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I'm incredibly behind on my coverage of this event, in no small part due to UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones. But, I'm back and I'll update this stream with news and results throughout the rest of the day. First up, here's a video of Arizona State University's Bubba Jenkins shockingly pinning Penn State wunderkind David Taylor for the NCAA title at 157lbs:
Not just any someone, either. Jenkins pinned Penn State's David Taylor, a redshirt freshman who was 38-0 and is certainly one of the country's most exciting wrestlers.
Jenkins followed a scoreless first period by allowing Taylor to escape. Taylor shot a fairly deep single-leg takedown but Jenkins countered with an overhead cradle from the neutral position and powered Taylor to his back.
The referee did not make a quick call as Taylor was helpless in Jenkins' cradle, the end finally coming at 2:14. Jenkins flew into the arms of his coaches and then was escorted to the waiting ESPN cameras.
Keep in mind this as well: Jenkins formerly wrestled at Penn State. The move to ASU put something of a stigma on Jenkins for lacking commitment and toughness. A win over his former team's rising star is something of a final statement on the questions surrounding Jenkins.
If you've been following me on Twitter, you know I've done most of my work there (@MMANation) covering this event. Between this and tonight's UFC 128, it's just too much to keep up with. But I have been watching the wrestling matches, so I'm up on who is doing well, which team is in the lead and who competes tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET for the national title on ESPN.
First, let's go over the semi-final results. The two winners in each of these divisions will wrestle for a national title tonight:
No. 1 Anthony Robles (Arizona State) dec. unseeded Ben Kjar (Utah Valley), 4-2
No. 2 Matt McDonough (Iowa) dec. No. 3 Brandon Precin (Northwestern), 3-1
No. 1 Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) dec. Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), 5-2
No. 2 Andrew Hochstrasser (Boise State) dec. No 3 Andrew Long (Penn State), 6-4
No. 1 Kellen Russell (Michigan) dec. No. 5 Montell Marion (Iowa), 3-3, TB (riding time)
No. 3 Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly) dec. No. 2 Mike Thorn (Minnesota), 9-3
No. 2 Frank Molinaro (Penn State) dec. No. 6 Jason Chamberlain (Boise State), 4-1
No. 4 Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. No. 8 Ganbayar Sanjaa (American), 4-0
No. 3 David Taylor (Penn State) dec. No. 2 Steve Fittery (American), 7-1
No. 4 Bubba Jenkins (Arizona State) dec. No. 8 Jason Welch (Northwestern), 8-5
No. 1 Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska) maj. dec. No. 5 Colt Sponseller (Ohio State), 14-6
No. 3 Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma) dec. No. 2 Andrew Howe (Wisconsin), 2-2, TB (riding time)
No. 1 Jon Reader (Iowa State) dec. No. 5 Chris Henrich (Virginia), 4-3
No. 7 Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford) dec. No. 3 Mack Lewnes (Cornell), 5-2
No. 2 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) dec. No. 3 Steve Bosak (Cornell), 4-3, SV
No. 9 Quentin Wright (Penn State) pinned No. 12 Grant Gambrall (Iowa), 2:52
No. 2 Clayton Foster (Oklahoma State) dec. No. 3 Trevor Brandvold (Wisconsin), 4-3
No. 4 Dustin Kilgore (Kent State) dec. No. 1 Cam Simaz (Cornell), 10-9
No. 1 Zach Rey (Lehigh) dec. No. 5 Dom Bradley (Missouri), 2-1
No. 3 Ryan Flores (American) dec. No. 2 Jarod Trice (Central Michigan), 4-0
Here are the standouts for me:
At 125lbs, I am not sure about Robles' chances, but I don't think they're low. A win for him would be huge not only for him, but wrestling as well. Robles' story is the only one making the rounds on ESPN's programming. It's an easy, but important media hook.
Jordan Oliver at 133lbs is a monster. I like him to win easily.
141lbs is up in the air. Kellen Russell had a hard time with Iowa's Montell Marion and Cal Poly's Borislav Novachkov is very hard to score on. I think an upset of Russell is very possible.
Kyle Dake overcame being dismissed at 149lbs as well as an up and down season to get to tonight's point. I like him to rise to the occasion yet again tonight.
At 157lbs, David Taylor seems unstoppable. The redshirt freshman for Penn State is ready to make history tonight. Some are already comparing him to his coach Cael Sanderson and while it's still too early, the comparison doesn't feel out of bounds.
