Monday, June 20, 2022

Down Goes the #1! - Part 17

 Taking a look at the times from 2010-2013 when the #1 seed went down before the NCAA finals. 

2010 125 - #5 Andrew Long Iowa State Upsets #1 Angel Escobedo Indiana 7-4 in Semi-Finals 

The journey of life doesn't always go the way we want it to & the port of success that we hope to see others reach isn't always the destination they end up at.  We all know those stories of individuals who had a ton of potential but let themselves get in the way of their own success. None of us are perfect & we've all made mistakes. This isn't a moment of look back & criticize, but more of a reflection of wishing that the clock could be turned back & that someone would have gotten the help they needed to haven gotten back on the right path. Andrew Long of Iowa State was only a freshman when he knocked off Indiana's #1 Angel Escobedo in the semi-finals. He went on to finish as the NCAA runner-up. The following season he transferred to Penn State, where he had another outstanding showing by taking 3rd at the NCAA's. Unfortunately decisions led to a departure from Penn State. Years later it looked like we were going to be treated to the Andrew Long Redemption as he was given another chance to compete at Grand View.  He won a loaded Midlands bracket & seemed destined to win NAIA titles in the two seasons of eligibility he had left. Unfortunately decisions would once again lead to departure. 

As to Angel Escobedo, he is one of the best wrestlers that the Indiana Hoosiers have ever produced. The four time state champ out of Griffith has been Hell bent on a mission to show anyone and everyone who thinks of Indiana as a "Basketball state" that Indiana is ALSO a "wrestling state." As far as I'm concerned if he's to be graded on how he's done thus far, A.  After finishing 4th as a freshman in 2007, he then won the NCAA title as a sophomore in 2008. He'd finish 5th as a junior in 2009 & here in 2010 he came back to finish 3rd. Mind you, he did this with an injured shoulder. He was not 100%. He was also a three time BIG 10 champion during his collegiate days as well.  Today he heads the Indiana Hoosier program. 

2011 149 - #1 Darrion Caldwell North Carolina State has to Injury Default Out of Tournament 

Lightning quick, a go for broke style, Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State was exciting and fun to watch on the mat. Gracious and humble off of it, he was plain and simple a guy you liked to watch succeed. When he was a true freshman in 2007, he went out on the mat absolutely fearless against #1 Ryan Lang of Northwestern in the NCAA quarterfinals. He gave the wildcat one Hell of a scare putting him on his back before eventually getting pinned himself.  As a true sophomore he won CKLV & ended up taking 5th at the NCAA championships in what I consider to this day to be one of the toughest brackets I've ever seen at 149 lbs. As a true junior in 2009, he won the NCAA title over defending champ Brent Metcalf of Iowa & I'll tell you what impressed me most about that match. Although Caldwell already owned a victory over Metcalf via fall, the last time the two had met was at the All Star classic. Metcalf had humiliated Caldwell in a 17-1 technical fall. For many wrestlers it's hard to come back from a loss like that. It's difficult to overcome on a mental level. Not for Darrion Caldwell. He is the picture you see when you look up the word tenacity. Redshirting in 2010, Caldwell came back strong in 2011, winning his fourth ACC title. Unfortunately a shoulder injury would once again rear its ugly head causing Caldwell to have to injury default out of the NCAA tournament in round two. He ended his career 109-13. Post college Caldwell went on to a successful career in MMA, winning a Bellator championship. 

2011 157 - #8 Jason Welch Northwestern Upsets #1 Adam Hall Boise State 3-1 in Quarterfinals

For not quite 20 years, every season I'd have my favorites & my Dad would have his favorites. Then we'd also have our favorites. Northwestern's Jason Welch was one of our favorites. It was pretty exciting watching him pull off a huge upset in a 3-1 victory over #1 Adam Hall of Boise State. The two would meet again in the 5th place match, this time Hall getting the last word as he avenged his quarterfinal loss with a 5-1 decision.  It's difficult for a diehard wrestling fan like me to talk about a guy like Adam Hall who had also finished 3rd at the 2010 NCAA's. One of the greats to have suited up in the blue & orange only to be severely disrespected by his school who decided to discontinue their most successful sport in 2017 for inexcusable reasons. It's difficult to not be bitter about that. On a positive side Welch continued to have success in his collegiate career taking another All American honor of 4th as a junior & making the NCAA finals as a senior. Both Hall & Welch would go on to coaching careers post their competitive days. Welch is currently the head coach at San Francisco State. 

