penn State (2x), Spencer Lee of Iowa (2x), Mehki Lewis of Virginia Tech and Daton Fix of Oklahoma State. Cadet World champions have included Fix, Hall, Lee, and Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell.

World medalists include Junior World silver medalist Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, Junior World silver medalist and U23 World bronze medalist Joey McKenna of Ohio State and U23 World silver medalist Kollin Moore of Ohio State.

Age-group World Team members have included Bo Nickal of Penn State (Cadet World Team), Anthony Cassar of Penn State (Junior World Team) and Jack Mueller of Virginia (U23 World Team).

This should be no coincidence. Competing in international competition has become one of the best ways for college wrestlers to get the edge on their opponents in folkstyle, while also continuing an Olympic dream they have had since they were young.

Hard to Believe
PSU’s Anthony Cassar only qualified for the New Jersey State Championships once, when he won it his senior year. In college, Anthony Cassar only qualified for the national tournament once, and he won it this year as a senior. (Medical redshirt pending, as coach Sanderson mentioned in the press conference)

UNI’s Drew Foster was a three-time state placer in Iowa taking seventh, third, and second. He never won a state title, and now he is a national champion.

Odds and Ends
Utah Valley’s Matt Findlay won the Elite 90 Award for having the highest grade point average of any wrestler competing in the tournament. The biology major carries a 3.94 GPA.

Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) won the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.

Matt Stencel (Central Michigan) won the award for NCAA Most Falls Award for the year.

Bo Nickal (Penn State) won the Most Dominant Wrestler award for the year.

Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven) won the award for most technical falls for the year

Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale was named the NWCA Coach of the Year

2019 Championships Summary:

SESSION

DATE

TOTAL ATTENDANCE

Session 1

Thursday, March 21

17,949

Session 2

Thursday, March 21

17,957

Session 3

Friday, March 22

18,013

Session 4

Friday, March 22

18,100

Session 5

Saturday, March 23

18,436

Session 6

Saturday, March 23

18,950

 

 

109,405