Jordan Burroughs win easily at 165lbs, although I don't like his willingness to let opponents acrue points with escapes.
Jon Reader continues his roll at 174lbs.
I don't know who to pick at 184lbs. That remains wide open for me.
I like the strength of Dustin Kilgore at 197lbs to beat Jordan Foster.
While I want Flores to win at heavyweight, Lehigh's Zach Rey seems too much for the undersized American University standout.
As of the time of this wrestling (including consolation rounds) Penn State is in first, but strong performances by Bosak and Lewnes put Cornell back in second. We'll have results of the national tourney later tonight.
I had the chance to talk to UFC light heavyweight contender Phil Davis yesterday. Davis, as most of you reading this already know, was the 2008 NCAA Division I national champion at Penn State at 197lbs. He's also undefeated in mixed martial arts, the UFC and has the fight of his life coming up at UFC Fight Night 24 on March 26 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. This is the first fight where Davis will headline for the UFC and the first time he will compete on Spike TV.
But I wanted to get his thoughts on the national wrestling tournament first. We talked about what impact former national champion and Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson has as a coach for Nittany Lions, whether he cares about wrestling going head-to-head with college basketball in terms of getting media attraction and if he still has any relationship with the current squad for his alma mater. I also got his take on what kind of difference it will make for the wrestlers competing to not have this event held in the midwest.
Check out our short conversation below:
Before we kick off the quarterfinals for the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, let's go over a few news and notes. Attendance was high. MMA fighters got involved. Injuries sidelined the promise of previous champions.
First, some good news:
The Wells Fargo Center has held up to 20,000 for basketball games, so expect an easy sell out for the finals. It's also encouraging to see huge fan attendance early. I think the move out of the midwest and into Philadelphia is already paying dividends.
Second, the Philadelphia Inquirer is all over this story with news coverage as well as photos of the event. This is my personal favorite and the caption reads: "Frank Perrelli of Cornell (Delbarton) lifts Trent Sprenkle of North Dakota State University, where Perrelli would win 4-3, during the 125 pound first round bout at the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA on 3/17/11."
Third, Strikeforce light heavyweight champion and two-time Greco-Roman wrestling Olympian Dan Henderson is attendance for an autograph session. I've said it before and I'll repeat the refrain here: MMA can't save wrestling, but it can buy wrestling some time to help save itself. The more MMA's popularity can help scholastic wrestling in America gain more attention, the better both sports become.
Sadly, there is some bad news. The top seed at 149lbs, Darrion Caldwell, is out due to the same injury that cost him his entire 2009-10 season:
North Carolina State wrestler Darrion Caldwell, the 2009 NCAA 149-pound champ, reinjured his shoulder in his second match Thursday at the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia, and is no longer in title contention.
Caldwell, the top seed at 149 this year, was wrestling unseeded Eric Grajales of the University of Michigan Thursday evening. After an edge-of-the-mat scramble in the first period, Grajales got up off the mat... but the NC State matman remained on his back. After a few minutes, Caldwell stood up, walked off the mat, and forfeited the match to Grajales at 2:02.
Caldwell won the 149-pound crown at the 2009 NCAAs in thrilling fashion, upsetting defending champ Brent Metcalf of the University of Iowa, 11-6, in the finals. Caldwell's win is one of the greatest upsets in NCAA wrestling finals history. One prominent wrestling historian ranks it second only to the 1970 NCAA 142 lb. title bout where Dan Gable of Iowa State lost to the University of Washington's Larry Owings. It was Gable's only loss in his entire high school and college career.
Tom Brands and the University of Iowa are not having their best season or tournament, but Grant Gambrall has thus far competed well:
“It’s about doing it right all the time and always being 100 percent focused on what you’re doing. Not thinking about other things.”
Gambrall was focused never trailing against LeBlanc, scoring a takedown in the first and then put things away with a six-point third period against the fifth-seed. The sophomore from Iowa City West is confident he can compete with anyone in a wide-open weight class.
“I know I can beat all these guys if I wrestle well,” Gambrall said. “If I wrestle my match, go to my offense and I stay in position and battle in every position.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands said it is a positive that Gambrall is feeling good and that success can be a quick cure.
“I know winning solves a lot of mentality problems,” Brands said. “When he’s winning like that I know his mood level goes up.”
Gambrall had a pair of tough decisions before the match with LeBlanc. Gambrall edged Corey Peltier of Maryland, 3-2, and then scored a takedown as time expired to ice an 8-5 win over Appalachian State’s Austin Trotman.
