Penn finished ninth as Brett Matter became its first NCAA champion since 1942. ST. LOUIS -- The bar is officially raised. The Penn wrestling team continued its steady climb into the national wrestling elite with a ninth-place team finish at the NCAA Championships this past weekend at the Kiel Center. The top-10 finish is the team's first since 1942, when it finished eighth. The tournament also saw Penn produce its first NCAA champion since Richard DiBatista won back-to-back titles in 1941 and 1942. Senior captain and two-time All-American Brett Matter took home the individual title at 157 pounds, beating Boise State's Larry Quisel, 4-2, in Saturday night's final. Captains Rick Springman (174) and Bandele Adeniyi-Bada (heavyweight) also earned All-American honors for the Quakers, placing fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Fickell (197) fell one round short of placing. The road to the top 10 has been a gradual climb for Penn under coach Roger Reina, who has seen his team's national ranking improve throughout his 14 seasons. "We had the same number of athletes in the semifinals as [eventual champion] Iowa did," Reina said. "We had a finalist and champion. Oklahoma State [had] no one in the finals. "There's some pretty significant comparisons here with the elite programs in the country. I think we made some waves out here." Seeded No. 2 in the tournament, Matter almost hit a serious road bump on his way to the finals in his semifinal match against No. 11 Corey Wallman of Wisconsin. After a scoreless first period, Matter escaped to start the second period for a 1-0 lead. Matter held his narrow lead until very late in the third period, when Wallman got a reversal to go up 2-1. Matter took the down position with nine seconds left in the match, his riding time advantage erased. Matter needed an escape to tie the match and send it into overtime, but with three seconds remaining, Penn's all-time winningest wrestler got a reversal of his own to squeak out the close victory. "I saw my coaches' expressions after I got reversed, and I was pretty confident that I was going to get out, but I wasn't expecting a reversal," Matter said. "I was just going more towards escaping and going into overtime." Matter's semifinal win set up a finals match with fifth-seed Quisel, who shocked the Kiel Center crowd with his dramatic overtime win over top-ranked T.J. Williams of Iowa. Quisel -- who at last year's NCAA Championships placed third and won the Gorrarian Award for most falls -- took the heavily favored Williams down in overtime. Matter, who saw Quisel beat Williams as he took the down position at the end of his match, did not get the opportunity to avenge a 5-3 loss he suffered to Williams at the Midlands Open in December. Instead, he used a late first period takedown to propel him to the NCAA title. After the takedown, he rode out Quisel the rest of the period, building a 2-0 lead. He escaped to start the second period and added another escape point after a Quisel takedown. A scoreless third period left the final score 4-2. Matter and his father, Andrew, join just three other father-son pairs to win NCAA titles. Andrew Matter won championships for Penn State in 1971 and 1972. Adeniyi-Bada earned All-America honors for the second straight year, improving on his eighth-place finish last year. Coming in as a No. 5 seed, Adeniyi-Bada wrestled his way into the semifinals with a close, 3-2 win over Illinois fourth-seed John Lockhart. But in the semis, Adeniyi-Bada ran into Minnesota's massive top-seed and eventual champion Brock Lesnar. Adeniyi-Bada had lost a 5-4 match to Lesnar in the NWCA All-Star meet, but this time Lesnar dominated the match, building an 11-0 lead before pinning Adeniyi-Bada at 6:41. "It's something that might have affected his confidence somewhat," Reina said. "I think Bandele didn't fully get himself up from that semifinal disappointment." Adeniyi-Bada was pinned in the consolation semifinals by Boston College's Antonio Garay -- who won this year's Gorrarian Award. He then lost his fifth-place bout to Tim Courtad of Ohio University. Springman, who was one round short of placing last year, lost a semifinal match to Josh Koscheck of Edinboro. The two had split two close matches this year -- a 1-0 win for Springman at the Midlands and an overtime win for Koscheck at the All-Star meet. But Koscheck used two takedowns to grab a 6-4 victory in the rubber match. After losing in the consolation semis to Randy Pugh of Northern Iowa, Springman came back with a vengeance, winning a convincing 8-1 decision over Mark Dufresne of Lehigh. It was the fourth time the EIWA rivals had met this year, and the second time in the NCAA Tournament, all resulting in victories for Springman, who spent most of the year ranked No. 2 in the nation at 174 pounds. "Rick was heartbroken again," Reina said. "He set his goals at the top -- he came here to win. It's a real character test to have to rebound, and Rick has character in spades." Penn regrouped from an up-and-down dual meet season, in which the Quakers went 9-5 and finished ranked No. 15 in the nation, to regain a level of accomplishment not seen since before World War II. The Quakers are no longer just the Cinderella team from the Ivy League. With its ninth-place follow-up to last year's 11th-place finish, Penn has shown continued and consistent improvement on a national level.Comments powered by Disqus
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