Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Down Goes the #1! - Part 14

 The early 2000's. Now we're starting to get into the infancy of Johnnythompsonnum1. Attending the 1999 BIG 12 championships having to constantly refer to the media guide to know who someone was and where they were from for me was quite irritating. I knew who all of the Cyclones were, but outside of them, few others. I made up my mind that this was going to be the last time I attended a college dual or tournament where I didn't know who was who on the mat. I was going to know their record, who they'd beaten, who they'd lost to & what accomplishments they had earlier in the year as well as years prior. I made it a priority to know this information. Dad got me a subscription to both A.W.N. (Amateur Wrestling News) & W.I.N. (Wrestling International Newsmagazine) & I would read both from cover to cover.  To this day I can remember him saying to me, "I sure wish you knew your science book or your math book as well as you know those damn magazines."  Then when the internet became a thing & this information was now at the click of a button, look out.  I've loved wrestling ever since I was first introduced to it way back in 1991, but the passion, some would even call it a fixation began right around this time.  

So many of these upsets I can remember hearing about as they happened. Having them transcribed to me by people who were there. For someone of them, I was lucky enough to have been there to see them. 

2000 125 - #8 Steve Garland Virginia Upsets #1 Jody Strittmatter Iowa 9-7 SV in QF 

He had never been an All American before. Matter of fact, in his final ACC tournament he had been put on his back & stuck in the first period by freshman Skyler Holman of North Carolina. To say that Steve Garland was an unlikely candidate to knock off the #1 seed & make the NCAA finals is an understatement. Jody Strittmatter of Iowa was a transfer from Pittsburgh-Johnstown where he had won two NCAA Division II titles. The Hawkeyes were hoping that he would win them a DI title, but Garland managed to pull off a huge upset in a 9-7 in the quarter-finals.  Strittmatter would come back to finish in 3rd place, becoming an NCAA runner-up himself in 2001. Post college, both Garland and Strittmatter took to coaching. Garland spent some time at Cornell (NY) before taking over the reigns at Virginia. Strittmatter is part of the coaching staff for the Young Guns club. 

2000 141 - #8 Carl Perry Illinois Upsets #1 Doug Schwab  Iowa 7-5 in QF

Junior year of High School I attended a Granby Systems Camp in Mexico, Missouri. Between Billy Martin Sr, Steve Martin & a whole mess of others, I think I must have heard that the Granby Roll was the best move in wrestling at least 1,000,000 times over the course of that few days. The proof of their testimony was in highlight videos, none that they cherished more than that of Carl Perry of Illinois.  "It's the move that lead him to the national championship" and indeed it was. Perry, like Garland two weights below, was what you'd call an unlikely candidate. After a 7th place finish at the 1998 NCAA championships as a sophomore, he had finished one match shy of a second All American honor in 1999 as a junior. To emphasize doubt even more, heading into the 2000 NCAA championships he had finished a disappointing 4th at the BIG 10 tournament. Winning his first two matches, he had the defending NCAA champ from 1999, #1 seed Doug Schwab.  Perry pulled off a huge upset, upending the Hawkeye 7-5. As he'd go on to win the NCAA title, Schwab came back to finish 3rd. Having one season of eligibility left in 2001, Schwab then took NCAA runner-up honors. Post college Schwab would have various coaching positions, now the head of the Northern Iowa Panther program. 

2000 157 - #5 Larry Quisel Boise State Upsets #1 T.J. Williams Iowa 3-1 SV Iowa in SF

If you ever got to watch Larry Quisel of Boise State wrestle live, then you know how lucky you were. The one thing you knew whenever he stepped on the mat, was that you were in for a show. The late Bronco we sadly lost to an Elk hunting accident back in 2018 always put on a show. His matches never lacked excitement. As a junior in 1999, he wowed the wrestling audience by putting opponents on their backs left & right in route to a 3rd place finish & the Gorriaran award. One last hurrah in 2000 as a senior, Quisel was going to go out with a bang.  T.J. Williams of Iowa who had finished as the NJCAA runner-up for Triton had thus far gone undefeated during his time as a Hawkeye. He had won the NCAA title as a sophomore & many were planning on him winning a second NCAA title as a junior. All looked promising until Quisel pulled off an epic 3-1 overtime win in the semi-finals. As Quisel finished as the NCAA runner-up, Williams would work his way back to 3rd. Never seeing collegiate defeat again, Williams would win his second NCAA title in 2001. 

2000 197 - #4 Zach Thompson Iowa State Upset #1 Mark Munoz Oklahoma State 3-2 in SF

The front headlock can be one Hell of an offense and it can be one Hell of a defense. Few illustrated that was well as Iowa State's Zach Thompson. A master of the front headlock he used it to get past #1 Mark Munoz of Oklahoma State who had finished as the BIG 12 champion, to Thompson's finish of 3rd.  Thompson would lose in a heartbreaking tiebreaker to Nebraska's Brad Vering (who Munoz had beaten for the BIG 12 title) in the NCAA finals as Munoz came back to finish in 3rd place.  In 20001, Munoz would win the NCAA title as Thompson finished one match why of placing. Ironically enough, in the blood round match he had to face Vering, who won a tight 2-1 decision. It was nearly identical to the finals match that they had the season prior. Post college Munoz had a successful career in MMA, as both Munoz & Thompson got into coaching. 

