Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Down Goes the #1! - Part 16

 The 2007 through 2009 NCAA Division I championships provided plenty of exciting moments when the #1 seed got knocked off before the NCAA finals. 

2007 133 - #4 Coleman Scott Oklahoma State Upsets #1 Nick Simmons of Michigan State 

I remember the first time I ever saw a spladle, my first thought was, "How in the heck do you defend that?" I saw Old Dominion head coach Steve Martin once teach a defense to it  that I saw Daniel Frishkorn use in a match once, but I have to say the most unique defense I ever saw came out of Oklahoma State's Coleman Scott. The junior who had thus far placed 8th & 5th at the NCAA championships during his career, was facing #1 seed Nick Simmons of Michigan State who had finished 7th-4th-4th thus far in his career. Scott shocked the wrestling community by nailing a double leg takedown, then throwing in the legs & racking up backpoints with an extremely tight half nelson. The match was still a long way from being over though. Moments later, Simmons went to lock up his signature maneuver & it looked all but certain he was going to use his bread & butter to get himself into the NCAA finals. Instead, somehow or another Scott was able to position himself up onto Simmons' chest to where Simmons was unable to secure any backpoints. While Simmons then made an effort to comeback, Scott held on for the 4-3 victory. Scott would finish as the NCAA runner-up as Simmons worked his way back to 3rd.  Simmons post collegiate credentials mentioned in previous Down Goes the #1! features, Scott would win the NCAA title in 2008, then going on to a very successful international career. An Olympic Bronze medalist in 2012, Scott also won PAN-AMERICAN gold & bronze as well as World Cup Silver. He is now the head coach at North Carolina. 

2007 149 - #5 Gregor Gillespie Minnesota Upsets #1 Dustin Schlatter Minnesota 3-2 in SF

In 2006 Minnesota Freshman Dustin Schlatter came into the collegiate wrestling scene & albeit a 1 point loss to All American Mark DiSalvo of Central Michigan, no one touched him in route to the NCAA title. It looked as if he were going to end his sophomore campaign with another NCAA title, when he ran into Edinboro's Gregor Gillespie. Gillespie too was a sophomore who had enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign. While not as glorious as a national title, he finished the previous season with a 7th place showing, including a fall over DiSalvo in the seventh place match. This season with a 3-2 victory in the semis over #1 Schlatter it'd be his turn to taste the gold of winning the national title. Schlatter came back to place 3rd.  As juniors, Gillespie would finish in 5th place as Schlatter finished in 7th.  As seniors, Gillespie finished off his career with a 4th place finish, a four time All American. Schlatter who had won the Southern Scuffle tournament, unfortunately injured his knee. While he tried to make a comeback, the injury forced him to have to default out of his final NCAA tournament. Post college Gillespie enjoyed a successful career in UFC as Schlatter turned his attention towards coaching. 

2007 197 - U.S. Brandon Halsey Cal State Bakersfield Upsets #1 Max Askren Missouri 5-4 in R1

If there's anything that the world of wrestling loves, it's a red hot freshman. As the world of chess is always searching for the next Bobby Fischer, collegiate wrestling is gung-ho on finding the next Cael Sanderson. In the least the hope for another Pat Smith, Kyle Dake or Logan Stieber. In 2007, many wrestling fans thought we may have found one in Max Askren of Missouri. Askren's brother Ben, had thus far been the Tiger's greatest wrestler to date, having made the NCAA finals four times, winning two titles. The type of season Askren was having, it seemed as if fate had destined him to surpassing his brother. Other than a defensive fall in a match he was winning against Iowa State's Kurt Backes, Askren had defeated everyone put in front of him. He entered the NCAA's the #1 seed, a hope for a NCAA title as a rookie. 

That's when he ran into Cal State Bakersfield's Brandon Halsey. If you know anything about the Halsey wrestling family from California, you know that whether it was Dad William who wrestled at UCLA, brother Lionel at CSU-Bakersfield or brother Ryan at Cal Poly, you better be on your toes, cause if you're not they'll make you pay for it.  Halsey who had transferred from Fresno State after the Bulldogs had their wrestling program discontinued, had just won a PAC-12 title. He reminded the young Askren just how viciously unrelenting and unforgiving the NCAA tournament can be as he sent him into the consolation bracket with a 5-4 loss.  Neither wrestler would win another match as Askren went 0-2 & Halsey went 1-2. 

Askren went on to collect himself earning All American honors in his sophomore & junior seasons of 7th & 5th respectively. By the time he was a senior in 2010, many had given up on the idea of him winning a national title. The beauty of know it all loud mouths is how easily they can be silenced, as Askren's senior season he came in the #6 seed, as he was the one who did the upsetting this time in route to winning the NCAA title. 

Halsey's story too has an uplifting ending. Dealing with injuries, he came back as a senior in 2009 to earn All American honors of 7th place for the Roadrunners. 

2008 133 - #4 Joey Slaton Iowa Upsets #1 Franklin Gomez Michigan State 4-2 s.v. in Semi-Finals 

Michigan State's Franklin Gomez enjoyed a stellar freshman regular season for the Spartans in 2007 but fell apart at the BIG 10 championships, failing to qualify for what would have been his first NCAA championships. He would not make the same mistake twice as in 2008 as he won the BIG 10 championship & secured himself the #1 seed as he entered the tournament. He looked sharp as a tack up until he ran into Iowa's Joey Slaton. Slaton a two time state champion had missed out on his freshman season due to issues involving a transfer from Virginia Tech & he was more than determined to prove himself on the national title.  The Hawkeye upset the Spartan in sudden victory 4-2.  Gomez came back to take 3rd as Slaton finished as the NCAA runner-up. Their careers from that point on went in polar opposite directions. For reasons that didn't include losing the wrestleoffs, Slaton never made the varsity again, although he did end his career with a 3rd place finish at the Midlands. Gomez went on to win the NCAA title as a junior in 2009, taking another 3rd place finish as a senior in 2010. Post college, representing Puerto Rico, Gomez has had a decorated international career. Along with World Silver he has earned two gold, three silver & two bronze medals at the PAN-AMERICAN level. 