“In a tournament like this, I think you have to improve every round,” Gambrall said. “Get better as the tournament goes on. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of doing that so far.”
More news and notes coming today. Let's see if Penn State can keep this up.
None of their wrestlers came into the tournament with top seeds. Yet, they may just leave with the title. Penn State under head coach and Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson is tearing up the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships early. They only sent one wrestler to the wrestlebacks and then went on a run. To wit:
The Nittany Lions weren’t perfect on Thursday … but pretty close.
After 125-pounder Brad Pataky dropped a first-round match, Penn State rattled off 15 consecutive wins. In the process Sanderson’s group pushed seven into Friday’s quarterfinals of the 81st NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
Cornell and Iowa kept five in the championship bracket with Wisconsin and Oklahoma State each pushing four.
The top 10 team scores at the end of Day 1 included: Penn State 30 ½, Cornell 29, Oklahoma State and Iowa with 25, American 23 ½, Arizona State 21, Wisconsin 20, Boise State 19 ½, Minnesota 19 and Nebraska 18 ½.
It's perfectly conceivable Penn State could send a few to the championship round and even take a few national titles, but it would be saying something about the Penn State wrestling program to take a national title. It would validate the investment in Sanderson and send a signal to the rest of the wrestling community a new powerhouse is emerging.
A little more perspective on the run the Nittany Lions are having:
Rookie Andrew Alton (30-8) followed a first-round pin with a major decision in the evening session. David Taylor, another first-year starter, moved to 36-0 with a technical fall in the second round. Ed Ruth, the third of PSU’s fantastic freshmen, improved to 34-1 with a win against Minnesota’s Scott Glasser in the second round.
"It feels like a regular tournament," Alton said. "You wrestle hard and you get your hand raised out there. I was a little bit nervous but you’re always going to have nerves. You just have to go out there and compete."
Add Andrew Long, who beat Minnesota’s David Thorn in overtime at 133; Frank Molinaro, who held off Virginia’s Derek Valenti at 149; Quentin Wright (184) and Cameron Wade (285) and PSU will take massive momentum into Day 2.
That's the team to beat, folks.
The results from Session 1 of the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships are starting to pour in. For all of the results, you have to seek out the NWCA Scorebook Stat Tracker. They've got the results for every match in every division in real time. Intermat's also got some live coverage with an audio broadcast and live chat.
In terms of the expected, favorites Cam Simaz, Anthony Robles, Zachery Rey, Adam Hall, Christopher Honeycutt, Jon Reader, Jordan Burroughs, Darion Caldwell and Kellen Russell all won their opening matches. Hall had a bit of a harder time than expected and Simaz didn't railroad Ryan Smith of Cal Ploy, but . Upstart David Taylor at 157lbs easily won his opening round match. Also of note is Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State who won his opening round match against Alex Medved of Garner Webb.
Blake Rosholt, brother of former UFC Jake and Jared Rosholt, lost to David Marone of Virginia Tech 2-1 in overtime.
There were, however, some upsets.
Mark Rappo of the University of Pennsylvania upended Jonathon Morrison of Oklahoma State, Flint Ray of Utah Valley University defeated Rollie Peterkin 7-5 and Anthony Zanetta defeated Alan Waters of Missouri 7 to 2.
In a monster upset, Eren Civian of Columbia PINNED Cody Yohn of the University of Minnesota at :32. Paul Gillespie of Hofstra defeated Dallas Bailey of Oklahoma State 4-2. And Jim Resnick of Rider University defeated Zach Toal of 6-0.
Today marks the beginning of the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships, to be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tournament will run from today, March 17th to Saturday, March 19th. The location of Philadelphia is not by coincidence. Rather than hold the tournament somewhere in the midwest, where it's sure to appeal to a dedicated audience, the NCAA is trying to expand the presence of collegiate wrestling with an East Coast city of higher population density. It seems regrettable that the premier event in college wrestling cannot be separated from the struggles the sport faces, but as college programs were axed just this week, the attention one gets cannot be appreciated in a vacuum.
There's a lot to unpack here: divisions, returning champs, who was seeded where and which teams hold the strongest upset potential. I won't overload you with details, but I've got you covered in terms of all of the information you could possibly need. Here goes.
Just in case you need some predictions, InterMat's staff has their collection of predictions for the event. Other journalists covering the event offer their predictions as well courtesy TheMat.com.
Thursday, March 17
Session 1 – First Round
Live on ESPN3.com – 11 a.m.
