DES MOINES, Iowa – The Columbia wrestling team began a historic NCAA Championships Thursday, with a record-tying five grapplers on the mat. After the conclusion of first round, 149-pounder Steve Santos was the lone Lion to advance to the second round of the championship bracket.
Santos’ first round match proved to be a battle until the final minute against Chattanooga’s Alex Hudson. The Mocs’ wrestler took the early lead with the first takedown of the match, but Santos regained the lead with an escape and a takedown of his own at the buzzer of the first period. The second period went back-and-forth, but would end knotted at 5-5.
In the third, neither Santos nor Hudson was able to put any points up to break the tie. Santos would not allow Hudson to score an escape, repeatedly slamming him back to the mat. With under a minute left, Santos was able to spin Hudson to his back and with a show of strength Santos clinched the fall at 6:19.
Up next for Santos in the round of 16 is Michigan’s Eric Grajales, the 12th seed. Santos and Grajeles are 1-1 against each other over the last two seasons. Grajales won the first match between the two at the Michigan State Open last season, while Santos avenged that loss at the Midlands Championships this season, scoring an 8-3 decision in the quarterfinals.
Stephen West (23-8) and Virginia’s Jonathan Faucey (30-8) went head-to-head in a very close bout at 174 pounds. Through the first five minutes, the only point was an escape by Faucey at the start of the second period. The bout remained highly contested from both sides, but Faucey would close it out with a takedown to secure the 3-0 decision.
West will next challenge Oregon State’s Cody Weishoff in the first round of the wrestlebacks Thursday evening. Weishoff dropped his first round match in a narrow 5-4 decision to the top seed, Chris Perry from Oklahoma State. West and Weishoff have yet to meet at the collegiate level in their careers.
Josh Houldsworth’s (20-8) first round opponent was the 11th-seeded Cody Yohn (25-11) from Minnesota. Houldsworth came out strong in the first two minutes, taking multiple shots at Yohn’s legs, but could not get the Gopher to the ground. The bout quickly shifted in favor of Yohn with just under a minute left in the first period, as he scored a takedown right into a near fall to go ahead 5-0. Yohn added a point with an escape to start the second, but it was negated when he was called for stalling. The bout went to the third with Yohn ahead 6-1 and would end with the Gopher adding the riding time point for the 7-1 victory.
Next up for Houldsworth will be Rider’s Ramon Santiago (29-8). Santiago fell in the first round via major decision to the sixth-seeded Patrick Graham from Oklahoma. Thursday night’s bout between Houldsworth and Santiago will be the first of their collegiate careers against one another.
Jake O’Hara (18-6) was one of the first 16 wrestlers on the mat Thursday, taking on the eighth-seeded Dylan Alton (25-6) from Penn State in the 157-pound pigtail match. O’Hara and Alton were familiar with each other on this stage, as the duo met in last year’s NCAA Championship first round.
In the opening period this year, the grapplers looked to be evenly matched, with most of the action taking place standing up. It wasn’t until about two minutes in that Alton scored the first points with a takedown. The Nittany Lion extended his lead in the second period, beginning with an escape and a takedown. O’Hara got on the board to start the third period with an escape, but Aton added two more takedowns and the riding time point for the 10-2 major decision.
O’Hara will be in action in the pigtail of the wrestlebacks of session II against Michigan State’s Ryan Watts (21-13). Watts dropped his opening round match to No. 6 Alex Dieringer from Oklahoma State in a major decision, 9-1. O’Hara and Watts met earlier this year in the finals of the Michigan State Open, with O’Hara posting a 3-1 decision over Watts.
Matt Bystol (9-11) was the initial Lion to compete in the first round Friday, going up against No. 8 Cody Brewer (22-5) from Oklahoma. Brewer was able to build an early lead on Bystol, going up 5-0 heading into the second period. Bystol posted his first point with an escape to start the second period, but Brewer extended his lead to six throughout the period with two additional takedowns. Bystol continued to battle in the third, adding two points via escapes, but Brewer would come away with the technical fall, 20-5.
Bystol’s next opponent will be Anthony Elias from Davidson in the first round of the wrestlebacks Thursday evening. Elias is now 11-9 on the year after losing to No. 9 Levi Wolfensperger by fall in the first round. This will be the first collegiate meeting between Bystol and Elias.
Session II is slated to begin Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. EST at the Wells Fargo Arena. ESPN3 will have live coverage of four of the mats at WatchESPN.com.