In college wrestling, athletes cycle in and out of lineups for any number of reasons. Sometimes, when they return after a prolonged absence, they struggle to knock the rust off and return to form. That was not the case for several of this week’s outstanding performers. Whether they returned from injury, came out of redshirt, or thought they were done wrestling for good, these combatants didn’t miss a beat. We also saw some big wins by aspiring All-Americans, a top wrestler avenging an early season loss and a fantastic freshman is our wrestler of the week.
7) Norstrem returns with a tournament title
By the end of last season, it looked like Kevin Norstrem (Virginia Tech) was done with wrestling. Even as this season began, he was nowhere to be found. However, with Dennis Gustafson heading down to 133 and Solomon Chishko up at 149, the Hokies had a need for an experienced 141. Norstrem, a 2015 national qualifier, answered the call, returning to the mat this weekend and winning the F&M Open. He put an exclamation point on the tournament by pinning #14 Ronnie Perry (Lock Haven) in the semi-finals and beating Nic Gill (Navy) in the finals, 3-1. Look for Norstrem in the Hokie line-up going forward.
6) Moody upset propels Sooners past Missouri
In the opening bout of #25 Oklahoma’s dual with sixth-ranked Missouri on Sunday, Christian Moody (Oklahoma) knocked off 2016 MAC champion and NCAA round of 12 finisher Barlow McGhee (Missouri), 6-4. What would have already been a nice win for Moody became even sweeter as he watched his team knock-off the Tigers, 24-18. The redshirt freshman from Collinsville, Oklahoma, scored his first win over a top-20 opponent on the year and further staked his claim to the 125 pound starting spot in Norman.
5) With redshirt pulled, Jimenez continues winning ways
After making his season debut last week with a seventh-place finish at the Midlands, which included a win over Moody, Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin) came out of redshirt and promptly upset 10th ranked Jose Rodriguez (Ohio State). Jimenez was the starter at 125 for the Badgers the past two seasons, earning a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2016. The Wisconsin junior looks to have what it takes to qualify once again and should continue to help Wisconsin throughout the Big 10 dual season.
4) Studebaker splits McCutcheon for the fall
Through two periods, the battle between seventh-ranked Matt McCutcheon (Penn State) and eighth-ranked Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska) was as tight as you’d expect. Studebaker held a 2-1 advantage with McCutcheon going underneath. However, instead of McCutcheon earning an escape to tie the match, Studebaker went straight for a banana split, cranking the Nittany Lion onto his back. Studebaker held the position for a while and then, finally, got the fall in 6:01. Studebaker has been a solid wrestler throughout his career, but is looking like an All-American threat in his senior year.
3) Stingy Clark earns pair of victories in return
Another wrestler returning to the line-up this week was Cory Clark (Iowa). The Hawkeye senior who was ranked number one in the country before he missed the South Dakota State dual on December 2nd. There was plenty of speculation about when we would see Clark again, but all that ended Friday night as he took the mat to face seventh-ranked Stevan Micic (Michigan). While it may not have been Clark’s best match, and he suggested as much afterward, an escape and riding time were enough as he beat Micic, 2-0. He would shut-out his next opponent as well, stifling Austin Eicher (Michigan State), 7-0, on Sunday.
2) Ward’s big weekend includes revenge
Joey Ward (North Carolina) dropped an early season bout to #11 Logan Everett (Army), then went on a tear only losing to top-ranked Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) in the Southern Scuffle finals since. Friday, at the AU Duals, Ward avenged that loss to Everett, taking out the Army senior, 5-2. He wasn’t done, however, as the fourth-ranked Ward then beat returning NCAA finalist Bryce Meredith (Wyoming), 8-6 in overtime, before wrapping up his day with a 12-0 major decision of Jack Mutchnik (American). The North Carolina senior would tack on a tech-fall shutout of Brendan Ryan (Virginia Tech) on Sunday to complete a stellar week. Ward runs his record to 18-2 as he looks to become an All-American once again.