Session 2 – Second Round and Consolation Rounds
Live on ESPN3.com – 6:30 p.m.
Friday, March 18
Session 3 – Quarterfinals and Consolation Rounds
Live on ESPNU HD/ESPN3.com – 10:30 a.m.
Session 4 – Semifinals
Live on ESPNU HD – 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 19
Session 5 – Medal Rounds
Live on ESPNU HD – 11 a.m.
Session 6 – Finals
Live on ESPN HD/ESPN3.com (simulcast) – 7:30 p.m.
There are lots of wrestlers, divisions and teams to keep track of. Let's start with divisions. You can start with this awesome YouTube playlist from the folks at USA Wrestling to help you get started. It's got videos of the press conferences for athletes and coaches, interviews with key wrestlers and more. Absolutely worth a look.
The divisions are deep and the seeding always controversial, so make sure to use these division-by-division breakdowns. The FloWrestling people have kind enough to offer video breakdowns while Mark Palmer explains the top seeding from this year and compares it to last year for each division:
Some of the more notable number one seeds to look out for:
Cam Simaz - the 197lbs beast, although his field is incredibly tough. This Cornell wrestler leads a strong squad, but has his work cut out for him as the other top four seeds in his division are all All-Americans and individual conference champs.
Anthony Robles - an inspiring story, he's the one-legged wrestler who can't be told no. Robles was born with one leg, but hasn't let physical impairment get in his way. His seeding at number one comes with some controversy, but he nevertheless had an unfefeated season at Arizona State University and is something akin to the people's champ.
Jordan Burroughs - just a monster out of Nebraska. He already won the 165lbs national championship in 2009, but had to sit out most of 2010 with a knee injury. He's undefeated this season and is the Big 12 champion. I expect a repeat from him.
Kellen Moore - he's the current Big Ten champion and went undefeated this season at 33-0. His only real threat is Mike Thorn of Minnesota, but he lost to Moore in the Big Ten championship. Moore is the prohibitive favorite here.
I'm also going to keep an eye out for Kyle Dake of Cornell, who had a breakout performance at the national tournament last year taking the 141lbs title as a freshman. He's since moved up to 149lbs and is only seeded fourth (something else that's caused some controversy), but has strong upset potential.
The entire 184lbs division is stacked and the partity at the top is crazy. I won't repeat what the experts I've linked before have stated, but it's worth checking out their analysis about how this entire division could be turned upside down.
Teams to look out for:
Cornell is a deep and well coached squad with Rob Koll at the helm, Tom Brands from Iowa is perennially reliable, Boise State - who is sending ten wrestlers to the tournamet this year - led by Adam Hall at 157lbs and Oklahoma State, with Clayton Foster at 197lbs and Jordan Oliver at 133lbs.
For my money, though, I've got my eye on former NCAA Division I national champion and Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson as he takes his young Penn State team to the big show. They don't have any number one seeds, but that talent is deep. They've also got homefield advantage. The squad lacks experienced in field of many return players, but is incredibly talented and stacks up well across several divisions:
Like Oklahoma State, Penn State brings a high-flying group of youngsters to Philadelphia. Three of head coach Cael Sanderson’s top dogs are rookies but those first-year starters helped PSU to a 17-1-1 dual record.
David Taylor, a Dave Schultz Excellence Award winner as a high school senior in Ohio, has turned in a fabulous first season, going 34-0 at 157 pounds. He’s the three seed behind two undefeated All-Americans.
Redshirt-freshman Ed Ruth (32-1) is the No. 2 seed at 174 pounds. He owns a win against Lewnes. A third rookie, true freshman Andrew Alton (28-8), is the six seed at 141 pounds. Like Taylor, who has 32 bonus-point victories, Alton has been a bonus-point machine with 17 pins and 21 wins by at least major decision.
Two have been there before: 149-pounder Frank Molinaro (28-2) and 133-pounder Andrew Long (15-1). Molinaro, a No. 2 seed, is a two-time All-American at 141 pounds. Long, a transfer from Iowa State, lost in the 125-pound NCAA finals in 2010.
Sanderson also has Quentin Wright (16-6), the Big Ten champ at 184 pounds and All-American two seasons ago, and heavyweight Cameron Wade (28-6), who is seeded ninth.
That's it for now. You can follow me on Twitter for more: @MMANation. We'll be updating this stream with results and analysis from each day. If you've got good insight, videos, photos or something of note to share, please do so.
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