If the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships proved one thing to the casual fan this past weekend, it’s that unpredictability — not chalk — rules the sport’s college postseason.
“You don’t have to be seeded to place,” said Penn assistant coach and 2007 College graduate Matt Valenti, a two-time national champion. “Anything on paper here is meaningless.”
How could something as pithy as numbers have meaning in a sport where one mistake, one wrong position, could end a match in an instant?
Arizona State’s Bubba Jenkins, who took home the 157-pound national title as a No. 4 seed after pinning Penn State’s previously undefeated No. 3 David Taylor in 4:14, benefited from that fact.
Jenkins’ pin required skill — he exploited a weakness in Taylor’s positioning — but there was something else on his side.
“A lot of luck,” he said afterward. “And I can tell you right now they should call me ‘Lucky’ instead of Bubba because I saw something, I looked at it and I just got lucky.”
For examples demonstrating the wild nature of the tourney for Penn, look no further than the finishes of seniors Zack Kemmerer and Rollie Peterkin.
Peterkin entered the tournament as a tenth seed with expectations of reaching the podium. But he lost in his first match to unranked Flint Ray of Utah Valley State, before bouncing back and winning his next three matches.
Then, in the Round of 12, he faced Scotti Sentes — who had defeated Peterkin in the same round in the 2009 NCAA championship at 125 pounds — and the Central Michigan grappler once again denied Peterkin what would have been his first All-America honor.
For Peterkin, the loss meant the end of a career, which could have easily gone differently.
“Unfortunately, you get caught in weird positions sometimes, and [Peterkin] just got caught in an awkward scramble,” Valenti explained. “He’s too good of a wrestler, too good of a person not to be on that stand.”
Fair or not, that’s the nature of the tourney — past performances don’t clinch All-America, either. The only thing that does are post-season wins, as shown by the 12th-seeded Kemmerer’s performance.
In a bracket with 10 returning All-Americans, Kemmerer (141) defeated Penn State’s sixth-seeded Andrew Alton , who had already defeated Kemmerer twice this year to reach the podium.
Saturday night, as the parade of All-Americans marched out from the tunnel underneath the arena, no wrestler wore a number designating their seed. No, numbers won’t help become an All-American.
Just determination, execution and a little bit of luck.
Sports Editor Brian Kotloff contributed to the reporting of this article.Comments powered by Disqus
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