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Session Four Semifinal update: The gold-medal matches are set and star studded



You know it is time for the semifinals. People wait outside over two hours in the rain to get in. At 5:30 p.m., exactly, the tournament begins and the buzz begins. The crowd is so pumped up, you can't even hear PA announcer Sandy Stevens and her introductions. This is the semifinals; this is what it is all about. At 125 pounds, the semifinal matches have completely different paces. No. 1 Stephen Abas of Fresno State from the opening whistle just destroyed the freshman unseeded surprise, Mario Stuart of Lehigh. With a variety of takedown and tilts, Abas led 11-3 after the first period. When it was all over, Abas had secured a technical fall in 5:50 easily moving into the finals for the second time in his career. On the other mat, Big Ten rivals No. 2 Jody Strittmatter of Iowa and No. 3 Leroy Vega of Minnesota sparred with the intensity of their long series of wars. Strittmatter, fueled by a supportive home crowd, led 2-0 in the third period and sealed the deal with a takedown in the closing seconds for a solid 4-0 win. The finals will be No. 1 Stephen Abas of Fresno State (33-0) vs. No. 2 Jody Strittmatter of Iowa (32-2). Abas is a junior from Hayward, Calif., while Strittmatter, a senior, hails from Ebensburg, Pa. At 133 pounds, both matches were nailbiters, as the level of competition was very close. No. 1 Eric Juergens of Iowa faced a psyched-up No. 5 Roman Fleszar of Hofstra, and neither athlete could score a takedown. Juergens got an escape in the second period, and rode out Fleszar for the entire third period and received a riding time point for a solid 2-0 win. No. 2 Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State and No. 3 Todd Beckerman of Nebraska had a classic battle between two talented stars. Beckerman scored the first takedown in the opening period for a 2-0 lead, but it was Thompson who had the clutch score, taking down Beckerman with just five seconds left for the winning points in a 4-3 decision. The finals will be No. 1 Eric Juergens of Iowa (29-1) vs. No. 2 Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State (32-2). Juergens is a senior from Maquoteka, Iowa, while Thompson is a freshman from Oklahoma City, Okla. At 141 pounds, the matches were completely different, but the outcome was the same: the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds also advanced. No. 1 Doug Schwab of Iowa fell behind early, took a second period lead, then had to hold on in the end for an exciting 11-9 win over No. 4 Sean Gray of Virginia Tech. Gray had an opportunity to tie it up with a takedown at the end, but Schwab had just a little too much. No. 2 Michael Lightner of Oklahoma was in control throughout the match, scoring late backpoints for an 8-0 major decision over No. 11 Grant Hoerr of Wisconsin. Both Lightner and Schwab will enter the finals undefeated. This is a rematch of the 1999 NCAA finals, won by Schwab. The finals will feature No. 1 Doug Schwab of Iowa (34-0) vs. No. 2 Michael Lightner of Oklahoma (34-0). Schwab, a senior, is from Osage, Iowa. Lightner, also a senior, is from Marlow, Okla. At 149 pounds, the finals will feature a No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed who have wrestled well in the clutch. No. 4 Dave Esposito of Lehigh had a solid performance in defeating No. 8 Jared Frayer of Oklahoma in the top bracket semifinal, 5-3. The other match featured an inspired victory by No. 3 Adam Tirapelle of Illinois, who defeated No. 2 Jared Lawrence of Minnesota, 5-0. The fired up Tirapelle avenged a loss to Lawrence in the Big Ten finals just two weeks ago. Tirapelle was a NCAA runner-up last year, and will have another shot at taking home the gold. The finals will feature No. 3 Adam Tirapelle of Illinois (29-2) vs. No. 4 Dave Esposito of Lehigh (37-5). Tirapelle is a senior from Clovis, Calif. and Esposito is a senior from Matawan, N.J. The 157-pound semifinals went according to predictions, as the top two seeds moved forward with tight wins. No. 1 T.J. Williams of Iowa was pushed hard by No. 12 Shane Roller of Oklahoma State, who has been