Wrestling fans here we go. There are a mere 117 days until the 2015-2016 NCAA Division I National Championships that will take place in Madison Square Garden. Last year proved to be an exciting one in the world of collegiate wrestling as Ohio State captured their first ever national championship, while returning, defending, and four-consecutive-time national champion Penn State completely missed the top three. Another feat for Ohio State was the success of Logan Stieber winning his 4th consecutive individual championship, becoming just the fourth man in collegiate history to do so. He joined Cael Sanderson, Kyle Dake, and Pat Smith as the only collegiate wrestlers to win 4 national championships. Dake made his own unique history just a two years ago by becoming the first to win four national championships in four different weight classes.
This looks to be the year that Penn State will reclaim their seat at the top of the nation’s best as they started the season with a 50-0 shutout over Lock Haven last Friday in University Park. One of the keys to the team’s success this year is the return of their marquee red-shirts from last year, All-Americans Nico Megaludis and Zane Retherford. The Nittany Lions surely put on a show in front of a record 27th consecutive sellout home crowd of 6,356. They went on to defeat Virginia Tech in a much closer matchup, winning 21-15 and improving to 2-0 on the season.
Elsewhere in the realm of top notch wrestling crowds, 2nd ranked Iowa knocked off 4th ranked Oklahoma State at the Iowa Hawkeyes’ football stadium in what was called the “Grapple on the Gridiron.” The two teams entertained a record crowd of 42,287, the largest crowd for a NCAA wrestling dual meet! The Hawkeyes jumped out early to a 7-0 lead after a major decision at the 125 weight class by Thomas Gilman, and a decision win from 2nd ranked Cory Clark at 133. Oklahoma State made it a battle though as they locked up wins in the four out of five matchups, including a key victory at 174 that put the Cowboys on top 13-10 with just three matches remaining. The ultimate turning point of the dual meet came at 184 when Sammy Brooks for the Hawkeyes scored a technical fall over Jordan Rogers 17-2 in 4:09 securing the lead for Iowa. The day ended with Oklahoma State picking up the final win at heavyweight but it was too little too late as the Cowboys fell to the Hawkeyes 18-16 in what was surely an instant classic for over 40,000 fans to enjoy. Yes this is arguably the season that combat sport fans look forward to the most because it is a fresh new season with plenty of high hopes. Come March 2016 in Madison Square Garden, the other March Madness, or “March Mattness”, occurs and it will be exciting to watch it all unfold.