Friday, June 24, 2022

Down Goes The #1! - Part 18

 This will be the final Down Goes The #1!  I hope you have enjoyed this series & I want to thank you for reading it. It has been a fun one to write about. 

2014 133 - #5 Tyler Graff Wisconsin Upsets #1 Joe Colon Northern Iowa 6-4 in Semi-Finals 

A story of redemption, it still ended on a high note, although not quite perfectly for Northern Iowa's Joe Colon. A NJCAA champion for Iowa Central in 2010, he missed out on his junior season as a Panther, with the rest of his collegiate career falling into the unknown. Through his own discipline & the guidance of good coaching, Colon worked his way back onto the team to complete his final year of eligibility. A CKLV finish of 3rd, a Midlands title & MAC title he entered the NCAA championships the #1 seed looking to end his comeback story the NCAA champion. All looked good until he ran into Wisconsin's Tyler Graff. Graff himself was at the end of his collegiate career. Thus far 5th-5th-3rd in three tries, he had had to make the NCAA finals. He too had something to prove & when the two met in the semi-finals, only one would prevail. The Badger upset the Panther 6-4. As Graff would end up the NCAA runner-up, Colon came back to take 3rd. 

2014 141 - #9 Evan Henderson North Carolina Upsets #1 Mitchell Port Edinboro 5-3 in QF

To be perfectly honest even though Mitchell Port of Edinboro was one of my favorites during his time on the mat, I was quite shocked when the 2014 brackets came out & he got the nod for the #1 seed over Ohio State's Logan Stieber. Stieber was already a two time NCAA Champion at 133 lbs & his only loss all season was to that of sensational freshman Zain Retherford of Penn State. I suppose that sole loss alone Vs Port's undefeated record had to be the final decision maker during the seeding meeting. I know I was excited to see a Port Vs Stieber final. I'd have to wait though because it wasn't going to happen in 2014.  North Carolina junior Evan Henderson, who had finished 6th in 2013 as a sophomore had other plans. Wrestling a calculated & strategic match, the Tarheel upended the Fightin' Scot 5-3.  While it ended Port's hopes for making his second NCAA final, what it did do for the Scot was give him an opportunity to show everyone in the nation who was overtly curious exactly how he'd do against Retherford. He defeated the Nittany Lion in the consolation semi-finals, as he came back to face Henderson in the match for 3rd place. This time it'd be all Port as he was implacable within his vengeance, taking the match 9-1 major decision. 

The next season in 2015, Port would get his shot against Stieber. He gave him a very good 6-3 match when they met earlier in the season & then most likely would have given him another good match in the NCAA finals, but injured his leg early in the match, which shut down his offense, leading Stieber to capture title #4 with an 11-5 victory. Henderson who redshirted the 2015 season, came back for his final season of eligibility in 2016. Although he would come up short of earning his third All American honor, he did take runner-up honors at the Southern Scuffle as well as win his second ACC title. 

2014 149 - #5 Jason Tsirtsis Northwestern Upsets #1 Drake Houdashelt Missouri 2-1 t.b. in SF

Between all of the standout wrestlers that Missouri has produced throughout their long & illustrious history, up until Drake Houdashelt, the Tigers had never known a four time conference champion. To this day he remains only one of two four time conference champions for Missouri, as J'Den Cox became the second in 2017. Houdashelt is also distinguished as he is one of six Tigers to win a NCAA title, the most recent this past season with Keegan O'Toole at 165 lbs.  While his NCAA title came in 2015 in his senior season, the NCAA predicted him to also win the NCAA title in 2014 as a junior as well. That's when he'd run into freshman extraordinaire Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern. From fingertips to toetips, all nails got chewed off in this one as Tsirtis snuck past the Tiger in a 2-1 tiebreaker.  The momentum carried the young Wildcat to the NCAA title as Houdashelt came back to place 5th. Winning the NCAA title himself as mentioned in 2015, Houdashelt also placed 6th in 2013. 

As to Tsirtsis his career was full of triumph and heartache. The emotional rollercoaster that was his time on the mat, saw him have another highlight with a 3rd place finish as a sophomore in 2015. His junior season of 2016, saw the effect of personal issues take their toll as he had a disappointing season all around with unfavorable showings at both the BIG 10's and the NCAA's. Taking a year off to find himself, he came back strong in 2017, this time competing for Arizona State. While a Sun Devil he earned his fifth Midlands medal, a PAC-12 title & his third NCAA All American honor. While 7th probably wasn't exactly where he wanted to end his career, all things considered in a world full of the very best wrestlers in the nation at the highest level, it was still a high note if you ask me. 