2001 149 - U.S. Mike Zadick Iowa Upsets #1 Reggie Wright Oklahoma State 8-6 in R2 

"I should have pinned him." I can remember clear as day hearing Mike Zadick of Iowa responding to interviewers asking him about his huge upset over #1 seed Reggie Wright of Oklahoma State. Taking breaths in between he said it more than once. "I should have pinned him."  Pinned he was not, but upset by a score of 8-6 he was. Zadick who had been 7th as a sophomore in 2000, would eventually finish in 3rd place.  He would take 7th place honors again as a senior in 2002.  Wright who had finished 3rd at the NJCAA championships, then placing 4th twice in his sophomore & junior seasons for the Cowboys finished one match shy of placing. Both Zadick & Wright got into coaching post their collegiate careers. Zadick a silver medalist both at the Worlds and PAN AMERICANS. 

2001 HWT - #4 John Lockhart Illinois Upsets #1 Garrett Lowney Minnesota 2-1 in SF

Harvey Dent of Batman is the only individual I can think of whose fate came down to a coin toss more than that of Illinois' John Lockhart. The talented HWT had many attributes to his resume, none more noticeable than the fact that if he got the choice of down in a tiebreaker, it didn't matter who you were, you were NOT keeping him on the mat. He WAS going to escape. Minnesota's Garrett Lowney had won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games & he had just won the BIG 10 title. Yet when there was no score in sudden victory, you waited for the coin to land on either red or green. Once it landed and Lockhart got choice of position, fate was sealed before the whistle ever blew. Lockhart would win the NCAA title as Lowney came back to not only take 3rd place, but take it with a first period fall, which helped clinch the NCAA team title for the Golden Gophers. The next season Lockhart would finish 3rd as Lowney finished 5th.  Having two seasons of eligibility left, Lowney ended up getting hurt at the NCAA's in 2003 as a junior. He decided to turn his focus back towards Greco-Roman, forfeiting his final year of collegiate eligibility.  As to a final word on Lockhart, I'll say this. He probably could have became a millionaire traveling carnivals betting anyone and everyone that there wasn't a man alive who could keep him down on the mat. The standup isn't the most the most exciting move in the sport of wrestling, but I'll be damned if I ever saw anyone better at it. 

2002 141 - #5 Aaron Holker Iowa State Upsets #1 Mark Conley 4-3 in SF 

It had been quite the journey for Aaron Holker thus far in his collegiate career. A Utah native, he had originally gone to Brigham Young to compete for the Cougars. As a true freshman in 1999 he made All American honors, taking a 7th place finish in 1999. Failing to place as a true sophomore in 2000, he redshirted in 2001. This was when BYU dropped their wrestling program.  Now at a new home, Holker made the most of his redshirt junior season by upsetting the #1 seed Mark Conley of Navy in the semi-finals, in route to winning the national title.  Down 3-2 in the closing seconds of the match, Holker hit a last second reversal to stun the Albany, New York crowd as he advanced to the finals. Conley, who had also finished 5th in 2001, slipped to 6th place. The next season as a senior, Holker claimed another 7th place finish. 

2002 149 - #8 Jake Percival Ohio Upsets #1 Mike Zadick Iowa 18-4 in the Semi-Finals 

During the 2001-2002 season, Iowa's Mike Zadick had stepped on the mat kicked butt and taken names the entire season. Undefeated on the year with a Midlands title & a BIG 10 title all that was left for the Hawkeye to do was claim the NCAA title. All looked good until he ran into freshman Jake Percival of Ohio. Scoring the first takedown on a classic Brands go behind, it'd be the only offensive points Zadick would score the entire match. A Percival reversal turned into a tilt for three and then another time of putting Zadick on his back. Before long it was hard to keep track of how fast the points were going up on the board for this relatively unknown Bobcat. The black & gold faithful kept their hope that maybe Zadick would get Percivial on his back, but it never happened. When the buzzer sounded Percival had 18 points, Zadick 4.  The talk up until the semi-finals/Round of 12 session was what would happen to Percival and what would happen to Zadick. Percival had Oklahoma's Jared Frayer in the semi-finals. Frayer was one of Zadick's top rivals, that had traded wins back and forth with the Hawkeye. Was Percival going to handle him like he had Zadick? Zadick was Hellbent on being a national champion. How was he going to look in the blood round?  To answer the first question, Percival put up a decent fight against Frayer, but once Frayer put in the boots from the top position, the match belonged to the Sooner. Using a just plain mean rip your shoulder out from its socket guillotine, Frayer won the semi-final 11-6. Zadick surprisingly enough came back much more aggressive & focused than what I thought he would be.  In all of the years people have talked about the moment, I've never heard anyone credit Zadick for coming back for his team as strong as he did in that moment. To earn his third All American honor, he defeated American's Marc Hoffer, who to this day I still consider to be the best wrestler on that team to never earn All American honors. Zadick didn't squeak past him either, he majored him. 

