Photo of Richie Brandt (right) by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
This week, we’ve got national champions on losing streaks, walk-off pins, and historic dual wins. From the gathering of the nation’s service academies and military colleges in South Carolina to some California dreaming out west, the best performances in college wrestling stretched across the entire country. Take a journey with us as we work our way through the 10 best performances of the week!
10) Walk-off pin secures big win
For the first time since January 20th, 1996, Northwestern beat Minnesota, but the match wasn’t decided until the 149 pound bout closed proceedings. That meant fourth-ranked Ryan Deakin for the Wildcats, but they trailed by four. Facing Ben Brancale (Minnesota), the redshirt freshman made sure no one had to figure out criteria. After a pair of takedowns, Deakin took the Gopher over and got the pin in 2:45 as Northwestern knocked off Minnesota, 20-18.
9) Daniel puts an exclamation point on Tar Heel victory
2017 NCAA qualifier Cory Daniel (North Carolina) has been rock solid this season, but he came into Friday’s dual against Pittsburgh and 12th ranked Ryan Solomon still looking for a big win. The junior was 0-4 against his ACC rival over their college careers which made this an unlikely candidate. It took more than seven minutes as the two heavyweights battled. In the end, a sudden victory takedown would push Daniel past Solomon as the Tar Heels beat Pitt, 26-10.
8) The bonus point machine shows no signs of slowing down
When David Taylor and Ed Ruth left, Penn State was supposed to slow down. Now that Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, and Bo Nickal are all upperclassmen, those hoping the Nittany Lions might score fewer bonus points in the future might think there is reason for optimism. Nick Lee is shutting that down hard. The true freshman scored four takedowns against 10th ranked Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) Friday night, locking up a cradle off the last one and hanging a 13-3 beating on the 2017 All-American. He did have to settle for a decision on Sunday, beating Michael Van Brill (Rutgers), 5-2, in what was just his second win by decision this season.
7) Navy’s middle-weights power them to victory at All Academies
After seeing their rivals lift the trophy the last two years, Navy set about making sure there would be no third win in a row for Army at the All Academy Championships. The Midshipmen won titles at every weight from 141 to 184. Nic Gil, Corey Wilding, Zack Davis, Drew Daniels, Jadaen Bernstein, and Michael Coleman all stood atop the podium. With every member of the starting line-up finishing in the top four, Navy outpointed Army 118-96.5 to take the title back to Annapolis.
6) Another Pac-12 title in his future?
Sean Nickell (CSU Bakersfield) won a conference crown at 125 pounds last season before moving up to 133 for his junior campaign. With 12th ranked Ali Naser (Arizona State) wrestling well, Nickell’s path back to the top of the Pac-12 podium looked difficult. The Sun Devil pinned Sean in Vegas as well. However, when the two met again Wednesday night, Nickell had all the answers, earning a takedown in the first period en route to shutting out Naser, 3-0. CSU Bakersfield took four matches off the best team out west but fell 24-14.
5) Fresno State gets on the board in the Big 12
AJ Nevills (285) opened the dual with a fall and Khristian Olivas (149) delivered a major decision as Fresno State scrapped with Northern Colorado Friday night. With the Bears leading 19-16 going into 197, the Bulldogs turned to sophomore Richie Brandt. Troy Steiner’s squad led in match points so all they needed was a win from Brandt, who was bumping up from 184, to secure their first conference dual win as a member of the Big 12. There were plenty of tense moments, but Brandt found a way to win, taking the final bout of the night 4-3 to lift his team to a 20-19 criteria victory over Northern Colorado.
4) Round of 12 rematch decides top-10 dual clash
The Iowa Hawkeyes have bad memories of having winning streaks snapped as they go for number 10. Kevin Beazley (Michigan) helped add to that misery, knocking off fifth-ranked Cash Wilcke (Iowa) at 197 pounds which got the Wolverines within one. When Adam Coon (Michigan) took care of Sam Stoll (Iowa) at heavyweight, Michigan beat Iowa for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The 197-pound clash was a rematch of when the two met in the round of 12 at last year’s NCAA tournament. Though they’ve appeared to go in opposite directions since, the outcome remained the same.
3) He is ready
Austin O’Connor (North Carolina) is redshirting as sixth-ranked Tory Heilmann uses his final year of eligibility, but there is little question the true freshman can compete right now. O’Connor proved that once again over the weekend, fighting his way to the 149-pound title at the Appalachian State Open. In the process, he upset 10th-ranked Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech), a two-time All-American, then defeated Josh Heil (Campbell), who was the runner-up to Zain Retherford (Penn State) at the Southern Scuffle as he too redshirts. The five wins pushed Austin’s record to 15-3.
2) Lining up to take shots at the defending champ
It is no secret that Dean Heil’s (Oklahoma State) reign over the 141-pound weight class is in danger this season. However, we haven’t seen him lose twice in such short order since he dropped a pair of matches at the 2015 NCAA tournament as a freshman. Saturday brought a top-10 showdown against second-ranked Jaydin Eierman (Missouri). The Tiger countered an early shot from Heil for a quick takedown, put the Cowboy on his back during a second-period scramble, then turned a Heil body lock into a fall in 4:49. It was the first time the senior has been pinned since January 11th, 2015 when Josh Dziewa (Iowa) decked him and it helped Missouri go into Stillwater and emerge with a victory. On Sunday, Ian Parker (Iowa State), who was able to move up to 141 thanks to Kanen Storr’s hasty departure, extended Dean’s slump, notching a third-period takedown to send the two-time national champion to his second loss in less than 24 hours, 3-1.