2014 157 - #9 Dylan Ness Minnesota Upsets #1 James Green Nebraska F 3:36 in QF

Some people love you, some people hate you. That's life right? There are some people out there who think my work as an enthusiastic wrestling fan who also loves to write is awesome. Other people think I suck. I can't think of anyone in any field who doesn't have their fans and their critics. I tell you though, collaboratively, ole JT#1 has caught more grief from Minnesota fans than anyone else. I don't get why either. I think by now everyone who reads my stuff realizes that the only reason I am Johnnythompsonnum1 instead of LeroyVega#1 is because of a coinflip that happened to land on heads the day I signed up to be a member of in January of 2002. I've had many Golden Gophers throughout the years I was a fan of.  I think what it comes down to is that some of these Maroon and Gold faithful expect to see my predictions & see a Minnesota wrestler next to all of the 1. 125-HWT. When they don't, they automatically cry, "JT#1 is against Minnesota!!!"  And yes MNRodent, I AM talking to you, ;). 

That tidbit aside, I assure you I am not anti-Minnesota. If my love for LeRoy Vega isn't enough to convince you, another of my more recent favorites was Dylan Ness. I was always high on Ness & loved watching him compete. Unpredictability mixed with high risk maneuvers made for some thrilling wrestling. You could always count on the lanky Golden-Gopher to deliver a show every time he got on the mat.  His quarter-final opponent, James Green of Nebraska was every bit as exciting. While Jordan Burroughs, a fellow Cornhusker is often who we think of in terms of one of the best double leg takedowns of all time, whether it's second or third, Green falls somewhere high on that list. 

Not many could stop Green's double leg. Nick Marable contended with it by overcrowding Green as Virginia's Jedd Moore countered by keeping Green wrapped up in ties. Other than those two though, there weren't many who could stop Green's double. That was until Ness used what can only be described as one of the funkiest defenses I have ever seen in the 2014 NCAA quarterfinals.  As Green shot in, Ness was able to secure a front headlock of sorts as he got underneath Green's arm. All the momentum helped Ness to turn Green over to his back as he secured the fall at 3:36 advancing to the semi-finals.  As he would finish the NCAA runner-up, Green battled back to take 3rd. 

The next season, Ness was poised for what very well could have been his third NCAA finals appearance (he had also placed 2nd as a freshman, as well as 4th as a sophomore).  The #3 seed, injury caused him to have to default to 6th place. He came out onto the mat to forfeit his final two matches in what I'll describe as another of my favorite moments I got to witness live at the championships. It was more than apparent how much it hurt him to have his collegiate career end this way. Yet as he stood their on the mat, the entire arena stood and gave him a long ovation. Iowa fans, Oklahoma State fans, everyone in the arena was on their feet clapping for the Golden Gopher. As heated as rivalries can sometimes be, how cool it was to see some 18,000+ on their feet showing a wrestler how much they appreciated the heart he showed every single time he stepped out on the mat. 

As to Green, he again finished 3rd in 2015, going 7th-7th-3rd-3rd during his time as a Cornhusker. One of the best to never make the NCAA finals, what a decorated career he would have post college on the international scene. This included two PAN-AMERICAN Golds & one silver, along with World Cup Gold & Silver as well as World Silver & Bronze. 

2015 125 - #4 Nathan Tomasello Ohio State Upsets #1 Alan Waters Missouri 4-2 in Semi-Finals

Crowning their first four time NCAA champion in Logan Stieber at 141 lbs, the Ohio State Buckeyes thought they might be looking at another four time NCAA champion in Nathan Tomasello at 125 lbs. The freshman had just won the NCAA title, which included knocking off #1 Alan Waters of Missouri 4-2 in the semi-finals. (Waters as discussed in a previous Down Goes the #1! came back to place 3rd).  Although four titles was not in the cards for Tomasello what was, was watching him come back from disappointing semi-final losses three years in a row to take 3rd place with dignity and honor. Expectation is so high at this level & with that expectation comes enormous pressure. I almost feel that it was just as, if not in some ways more impressive to watch Tomasello clear his head & come back each time to take third as it was to watch him win the NCAA title. I know someone who had that type of mental toughness to persevere each time is someone I'd want coaching my team. Tomasello to this day continues to fight for spots on international teams. 