on fire. The bout was tied at 1-1 in the third period, but Williams scored a leg attack takedown with 25 seconds left for a 3-1 lead. A penalty point against Roller at the end made it a 4-1 win. No. 2 Bryan Snyder of Nebraska also needed everything in his tank to edge No. 6 Luke Becker of Minnesota, 3-2. The Snyder win ignited the local fans, who enjoyed watching Hawkeye Williams win and then seeing a wrestler from rival Minnesota go down. The finals will feature No.1 T.J. Williams of Iowa (28-0) vs. No. 2 Bryan Snyder of Nebraska (28-1). Williams is a senior from Harvey, Ill. while Snyder is a junior from Easton, Pa. At 165 pounds, the top two seeds survived, but not without a scare or two. No. 1 Donny Pritzlaff of Wisconsin fell behind quickly to No. 5 Matt Lackey of Illinois, 2-0 in the first period, and was trailing 3-2 early in the third period. Pritzlaff, a takedown wizard, scored a takedown that he converted into two additional backpoints, and went on to a 6-3 decision. Pritzlaff is the defending NCAA champion and is gunning for a second title. No. 2 Joe Heskett of Iowa State had his hands full with unseeded Brad Pike of Minnesota. The match was tied at 1-1 in regulation, and Heskett scored the winning takedown with five seconds left in the sudden death period for a 3-1 decision. Heskett was a NCAA runner-up last year, and will have a chance to face the man who beat him, Don Pritzlaff. The finals will feature No. 1 Donny Pritzlaff of Wisconsin (37-1) vs. No. 2 Joe Heskett of Iowa State (36-3). Pritzlaff, a senior, is from Lyndhurst, Wis. and Heskett, a junior, is from Cuyuhoga Falls, Ohio. At 174 pounds, the final pairing was delayed, as one of the semifinal matches was protested and then a part of the match was re-wrestled. It was the second re-wrestle of the tournament, but clearly the most important match to be redone in recent memory. The top pairing went according to form, as No. 1 Josh Koscheck of Edinboro kept on the pressure, and won the key positions late in the bout for a 7-2 victory. The other pairing was a wild match between No. 2 Otto Olson of Michigan and No. 3 Maurice Worthy of Army. Olson jumped to a 4-2 lead in the second period, but Worthy came back to knot the score at 8-8 when the final buzzer sounded. However, the referees met and changed the score to 8-6 for Worthy, and everything went crazy. The Michigan coaches protested the bout, and the protest was upheld. It was decided that a part of the match should be redone, and the bout was held after the end of the other semifinal matches. The re-wrestle started with Worthy leading at 7-6 with 55 seconds to go. Worthy got a quick escape for a 8-6 lead, and held off the Olson attack in the final seconds for the victory once again. The finals will feature No. 1 Josh Koscheck of Edinboro (41-0) vs. No. 3 Maurice Worthy of Army (34-0). Koscheck is a junior from Waynesburg, Pa., while Worthy is a senior from South Toms River, N.J. At 184 pounds, superstar No. 1 seed Cael Sanderson of Iowa State qualified for his third straight NCAA finals, with a 21-7 thumping of No. 4 Victor Sveda of Indiana. Sanderson mixed takedowns with backpoints and continued his undefeated streak. Sanderson already holds two NCAA titles, as well as two NCAA Outstanding Wrestler awards. No. 3 Daniel Cormier of Oklahoma State gave a throwing clinic in a dominant victory by pin over No. 7 Andy Hrovat of Michigan. Cormier opened with a lateral drop throw for five points, and then a lift and throw for another takedown. He closed the deal with another lateral drop for the pin at 4:36. The finals will feature No. 1 Cael Sanderson of Iowa State (39-0) vs. No. 3 Daniel Cormier of Oklahoma State (27-4). Sanderson is a junior from Heber City, Utah, and Cormier is a senior from Lafayette, La. The 197 pound final will feature a top favorite against a red-hot veteran. No. 1 Mark Munoz of Oklahoma State jumped to a 4-1 lead over No. 5 Owen Elzen of Minnesota, but Elzen refused to back down. Elzen pressed late in the match, and closed the score to 11-9, but an escape and a riding time point gave Munoz a 13-9 win. No. 7 Pat Quirk of Illinois, fresh
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