The brackets from past NCAA tournaments can be a fascinating read. Besides seeing the names of wrestlers you haven’t thought about in years and reliving great tournaments of the past, sometimes you happen across something truly bizarre. Such is the case when reviewing the 134 pound bracket from the 1981 NCAA tournament.
When I first saw the bracket, I thought it was a mistake. Perhaps there was a glitch in the system or an error when inputting the data. The entire top quarter of the consolation bracket was empty! Further investigation revealed that, because of the empty quarter, there was no eight place finisher at all! We are an All-American short! What has become of that missing All-American?
To understand what happened, we must first recall the wrestle back rules of the time. In 1981 only wrestlers who lost to a semi-finalist were allowed to participate in the wrestle backs. If the opponent that beat you lost in the quarter-finals, you were eliminated. In the quarter of the championship bracket that should have fed the empty quarter on the back, unranked Clar Anderson of Auburn pinned another unranked wrestler in the first round, Steve Rosenstein of Arizona, before thumping the fifth seed, Thomas Landrum of Oklahoma State, 17-3.
This put Anderson in the quarter-finals on Friday morning against the fourth seed Johnnie Selmon of Nebraska. If Selmon beat Anderson, as expected, Landrum and Rosenstein would be out of the tournament. Whether Landrum and Rosenstein assumed Anderson would lose or just simply failed to take care of their weight, I cannot say, but neither made weight Thursday night. In a dramatic twist, neither did Selmon! This put Anderson in the semi-finals and left all three of the men who lost to him eliminated by failing to make weight!
This bizarre situation left an entire section of the bracket blank on the back side. Eddie Baza of San Jose State was the first beneficiary of all this as he got a free pass into the consolation semi-finals on his way to a fifth place finish. Randy Lewis of Iowa was prepared to default the seventh place match due to an elbow injury but, instead, got a forfeit. There were only 79 All-Americans in 1981, the only time since 1979 that there were not 80. We may never see something like that again.