2015 133 - #13 Cody Brewer Oklahoma Upsets #1 Chris Dardanes Minnesota 15-3 in Semi-Finals

If I had to pick the most disrespected anyone has ever been in terms of seeding at the NCAA tournament, I think I'd have to go with Cody Brewer of Oklahoma who was given the #13 seed in 2015. Although my 2-6-15 predictions post will show that I did not predict Brewer to win the NCAA title, I knew he was a heck of a lot better than the #13 seed he had been given. I predicted him to finish 2nd. He showed me as much as he showed them.

I knew he could beat Dardanes. I didn't have any question of that, but I was expecting it to be a tight, one or two point match. I was not expecting the 15-3 demolishing that we ended up seeing. The junior who had thus far finished 7th & 8th in his career was on a mission. He'd win his next two matches, claiming the NCAA title. While unseeded wrestlers up to this point had won titles, Brewer at #13 became the lowest seeded wrestler to ever win an NCAA title. He would come back strong again in 2016 as a senior, this time taking 3rd. 

Dardanes who was a senior came back to place 4th. He had also taken 4th place in 2012 as well as 6th in 2013. He accumulated 101 victories during his time as a Gopher. 

2015 174 - #8 Tyler Wilps Pittsburgh Upsets #1 Robert Kokesh Nebraska 3-2 in QF 

Having his best finish of 7th in 2014 & being the #8 seed, senior Tyler Wilps of of Pittsburgh did not seem a likely candidate to make the NCAA finals. Yet that's exactly what he did, when he knocked off Nebraska's Robert Kokesh in the NCAA quarterfinals. A Wilps ended up finishing as the NCAA runner-up, Kokesh who had also placed 3rd in 2013 & as well as 4th in 2014, came back to claim another bronze medal. What I remember most of his moment was Kokesh's admirable display of sportsmanship after the award ceremony at 174 lbs. He went up to not only Wilps, but Matt Brown of Penn State, Logan Storley of Minnesota & Mike Evans of Iowa thanking each of the gladiators for all of the battles they had given him as well as one another throughout the years.  I saw a picture being taken as all 5 stood together.  I've never seen a copy of it, but I've always wanted to. 

2015 197 - #4 Kyle Snyder Ohio State Upsets #1 J'Den Cox Missouri 3-2 in SF 

Two of the All time best went head to head in the semi-finals of the 2015 NCAA championships. Looking back at the career of Kyle Snyder, especially taking into consideration that he already owned both World & Olympic gold medals before his junior season of college, it is asinine to think he ever went into a match considered the underdog. Yet he was here and it wasn't just against anyone either. It was against Missouri legend, J'Den Cox who when his career was said and done, was a three time NCAA champion. Here after an epic 3-2 victory, Snyder would finish as the NCAA runner-up as Cox came back to finish 5th.  Neither would ever known loss at the NCAA championships again, as Snyder went on to claim three NCAA titles himself. 

Post college, both have already earned legendary status. Snyder owns 7 PAN-AMERICAN gold medals, two World Golds, 2 Silvers, & 1 Bronze, along with both Olympic Gold and Olympic Silver.  Cox owns two PAN-AMERICAN Golds, two Gold & two Bronze World medals as well as Olympic bronze. 

2016 125 - #4 Thomas Gilman Iowa Upsets #1 Nathan Tomasello Ohio State F 7:37 in SF 

Hawks fly and this one soared in like a 737 Boeing Jet in exactly 7:37 as he secured a fall over #1 Seed Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State in the semi-finals. Going on to finish as the NCAA runner-up, Thomas Gilman had been 4th in 2015 as he'd go on to place 3rd as a senior in 2017. Gilman has thus far had a tremendous showing at the international level.  PAN-AMERICAN Gold and Silver, World Gold and Silver, he also owns an Olympic Bronze. 


And that's it for Down Goes the #1! I may one day explore this topic again at the NCAA DII, DIII & NAIA levels. I may also explore it from a conference level, such as the BIG 10's or EIWA's as well. For right now though, moving on to a different subject. My next series entitled Four (Or More) Time State Champions In College will explore all of the four (or more) time state champions we have had over the history of high school wrestling & how they fared at the collegiate level.  This series begins on Monday.  

Thank you for reading Down Goes The #1! 



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