What happened next has left me with a question that I pondered right then and right there, and I've been pondering ever since. In the consolation quarter-finals, Zadick lost to Harvard's Jesse Jantzen in a wild 4-4 tiebreaker. Two matches later, Jantzen took less than two minutes to stick Percival with a crabride half nelson so deep that only Jules Verne could look at it. What if Zadick had gotten that escape & won 5-4 tiebreaker? Of course he would have then had to have gotten past Lock Haven's Jamar Billman, but saying he did that he would have gotten Percival again. What would've Mike Zadick Vs Jake Percival part II looked like? If time paradoxes that Dr. Emmett L Brown describes in Back to the Future are real, maybe that question has already been answered. Nevertheless, Percival went on to earn three more All American honors of 5th-2nd-3rd, becoming to date one of the best wrestlers Ohio has ever produced. 

2002 174 - #4 Greg Parker Princeton Upsets #1 Otto Olson Michigan 12-8 in Semi-Finals 

Sitting inside Carver Hawkeye Area for the Princeton Vs Iowa dual meet, I overheard a conversation among a group of Iowa fans. They were talking of how Iowa was going to annihilate the preppy Tigers at every weight. I told them that they'd want to keep their eyes open & pay attention during the 174 lbs match. A legger with tremendous hips, Greg Parker was for real. Not all that effective from his feet, Parker scored the majority of his points from the top position.  In all essence while he was good on his feet, the same could be said about Michigan's Otto Olson. He too was tougher than nails from the top position.  A two time All American with finishes of 2nd & 3rd, Olson was hoping to make another trip to the finals when Parker stopped him dead in his tracks with a 12-8 decision.  As Parker would finish as the NCAA runner-up, Olson would end his collegiate career with a 5th place finish. The next season of 2003, Parker bumped up to 184 lbs, ending his career with an 8th place finish. 

2002 184 - U.S. Rowdy Lundegreen Cal State Fullerton Upsets #1 Scott Justus Virginia Tech 14-7 in R1 

A tremendous football player while in high school, Rowdy Lundegreen could have as easily ended up playing NCAA Division I football.  Take into consideration that he's from Texas, where the trinity is seen as a quaternity. The Father, The Son, the Holy Spirit AND Football, it was quite shocking that he chose the mat over the gridiron. Starting off at Oklahoma, he then transferred to Cal State Fullerton where in qualifying for the NCAA championships his junior season of 2002, no one expected much out of him. That's when in the first round of the tournament, seconds after the whistle blew, he had #1 seed Scott Justus of Virginia Tech on his back, leading 5-0.  Justus tried to play the catchup game, but as he did, Lundegreen had an answer. Not near as talked about or reminisced upon as the Zadick/Percival match, the Titan knocked off the Hokie 14-7. Neither wrestler would place. Both seniors in 2003, Lundegreen would qualify for his second NCAA appearance as Justus finished one match shy of All American honors.  

2003 157 - #9 Alex Tirapelle Illinois Upsets #1 Luke Becker Minnesota 2-1 t.b. in QF

Back in these days the qualification system worked different than what it does now. While the entire embodiment of your season effects whether you make the national tournament, 19 years ago, you had a certain place you had to get at your conference tournament, or you weren't going. Now you could potentially still get a wildcard, but it was not a guarantee.  As to the BIG 10, you had to place in the top 7 in order get an automatic bid to the tournament. 7th is exactly the place Alex Tirapelle, a freshman from Illinois had taken. Luke Becker of Minnesota on the other hand, had taken 1st. Matter of fact, Becker had also taken 1st at the NCAA championships the year prior.  6th & 4th in his freshman & sophomore seasons as well. It was not a likely scenario that Tirapelle would win this NCAA quarter-final matchup, but the unlikely is what makes it so much fun. Getting the vital escape to dethrone the Golden Gopher, the Illini found himself headed to the semi-finals, to pull off another upset as he made the finals. Becker would come back to earn his fourth All American honor with another 4th place finish.  As a sophomore in 2004, Tirapelle would finish in 4th place, then finishing out his career one match shy of placing in both his junior and senior seasons. Post college, both Becker & Tirapelle continue to coach at the collegiate level. 

2003 184 - #4 Scott Barker Missouri Upsets #1 Jessman Smith Iowa 9-4 in Semi-Finals 

A classic battle amongst two chiseled athletes,  the BIG 12 champion Scott Barker of Missouri upset the BIG 10 champion #1 Jessman Smith of Iowa 9-4 in the semi-finals. Barker who had finished in 6th place the year prior up at 197 would take a runner-up finish as Smith, who had finished 3rd the year prior came back to claim 4th. Transferring to Oregon for his final season in 2005, Barker would win a PAC-12 title qualifying for his third NCAA appearance. Smith went on to become a successful attorney. 


2004-2006 coming up in Part 15! 


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