photo courtesy of WJU athletics
Two sessions are in the books and I may have spoken too soon. St. Cloud State is still in the lead, but there chinks in the armor. What may be working in their favor is stumbles by both Kearney and Notre Dame. Right now St. Cloud State has a six-point lead over Wheeling Jesuit University. That’s right Cardinal fans, you are in second place at the NCAA tournament. There is still a lot of wrestling to be done tomorrow, but the fat lady has not sung.
I honestly think that the officiating improved marginally in the second session. There was something I disliked though, there was suddenly an emphasis on hands to the face. In round one it seemed like the rule had been shelved and then suddenly it was all over the place. It directly influenced the results in the quarterfinals and wrestlebacks and not in a positive way. It was inconsistent, arbitrary, and unclear. I am worried about the matches tomorrow, at some point, it is going to decide a national title and I do not want to be there to see it.
Wheeling Jesuit has absolutely impressed the hell out of me. They brought six wrestlers and have six All-Americans. Batting 1.000 is incredible especially when four of them are into the semifinals. They looked flat in the first round, but they turned it out when they needed to and they have a shot at multiple finalists.
Honorable mention for impressing the hell out of me: San Francisco State. You may recognize a familiar face on their bench in head coach Jason Welch. He was a national finalist for Northwestern and in his second year, he now has two All-Americans. He helped Jordan Gurrola bounce back after a brutal and very controversial SV loss to 133 top seed Tyler Warner and win two straight matches. The kid is six feet tall and is wrestling 133, a perfect guy for a wrestler like Welch to coach. He then got his second wrestler through as well when Josh Pichedwatana won his third match of the day and became an All-American at 174. Both of these wrestlers started in the pigtails, lost their first-round bout and then battled back to win two more matches. Impressive.
The next rounds are all about where you are going to finish on the podium and the points you can score for your team. It’s moving day tomorrow and I am ready to see how high some of these wrestlers can climb.