2008 157 - #8 Jordan Leen Cornell Upsets #1 Gregor Gillespie Edinboro 8-6 in QF

Having lost in the EIWA finals, Jordan Leen of Cornell did not seem like a likely candidate to knock of the #1 seed & returning NCAA champion Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro, in route to winning an NCAA title himself. Yet as the two met in the NCAA quarterfinals in an 8-6 match that's exactly what he did. Having finished in 8th place in 2007 as a sophomore, Leen would then take 3rd place in 2010 as a senior. Ironically enough his final match of his collegiate career was a victory over Gillespie. He has since gotten into coaching. 

2008 197 - #4 Wynn Michalak Central Michigan Upsets #1 Josh Glenn 7-5 in Semi-Finals 

Wynn Michalak's sophomore & junior NCAA tournaments did not turn out the way that he was hoping that they would. As a sophomore in 2006, he entered the NCAA tournament as the #1 seed, upset early on finishing in 8th place. As a junior in 2007, he fell one match short of placing. His final attempt would be his best. In route to making the NCAA finals, he upset #1 Josh Glenn of American 7-5 in the semi-finals. Glenn would come back to take 5th. Post collegiate accomplishments of both Michalak and Glenn featured in Part 15. 

2009 141 - U.S. Ryan Prater Illinois Upsets #1 Kellen Russell Michigan F 4:00 in R2 

Sometimes in a wrestler's career the shiniest moment comes down to a single match. While making a NCAA Division I lineup in and of itself is an accomplishment that few of us will ever realize, on the list of comparable credentials & accolades there's not a whole lot to say about the collegiate career of Ryan Prater of Illinois. While he did also place 8th at the CKLV invite as a sophomore & a 5th place finish at the Midlands as a junior, he only made the NCAA tournament once & that was after a 7th place finish at the BIG 10 championships. Kellen Russell on the other hand, had an extremely decorated career at the University of Michigan. One of our rare four time BIG 10 champions, Russell would earn all sorts of accomplishments including placing 7th here as a sophomore, then earning back to back NCAA titles in his junior and senior seasons. Comparatively speaking, Prater has slipped into the obscurity of a forgotten wrestler lost in the mix as Russell's career is still reminisced about to this day. In the film Little Giants Rick Moranis' character Danny O'Shea gives a pep talk to his team of gridiron dreamers that if someone beats you 99/100, that still leaves you with that one time. This was Prater's one time. 

Going into the match he was 0-5 against the Wolverine. 0-6 looked to be the fortune of fate, until Russell made the mistake of shooting in with his head down. Prater took advantage of it, rolling through with a somersault that had Russell flat on his back in a move that would best be described as a variated spladle. Not many can say they own a fall over a four time BIG 10/two time NCAA champion. Ryan Prater can. 

2009 165 - U.S. Ryan Patrovich Hofstra Upsets #1 Mack Lewnes Cornell 5-3 in R1 

The beautiful thing about the sport of wrestling is that no matter what takes place on paper, no matter who it is writing it, all matches take place on the mat. Hofstra's Ryan Patrovich marks yet another time a wrestler won a match when he "wasn't supposed to." The grace of a wildcard bid after finishing 3rd at the Colonial Athletic Association is what got the sophomore into the NCAA tournament to begin with. He had the luck of drawing #1 seed Mack Lewnes of Cornell, a fellow sophomore who had finished 4th the season prior as a freshman. It didn't phase Patrovich as he pulled off the biggest upset of the opening round, knocking Lewnes off with a 5-3 decision.  As he would finish one match shy of placing, Lewnes would lose his next match, going 0-2 on the day.  Lewnes bounced back strong as he made the NCAA finals the next season as a junior & then took another 4th place finish as a senior in 2011.  Although Patrovich never did secure All American honors, after having his junior season of 2010 cut short due to injury, he too bounced back in a big way. As a senior in 2011 he won the CAA title & narrowly missed All American honors losing by a mere point in the R12. 

2009 HWT - #5 Konrad Dudziak Duke Upsets #1 David Zabriskie Iowa State 3-2 in SF 

"Duke has a wrestling team!"  When Konrad Dudziak came to Durham, North Carolina it was to show the basketball crazed school that they had a wrestling program too. Blue Devil wrestling had been in existence for 80 years & they had yet to crown an All American. They had yet to put someone in the NCAA finals. Dudziak made it his priority to change that. Duke indeed has a wrestling program & he put it upon himself to make sure that the whole world was going to know it. He already accomplished that feat when he made the NCAA semi-finals, securing himself as the first Blue Devil to earn a medal from the NCAA championships. Yet he would take it one step further as he upset the #1 seed David Zabriskie of Iowa State 3-2 for a spot in the NCAA finals. As Dudziak finished in 2nd place, Zabriskie would finish in 5th.  The next year as a senior, Dudziak won a second ACC title as he took 4th at the NCAA championships, forever cementing his place in history for what he accomplished for the program. Zabriskie who had taken 6th in 2008, would again enter the NCAA's as the #1 seed in 2010 as a senior, this time winning the NCAA championship. A three time BIG 12 champion, he earned PAN-AMERICAN bronze in 2013, before entering a successful career in MMA. 


Down Goes the #1! - Part 17  featuring 2010-2013 coming up soon! 


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