ST. LOUIS -- The Columbia wrestling team will have all three of its NCAA qualifiers competing in the second day of the 2012 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Friday. After each earned hard-fought victories on Thursday, senior Kevin Lester and juniors Jake O'Hara and Steve Santos are all still alive in the wrestlebacks as they look to climb the ladder for a shot a third place and All-American honors.
“Our guys, they never give up,” Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling Carl Fronhofer said. “They always fight hard and it doesn’t matter what round of the tournament they are in, where they are at or who they are wrestling. We’re definitely happy to bring all three of them into the second day and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Fans can follow the action live at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on ESPN3 starting Friday at noon.
Santos (24-10) went 1-1 on the first day of competition. He notched a win in his NCAA Championships debut, shutting down Owen Wilkinson of Lock Haven, 5-0. Santos battled tough in his second bout, but came up short to third-seeded Cole VonOhlen of Air Force, 7-4. He will open Friday against Edinboro Devid Habat, the No. 9 seed. This will be a rematch from the Michigan State Open when Habat edged Santos 4-1 in the Lions junior’s second bout of the season.
Seventh-seeded Dylan Alton took a major decision over O’Hara (29-15), 12-4, in the Columbia junior’s first bout of the day. The bout was a rematch from the Nittany Lion Open when Alton took a 12-3 major decision. In the wrestlebacks, O’Hara bounced back strong with a 6-4 decision over Albert White of Oklahoma State. On Friday, he will take on David Bonin of Northern Iowa.
Lester (31-12) lost a 5-2 decision to Eastern Michigan’s Wesley Schroeder in what was a rematch from Jan. 7 at the Pitt Duals. Lester came back strong in the wrestlebacks in dramatic fashion. After getting put on his back in the first period and falling into a 5-0 hole, Lester responded with 12 unanswered points to put away Missouri’s Devon Mellon, 12-5. He will have a very familiar foe to start Friday against in Cornell’s Maciej Jochym. The two have squared off four times this season with each winning two bouts. Lester claimed 7-3 and 11-7 victories in their first two meetings and Jochym has a 6:00 pin and an 8-1 win in their last two.