Argue the merits of duals versus tournaments if you must, but there is no question the most common regular season format delivered the drama last week. From the clash of the titans at Rec Hall to league deciding meets across the country, we saw shocking upsets, last match falls, and clutch performances that brought the crowd to their feet. If that weren’t enough, we tacked on a historic win for Utah Valley and an under the radar upset at 149 that might be one of the biggest we see all season long. The regular season in college wrestling is always full of twists and turns. The road to Cleveland continues to be wildly entertaining. Here are the top 10 college wrestling performances of the week!
10) Don’t bury him yet
It seems like a long time ago with the way the dual ended, but Joey McKenna (Ohio State) got his best win of the season Saturday night, reminding anyone who doubted him that he’ll have his say at 141 pounds. Sixth-ranked Nick Lee (Penn State) acquitted himself well, fighting the 2016 All-American in every position. A key takedown late in the second period gave McKenna an edge, holding a 1:45 riding time advantage in a 4-4 match. The Stanford transfer also had his choice in the third, quickly escaping to gain the lead. However, Lee would keep coming, scoring another takedown, but Joey escaped quickly enough to keep his riding time advantage. The Nittany Lion never quit, but McKenna conceded nothing, holding on for a 7-6 decision that staked his team to a 10-0 lead after three matches.
9) Sending the EWL race into chaos with one move
When Rider ended Edinboro’s 24-dual EWL winning streak, then took out Lock Haven the next weekend, it seemed they were on their way to the conference dual crown. Clarion had been beaten soundly by Edinboro, 30-6, but none of that seemed to matter Friday night. In a back and forth scrap that saw neither team able to win more than two matches in succession, Rider was able to build a five-point lead heading to the closing heavyweight bout on the strength of having the only two bonus points of the night to that point. Clarion needed Toby Cahill to get the fall over Mauro Correnti (Rider). It was Correnti who struck first with an opening takedown, but, after an escape, Cahill went big, going for the inside trip and coming out on top, securing the fall in 2:30 igniting a wild celebration from the home crowd. With the 18-17 victory, the Golden Eagles are one of three EWL teams with one conference loss, alongside Rider and Edinboro.
8) Wrestling beyond his years
The Big Ten schedule is a grind for the most proven veterans. True freshman Spencer Lee (Iowa) continued to handle it well sweeping a pair of clashes with top-10 foes over the weekend. First, it was a 15-0 destruction of returning NCAA finalist Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) on Friday. Turning around for a Sunday morning wake-up call to tangle with another tough freshman, seventh-ranked Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern), Lee sprinted out to a 6-0 lead, threatening to turn another clash against a contender into a laugher. Instead, Rivera proved himself a worthy foe, battling back before falling, 7-4. While Spencer may not be thrilled with his performance in the second half of that match, he has beaten ranked foes in his last five bouts, including four wins against top 10 opponents.
7) Making history without one of their best
Heading into Friday night’s dual with Oklahoma, Utah Valley had never beaten the Sooners. With star freshman Taylor LaMont out of the lineup, it seemed like the Wolverines would face an uphill battle. However, Kimball Bastian (Utah Valley) upset 11th ranked Yoanse Mejias (Oklahoma) at 174 pounds, 2-1 in the midst of a five-match winning streak for the home team from 165 through 285. Even with that, they needed Matt Findlay (Utah Valley) to beat Mike Longo (Oklahoma) in the final bout of the meet at 141 pounds in order to push the dual to criteria. The two tangled throughout, moving into overtime tied at 10 before Findlay got the winning takedown. Utah Valley edged the Sooners, 19-18, on the first criteria, number of matches won.
6) Young prospect makes his move
When you win five Fargo titles during your high school career, there will be expectations as you head off to college. However, through an abbreviated redshirt season and much of his first season in the Iowa State lineup, Sam Colbray has struggled to find his rhythm. He was just 11-10 heading into the weekend. After outlasting Cordell Eaton (North Dakota State), 5-3 in sudden victory, on Friday night, Colbray faced a stiff test on the road at South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits feature 10th ranked Nate Rotert, a senior and three-time NCAA qualifier. After building a 5-3 lead as the two battled in the third-period, Colbray pancaked Rotert and got the fall. It was the biggest win of his career so far.
5) Where did that come from?
With Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) still to come at 285, it was all but certain that Penn State had to win at 184 and 197 in order to extend their dual meet winning streak to 43 Saturday night. The Nittany Lions trailed 15-12 as Bo Nickal (Penn State) took the mat for his seventh meeting with Myles Martin (Ohio State). The Buckeye had won two of the last three in the series and Nickal had only earned bonus against his rival once, when he decked Myles at the 2016 Big Ten tournament. A first-period takedown that withstood a challenge put the defending national champion ahead and he added another in the second for a 5-1 lead. A third takedown in the final frame led to a hard ride as Bo looked for nearfall. As the clock ticked down he finally found it, getting two swipes just before the buzzer, tacking on riding time for what proved to be a crucial 10-2 major decision as Penn State prevailed.
4) Clutch for the conference crown
Two years ago, Appalachian State was part of a three-way tie atop the dual standings in the Southern Conference. Last year, they left no doubt who was the best, going undefeated through their SoCon slate en route to claiming the title. Their title defense took a big step forward on Sunday as the Mountaineers conquered the only other undefeated team left in their conference. Chattanooga proved up to the challenge, winning three of the first four bouts and leading 16-12 after Bryce Carr (Chattanooga) took down Alan Clothier (Appalachian State), 9-4, at 184. With no room for error, junior Randall Diabe (Appalachian State) avenged two prior losses to 13th ranked Scottie Boykin (Chattanooga) to extend his winning streak to five. Then, with the match and likely the SoCon dual title hanging in the balance, Cary Miller (Appalachian State) built a 6-3 lead, then hung on to beat Connor Tolley (Chattanooga), 7-5, giving JohnMark Bentley’s squad the 18-16 win. All that stands between them and another undefeated SoCon campaign is a trip to The Citadel in two weeks.
3) Hokie High
Coming into the season, Ryan Blees, who began his career at Oklahoma State, was fighting for the starting spot at 157 for Virginia Tech. 149 seemed to be spoken for with two-time All-American Solomon Chishko returning. Then BC LaPrade emerged as a viable option at 157. Blees, who has struggled to get into the lineup throughout his college career despite being a highly sought-after recruit, seemed without a home again until, with Chishko struggling and missing quite a bit of time, he dropped to 149. Since then, he has been almost perfect. The Bismarck, North Dakota product upended sixth-ranked Troy Heilmann (North Carolina) on Saturday to run his record at the lower weight to 13-1. His teammates also stepped up around him with Brent Moore (Virginia Tech) taking down 18th ranked AC Headlee (North Carolina) at 141 and Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) knocking off eighth-ranked Ethan Ramos (North Carolina), 14-6 at 174. Chishko moved up to 157 and lost in overtime.
2) Not a misprint
Zach Krause (Brown) was a one-time Illinois state placer in high school, finishing fourth in 2016. The sophomore was just 18-16 for his college career and was trying to break a three-match losing skid when he took the mat opposite All-American Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) on Sunday. The two were tied at four apiece after the first period, but Kolodzik, who was ranked eighth in the country, would not score again. Krause built up 3:57 of riding time to finish off the 7-4 upset. His stunning win helped push Brown past Princeton for the first time since 2013, 17-15.