What a week of college wrestling! The 2018 Southern Scuffle rang in the new year on Monday and Tuesday, we transitioned into NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals, then had a full weekend of DI action to feast upon. After thoroughly enjoying it all, we had an incredibly difficult time narrowing this list down to just 10 outstanding performances. If you didn’t make the cut, don’t be sad, Eleazar DeLuca (Rutgers) threw a top-five guy on his back twice in the third period to pull an upset and we still couldn’t find a spot for him! Here are the 10 remarkable performances that could not be denied!
10) Clinching it for Clackamas
In their quest to win a fifth consecutive NJCAA National Duals title, Clackamas Community College rolled into the finals where they would face Northeast Oklahoma A&M. Josh Rhoden’s team was in control early, but NEO got a crucial fall at 184 to keep their hopes alive entering the final two bouts. Those hopes would quickly be extinguished by Gage Harrah who didn’t so much as break a sweat in Indiana. Harrah pinned his man in just 48 seconds to clinch the title. It was his third fall, to go along with a forfeit, with Gage’s time on the mat totaling just 2:20 for the week.
9) Individual upset, team upset
Having already earned his way into the national rankings, junior Michael Sprague (American) got the biggest win of his career Friday as American upended 15th ranked North Carolina, 18-13. Sprague provided a hint at what was to come wrestling in the opening match of the dual against fourth-ranked Troy Heilmann (North Carolina). The two needed more than seven minutes to decide it with Michael finding a takedown in sudden victory to pull the upset. That was the first of three wins on the day for Sprague who pushed his record to 16-8 on the season.
8) This is becoming a habit
The last time we saw Montorie Bridges (Wyoming) on the mat, he was stunning All-American Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State), 11-10. Lest anyone think that was a fluke, the redshirt freshman got right back to work notching two more wins against ranked opponents as Wyoming swept duals against 15th ranked North Carolina, American, Army, and Duke. First, Bridges, who entered the weekend ranked 11th, took down number 15 Zach Sherman (North Carolina), 5-1, putting Bryce Meredith (141) in position to win the dual for the Cowboys, which he did. After comfortable wins against Duke and Army, Bridges came up with another win over a top-10 foe, majoring seventh-ranked Josh Terao (American), 10-2. Suddenly, the two-time Oklahoma state champion looks like a legitimate All-American threat.
7) True freshman, Scuffle champion
While most were focused on another true freshman at 141 pounds, Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) reminded everyone that he is ready to go when the Cowboys need him. After Jered Cortez (Penn State) had to medically forfeit a potential quarter-final bout, Gfeller used a third-period takedown and ride out to earn a 2-1 victory over then number 12 Luke Karam (Lehigh), earning his spot in an all true freshman showdown with Nick Lee (Penn State). Those two put on a show with near constant action in the final, putting 14 combined points on the board before Gfeller put Lee on his back for a second period-fall. This was Gfeller’s second college tournament title and his only losses on the season have come at the hands of top-five foes.
6) Bringing order to anarchy
St Cloud State entered the Division II portion of the National Duals as the defending champions and top seed. As other expected contenders fell away, the Huskies marched to another title, their fourth since 2012. While the final was a 41-0 romp over Seton Hill, Nebraska-Kearney gave Steve Costanzo’s team a bit of a test in the semis. After seeing their second-ranked 125 upset early, St. Cloud State trailed 6-0 after two bouts. However, they would come roaring back. After wins at 141, 149, and 157, Travis Holt would make the situation a bit more comfortable, pinning his man in 4:38 to push the Huskies to a 15-6 edge, leading to a 21-12 victory. Holt was 3-0 on the weekend helping his team lift the trophy.
5) Augsburg star comes up big
Bonus points were the key as Augsburg won their first Division III National Duals title since 2010. The team that has combined with Wartburg to win every D3 title at this event since it began in 2002 nearly didn’t reach the final as second-ranked Johnson & Wales split matches with the Eagles in the semi-finals. However, Augsburg won on bonus points with one of those coming from the top-ranked 165 in the country, sophomore Lucas Jeske. The final against Wartburg ended up with both schools winning five matches a piece as well, but Jeske pinned number eight Derek Lee Loy as Augsburg ended their rivals seven-year run of championships at the National Duals, 21-17. Jeske was 4-0 in the tournament, winning by forfeit, notching two falls, and securing a major decision as well.
4) Taking advantage of an opportunity
Mike Boykin (NC State) has been in a battle with Malik McDonald for the starting job for the Wolfpack this season. McDonald has gotten the bulk of the starts and was the heavyweight taken to Italy for the dual against Oklahoma State this week. However, instead of getting down about that, Boykin attended the Southern Scuffle and bolstered his case to be the man. Wrestling from the eight seed, Boykin worked his way into the quarters with an 11-5 win over NAIA champion Demetrius Thomas (Williams Baptist), then stunned the crowd when he upset then fourth-ranked Nick Nevills (Penn State) with a late takedown. Boykin wasn’t finished with the late takedowns or upsets as he then dispatched Nathan Butler (Stanford), 3-1, who was number 10 at the time. That put Boykin in the finals against Jacob Kasper (Duke). Though he nearly pulled off a third magic trick towards the end of regulation, Kasper was able to avoid the late takedown, extend the match into sudden victory and keep Boykin one win short of the podium’s top step. Still, Boykin now owns the two best wins by an NC State 285 this season. Look for him to be in the mix going forward.
3) Title contenders don’t grow on trees…or do they?
Grand View remains the dominant force in NAIA wrestling, rolling to their seventh straight National Duals crown without giving up double-digit team points to any of their opponents. So strong was their performance that they had two wrestlers take down the number one at their weight, but it is a third that gets the nod for a performance of the week. Unranked Artie Bess (184) got the call for the final three duals, winning all three of his bouts including upsets over third-ranked Hunter Smith (Life) in the semis and second-ranked Josh Chiles (Williams Baptist) in the finals. Bess began his career as a heavyweight at Iowa, wrestled 197 last season, and now looks like yet another title contender for the Vikings.
2) Any weight, any time
Top-seed Campbellsville faced stiff challenges in their final two duals but their upper weights were up to the task both times as the program claimed their first ever National Dual title. Emmanuel College, who had earlier knocked four-time defending National Duals champions King University out of the winner’s bracket, jumped out to a 17-0 lead after the four matches before 2017 Junior world bronze medalist Grace Bullen’s pin of sixth-ranked Abigail Nette at 130 got Campbellsville on the board. Lee Miracle’s team would win the final six bouts in all, three by fall, two via shutout tech, and one by decision, 6-2, en route to a 26-18 victory. In the finals, the Tigers dug themselves a hole once again, losing the first five matches and trailing 17-4. After a fall at 136 to trim the deficit to eight points, Campbellsville sent Bullen out at 143, two weight classes higher than normal, to face the second-ranked wrestler at that weight, Alexis Porter. Porter was a 2016 Junior world bronze medalist, but Bullen, who won a Senior European gold medal for Norway last May, pinned Porter in 2:06 to pull her squad within three. A shutout tech by three-time WCWA champion Kayla Miracle at 155 got Campbellsville the lead. Still, the eventual champions had to survive a wild pair of matches to close the dual, watching Mariah Harris win 9-9 on criteria at 170, then seeing Kaitlyn Hill top that with a 13-13 victory to seal the championship.