Wrestler Hahn brings home second national title

Aaron Blake

ST. LOUIS – Minnesota’s 197-pound wrestler Damion Hahn angrily stormed off the mat and into the underbelly of the Savvis Center after his semifinal match with Arizona State’s Ryan Bader on Friday night at the NCAA wrestling tournament.

And Hahn had won.

What he saw as Bader’s lack of effort and ceding of the match irked Hahn.

Trailing 2-1, Bader started on top of Hahn in the third period and smothered him instead of allowing an escape and going for the tie with a takedown.

“I was kind of upset about it because he just hung on my ankle and tried to ride me out to lose,” Hahn said. “He didn’t really try and score any points. He tried to turn me over once, but I wasn’t going to go.”

It was hard to blame Bader for letting his chance to advance to the national title match slip – opponents couldn’t faze Hahn en route to his second straight national championship.

The title makes Hahn only the third two-time national champion in Minnesota history, placing his name alongside greats Verne Gagne and Tim Hartung.

And he made it look easy.

“Even before matches and during matches, he just looks like he doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to lose,” Gophers assistant coach Marty Morgan said.

In fact, before his championship match with Iowa’s Ryan Fulsaas, Hahn casually watched the championship bouts through the 174-pound weight class from the stands.

After a short warmup time, Hahn stepped to the mat with Fulsaas, who would actually crack him twice – once with a takedown in the third period and once with his chin splitting open the skin on the crown of Hahn’s head.

Trailing 3-0 when entering the third period, Fulsaas caught Hahn off guard with 1:20 left in the match, scoring his first takedown on Hahn in his fourth match versus the champion this season.

After Fulsaas allowed Hahn to escape and make the score 4-2, Hahn was charged with a stall warning 20 seconds later.

The match was stopped with 43 seconds remaining after Hahn’s head struck Fulsaas’ chin and the blood started flowing.

During the several minutes it took to control the bleeding, Hahn had some time to reflect on his mistake.

“I knew what I did, and I knew when I got out there I had to keep my feet moving and get on the offensive again,” he said. “That’s what I did when I got that takedown.”

Hahn scored his second takedown of the match about 20 seconds later, and another blood timeout ensued before Hahn rode Fulsaas out for the final seconds of the match.

The championship closes out a historic career at Minnesota for Hahn. Only four others have won as many Big Ten titles (three; one at 184 and two at 197) and only three others have won as many All-America honors (four).

In the end, it’s safe to say the New Jersey native and top high school recruit in 1999 lived up to his billing.

“I think he’s fulfilled everything,” coach J Robinson said. “He brings a confidence and an expectation, and that’s very important.”

And the championship plaque isn’t the only hardware Hahn has to show for his efforts – the five staples put in his head after the championship match should serve as a not-so-pleasant reminder of the final match of his extraordinary collegiate career.