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Session II Notes: Tough loss for Heil to take; Age-group World medalists meet; Bianchi gets first Little Rock NCAA win

by Andy Elder, Special to

Boo Lewallen of Oklahoma State celebrates while Josh Heil of Campbell looks away during bizarre finish to their 149-pound NCAA boutCrazy finish to the 149 pound match between Boo Lewallen of Oklahoma State and Josh Heil of Campbell. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

A tough loss to take for Campbell’s Heil

Campbell’s Josh Heil, the No. 20 seed at 149, looked like he had earned a 6-5 tiebreaker upset win over Oklahoma State No. 4 seed Boo Lewallen. The two had started neutral with 7 seconds left and Lewallen had pursued Heil, but the Camel had held him off as they veered out of bounds.

That started a bizarre series of events. Several people matside pointed to the score clock, which still read 0:07. The referees conferred and ultimately decided that since there was a clock error, the wrestlers would have to contest the final 7 seconds again.

This time, Lewallen got in on a single-leg takedown and converted it for a 7-6 win.

Campbell then threw the brick to challenge. After conferring with NCAA rules officials, the win went to Lewallen.

In a live interview afterward on ESPN, NCAA Wrestling National Coordinator of Officials Tim Shiels explained the referees’ position.

He said that since the clock hadn’t started, there is no relief in the rulebook to time the wrestling that had gone on by watching the replay with a stopwatch or other timing device.

“Our reviewers have to have something concrete. They can’t guess and say, ‘well, it should have been 3 or 4 seconds. They have to have proof off the video. And without that clock moving, we’ve got a clock error, which is unfortunate,” he said.

When asked if the reviewers could have used a stopwatch with the video of the match to determine how much time should have gone off the clock, Shiels shook his head no and said, “It’s not per se in the rule book.”

A couple of world champions go toe to toe

The second-round matchup between Iowa State No. 3 seed David Carr and Michigan No. 14 seed Will Lewan might have seemed like just another match in the tournament, but it was a bit more than that.

Carr won a Junior World freestyle title at 74 kilos for the United States in 2019 during a redshirt year. He was the first Cyclone to win a Junior World Championship.

Lewan brought home gold at 69 kilos at the 2017 UWW Cadet World Championships. He swept the freestyle and Greco-Roman titles the same year at the Cadet World Team Trials. He did all of that as a junior at Montini Catholic High School in Chicago.

In this meeting, Carr was a bit too much for Lewan to handle, as the Cyclone redshirt sophomore posted a 10-2 major decision.

Carr has already qualified for this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials based off his 2019 Junior World Title.

A couple of heavyweight world medalists face off

Penn State freshman Greg Kerkvliet used his athleticism on his feet to fashion a 12-2 major decision over Lehigh’s Jordan Wood in the second round. That battle featured a couple of international standouts for USA Wrestling.

Kerkvliet has several high finishes on his resume. He was a Cadet world champion in 2017 and a two-time finalist. He was a Junior World silver medalist in 2018 and a USA Junior National Champion in 2018. And he was a U23 World Championships qualifier, advancing to the bronze medal match.

Wood was a Cadet World silver medalist in 2014, finished fifth at the Cadet World Championships in 2015 and was a FILA freestyle Cadet national champion.

Little Rock Trojans earn first NCAA victory

Paul Bianchi earned a distinction Thursday night that will forever belong to him, and him alone. The redshirt senior notched the first NCAA tournament victory in Little Rock Trojan history. A 29 seed, Bianchi, earned a 9-4 win over Iowa State No. 13 seed Zach Redding in a first-round consolation bout.

“It feels good. We work really hard and we’re trying to build something special,” Bianchi said after the win. “These stepping stones, as they keep going through, better things are coming for us in the future.”

Bianchi had qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2018 as a 125-pounder for North Dakota State, but he went 0-2.

“I’m just motivated to keep on going and represent my school the best way I can,” he said. “The last time I was here, I didn’t win a match. That’s a step forward in what I’m doing. The guys back home are watching me, so I’m hoping they’re motivated that we’re building and we’re coming in the years to come.”

