With the Division I postseason getting underway, the National Collegiate Open serving as a final competition for many, and the NJCAA national tournament ending in the most dramatic fashion possible, this week was full of amazing performances.
7) Stewart puts himself on the radar at 174
True freshman Noah Stewart (Army) put an exclamation point on his season by knocking off Daniel Bullard (NC State), 11-5, and Tyler Askey (Virginia), 11-1, to win the National Collegiate Open on Sunday. After starting the year at 184, Stewart moved down to 174 for the second semester. His only loss since doing so was to Jordan Pagano (Rutgers), 4-2. You might remember Pagano’s recent heroics chronicled here. Stewart was a two-time fourth-place finisher in Pennsylvania who is now 22-6 in college. If he continues to improve, he could be one to watch next season.
6) Hughes caps outstanding season in style
2016 NCAA qualifier Mike Hughes (Hofstra) completed a stellar 28-2 redshirt year by hammering the competition at the National Collegiate Open. Hughes didn’t surrender a point on his way to the finals, rolling to a 16-0 tech-fall and a pair of first period falls. He did cut Michael Rogers (NC State) loose twice in the finals, building an 8-2 lead and overwhelming his opponent to the point that the match ended by disqualification for stalling in just 3:32. Hughes will return next season as a senior and has proven he will be a factor as he looks to win his first All-American award in 2018.
5) Palmer overcomes disrespect with Pac-12 title
When the final coaches ranking came out last week, Joey Palmer (Oregon State) remained outside the top-30 despite having just one loss at 133 pounds, to #23, and a win over #18 Connor Schram (Stanford). That meant the Pac-12 would receive only one automatic bid at the weight. With that bid on the line, Palmer met Schram again in the finals on Sunday. After both wrestlers earned takedowns in the opening period, the match was tied at three. When both men could only score an escape apiece the rest of the way, the match went into overtime. The Oregon State senior rode out Schram in the first tie-breaker, then got loose himself to win, 5-4. With the win, Palmer advances to the NCAA tournament in St. Louis while Schram will have to wait for the at-large bids to be announced.
4) Nevills wins shocking Pac-12 title
Zach Nevills (Stanford) entered the post-season with a 3-10 record. He had just two wins over Division I opponents and hadn’t beaten a conference opponent since the 2016 Pac-12 tournament. The Cardinal senior was, understandably, not seeded despite a relatively soft field at 184 pounds. However, he took out fourth-seeded Bryan Battisto (CSU Bakersfield), who had drubbed him 15-2 in early January, in sudden victory, stunned top-seeded Mitch Woods (Cal Poly), 4-1, in the semi-finals, and used a late reversal to top Jacen Petersen (Arizona State), the other unseeded wrestler in the bracket, 7-6, to become a Pac-12 champion. Nevills earns a spot at the NCAA tournament after moving his record to 6-10 overall. The win also kept Stanford alive in the team race, though they would eventually finish second to Arizona State.
3) Lauterbach sweeps awards
The first national champion in the brief history of the Iowa Western program could not have been more dominant at the NJCAA national tournament. Preston Lauterbach entered the tournament ranked sixth in the country, but pinned all five of his opponents including the wrestlers who were ranked second, third, and fifth. Lauterbach was on the mat for just 10:02 all weekend and didn’t take a full two minutes combined in the semi-finals and championship bout. After a stint at Nebraska-Kearney and a fourth place finish a season ago, Lauterbach won both the Ernest B Gould Outstanding Wrestler Award and the Bruce Traphagen Award (Most Falls Least Amount of Time) to go with his national title. He’s headed to Colorado State-Pueblo next season.
2) Petersen lives the dream
When you’re a kid, you dream about the biggest moments. Two outs, bottom of the ninth in the World Series with the bases loaded. NBA finals, down one and you’ve got the ball as the clock ticks down. Running the two-minute drill in the Super Bowl, down by four. Thomas Petersen (Iowa Central) got to live the wrestling equivalent Saturday night as he took the mat for the final match of the season, the 285-pound NJCAA national finals, needing a victory to win the national title for his team. 2:33 into the first period, Petersen pinned Mario Pena (NIACC) to put Iowa Central over the top for their eighth national title, second only to North Idaho (14) all-time. Petersen, a former two-time Minnesota state champion spent a couple of years wrestling 197-pounds at North Dakota State before coming to Iowa Central.