2011 184 - #9 Quentin Wright Penn State Upsets #1 Chris Honeycutt Edinboro 7-3 in QF

It was the 2008 Team Iowa Vs USA Dream Team dual held at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa. Quentin Wright, a future Penn State Nittany Lion had just lost a tough match to future Iowa Hawkeye Grant Gambrall. I turned to my late Uncle Greg Comer & his friend Willie (an old Army buddy of his that used to attend NCAA championships with him throughout the late 70's into the early 90's) and said to them, "You watch, Wright will win multiple NCAA titles before his career is said and done."  Uncle Greg raised his eyebrows & said to me, "And you gather that how?" 


It was clear to me watching Wright compete that a part of his success came down to two things. A - it was a clear as day to me that he was coachable. The kind of guy that was going to listen to his coaches and make the most out of everything he'd be taught. B - positive and optimistic. The type that wasn't going to gripe & beat himself up about a loss, but instead look at it logically & rationally, figuring out what needed to be done to succeed the next go round. Wrestlers & coaches alike often discuss the mental aspect of the sport. Study a guy like Wright for inspiration. 

Wright who had placed 6th as a true freshman, would go on to win the NCAA title as Honeycutt, one tough hombre in his own right came back to place 5th. Wright would then finish as the NCAA runner up as a junior winning a second NCAA title as a senior. Honeycutt would take NCAA runner-up honors himself the next season in 2012.  Post college Honeycutt went on to a successful career in MMA, as Wright went into coaching at the High School level. 

2011 197 - #4 Dustin Kilgore Kent State Upsets #1 Cam Simaz Cornell 10-9 in Semi-Finals

Talk about a who's who among collegiate wrestling stars. Between Kent State's Dustin Kilgore & Cornell's Cam Simaz if you were to take all of the medals earned between the two during their illustrious careers melt them all down & turn them into cash it may very well be enough to feed a small country. We're looking at a four time MAC champ against a four time EIWA champ.  Kilgore set his mind to becoming the best wrestler that Kent State ever produced and it'll be a long time before another Golden Flash comes close to catching him. A guy that was always looking to compete as often as he could as the highest level he could his list of accomplishments are impressive. 178 victories, 50 of them via fall.  Winning the NCAA title here as a junior, he was 7th in the nation as a sophomore & the NCAA runner-up as a senior. Add in titles won at the Southern Scuffle, CKLV & the Midlands. If that isn't impressive enough consider that during his redshirt season of 2012, he also won PAN-American gold. 

Simaz every bit as impressive at the collegiate level. 8th in the nation as a freshman he would have back to back 3rd place finishes at the NCAA's in his sophomore & junior seasons, winning the NCAA title as a senior in 2012. A three time Southern Scuffle finalist, he won two titles & he also won a CKLV title as well.  The semi-final match between these two was one where you sat the soda & popcorn down, leaned forward in your seat and kept your eyes glued to the mat. If all matches could be this exhilarating, this action packed & this thrilling you'd never hear anyone ever describe wrestling as boring ever again. Both Kilgore & Simaz got into coaching post their decorated careers. 

2012 184 - #9 Austin Trotman Appalachian State Upsets #1 Joe LeBlanc Wyoming 12-9 in QF

If you have been reading me for a while now, you've probably read the line, "There are no prerequisites in wrestling" more than once. It doesn't matter what you haven't done yet. It doesn't matter if you didn't as a freshman. If you didn't as a sophomore. If you didn't as a junior. A collegiate wrestling career last four varsity (post COVID for some even five) seasons & it ain't over till it's over. Little makes me as a wrestling fan happier than to see the cynical critics among us who walked out of the theatre 10 minutes before the end of the film have their eardrums ruptured by the bellowing voice of the fat lady who sang! Austin Trotman was a senior from Appalachian State who had never been an All American before. While a four time NCAA qualifier/three time Southern Conference Champion, the best he had seen at three previous NCAA tournaments was a 2-2 performance in 2011.  His quarterfinal opponent Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming on the other hand had a whole heap of accomplishments up to this point. This included All American finishes of 5th as as a freshman, 4th as a sophomore & 6th as a junior. On paper this was a match that Austin Trotman wasn't supposed to win. This was a match that our cynical critics already marked down as a W for LeBlanc. Thankfully wrestling matches no more take place in the minds of these cynical critics than they do on paper. They take place on the mat. Trotman earned his first All American honor in about the best way a person can, by knocking off the #1 seed in an exciting 12-9 upset. As he would finish in 3rd place, LeBlanc came back to capture 7th, marking himself down a four time All American, one of the best to ever do it for the Cowboys of Wyoming. 

