DES MOINES, Iowa – The Columbia wrestling team tallied four wins in the second session of the 2013 NCAA Championships, advancing a trio of student-athletes onto the second day of competition Friday. Steve Santos remains alive in the championship bracket, while Stephen West and Matt Bystol are still competing in the wrestlebacks.
“With three guys advancing that’s a good thing and with Santos in the quarterfinals that’s huge,” said Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling Carl Fronhofer after the conclusion of day one.
In the round of 16 of the 149-pound championship bracket, No. 5 Santos (29-1) took on No. 12 Eric Grajales (23-8) from Michigan. Similar to his opening round match, Santos’ opponent took the early lead with a first-period takedown. Santos scored an escape before the period ended and then another to start the second to tie the match at 2-2 midway through the bout. Santos continued to score, notching a takedown toward the end of the second period to go ahead, 4-2, and then opened the third with another to go up 6-2. Grajales would tally a final escape, but Santos would ensure his spot in Friday morning’s quarterfinals with the 6-3 win.
Santos will face another familiar opponent in the quarterfinals, taking on Air Force’s Cole VonOhlen. The competitors met in the round of 16 at last year’s NCAA Championships with VonOhlen notching a 7-4 decision. VonOhlen, the fourth seed this year, is a four-time NCAA qualifier that will enter Friday’s match with a 27-2 record. Santos will be seeking his 30th win of the season against VonOhlen.
“It’s exciting, 2-0 on the first day is not a bad start. I’m looking to build on that,” said Santos following his match against Grajales. “I get a rematch from last year, I lost to this guy in the pre-quarters last year so I’ve been waiting for this matchup all year,” commented Santos regarding his quarterfinals bout against VonOhlen.
Fellow senior Stephen West (24-8) also earned the right to compete on day two, winning his first-round 174-pound wrestleback match over Oregon State’s Cody Weishoff, 4-2. Knowing it was win or go home, West came out and scored a takedown within the first minute to post a 2-0 lead. Weishoff would notch an escape to close the gap to one, but after starting the second period neutral, West came right back with another takedown to go up 4-1. Weishoff would score an escape in the final 20 seconds of the second period, but no scoring would be done in the third period to clinch the bout for West.
Up next for West will be Pitt’s Nick Bonaccorsi. The freshman is making his first NCAA Championship appearance this season and will take an 18-8 record into his match against West Friday.
“At this point in the season, I’m already down one loss at the NCAA tournament so I know my next loss will be my last match of my career so I just have to give it everything I’ve got and make sure I win every match I can,” said West about his mentality heading into the match against Weishoff.
Joining the two seniors on day two will be junior Matt Bystol. The junior went up against Davidson’s Anthony Elias in the first round of the 133-pound wrestlebacks, with the match going into overtime. Bystol and Elias each scored one escape in regulation, but at 1-1, the match headed to sudden victory. Twenty seconds into the sudden victory frame, Bystol claimed the bout, 3-1, with a quick takedown of Elias.
The tenth-seeded Soctti Sentes will be across from Bystol in the second round of the wrestlebacks Friday. Sentes is a two-time All-American (2011: 4th, 2009: 7th) and has qualified for the NCAA Championships four times.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Bystol about his bout against Sentes Friday. “He’s a two-time All-American from Central Michigan, so it’d be a big win for me and the program.”
In the first match of the second session for Columbia, Jake O’Hara faced off against Michigan State’s Ryan Watts (21-15) in the 157-pound wrestleback pigtail. This was a rematch from the Michigan State Open final and just like that match, O’Hara came away with the decision. O’Hara’s only points of the bout came on a first-period takedown, but it would be all he would need. Watts would receive a penalty point as O’Hara was called for stalling in the waning seconds of the third period, but it wasn’t enough as O’Hara secured the 2-1 win.
The win moved O’Hara on to the first round of the wrestlebacks against Harvard’s Walter Peppelman, a foe O’Hara has faced twice previously this season. Unfortunately for O’Hara, the close matches that the two waged all year played out like the previous two, with Peppelman edged the Columbia senior in a narrow decision, 3-0. The first period ended with no score, but Peppelman got on the board with an escape to start the second. He added a takedown in the third and that would be how the bout would end. O’Hara ends his Columbia career as a two-time NCAA qualifier and concludes his senior year with a 23-9 record.
The final Lion in action was 165-pounder Josh Houldsworth. Houldsworth challenged his opponent, Rider’s Ramon Santiago, vehemently, but the redshirt junior downed Columbia’s junior with a 13-1 major decision. Houldsworth finishes his first NCAA qualifying season with 20-9 overall record.
Session 3 on Friday will begin at 11 a.m. with the quarterfinals and two rounds of wrestlebacks. Live coverage is available via ESPN3.com. Session 4 on Friday evening, which will be shown live on ESPNU, is set for 7 p.m. and will feature the semifinals and two additional wrestleback rounds.