NCAA Championship Central
OMAHA, Neb. – The last time it happened, the head coach wasn’t even alive. The ‘it’ is a Division I All-American for the Northern Colorado wrestling team, but ‘it’ happened at the 2010 NCAA Championship on Friday as junior Justin Gaethje has secured the honor and will wrestle for seventh-place tomorrow.
Gaethje went 1-2 on the day after a 3-0 mark yesterday, with both losses coming at the hands of top four seeds. With his spot in the seventh-place match, Gaethje becomes the first Division I All-American for the Bears since 1970 when Larry Wagner finished fourth at 126 pounds in the final year of Division I wrestling for Northern Colorado.
The Bears history is riddled with both Division I and Division II All-Americans as Gaethje becomes the first since 2003 in either division. He is the 15th Bear wrestler to earn the honor at Division I and the 55th overall All-American in school history.
Gaethje also becomes the first All-American for Northern Colorado in any sport since the transition to Division I began in 2003.
“This has been an awesome weekend,” said Head Coach Ben Cherrington. “Not only for Justin, but also for Kenny (Hashimoto) and the entire Northern Colorado wrestling program. We have worked hard all season and this is a great step forward for the future of UNC.”
In the first match of the day in the quarterfinals, Gaethje face top-seeded J.P. O’Connor from Harvard, losing 8-1. O’Connor is undefeated and will wrestle for the title tomorrow.
In the consolation fifth round, Gaethje drew #10 Shane Vernon from Oklahoma, the Big 12 champion at 157 pounds. Vernon held the 2-1 advantage after the first period and a 3-1 lead after two, but Gaethje got a takedown on the edge of the mat with just 32 seconds remaining. Vernon got an escape to tie it and force SV. In the tiebreaker, Vernon was called for a penalty for pushing Gaethje off the mat and then Gaethje got a late escape for the 6-5 overtime victory.
In the sixth round, Gaethje drew #4 Cyler Sanderson from Penn State, the youngest of the four brothers of the first family of wrestling and the Big Ten Champion. The two grapplers were tied at 3-3 after the first period. Gaethje chose down to start the second stanza and got the escape for the 4-3 lead, but Sanderson recorded a takedown to lead 5-4 after two. Sanderson got the escape eight seconds into the final period and a takedown to lead 8-4, but Gaethje closed within two points on a reversal. Sanderson escaped and got the point for riding time for the 10-6 decision.
Gaethje will wrestle #12 Steven Brown from Central Michigan tomorrow in the seventh-place match. The action is set to begin at 10:00 am (Central), 9:00 am (Mountain).