AU wrestling team places fifth at NCAA Championships; Coach wins top award
The AU wrestling team placed fifth overall in the NCAA Championships in Philadelphia this year, after former No. 1-seed Steve Fittery fell in the semifinals and No. 3 Ryan Flores lost in the finals to Lehigh University’s Zach Rey.
The trip started off rough for the Eagles as 197 pound Daniel Mitchell lost one of the “wrestle-in” matches in the pigtails (a match that is appended to the first round) to take himself out of championship contention. Mitchell would later lose his second consolation-round match as well.
No. 11 Matt Mariacher at 141 pounds gave the Eagles a little momentum in the early rounds, winning his first match, but losing his second-round matchup to fall in the consolation rounds as well.
In an exciting run through the consolation bracket, Mariacher, the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association champion, had huge wins over Hofstra University’s Vicente Varela and Lockhaven’s Matthew Bonson before finally dropping a 7-2 decision.
Junior 149 pound Ganbayar Sanjaa, after placing fourth in the EIWA Championships opened up his tournament with strong wins, including a fall at 1:53 in the second round. After a 10-3 win over the University of Michigan’s Eric Grajales, the No. 11- ranked wrestler lost to Cornell University’s No. 4-ranked wrestler, Kyle Dake, in the semifinals.
With the appearance in the semifinals, Sanjaa solidified his All-American status for the first time in his career and set a high standard for himself for next year, as he will likely continue to be a major player on the national scene.
Fittery, touted as AU’s best chance at making it to the finals for much of the tournament, fell to Penn State University’s No. 3 David Taylor in the semifinals, but managed to beat No. 1 Adam Hall of Boise State University in the consolation semifinals and won 13-1 to win third place overall.
The tournament had started off hot for Fittery, who scored two technical falls in the first two rounds, winning 19-4 in his first and 23-7 in the second. Fittery added another notch to his resume after pinning No. 7 Bryce Saddoris of the United States Naval Academy to earn a spot in the semifinals.
Flores, the second-ever Eagle to make an appearance in the NCAA finals, (Josh Glenn, a National Champion in 2007, was the other at 197 pounds) faced Rey after a dominating effort in the early rounds of the tournament.
Flores scored a pin in his first match at the 1:58 mark of the first period and beat Columbia University’s Kevin Lester 18-5 to make his way into the quarterfinals round.
After squeezing by University of Nebraska’s No. 11 Tucker Lane 5-2, Flores shut out Jarod Trice of Central Michigan University in his semifinal matchup, 4-0.
Flores started off the final match of the event evenly paired with Rey. Flores’ agility gave him a bit of an advantage when going for the takedown, but Rey’s size and strength kept Flores at bay.
Rey managed an escape in the second period to take a 1-0 lead and managed to keep Flores down in the third period. Flores nearly scored a takedown, but after facing a stalemate with 17 seconds left, Rey allowed Flores the free escape and outran him for the remainder of the match, winning 1-1 on a technicality.
The Eagles’ Head Coach Mark Cody earned accolades of his own as he was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association 2011 Coach of the Year.