The defending national champion Gopher wrestling team wasn’t perfect, but remained in the title hunt during the second session at the 2008 NCAA Championships at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis Thursday evening. Five Minnesota athletes remained in the winner’s bracket after the second round, with eight of nine Gophers still alive after day one.
Minnesota is tied with Central Michigan (24 team points) for fourth place after a day’s worth of action, trailing first-place Iowa by 5.5 points. The Hawkeyes (29.5 points) extended their session one lead over second-place Nebraska (26.5) and third-place Iowa State (25). Seven of Iowa’s nine wrestlers remained in championship contention after day one.
After an outstanding showing in the morning session, Minnesota’s lightweight corps of Jayson Ness, Mack Reiter, Manny Rivera and Dustin Schlatter all advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals with wins Thursday night, as did two-time All-American Roger Kish.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, senior C.P. Schlatter was upset by No. 12 seed Josh Zupancic of Stanford. He will be forced to regain his All-American status through the wrestlebacks.
Senior Gabe Dretsch, the eighth seed at 174 pounds, bounced back from his first round loss to post a 5-3 win over Penn’s Scott Giffin in the wrestlebacks, and heavyweight Ben Berhow also won his consolation match to stay alive in the tournament. Senior Justin Bronson’s first career NCAA appearance came to an end Thursday when he lost his consolation match with Jared Villers of West Virginia 12-4.
After picking up his 19th pin of the season Thursday morning, returning All-American Ness was outstanding in his second round match-up with Central Michigan’s Luke Smith. Ness, who beat Smith 8-2 at the National Duals earlier this season, used a big second period to win a 9-0 major decision Thursday night. The lanky Ness and diminutive Smith locked up for much of the first three minutes, but Ness turned the tide with a second-period reversal and racked up an impressive 3:05 worth of riding time to improve his overall record to 37-1 on the season.
Two-time All-American Reiter seems to have regained the form he flashed in his first two national tournaments as he thoroughly handled Central Michigan’s Conor Beebe in a 15-6 major decision win. Reiter led just 3-2 after a period but out-scored Beebe a whopping 12-4 the rest of the way to advance to the quarterfinals.
This will be the fourth NCAA quarterfinal appearance of Reiter’s career, but it might also be his toughest the senior captain will match up with No. 1 seed and defending Big Ten champion Franklin Gomez of Michigan State Friday night. Gomez defeated Reiter 7-4 in a dual meet earlier this year.
Rivera looked good in his quest for an All-American award, as he won a close 8-5 decision with No. 12 Garrett Scott of Penn State to advance. Rivera trailed 3-0 early in the second period but scored both a takedown and three-point nearfall late in the frame to jump ahead and bring the Gopher faithful in attendance to their feet. Rivera’s victory propels him to a Friday night quarterfinal match with Oklahoma State’s Nathan Morgan. Morgan narrowly defeated Rivera 6-4 earlier this year.
Despite being the No. 2 seed, Dustin Schlatter had another tough match at 149 pounds. After beating Boise State’s Adam Hall 5-3 early Thursday, Schlatter had to contend with Iowa State’s Mitch Mueller in the second round. Schlatter’s elusive style prevented Mueller from scoring a single takedown, and the former NCAA champion put the match away with a third-period takedown of his own. Schlatter will take on N.C. State’s Darrion Caldwell in the quarterfinals. Caldwell is the only wrestler to defeat top-seeded Brent Metcalf of Iowa this season.
Unfortunately, Dustin’s older brother C.P. did not fare as well in his efforts to end his career with back-to-back All-American laurels. Schlatter took on little-known No. 12 seed Josh Zupancic of Stanford and appeared to have the match under control by jumping out to a 4-1 lead. But Zupancic took Schlatter down in the second and rode him out for much of the period, closing the deficit and gaining a significant riding time advantage. Zupancic started down in the third and escaped to tie the score at four and prevented Schlatter from scoring the go-ahead points the rest of the way to with 5-4 with 1:05 worth of riding time.
