Loyola Academy '97
ST. LOUIS -- There were no tears of joy. There was no fist-pumping revelry. In fact, at his press conference, then-senior Brett Matter seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief.
Just minutes before, Matter won the NCAA wrestling championship in the 157-pound weight class. He became Penn's first NCAA champion since Richard DiBatista in 1942.
In front of 16,795 fans at the Kiel Center in St. Louis on March 18, Matter beat Larry Quisel of Boise State in a tight, 4-2 bout. His victory helped propel Penn to a ninth-place team finish -- its highest in 60 years.
While Matter was clearly the star for the Quakers, his fellow tri-captains, then-senior Bandele Adeniyi-Bada and then-junior Rick Springman, also earned All-America honors. Springman finished fifth at 174 pounds, while Adeniyi-Bada took sixth in the heavyweight division.
"Accomplishing your goals is an unbelievable feeling," Matter said after the match. "It's almost given me peace of mind. I put in so many hours and sacrificed so many different things over my college years, over high school, and now to see it actually come true is unbelievable."
In his four years wrestling at Penn, Matter compiled a record of 128-14, making him Penn's all-time winningest wrestler. He also earned All-America honors at last year's NCAA championships, placing fifth.
And with his title at the NCAAs this year, Matter and his father, Andrew, joined just three other father-son pairs to win NCAA championships. Andrew Matter won back-to-back titles at 167 pounds for Penn State in 1971 and 1972.
Matter's older brother, Clint, also wrestled for Penn, winning an Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association title and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in 1997.
Wrestling success has become a Matter family tradition, one that Brett seemed destined to uphold.
"Brett usually won the tournament that he was in," Andrew Matter said of his son's early wrestling career.
When it came time for college, Matter chose the Wharton School over his father's alma mater. And when it came time for Brett to challenge for the national title, his father was there to dispense first-hand advice.
"[My advice was] try to stay focused and be prepared that it's going to be a long three days," Andrew said. "I've talked to him about this tournament and how he has to prepare himself to win it ever since he's been old enough to listen to me."
Despite the tremendous family legacy, Brett said he did not feel any extra pressure to win.
"[My father] told me I should have won by five or six points, but he always says stuff like that," Matter said. "I think it's his way of building my confidence. He's always been very supportive."
As Andrew saw his son write his way into the Penn wrestling history books, he said watching from the stands was more trying than competing.
"It's a lot more nerve wracking when you're not wrestling," he said. "When you're out there wrestling, you're not nervous. All the nerves have to go away after you shake hands. But when you're up here you're nervous the whole time."
Indeed, Brett gave his father something to be nervous about in the semifinals against Wisconsin's Corey Wallman.
Matter took a 1-0 lead into the final period against Wallman, but was reversed late in the bout to fall behind, 2-1. With nine seconds left, Matter took the down position on the mat, needing at least an escape point to take the match into overtime.
With three seconds left in the bout, Matter reversed Wallman, going up, 3-2. He held on to win and advance to the finals match with Quisel, who had beaten heavy favorite T.J. Williams of Iowa in overtime just moments earlier.
The two semifinal matches -- held on adjacent mats simultaneously -- provided high drama for the record-setting Kiel Center crowd. Quisel took defending champion Williams down to win his match just as Wallman reversed Matter.
"I was sitting there for a minute, because [the Penn and Wisconsin coaches] were arguing about something," Matter said. "I saw Quisel win, and then I knew that I had to get out."
Quisel's win denied Matter the opportunity to avenge his only loss of the year, a 5-3 decision to Williams in December. Before the match with Quisel, Williams, a sophomore, had not lost a match in his college career.
"I think it's very ironic that we started in October and trained every day through yesterday for Williams and it didn't happen," Penn coach Roger Reina said. "We were ready and in some ways disappointed that Brett didn't have the opportunity to wrestle Williams."
Williams or not, Matter was determined to achieve a goal he had set for himself since childhood.Comments powered by Disqus
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