2012 HWT - #4 Zach Rey Lehigh Upsets #1 Ryan Flores American 6-2 in Semi-Finals 

Now this was a rivalry.  Per my records, Lehigh's Zach Rey & Columbia's/American's Ryan Flores met up seven times in their prominent collegiate careers as Rey narrowly edged Flores overall with four wins to three. There one meeting at the Midlands ended with Rey winning 5-2 as he'd also win in their one dual meeting 5-3. The EIWA tournament though, belonged to Flores.  He beat Rey in the finals in 2009, 2011 & 2012! Each time in a heartstopper that included a 6-1 sudden victory, a 4-2 tiebreaker & a 3-1 sudden victory. Call it irony that Rey had defeated Flores in the 2011 NCAA finals & yet because of the loss to him in the EIWA finals, he went into this classic semi-final bout the underdogg. Rey would win the final confrontation by a score of 6-2, as he went on to finish the NCAA runner-up. He was also 3rd at the 2010 NCAA championships as a sophomore. 

It should be noted as injuries are often overlooked or forgotten, that Flores suffered a serious concussion that caused him to have to medical forfeit to a 6th place finish. Rey, who would go on to win a PAN-AMERICAN Gold medal in 2015, later got into coaching. 

2013 125 - #4 Nico Megaludis Penn State Upsets #1 Alan Waters Missouri 3-2 t.b. in Semi-Finals

When it comes to the all time greatest one time NCAA champions, it's hard to beat Nico Megaludis of Penn State. He had finishes of 2nd-2nd-3rd before he finally won his NCAA title his final season. The start of his remarkable collegiate journey all began here in 2013, where as a freshman he made his first NCAA finals appearance with a stunning 3-2 tiebreaker victory over Missouri's #1 Alan Waters. Waters, a true junior at the time would come back to place 4th. After taking the 2014 season off to redshirt, Waters would come back for his final season of eligibility to place 3rd. Both Megaludis and Waters would wrestle beyond college as both would also get into coaching. 

2013 141 - #4 Mitchell Port Edinboro Upsets #1 Hunter Stieber Ohio State 7-6 in Semi-Finals

My high school wrestling coach Jeff Kirby liked to describe a wrestling match using terms like fight, battle and war.  Having watched wrestling the past 30 plus years, I can't think of to many who exemplified the idea more than that of Edinboro's Mitchell Port. When he stepped on the mat, he came to do battle. A war was exactly what you were going to see. He took the fighting part of Fighting Scot and like Archidamus II in the Peloponnesian War helped lead his small less than 5,000 student University to NCAA team finishes of 5th in 2014 & 3rd in 2015.  Here as a sophomore in 2013, he knocked off #1 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State 7-6 in the semi-finals in route to a NCAA runner-up finish. He would then go on to place 3rd at the 2014 NCAA championships as a junior, noting a victory over Zain Retherford in the process. He'd once again take NCAA runner-up honors in 2015 as a senior, ironically enough, his final match against Hunter's brother, four time NCAA champion Logan Stieber. 

As to Hunter Stieber, he's another career shafted by injury. Also earning All American honors his freshman season of 6th place, he would place 3rd here as a sophomore. The rest of his career never came to fruition in the way that it otherwise would have had not been for injuries. 

2013 HWT - #5 Mike McMullan Northwestern Upsets #1 Dom Bradley Missouri 3-1 S.V. in SF 

I remember looking at Northwestern's Mike McMullan during his collegiate days and wondering to myself if he could have made 197 lbs. Today I look at him and think he could make 174 lbs! Wondering and thinking aside, what I know about Mike McMullan is he is one of the greatest HWT's of all time to never win a NCAA title. For that matter, he's one of the greatest HWT's of all time to never win a Midlands title. In his list of accomplishments, he owns three bronze medals from the NCAA championships coming in his freshman, junior and senior seasons. His lone silver came here as a sophomore in 2013, when he upended #1 seed Dom Bradley of Missouri 3-1 S.V. in the semi-finals.  Bradley himself another great HWT who came shy of winning a national title. I can remember in discussions of who was the greatest backup in wrestling at the time, nearly everyone everywhere agreed during the 2008-2009 & 2009-2010 seasons it was Dom Bradley behind Mark Ellis (NCAA Champ, 6th). Bradley more than proved that by placing 3rd in 2011 & then placing 4th here in 2013.  Also both a MAC as well as a BIG 12 champion, Bradley would would later win PAN-AMERICAN gold in both 2016 & 2017. 


The Final Down Goes the #1! (Part 18) will be posted later on this week. I hope you have enjoyed this series, look forward to the last one! 

No comments:

Post a Comment