Wrestlers take 2nd at NCAAs

David McCoy

OKLAHOMA CITY – As if it would have ended any other way.

In the most anticipated match of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Minnesota heavyweight Cole Konrad beat two-time defending champ Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State 5-2 in two thrilling overtimes, claiming his first NCAA crown in a rematch of last year’s title bout.

It was the second individual title of the day for Minnesota, after true freshman Dustin Schlatter won the 149-pound championship earlier. Two more Gophers wrestlers earned All-America status, with Roger Kish placing second at 184 and Mack Reiter fourth at 133.

And Konrad’s win in the tournament’s final match gave Minnesota just enough points (84) to surpass Oklahoma (80.5 points) for second place behind Oklahoma State, which won its fourth straight team title with 122.5 points.

But the Gophers, who came into the tournament as the top-ranked team after beating the Cowboys twice in duals earlier this season, still wished it could have ended another way. The second-place finish fell short of expectations after four of Minnesota’s eight NCAA qualifiers were eliminated on the second day.

“For the team as a whole, I’d say it’s disappointing,” said 157-pounder C.P. Schlatter, who was eliminated early along with 141-pounder Manny Rivera, 165-pounder Matt Nagel and 174-pounder Gabe Dretsch. “Us four guys that didn’t place; we didn’t do so well. But the four guys that did, did awesome. (Two) champs, fourth place for Mack; those guys did an excellent job.”

Reiter had to battle back not only on the mat, but in his own head after losing to Purdue’s Chris Fleeger in the quarterfinals. After building a 3-0 lead, Fleeger won by injury default after it was ruled that Reiter slammed him into the mat, causing an injury. The injury prevented Fleeger from continuing. The loss visibly affected Reiter.

“I just went back to the hotel and sat down and took some time to myself and just told myself, You can just give up now and bail out on your team or start wrestling back and wrestle as hard as you can for as long as you can, you know, make a statement for Minnesota wrestling,” Reiter said. “And that’s what I ended up deciding to do. I decided I’ve got to do this for my team and myself.

After the loss, Reiter won two matches to set up a big contest against Oklahoma State’s Nathan Morgan, who had beaten Reiter three times before. Reiter took a 6-4 lead on a takedown 23 seconds into the third period and prevailed 6-5. He then lost the third-place match 8-2 to top-seeded Shawn Bunch of Edinboro.

Before losing to Oregon’s Shane Webster 3-2 in the finals on a third-period takedown, Kish beat four opponents, including sixth-seeded Pete Friedl of Illinois, who he beat to win the Big Ten title two weeks ago.

Kish’s and Reiter’s points proved crucial to the Gophers’ second-place finish without Rivera, Dretsch, Nagel and C.P. Schlatter. Rivera lost his first-round match to eventual runner-up Teyon Ware of Oklahoma, and after beating Oregon State’s Kyle Larson 7-4, was eliminated by 12th-seeded Sean Markey of the Citadel 9-2.

The other three all came in seeded, but were handed early exits by unseeded wrestlers.

Tenth-seeded Dretsch lost 3-2 in the first round to unseeded Ken Robertson of Eastern Illinois, and then beat Ohio State’s Blake Maurer 6-1 after a protest reversed an earlier loss to Maurer. But Dretsch was knocked out in an 8-4 upset loss to West Virginia’s Kurt Brenner.

Sixth-seeded Nagel fell in the first round to unseeded Deonte Penn of Edinboro, but then beat 11th-seeded Stephen Anceravage of Cornell. The Gophers only senior, Nagel’s collegiate career ended when Chris Vondruska of Hofstra pinned him in 6:14. Nagel had been leading 3-2 and was trying to get near-fall points when Vondruska turned the tables.

C.P. Schlatter was knocked out of the championship bracket by unseeded true freshman Andrew Flanagan of Harvard, who built a 3-0 lead before C.P. Schlatter tied the match with less than 30 seconds to go. Flanagan’s riding time advantage proved to be the difference. But after beating Oklahoma State’s Kevin Ward 3-2, C.P. Schlatter was eliminated by Oregon State’s Tony Hook in a 7-3 loss.

But his brother’s loss didn’t affect Dustin Schlatter, who allowed a mere two escape points the entire tournament, beating Anthony Baza 8-0, Ryan Osgood 14-1, fifth-seeded Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan 8-0, fourth-seeded Matt Storniolo of Oklahoma 5-1 and second-seeded Ty Eustice of Iowa 4-0 in the finals.

Dustin Schlatter is the first Minnesota freshman to win an NCAA title and it’s the second time Minnesota has had two NCAA champions in the same year.