Schlatter, who was forced to take an injury timeout during the match because of a hamstring injury suffered during the Big Ten semifinals, drops down to the wrestleback bracket and must now fight his way back through for third place.
It wasn’t always pretty, but returning Gopher All-American Kish showed an impressive amount of veteran guile in his 4-0 win over Purdue’s A.J. Kissel at 184 pounds. Kish, who defeated UT-Chattanooga’s Josh Edmundson early Thursday afternoon to advance to the second round, retained excellent position throughout his match with Kissel to notch the shutout win.
Kish’s quarterfinal draw is also a tough one he must take on top-ranked sophomore Jake Varner of Iowa State. After beating Varner in two dual meets last season, Kish has dropped his last three matches with the undefeated sophomore sensation during last year’s NCAA semifinals, the All-Star Classic event last November and the teams’ Dec. 2 dual meet match-up at Williams Arena.
Minnesota’s consolation wrestlers were a mixed bag Thursday night as they began their long road through the loser’s bracket. Dretsch while Bronson’s season came to an end with an 0-2 NCAA performance. Berhow won a back-and-forth match with Army’s Nathan Thobaben he trailed 3-2 and 4-3 at different points in the second period, but the redshirt freshman scored two crucial takedowns to regain the lead and ended up the 10-7 winner.
Thursday’s second session announced attendance was 15,170.
The Gophers will look to make up ground Friday morning during the quarterfinals and wrestleback rounds. The action begins at 10 a.m. at the Scottrade Center, with Friday night’s semifinal round set to start at 6 p.m.
Television coverage also gets underway Friday on ESPNU and ESPN360.com. All of Friday’s wrestling will be feature live ESPNU broadcasts, and ESPN360.com will offer viewers the option to view any quarterfinal and semifinal matches they wish to see on-demand.
Team Scores After Day One
1. Iowa (29.5 points)
2. Nebraska (26.5)
3. Iowa State (25)
4. Minnesota/Central Michigan (24)
Day One Results:
125 No. 2 Jayson Ness, Second Seed
First Round: Ness pinned Marcos Orozco (UC Davis), 2:09
Second Round: Ness maj. dec. Luke Smith (Central Michigan), 9-0
133 No. 8 Mack Reiter, Eighth Seed
First Round: Reiter pinned Jeffery Schell (Brown), 2:13
Second Round: Reiter maj. dec. Conor Beebe, 15-6
141 No. 5 Manuel Rivera, Fifth Seed
First Round: Rivera tech fall Torsten Gillespie (Edinboro), 16-0 (4:44)
Second Round: Rivera dec. #12 Garrett Scott (Penn State), 8-5
149 No. 2 Dustin Schlatter, Second Seed
First Round: Schlatter dec. Adam Hall (Boise State), 5-3
Second Round: Schlatter dec. Mitch Mueller (Iowa State), 6-2
157 No. 5 C.P. Schlatter, Fifth Seed
First Round: Schlatter dec. Tyson Reiner (Northern Iowa), 4-2
Second Round: #12 Josh Zupancic (Stanford) dec. Schlatter, 5-4
174 No. 8 Gabriel Dretsch, Eighth Seed
First Round: Nathan Lee (Boise State) dec. Dretsch, 3-1 SV1
Consolation: Dretsch dec. Scott Giffin (Penn), 5-3
184 No. 8 Roger Kish, Eighth Seed
First Round: Kish dec. Josh Edmundson (UT-Chattanooga), 6-3
Second Round: Kish dec. A.J. Kissel (Purdue), 4-0
197 Justin Bronson, Unseeded
Pigtails: Richard Stark (Army) dec. Bronson, 5-2 SV2
Consolation: Jared Villers (West Virginia) maj. dec. Bronson, 12-40-2 record
Hwt Ben Berhow, Unseeded
First Round: #9 Jermail Porter (Kent State) dec, Berhow, 8-6
Consolation: Berhow dec. Nathan Thobaben (Army), 10-7