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Top 10 College Wrestling Performances of the Week – Feb. 26th, 2018

Konnor Schmidt, Ronnie Bresser, Kevin Kelly

The college wrestling post-season is in high gear as every level of NCAA wrestling was in action this weekend and the NJCAA held their national tournament. Regional qualifying tournaments in Division II and Division III saw plenty of upsets, while the Pac-12 tournament kicked off the DI conference tournaments out west. Adding to the madness, the National Collegiate Open, which annually features some of the toughest redshirts and back-ups in the nation, provided a sneak peek of some stars in the making. With less than a month remaining in the college wrestling season, this list is getting harder and harder to make. Here are the top-10 college wrestling performances of the week!

10) One bid, no problem

With just one automatic bid up for grabs at 141 in the Pac-12, the only way Colton Schilling (Cal Poly) could ensure a trip to Cleveland was to take the title. The senior had never been as far as the finals in three tries, but wrestling in his home state, Schilling changed that with a 4-1 win over Jack Hathaway (Oregon State) in the semi-finals. With CSU Bakersfield’s Russell Rohlfing the only man left between Colton and his first conference title, the Mustang put on a show. A pair of takedowns staked him to a 4-1 lead and a four-point nearfall early in the second put Schilling on the precipice of a second consecutive trip to nationals. He continued to pour it on, getting out of trouble when he need to, finishing off an impressive major decision, 15-6, to take the gold.

9) One more time

Two-time All-American Dustin Warner (Wheeling Jesuit) entered the post-season unranked and was drawn onto the same side of the bracket with national number one Darius Bunch (West Liberty), who had beaten Warner in a November dual. After opening with a pin and receiving a medical forfeit in the quarters, Dustin exacted his revenge, upending Bunch, 8-4, to secure his spot at the DII NCAA tournament. He then claimed the East Super Regional 133 pound title by taking out eighth-ranked Kelan McKenna (Notre Dame), 3-2, in the finals.

8) Twice as nice

Corey Griego (Oregon State) entered the Pac-12 tournament ranked 14th in the country, one spot ahead of conference rival Matt Williams (CSU Bakersfield), who he beat in an 11-10 thriller earlier in the season. After the two earned their way to the final, the rematch was on. While it wasn’t quite as close this time, Griego again put up 11 points, winning a key second-period scramble that ended with Williams on his back. That led to a 10-5 lead through two periods and the match went scoreless in the third with a riding time point tacked on to make the final tally 11-5. Griego claimed his second consecutive Pac-12 crown.

7) Air power

Sid Flores was a state runner-up last season in California, falling in the final to Cleveland Belton. This year, he is attending the Air Force Academy Prep School as he readies himself to become a Cadet. At Sunday’s National Collegiate Open, Flores proved he is ready to handle Division I talent on the mat. After an opening 5-1 win, Flores topped Shane Metzler (Rutgers), who has filled in for Nick Suriano late this season, then booked his spot in the finals with an 11-8 decision of Dominic LaJoie (Finger Lakes). LaJoie recently won the Edinboro Open by knocking off Josh Kramer (Arizona State). Putting the cherry on top, Flores shutout Tommy Cox (NC State), 10-0, to win the title. Cox was 14-6 entering the weekend as a part-time starter for the Wolfpack.

6) Punching his ticket in style

After finishing fifth in last year’s DII West Super Regional, one spot short of qualifying for the national tournament, Tyler Mann (Ouachita Baptist) drew the number one wrestler in the nation at 165 pounds to open this year’s post-season, three-time All-American JaCobi Jones (CSU Pueblo). That did not prove to be an issue for Mann as the junior pulled the upset, 7-5, then scrapped his way to three more wins, topping Koery Windham (Adams State), 5-2, in the finals. This performance clinched Tyler’s first trip to the D2 national tournament and he’ll have his own quarter of the bracket as a Super Regional champion.

5) Everyone contributes

In a performance reminiscent of Minnesota in 2001, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M won their third NJCAA national championship in the last five seasons despite not crowning a single individual champion. Though the Golden Norsemen came up one short of matching the Golden Gophers 10 All-American performance, they did put nine wrestlers on the podium including five that finished in the top four including Boo Dryden (125), Kendon Lee (149), Wyatt Jordan (165), Devin Crawl (174), and Brian Andrews (285). The total team effort was enough to outdistance second-place Clackamas, 147.5-124.5.

4) Loras’ remarkable season continues

After earning NAIA All-American honors at Benedictine College, Kevin Kelly (Loras) has been a big part of a historic year for the Duhawks. On Sunday, Kelly was one of two Loras wrestlers to claim titles at the DIII Lower Midwest Regional, while the other eight crowns went to perennial power Wartburg. Kelly’s tournament started with a quarter-final victory, then the junior made his mark with a 9-6 upset of the number one 141 in the nation, Josh Martin (Cornell College), 9-6. Kevin finished strong, knocking off eighth-ranked Chris Williams (Millikan), 3-2, in the finals. He’ll head to Cleveland in two weeks looking to earn another college All-American award.

3) Back on top, three years later

After winning a Pac-12 title as a true freshman in 2015, Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State) fell in the conference finals in 2016, then redshirted last season. He entered Sunday’s Pac-12 Wrestling Championships as the number two seed after Ryan Millhof (Arizona State) beat him with a late six-point move when they met in the dual. After both earned semifinal wins to open the tournament, the rematch was on. Bresser worked upper body for a first period takedown, then rode Millhof for the majority of the second, pushing his riding time advantage well over one minute. A pair of escapes for the Sun Devil saw the match tied at two heading into the third. After a wild exchange ended with neither wrestler able to score, the Oregon State junior smartly got in on a good leg attack, effectively killing the clock and earning a 3-2 win to claim his second Pac-12 crown.

2) Going back again

A redshirt sophomore out of Fort Collins, Konnor Schmidt (Western State Colorado) was a national qualifier a year ago and had higher aspirations in 2018. He started his day at the West Super Regional ranked eighth in the country and while the rankings don’t matter any more, he’d be rising fast after pulling two upsets en route to a championship. After opening with a 14-3 major decision, Schmidt took down sixth-ranked Garrett Strang (Cal Baptist), 5-3, to reach the finals. There he faced top-ranked Morgan Smith (Simon Fraser), who finished fourth at the DII NCAA tournament in 2017. Schmidt handled that challenge as well, claiming an 8-5 victory as he earned a return trip to nationals.

1) Amar Dhesi (Oregon State) is TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week!

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