By Stephen Stonebraker
Surely you would think that if someone won the NCAA title, that they’d have won their conference title too right? It makes sense. The NCAA Division I title is the most coveted crown in all of collegiate wrestling. The toughest title to win. Yet if you had to guess how many times in the past twenty NCAA Division I tournaments that all ten NCAA champions were also conference champions, what would be your guess?
Half the time? Three quarters? One quarter?
In the past twenty years there has only been one tournament where all ten NCAA champions were also conference champions and that year was 2014. In all other years, at least one NCAA champion did not win his conference tournament.
Happens more often than you think doesn’t it?
Let’s look at these tournaments and see how often it has happened.
125 NCAA Champion Jeremy Hunter of Penn State lost in the BIG 10 Finals to Iowa’s Jody Strittmatter 3-2.
141 NCAA Champion Carl Perry of Illinois lost twice at the BIG 10 Championships to finish in fourth place. 6-4 to Iowa’s Doug Schwab in the semi-finals and 4-2 to Michigan’s Damion Logan in the Consolation finals.
149 NCAA Champion Adam Tirapelle of Illinois lost 9-5 to Minnesota’s Jared Lawrence in the BIG 10 finals
HWT NCAA Champion John Lockhart of Illinois lost 5-2 to Minnesota’s Garrett Lowney in the BIG 10 finals
149 NCAA Champion Minnesota’s Jared Lawrence lost 4-3 to Iowa’s Mike Zadick in the BIG 10 finals
184 NCAA Champion Rob Rohn of Lehigh lost 7-6 in the EIWA finals to Cornell’s Rob Rohn
157 NCAA Champion Ryan Bertin of Michigan finished in third place at the BIG 10 championships after losing 7-3 in the semi-finals to Minnesota’s Luke Becker
174 NCAA Champion Robbie Waller of Oklahoma lost 6-3 to Oklahoma State’s Chris Pendelton in the BIG 12 finals
184 NCAA Champion Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State lost 9-1 to Scott Barker of Missouri in the BIG 12 finals
125 NCAA Champion Jason Powell lost 5-2 to Oklahoma’s Sam Hazewinkle in the BIG 12 finals
133 NCAA Champion Zach Roberson of Iowa State lost by fall in 6:32 to Oklahoma State’s Johnny Thompson in the BIG 12 finals
174 NCAA Champion Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State lost 9-7 to Missouri’s Ben Askren in the BIG 12 finals
125 NCAA Champion Joe Dubuque of Indiana finished in third place at the BIG 10 championships after losing 3-2 to Michigan State’s Nick Simmons in the semi-finals
141 NCAA Champion Teyon Ware of Oklahoma lost 4-3 tiebreaker to Iowa State’s Nate Gallick in the BIG 12 finals
157 NCAA Champion Ryan Bertin of Michigan lost 4-3 to Alex Tirapelle of Illinois in the BIG 10 finals
197 NCAA Champion Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State lost 6-2 to Nebraska’s B.J. Padden in the BIG 12 finals
125 NCAA Champion Joe Dubuque finished in third place at the BIG 10 Championships after losing 5-4 tiebreaker to Illinois’s Kyle Ott in the semi-finals
197 NCAA Champion Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State lost 4-0 to Nebraska’s B.J. Padden in the BIG 12 Finals
125 NCAA Champion Paul Donahoe lost 12-3 to Oklahoma’s Sam Hazewinkle in the BIG 12 Finals
133 NCAA Champion Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State lost 3-1 in the BIG 12 Semi-finals to Missouri’s Tyler McCormick
141 NCAA Champion J Jaggers of Ohio State finished in third at the BIG 10 Championships after losing 6-2 to Manny Rivera of Minnesota in the quarter finals
157 lbs NCAA Champion Jordan Leen of Cornell lost in the EIWA finals to Leigh’s David Nakasone 5-2
165 lbs NCAA Champion Mark Perry of Iowa lost 3-2 to Michigan’s Eric Tannenbaum in the BIG 10 finals
141 NCAA Champion J Jaggers of Ohio State finished in third place at the BIG 10 Championships after losing 3-1 to Wisconsin’s Zach Tanelli in the semi-finals.
