Finals week for many colleges across the country produced a bit of a light slate in NCAA Division I college wrestling this week, but the duals that were contested produced some fascinating results, especially in the team battles. Several of our performers of the week came up with vital results to help their teams to victory. In addition, we saw a wrestler finally beat a rival, the battle for 197 at Lehigh heat up, and a headlock that may shake an All-American out of his funk. Here are the eight best performances from week six.
8) Heavyweight clinches the upset in the final bout
After Cordell Eaton secured a major decision at 197 pounds, North Dakota State was tied with 15th ranked Central Michigan, 16-16, as their heavyweight, Dan Stibral took the mat to face Matt Stencel. If the sophomore, who was 5-4 entering the dual, could find his way to victory, the Bison would upset the Chippewas and send the home fans out into the cold feeling happy. A late second-period takedown put Stibral in front and he made it stand up, fending off late attacks from Stencel and clinching the upset, 3-1. That pushed NDSU to a 19-16 win over Central Michigan.
7) True freshman comes up big
Any dual that ends up being decided on criteria could have been won by either side had any number of things gone a little differently. For Michigan State, who took down Buffalo, 18-17 on the strength of more match points, Friday night, one of the keys to victory came in the opening match. True freshman Rayvon Foley trailed 5-1 in the third period against 2017 NCAA qualifier Kyle Akins at 125 pounds before roaring back to tie the match at six at the end of regulation. A sudden victory takedown earned Foley an 8-6 win and, ultimately, proved vital to the Spartan triumph.
6) Backyard Brawl surprise
West Virginia fielded their full lineup for the first time this season with the return of Jake Smith at 197 pounds, just in time to upset 18th ranked Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl. While Smith won, perhaps the most surprising Mountaineer to have his hand raised was Zachary Moore at 157. The Oklahoma native redshirted a year ago after starting at 149 pounds as a freshman in 2015-16. He was pinned by his opponent, 20th ranked Taleb Rahmani, a week ago at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, but got his revenge with a late takedown that was only awarded after a challenge from Sammie Henson. The 3-1 upset sparked his team to a stunning 24-10 rivalry win.
5) A headlock can cure what ails ya
When Kevin Beazley lost his wrestle off series to Jackson Striggow at Michigan, many wondered if the Old Dominion transfer and 2017 All-American would have to fight for his starting spot. However, he went 5-0 in the early going, appearing to lock down the job. Then, he went to Vegas and was upset twice. While he still got the start on Sunday against Oregon State, facing 12th ranked Corey Griego, an extended run of sub-par performances would have certainly raised questions. Griego earned the first takedown which must have had Wolverine fans perplexed, but Beazley found a headlock later in the opening frame, ending the match with a fall in 2:38 as Michigan rolled over the Beavers, 48-0.
4) Big win for the wrestler, big win for the team
Wyoming’s Montorie Bridges watched as his teammate at 125 got pinned to open the Cowboys’ dual against Iowa State in Ames. With the crowd excited and the Cyclones ahead of schedule in the team battle, Bridges took the mat opposite 20th ranked Ian Parker, who was coming off of a difficult trip to Vegas. Instead of allowing Iowa State’s momentum to build, Bridges stopped it cold, using a first-period ride out, after the two had traded takedowns, to secure the one point margin that would eventually earn the redshirt freshman his best win of the season so far, 4-3. When Bryce Meredith followed with a pin of Kanen Storr at 141, Wyoming had the dual tied. They would pull away in the upper weights, beating the Cyclones, 24-15.
3) Two wrestlers, two upsets
We wrote about the battle for the starting spot at 197 at Lehigh and how each contender would get a crack at a ranked foe when we broke down our 10 most important matches early last week. While both Chris Weiler and Jake Jakobsen faced a stern test this season, they both performed so well it did little to settle which one should be the man in Bethlehem. In Sunday’s first dual against Penn, Jakobsen appeared to take a huge step towards claiming the job, upsetting the defending EIWA champion, sixth-ranked Frank Mattiace, 3-0. However, Weiler, knowing what Jakobsen had done, went out later that day and showed just how good he can be, securing an 8-0 major decision over 17th-ranked Stephen Loiseau (Drexel). While this means the battle for 197 will continue, it also looks like there are two good answers for the Mountain Hawks.
2) Try, try, try again
After losing to Jacob Warner at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic last spring in a match that got chippy late, Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) must have wanted a rematch badly. However, when he got one in Fargo, he lost. He got another crack in folkstyle at the Lindenwood Open, with both men having moved into their true freshman years in college. Again, though, Warner came out on top. Through November, no one had managed to beat the Hawkeye including two-time All-American Willie Miklus (Missouri) who was another Warner victim at Lindenwood. That changed Saturday when Woodley finally got his hand raised after yet another clash with Warner, this time in the UNI Open semifinals, 5-4. Woodley ended the day 2-0 as he and teammate Jake Boyd did not wrestle against each other in the finals.