Monday, May 30, 2022

Down Goes the #1! - Part 10

 Now we're going to take a look at all of the times at the NCAA DI tournament when the #1 seed went down before the finals during the late 80's (87'-89'). 

1987 158 - U.S. John Heffernan Iowa Upsets #1 Rob Koll North Carolina F 6:47 In R2 

Often caught within the shadow of brother Jim, John Heffernan got to experience a few moments of glory himself while a member of the esteemed Iowa Hawkeyes. One of his shining moments was his sophomore season of 1987 when he knocked off #1 Rob Koll of North Carolina via fall in round two of the NCAA's. Ironically enough, throughout the long illustrious history of the NCAA tournament this would mark the first time that a #1 seed who had been knocked off on the championship side of the bracket got to extract revenge on the backside. Heffernan & Koll would meet again in the consolation semi-finals where Koll took his vengeance 6-2 decision. Koll would finish 3rd as Heffernan finished 6th. Koll who had placed 8th as a freshman in 1985 & 3rd in 1986 as a sophomore would then go on to win the NCAA title as a senior in 1988. Heffernan would earn All American honors again as a junior with a 4th place finish, finishing one match shy of his third medal in 1989.  Post college Koll went on to a successful international career winning PAN AMERICAN gold in 1989, with World Cup Gold medals in 1990, 1991, 1992 & 1993. After a long and successful stint coaching Cornell (NY) he is now the head at Stanford. 

1987 190 - #8 Dave Dean Minnesota Upsets #1 Eric Mittlestead CSU-Bakersfield 3-2 in QF

Long before his son Gabe became a legend at Cornell (NY) or his son Max began his legendary career at Penn State (which is still in progress) Dave Dean did some pretty memorable things himself at the University of Minnesota. In 1987 in route to an eventual runner-up showing, he knocked off #1 seed Eric Mittlestead of Cal State Bakersfield, the NCAA Division II champion of that season.  Mittlestead would go on to take 7th. Ironically enough, Mittlestead's son, also named Eric is currently on the roster at Cal State Bakersfield himself. Dean would finish 3rd at the NCAA's in 1989, later coaching at Michigan State. 

1987 UNL - #5 Dean Hall Edinboro Upset #1 Tom Erikson Oklahoma State 11-6 in SF

Sometimes in wrestling it's hard to separate fact from fiction. You hear a story wondering if it has any truth to it or if it's complete balderdash. This is one I heard at one time and perhaps someone out there who reads this will either be able to verify its validity or nullify it with a slam dunk of "didn't happen."  

Here's what I know....

Dean Hall originally wrestled for Oklahoma State. He transferred to Edinboro for his final two seasons. Coincidentally enough those final two seasons were when two time NJCAA champion Tom Erikson transferred into Oklahoma State. Now what I heard is that the reason for Hall's transfer was because he couldn't beat Erikson out for the varsity spot on the Cowboy team. Maybe that had absolutely nothing to do with it. If it did though, doesn't it make this semi-final upset all the more epic?  Truth or no truth behind that story, Hall's upset here was still huge. He had won the NCAA DII title in 1986, placing 6th at the DI's. Edinboro moved up to DI in 1987.  Hall graduated with 113 victories. Erikson's famed career was touched on in Part 9 of this series. 

1988 167 - #8 Jim Gressley Arizona State Upset #1 Dave Lee Wisconsin F 3:36 in QF

If you're gonna make history happen, sometimes you gotta do above and beyond what it is that others expect out of you. College wrestling 34 years ago wasn't all that much different than what it is today. Maybe the names have changed a bit, but for the most part it has always been the same few teams that have dominated the field. 1988 was one time when it was different. The one and only time when a school from a state with nice weather in January & February brought home the team title. The Sun Devils of Arizona State won the team championship that winter & it had a lot to do with the performances of guys like Jim Gressley. Only seeded #8, he knocked off the BIG 10 champ & #1 seed Dave Lee of Wisconsin in route to an eventual 3rd place finish. Lee would finish in 6th place. Unfortunately Gressley would finish one match shy of earning a second medal in 1989. Lee had much better luck. Securing a second BIG 10 title, he won the NCAA title. 

1989 126 - #5 Michael Stokes North Carolina State Upset Jim Martin Penn State 2-2, 2-2 in SF

Having finished one match shy of All American honors as a junior in 1988, North Carolina State's Michael Stokes entered his final NCAA tournament in 1989 having never made the award stand. His semi-final opponent on the other hand knew the award stand well. Penn State's Jim Martin had finished 4th in 1986 as a freshman & 2nd in 1987 as a sophomore, winning the national title in 1988 as a junior. Stokes pulled off a huge upset making the NCAA finals as Martin would come back to finish 3rd. 155-9 career record, as impressive as Martin was on the mat he was every bit as impressive off. Carrying a 3.95 GPA throughout school he later became an orthopedic surgeon. 

1989 134 - #4 T.J. Sewell Oklahoma Upset #1 John Fisher Michigan 6-6, 8-1 in SF

This match marked a three time All American up against a four time All American, a two time BIG 12 champion against a two time BIG 10 champion. Oklahoma's T.J. Sewell a junior who had placed 7th in 1988 as a sophomore upset John Fisher of Michigan who had thus far been 4th-4th-3rd during his career. Sewell would place 2nd as Fisher took his place yet again in 4th. As a senior in 1990, Sewell would finish 5th. He later became the board president of the Oklahoma Regional Training Center. Fisher who had 183 varsity wins, continued his wrestling career for the next decade and a half claiming many medals along the way. 

1989 142 - #4 Townsend "Junior" Saunders Upset #1 Mike Cole Clarion 8-5 in SF

In 1988 the NCAA crowned it's first 6th year medical hardship national champion in Scott Turner of North Carolina State. We damn near saw our second 6th year medical hardship NCAA champion in 1989. Placing 3rd at the NCAA championships as a junior in 1987, Mike Cole of Clarion ended up having to miss out on what was supposed to be his senior season of 87'-88'. Applying for an extra season, he was granted one as he wrestled himself to a #1 seed at the NCAA tournament. All seemed promising until he ran into Townsend Saunders, a transfer at Arizona State who had won a NCAA Division II title for Cal State Bakersfield in 1987. Saunders upset Cole in route to a runner-up finish as Cole came back strong through the consolations to finish 3rd. Saunders would finish 3rd himself in 1990. Post college Saunders had an outstanding international career. PAN-AMERICAN gold in 1991 & 1995, he was an Olympic silver medalist in 1996. His wife Tricia in the eyes, heart and mind of many was the pioneer of women's wrestling in this country. Our first Women's World champion, winning three golds in all. 


Look forward to Part 11 featuring the early 90's coming soon! 


No comments:

Post a Comment