CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – mike conklin and Daniel Surich stamped their All-American status on the first day of competition for the TCNJ wrestling team at the NCAA Championships.
The duo both prevailed in at least one do-or-die consolation bout to give TCNJ multiple All-Americans for the third straight NCAA meet.
Thomas Maretta and Matt Sacco came within one win of becoming an All-American, while Domenic Difrancescantonio and Quinn Haddad each lost twice to see their spectacular seasons come to an end.
Difrancescantonio notched a takedown early in the second period to pull even with Johnson and Wales’ Hayden Brown, the sixth seed who defeated Difrancescantonio by a 9-2 count early in the season. The J&W grappler got the best of the rematch as well, going ahead to stay with a reversal near the end of the second period before tacking on an escape and a takedown in the third to seal an 8-2 decision.
Difrancescantonio was unable to establish any momentum against Coe’s Brock Henderson in the consolations, eventually succumbing to an 18-4 major decision. The junior’s terrific campaign ended with a 20-5 overall record and a Mideast Regional title.
Conklin pulled a big upset in impressive fashion, overcoming an early takedown at the hands of fourth-seeded Tony Ulaszek of Coast Guard, who came in unbeaten on the season. Undaunted, Conklin reversed and went in front at the end of the first frame with a takedown following an Ulaszek escape.
The rookie piled on from there, adding four near-fall points to a second-period takedown and then going on top 13-4 with a reversal to start the third. He eventually pinned Ulaszek with 21 seconds left in the bout to book a spot in the quarterfinals.
Conklin was pinned in the first period of his quarterfinal bout with Chicago’s Ryan Fleck, sending him into the consolations to meet Hai Sui with All-America honors on the line. Conklin handled his business admirably, opening up a 5-0 lead before pinning Sui 24 seconds into the third period.
Conklin will take on Alex Barr of Wabash in his first bout on Saturday.
Sacco hung with Washington and Lee’s Ryan Luth for much of their opening bout, which was deadlocked at 2-2 after an escape by Sacco in the second period. The fourth-seeded Luth, a two-time Southeast Regional champion, took control with a takedown in the final seconds of the period, and added another in the third after an escape to secure an 8-2 decision.
Locked in a struggle with York’s Eric Hutchinson, Sacco kept his All-American dreams alive with a go-ahead takedown in the third. Hutchinson escaped in the final seconds, but it was too late to overturn a 3-2 decision as Sacco staved off elimination with a hard-earned victory.
Sacco fell by an 8-2 count to sixth-seeded Nolan Hertel of Wisconsin-La Crosse, ending his season with a record of 17-5 and a Mideast Regional runner-up finish.
Surich countered two takedowns by Roanoake’s Mahlic Sallah with escapes to go into the third period down 4-2. Starting on top, he rode the eighth-seeded Sallah for almost the entire period, but Sallah escaped late and Surich was unable to get the takedown he needed to send the bout to overtime as the Maroon pulled out a 5-3 decision.
Surich then came up as clutch as he could, eking out a pair of one-point decisions to become an All-American. He trailed Augsburg’s Nick Rogge, 4-0, but a takedown just before the second-period buzzer got Surich back within a point. Surich escaped with about a minute left in the third period, then scored a go-ahead takedown with 15 seconds to go. Armed with plenty of riding time, Rogge could have sent the bout to overtime with an escape, but Surich managed to prevent it and keep his season alive with a 6-5 win.
Pitted against Lucas Salmon, the seventh seed from Baldwin Wallace, with All-America on the line, Surich opened up a 4-1 lead before Salmon pulled even with a takedown late in the second. Starting the third on bottom, Surich escaped with 33 seconds remaining to take the lead and held off Salmon for a 5-4 victory.
Surich faces Wabash’s Charles Baczek in his first match on Saturday.
Haddad grabbed an early lead with a quick takedown of Augsburg’s Bentley Schwanebeck-Ostermann, but that was as good as it got in the opening round for the Junior Lions. After escaping just before the first-period buzzer to tie it at 3-3, Haddad fell behind early in the second as Schwanebeck-Ostermann scored a takedown, then gave himself plenty of breathing room with two four-point near falls in the third en route to a 15-3 major decision.
Haddad was pinned by Gable Crebs of Lycoming in the consolations, ending his season at 19-6 with a Mideast Regional title.
Marretta joined Conklin in the quarterfinals with a pristine performance against Lycoming’s John Fulmer, who came in as the No. 4 seed with a Southeast Regional crown and a 36-1 record to his credit. After a scoreless first, Marretta stayed on top the entire second period to put himself in prime position. He took the lead with an escape and held off Fulmer from there, grabbing some insurance with a takedown in the closing seconds to polish off a 4-0 victory.
Marretta gave Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Jordan Lemcke, the No. 5 seed, everything he could handle in the quarterfinals. Lemcke took a 1-0 lead with an escape to start the second, but Marretta had the choice in the third period. He picked bottom, but was unable to get out from Lemcke’s ride and suffered a 2-0 defeat.
That feels Marretta into a winner-take-All-American tilt with Johns Hopkins’ Hank Behaghel. The match went to the third period tied at 2, and Behaeghel took the upper hand with an escape to start the third. With Marretta chasing a takedown, Behaeghel managed to get one himself to seal a 5-2 victory.