Stanford watch – Woods, Griffith advance to quarterfinals, three other Cardinal still in the draw

It is hard to believe any team has had a tougher season than Stanford. The school announced that it would drop 11 sports this year, including its nationally-ranked wrestling team. The alumni and supporter effort, Keep Stanford Wrestling has been strong. While KSW has raised millions of dollars to endow the program, the university has yet to budge on its decision.

If that is not hard enough, the team had to deal with the pandemic crisis in California. Their competition schedule was delayed until January 24 and once started, all eight of their dual meets were on the road. The Cardinal placed third at the Pac-12 Championships, with individual champion Jaden Abas (149) and brought seven wrestlers to St. Louis. This team has held together and been amazingly resilient.

Two Cardinal have advanced to the quarterfinals on day one, Real Woods at 141 and Shane Griffith at 165 and three still going in the consolations, Abas, Requir van der Merwe (157) and Nathan Traxler (285).

Seeded No. 21, Woods, who was an NWCA first-team All-American last year as a freshman, didn’t join the team until the very end of the season. In the first round, he avenged his loss in the 2021 Pac-12 finals, beating No. 12 seed Grant Willits of Oregon State. In the second round, Woods beat Big 12 champion and No. 5 seed Dom Demas of Oklahoma, in sudden victory, 5-1. Woods has drawn No. 4 seed Tariq Wilson of NC State in the semifinals.

Woods explained to the media after the second session that the delay in his season was caused by academic and weight challenges, but he has been getting great training since he has been back. He said has improved his stamina since the conference meet and felt confident this weekend.

Griffith, ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation this year, lost to Anthony Valencia of Arizona State in the conference finals, and came to St. Louis with a No. 8 seed. He opened with a 5-2 win over Jake Tucker of Michigan State, then beat No. 9 seed Luke Weber of North Dakota State in the second round, 7-5. He draws No. 1 seed Alex Marinelli in the quarterfinals.

Abas, seeded No. 8, was upset in the first round by former Junior World Team member Yahya Thomas of Northwestern, 6-2, but rebounded in his first consolation match to continue forward. van der Merwe, seeded No. 17, opened with a win, but was beaten by in the second round by No. 1 seed Ryan Deakin of Northwestern. Traxler, seeded No. 25, lost in his opener against No. 8 Jordan Wood of Lehigh, but won his evening consolation bout to continue on. Eliminated with two losses were Jackson DiSario (125) and Nick Stemmet (197).

Woods noted in his interview that his motivation and that of his teammates was to show the university “that they made the wrong decision.” We will follow their progress, with hopes that they successfully overturn the decision.

Upsets during Session II, based upon seeds

285 - No. 14 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin) dec. No. 3 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan) (Dec 2-1)

141 - No. 21 Real Woods (Stanford) dec. No. 5 Dom Demas (Oklahoma) (SV-1 5-1)

149 - No. 12 Max Murin (Iowa) dec. No. 5 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) (Dec 5-3)

149 - No. 12 Brady Berge (Penn State) dec. No. 5 Kaleb Young (Iowa) (Dec 3-2)

174 - No. 12 Bernie Truax (Cal Poly) dec. No. 5 Logan Massa (Michigan) (SV-1 3-1)

133 - No. 10 Louie Hayes (Virginia) dec. No. 7 Lucas Byrd (Illinois) (SV-1 6-4)

125 - No. 9 Devin Schroder (Purdue) dec. No. 8 RayVon Foley (Michigan State)(Dec 2-1)

141 - No. 9 Dresden Simon (Central Michigan) dec. No. 8 Chad Red (Nebraska) (Dec 6-3)

285 - No. 9 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 8 Jordan Wood (Lehigh) (MD 12-2)

149 - No. 25 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) dec. No. 9 Legend Lamer (Cal Poly)(Dec 10-4)

197 - No. 26 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) dec. No. 10 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State) (Dec 4-3)