By Eric John
Amateur Wrestling News
The 2013 season started with a variety of story lines. The biggest one was the quest that Cornell’s Kyle Dake was on. He already made history in 2012 when he won his third title in three years in three weights. This year he was trying to make it four, for four, at four against one of the best wrestlers in college. Then you had the Penn State Nittany Lions seeking their third straight national title. A variety of other story lines came up during the season as well. There are my thoughts as they relate to the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Sitting in the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Saturday night, you could feel the excitement. When the brackets were announced, the NCAA also decided to change the order of the final matches. They did this to showcase a true main event. The problem was the two wrestlers they planned on featuring had to first make it to the final. Fortunately for ESPN and more importantly, the wrestling community, that is exactly what happened.
Dake was on a mission and looked calm, cool and collected in the tunnel before the parade of champions. That tells you a lot about what kind of wrestle he is. He was a few hours away from what may be the biggest match of his career. Dake would be wrestling another star in Penn State’s David Taylor. The arena got very loud when both Dake and Taylor took to the elevated mat. Taylor wasted no time scoring first. Many on press row thought this may be a sign of things to come. It took Dake a short time to not only escape but to secure a takedown of his own. From there on out, Dake controlled the match. Both of these great wrestlers came to wrestle and left it all out on the mat. The grin on Dake’s face said it all. He knew he just but himself in the discussion as one of the best ever. I am very happy that I was able to witness this achievement first hand.
The debate of who is the best ever will rage on. This really comes down to personal opinion. For me, I lean towards Dake for several reasons. The first being that he was able to capture four titles without a redshirt year. The second reason is that he did so at four different weight classes. It is hard enough to do this at one or even two weights, but at four is something this former athlete has a hard time wrapping his head around. Finally, the fashion is which he won his last title. He went up a weight to face arguably one of the best wrestlers in Division I. That is what convinced me this may be the greatest accomplishment in college wrestling.
The Lions Roar
The 2013 NCAA Division I wrestling tournament turned out to be a great tournament from the team race perspective. Penn State was the favorite coming in to the tournament, but many thought any one of three other teams would have a shot at knocking them off. Those teams were Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma State.
In the end Oklahoma State made Penn State earn it and that is exactly what the Nittany Lions did, they earned it. I was very impressed with the fact that they put five wrestlers into the finals. As a team they handled themselves with an impressive all-business fashion. One Nittany Lion stood out to me and that was one of my favorite wrestlers –Quentin Wright. Wright is not only a great wrestler, he is a great person. He came out in the finals in a match I was not sure he would win and earned an impressive win. Wright had to face national champion Dustin Kilgore of Kent State. One thing was very clear when this match ended and that was that Wright had a plan and he executed it to perfection.
Congratulations to Coach Cael Sanderson, the Penn State wrestlers and staff and their fans on a job well done.
I have decided to remove my comments here. Our Editor Jason Bryant had suggested I do so, but I am thick headed both metaphorically and literally. Anyways Congratulations to Penn State and their fans.
Bulldogs do more than Bark
There may be one team in the top 20 this year that would surprise some people. The Citadel was that No. 20 team. They did this with two All-American’s in Undrakhbayar “Ugi” Khishignyam and Andrew “Odie” Delaney. They both had very strong tournaments and opened the eyes of many in the arena. Congratulations to coach Hjerling and the rest of the Bulldog Program.
Nothing Diplomatic about Durso
One wrestler who really impressed me was Richard Durso of Franklin & Marshall. This was the first time I was able to see him wrestle in person. This guy gets after it and appears to be fearless. His match with top seed Hunter Stieber was one of the best matches of the tournament. Durso came up one match short of becoming an All-American, but he is only a sophomore and will get another shot next year. Many fans from different schools were cheering on the Diplomat and that was a lot of fun to watch.
Steve Santos of Columbia became the school’s highest place winner when he finished third at 149 pounds. He did it in rather impressive fashion as well. He defeated last year’s runner-up Dylan Ness of Minnesota for third place. Santos dominated the match putting and exclamation point on his season.
Thoughts and Rants
Every year, a bulk of discussion centers on the officiating at the tournament. I want to start by saying there were many great officials this year who did an outstanding job and, in my opinion, the overall officiating was better then it was a year ago. So thank you to the officials who really have a thankless job. But several issues did arise.
The first issue is stalling. There is pretty much zero consistency when it comes to this topic. I about lost my mind when I saw who the main official would be for the historic match between Dake and Taylor. I have no idea how they selected the officials for such a historic match. I even said on air that the head official would inject himself into this match. That is exactly what he did when he made a terrible stall call against Dake while he was riding Taylor.
The issue of stalling and officials being on the same page does need to be addressed. If you were not an avid fan you would have no idea what actually constitutes stalling. We need to make sure that new fans can get up to speed on the rules and action as fast as possible. I do not have the exact answer yet, but there has to be a way for stalling calls to become more consistent.
Calling injury time at the end of a period when it is your opponent’s choice is bad business. We created a rule that made a lot of sense. If you take injury time, your opponent will get his choice. But as we saw a lot last year, there is one big loop hole. I only saw it exploited once, but it was in a very big match.
Both issues played a role in a match between Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson and Oklahoma State’s Blake Rosholt at 197 pounds. One wrestler was clearly stalling and used the injury time loop hole to perfection. To make matters worse, when he won he got in the face of the other wrestler and taunted him as if he just somehow had one by some dominating performance. The boos rained down and in my opinion rightfully so. It is also my opinion that this behavior showed a serious lack of class.
The city of Des Moines and Iowa State did a wonderful job as hosts. The finals were a true spectacle. The placement of the scoreboards for the finals needs to be addressed tough. The entire section behind us chanted “Move that clock.”
One thing this tournament always reminds me of is just how much of a brotherhood wrestling really is. The bonds you make in this sport truly last a life time. Congratulations to every wrestler that participated, thank you to the city of Des Moines and Iowa State University and thank you to all of you that follow us.