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Cleveland, Kansas City, Louisville, New York City, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia & St. Louis are Div. I finalists. Div. II and III finalists also announced....



Division I Championships - First Session Update



Before the first whistle, every athlete has a chance at a national title, and every team is alive in the team race. It doesn't take long for things to sort out once the tournament begins. With the changes in the weigh-in rules, and the new emphasis on proper weight management, missing weight is very rare anymore here. However, Oregon's 133-pounder Brian Watson did not make weight this morning, and was scratched out of the tournament, giving Shawn Kegel of Buffalo a bye victory. You know you are in Iowa right away. They truly care about wrestling here. The tournament is all over the local TV, radio and newspapers reports. There are no empty seats in the arena, and you can't find a parking spot. Lots of people were standing in the rain two hours before the session just to get in a little bit early. Just in case you didn't already know, the Hawkeye fans let out an IOWA, IOWA, IOWA chant right before the first matches started. There were only a few pigtail matches this year, but home team Iowa had one of the first ones when Jody Strittmatter, the No. 2 seed, faced Trap McCormick of Lock Haven at 125 pounds. Strittmatter dominated the action, then pressed for a pin, igniting the local fans. You can tell when an Iowa wrestler is on the mat, as the sound volume goes way up. The next Hawk on the mat, No. 1 seed Eric Juergens at 133 pounds, also scored a pin, decking Derrick Hayes of Fresno State in his opening bout. For Iowa to win this event, it will need as many bonus points as possible from its four stars, along with help from the others four team members. The Hawkeye showed no mercy early on. No. 1 ranked Doug Schwab did his part with a technical fall at 141 pounds, following the script written by the Hawkeye coaching staff. Strittmatter scored another fall in his second match, keeping the fuel on the fire. Mike Zadick, unseeded at 149 pounds, played let-him-up, take-him-down wrestling in his opening bout, scoring a crazy 26-12 major decision over Scott Frohardt of Air Force. One more point and it would have been a technical fall for Zadick, with more bonus scoring in the standings. All of the favored teams, including Minnesota and Oklahoma State, understand the need for bonus points. Minnesota's first wrestler, No. 10 Owen Elzen, who had a pigtail at 197 pounds, registered a 10-0 major decision over Greg Eynon of Millersville. When freshman sensation Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State scored a 17-3 major decision at 133 pounds in his opening match over Marat Tomaev of Penn State, it gave the Cowboys some needed extra points. However, one more point for Thompson and it would have been a technical fall, even better for a team chasing the top spot. Upsets came right off the bat at 125 pounds, when freshman No. 4 seed Jason Powell of Nebraska was pinned by unheralded Tommy Hoang of Duke in 6:43. Right after that, No. 7 Chris Williams of Michigan State, went down to another relative unknown, Brent Thompson of Kent State, by a 5-4 margin. Every athlete in this event has a dream, and seeded wrestlers must beware right from the first round. A key seed was knocked off at 157 pounds, when No. 3 Yoshi Nakamura of Pennsylvania fell to unseeded Griff Powell of Illinois, 3-2. Nakamura is Penn's top hopeful this year; Powell is a tough athlete on a strong team, and his win boosts Illinois' chances to be a big factor in the team race. It is difficult to watch all eight mats, so a person's eyes seek out the teams in the championship race or the individual athletes with a chance to win the title. However, many of the best matches are between unseeded athletes, seeking to stay alive for a shot at All-American honors. When Penn State's 125-pounder Josh Moore scored an escape during the tiebreaker to beat George Cintron of North Carolina State, he earned the right to face No. 1 Jody Strittmatter of Iowa in a second-round bout. The dream is still alive for Moore, at least for another round. Thus goes the ebb-and-flow of the opening session. This round may not make a big difference in the final team standings for the teams, but it certainly could if somebody slips up for this team while somebody else steps up for another team. Watching the near-upsets are also compelling. Hofstra's unseeded Noel Thompson gave No. 2 seed Joe Heskett everything he could handle in their first-round tussel. Thompson scored a second-period takedown to lead 4-2, but Heskett fought back to tie the match at 5-5 at the end of regulation. The bout was decided by a 30-second tie-breaker, when Heskett rode Thompson out and scored the razor-thin win. All eyes are always on Iowa State's amazing Cael Sanderson, the top seed at 184, and a wrestler who has never tasted defeat in three seasons of NCAA action. Sanderson's first victim at this NCAA Tournament was Kyle Hanson of Northern Iowa. Wrestling with his fluid style of dominance, Sanderson tacked on takedowns and tilts for an impressive victory. The streak continues. One of the first major defeats for a top team came at 184 pounds, when unseeded Scott Justus of Virginia Tech edged No. 5 Damion Hahn of Minnesota. Hahn, a talented freshman who has competed with great fanfare all year, dropped the first match of his NCAA Championships career and gave Minnesota a chink in its impressive armour. Iowa State's prospects to sneak in near the top may have taken a big hit when No. 3 Zach Thompson fell to Rick Romero of Rutgers.Thompson, a finalist last year, was counted on to score many points for the Cyclones. Now he'll have to do it through the consolation rounds. Nine wrestlers entered the tournament unbeaten this year. All won their first round matches. They included Michael Lightner of Oklahoma (141), Doug Schwab of Iowa (141), Reggie Wright of Oklahoma State (149), T.J. Williams of Iowa (157), Josh Koscheck of Edinboro (174), Maurice Worthy of Army (174), Cael Sanderson of Iowa State (184), Antonio Garay of Boston College (285) and Garrett Lowney of Minnesota (285). Lowney, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist in Greco-Roman, is only a freshman, as far as eligibility goes. He remained unbeaten for his college career, with a solid victory over Bronson Lingamfelter of Brown in the opening round, 5-2. S Nothing has been decided yet at this NCAA Championships, but a tone has already been set. Iowa is wrestling well on its home mats, as expected, and there are some big upsets already being registered, as expected. It will be a wild tournament after all.
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