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Terao finishes fourth at NCAA Wrestling Championships

Senior David Terao ends his AU career with All-American status

Senior captain David Terao and AU head wrestling coach Teague Moore held back tears on Saturday afternoon as the two men reflected on their five-year journey together, which culminated in a fourth place finish and a standing ovation for Terao in Madison Square Garden.

Standing just outside the arena floor where his career came to a close against defending NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State University, Terao wiped the sweat and tears out of his eyes and took a breath. The noise of the crowd continued to echo through the tunnel as Terao collected himself and recovered from his seven minute duel. Seeded 15th in the NCAA Championships, Terao upset four competitors before the consolation final, pinning Stanford’s Connor Schram along the way, and ultimately ending the weekend as a fourth place finisher and All-American. The experience, Terao said, represents a lifetime of effort and commitment and wouldn’t have been possible without the support and coaching of Moore.

A Hawaii native, Terao said he came to AU despite not being a heavily-recruited athlete out of high school and said he has grown as a wrestler and an individual under the guidance of his coach.

“Teague has done so much for me,” Terao said. “He kind of took a shot in the dark with me. I wasn’t a big recruit coming out of high school, just a Hawaii state champion, which in the recruiting world means almost nothing.”

Saturday success

Inside one of the nation’s most prestigious sporting venues, Terao paced back and forth on the mat on the final day of the tournament. He adjusted his headgear, glanced up at the clock and turned back to face his coach one last time.

After shaking hands with University of Northern Iowa’s Dylan Peters, Terao went on the attack, jumping out to a 2-0 lead and ultimately earning the win after a reversal and a point for riding time. Following a 6-4 triumph over Peters, Terao then returned to the mat an hour later for his final match versus Tomasello.

Neither Terao nor Tomasello managed to notch a point in the first period, but Tomasello jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period with an escape and takedown in quick succession. Following a controversial call, later challenged by Moore, that gave Terao a point for an escape, Terao fell too far behind to catch Tomasello, losing the match 5-3 and missing out on a third place medal.

Yet, when Terao’s tear-streaked face appeared on the big screen to answer questions from a sideline reporter, the crowd full of fans from across the country roared with an unprecedented standing ovation.

Terao said he could not believe the crowd’s reaction and found himself at a loss for words when trying to describe his emotions.

“I did not expect that at all,” Terao said. “I was, just, you know, going to run off and try and control myself. Oh man, it’s tough to even think about it right now. I’ll never forget it.”

Moore, who has been a member of the wrestling community his entire life as a coach and athlete, said he had never seen anything quite like what he saw after Terao’s loss.

“I would be willing to bet that in the history of the NCAA, he might be the only fourth-placer that ever got a standing ovation, and I think that just shows his heart, and I think that shows his commitment and his passion, and these people appreciate that,” Moore said.

Wild Card

One week prior to the tournament, Terao finished fifth at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships, two spots out of automatic consideration for the national tournament. However, on March 9, Terao learned that he clinched one of the nine wildcard spots in the 125-pound weight class, punching his ticket to compete at the NCAAs for the fourth and final time.

“At first, I was totally shocked by my conference performance,” Terao said. “I was a bit more down on myself than I should have been, but right when that wild card came out, I knew I had a shot. This tournament is so crazy. All that stuff doesn’t matter as long as you make it and you perform, and I think I did my best out there today.”

In a highly competitive bracket, Terao defied expectations when he took down second-seeded Joey Dance of Virginia Tech in the second round. Yet one of the most iconic moments from the tournament came from the previous match, when Terao pinned Schram, sprinted off the mat and enthusiastically embraced Moore. The NCAA wrestling media team captured the interaction on Twitter through a GIF that garnered over 240 retweets and 440 likes as of Saturday evening.

“I’ve thought of that moment over and over throughout my career, and I finally got to have it,” Terao said.

Moore said that Terao’s humble yet gutsy performance at the NCAAs changed the way AU wrestling will be perceived around the country, both to fans and potential high school recruits.

“The whole athletic department, I think, gains from this when we’re live from ESPN and then when you get a young man like David that can express verbally to the crowd. I think we just grew 20,000 fans for AU wrestling, so it’s a blessing,” Moore said.

Haley Samsel contributed heavily to this story. 

sscovel@theeagleonline.com


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