DES MOINES, Iowa – Columbia senior Steve Santos became the fifth All-American in Columbia wrestling history with his 5-4 win over Air Force’s Cole VonOhlen in the quarterfinals of the 149-pound championship bracket Friday morning. Santos will move on to face the No. 1 seed Jordan Oliver from Oklahoma State in the semifinals to be shown on ESPNU Friday night beginning at 7 p.m.
Although his place is still to be decided, Santos is ensured to finish no lower than sixth with the top-eight finishers garnering All-America status. Matt Palmer was the last Lion to earn All-America, finishing eighth in both 2005 and 2007. Columbia’s previous All-Americans include: Dave Galdi (1982: Eighth), Jerry Reid (1976: Sixth) and Bob Hartman (1951: Fourth).
“[Santos] is my first All-American as a head coach so it obviously very special to me,” said Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling Carl Fronhofer after session 3. “It’s great for the program, not just to have an All-American, but to put a guy in the semifinals, you’re wrestling on a whole other stage. It’s another match on national television and its great exposure for the university.”
Santos and VonOhlen have a history at the NCAA Championships, with the Falcon posting a 7-4 decision over Santos in last year’s round of 16. Santos recognized the situation after session 2 Thursday night and had this to say about it.
“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.”
Friday morning’s bout was a change of pace for Santos from his Thursday bouts, as he recorded the first points with a takedown down just 38 seconds into the first period. VanOhlen would score an escape later in the period, but not before Santos racked up 1:16 of riding time. In the second period, the action took place primarily with the wrestlers on their feet until the final 30 seconds. Santos made a quick burst to get VonOhlen to the ground for a takedown with 27 seconds left before the period buzzer.
VonOhlen (27-3), the fourth seed, would not stop fighting though. He first added one point with an escape to start the period and then notched a takedown with 16 seconds left to tie the score at 4-4, but with almost two minutes of built-up riding time Santos claimed the 5-4 victory.
In tonight’s semifinals, which will be featured on ESPNU and WatchESPN.com (cable subscribers) at 7 p.m., Santos will take on top-seed Jordan Oliver from Oklahoma State. Oliver is 36-0 following his major decision, 11-3, over No. 9 Jake Sueflohn from Nebraska in the quarterfinals.
“The goal all year has been to be an All-American, be an NCAA Champ,” said Santos following his quarterfinals bout. “I know I’m going to have to beat the top ranked guys to improve on my performance from last year so it definitely plays into it and is extra motivation going into the next match.”
Oliver is a three-time All-American and won the national title in 2011. He finished as the runner-up at the 2012 NCAA Championships.
Fellow senior co-captain Stephen West was also in action in the wrestback portion of the tournament at 174 pounds. West went up against Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonaccorsi (19-8) in a low-scoring affair in the second round of the wrestlebacks. Bonaccorsi scored the first point, an escape in the second period and West countered with his own in the third leaving the decision up to riding time, which fell in favor of the Panther. West closes out his senior year with a 1-2 showing at the NCAA Championships and a 24-9 overall record. He recorded 83 wins over his four-year career with the Lions.
Matt Bystol (133 pounds) was the first Lion in action Friday morning, going up against two-time All American Scotti Sentes from Central Michigan. Sentes, the 10th seed in the tournament, scored early on Bystol with a take down and then worked it into a near fall to go ahead 5-0. Bystol got on the board with an escape to close out the first period. Bystol remained strong throughout the bout, but Sentes continued to tally points and would post a major decision, 11-1.
Bystol concludes his junior campaign with a 1-2 showing at the NCAA Championships, a 10-12 overall record and a runner-up finish at the EIWA Championships.