197 NCAA Champion Jake Varner of Iowa State lost 4-3 to Nebraska’s Craig Brester in the BIG 12 finals
HWT NCAA Champion Matt Ellis of Missouri lost 3-1 to Iowa State’s David Zabriskie in the BIG 12 finals
125 NCAA Champion Matt McDonough lost 6-4 to Indiana’s Angel Escobedo in the BIG 10 finals
149 NCAA Champion Brent Metcalf of Iowa lost 9-3 to Ohio State’s Lance Palmer in the BIG 10 finals.
184 NCAA Champion Max Askren of Missouri lost 10-6 to Oklahoma State’s Clayton Foster in the BIG 12 finals
2011 ( 3)
149 NCAA Champion Kyle Dake of Cornell lost 4-2 sudden victory to Bucknell’s Kevin LaValley in the EIWA finals
157 NCAA Champion Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State lost in the PAC-12 finals to Adam Hall of Boise State 3-2
HWT NCAA Champion Zach Rey of Lehigh lost to American’s Ryan Flores 4-2 tiebreaker in the EIWA finals
184 NCAA Champion Steve Bosack of Cornell lost 5-2 in the EIWA finals to Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin
157 NCAA Champion Derek St. John of Iowa finished in third place at the BIG 10 championships after losing 5-4 to Nebraska’s James Green in the semi-finals.
2014 – The ONLY year in the past twenty where all 10 NCAA Champions were Conference Champions
174 NCAA Champion Matt Brown of Penn State lost 7-3 in the BIG 10 finals to Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh
125 NCAA Champion Nico Megaludis of Penn State lost 3-1 sudden victory to Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State in the BIG 10 finals
174 NCAA Champion Myles Martin of Ohio State finished in third place after being pinned by Penn State’s Bo Nickal in the BIG 10 semi-finals
133 NCAA Champion Cory Clark of Iowa lost 5-4 to Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello in the BIG 10 finals
165 NCAA Champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State finished in third place after losing 8-5 to Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez in the BIG 10 semi-finals
174 NCAA Champion Mark Hall of Penn State lost in the BIG 10 finals to Ohio State’s Bo Jordan 6-4
184 NCAA Champion Bo Nickall of Penn State finished in third place after losing 6-4 to Ohio State’s Myles Martin in the BIG 10 semi-finals
125 NCAA Champion Spencer Lee of Iowa lost 2-1 to Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello in the BIG 10 finals
157 NCAA Champion Jason Nolf of Penn State forfeited to 5th/6th place. So not sure if you want to count this or not. “Technically”?
165 NCAA Champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State lost 4-1 to Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez in the BIG 10 finals
197 NCAA Champion Michael Macchiavello of North Carolina State lost 6-4 tiebreaker to Virginia Tech’s Jared Haught in the ACC finals
125 NCAA Champion Spencer Lee of Iowa lost 6-4 to Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera in the BIG 10 finals
So there you have it! It happens a lot more than you ever thought it happened doesn’t it?
46 NCAA Champions crowned in the past twenty NCAA Division I tournaments where in the same season they did not win their conference tournament.
To some of you, it’s a matter of “so what!?!” I can already picture Mark Husar’s response to this article in my head. “All that matters is the NCAA Championships!!”
For the rest of this, there is quite a bit of takeaway from these statistics.
I once talked with two time NCAA All American Joe Johnston of Iowa on a bus ride and he said to me, “I think sometimes it’s harder to win a BIG 10 title than it is to win an NCAA title.” I think by looking at this information there is a lot of truth to that statement. I think the same can be said for winning a BIG 12 title.
It also adds more testimony to how insane NCAA Division I wrestling is. To how much parity there is among the wrestlers. In a lot of these matches that were lost in the conference tournaments, losses were avenged at the NCAA’s. Even the ones that were by major decision margins.
Collegiate wrestling is a fascinating world and this is one of the many things that interest me about it.