Brightest Mat Stars Shine at 2004 NWCA All-Star Classic
the weather conditions outside – overcast skies, drizzle and
patches of fog – the best and brightest stars of NCAA Division
I college wrestling came out in full force to dazzle the crowd inside
the Vadalabene Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
for the Marines All-Star Classic presented by Real Pro Wrestling on
Monday, November 22, 2004.
this was the thirty-ninth version of this annual event put on by the
National Wrestling Coaches Association, there were a couple of firsts
at the 2004 All-Stars:
was the first time the event had been hosted by a Division II
school. (SIU-Edwardsville -- located just outside St. Louis
-- recently reinstated its wrestling program, thanks to the
efforts of the athletic department, staff and alumni.)
the first time in recent memory, the All-Star Classic was not
held on the first Monday of February.
The stars come
out early. In the past,
the All-Stars had been scheduled as a late-in-the-season event. However,
over the years, there had been issues with the late date. Winter
weather problems were an annual concern; last year, snow kept attendance
down at the All-Star Classic in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In addition, with a late-season All-Stars, many of the top wrestlers
were unable to compete because of injuries after the long season,
or because their coaches kept them from competing to maintain their
top form for the championships. So, hoping to prevent weather and
wrestlers’ condition from being a factor, the 2004 edition of
All-Star Classic was scheduled to be something of an early-season
event, before the regular dual season launched into full swing.
174 lb bout at the All-Star Classic was a rematch of the 2004
NCAA finals, featuring Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State and
Ben Askren of Missouri
star power. The National Wrestling Coaches Association sent invitations
to the two top Division I wrestlers in each weight class, based on
pre-season rankings. Not every #1 and #2 ranked wrestler was able
to participate; only half of the ten weight classes featured match-ups
between the first and second-rated competitors. However, this did
not dim the star power of the event. Every wrestler at the 2004 All-Star
Classic was ranked seventh or higher in his weight class. Just about
every competitor could claim All-American status; five had been crowned
NCAA Division I champions.
for injuries. Fans were notified that two of the scheduled competitors
– Travis Lee of Cornell University, and Jon Trenge of Lehigh
– were unable to make the trip because of recent injuries.
In the 133 lb All-Star match, Lee was replaced by Sam Hiatt of Northern
Illinois University. At 197 lbs, Oregon’s Scott Barker filled
in for Trenge after getting a call at noon Sunday. Within 90 minutes
Barker was on a plane to St. Louis, arriving late Sunday evening.
lbs: Oklahoma’s Sam Hazewinkel – ranked number one in
pre-season polls – opened the evening action with a first-period takedown
of third-ranked Nick Simmons of Michigan State. That was the extent of the scoring as the Sooner sophomore won the
lbs: Mark Jayne of the University of Illinois thought
he’d be facing Cornell’s Travis Lee, the 2003 NCAA champ
at 125 lbs. Because of Lee’s late injury, Sam Hiatt was asked
to make the trip downstate from Northern Illinois University to take
on Jayne. Into the third period the scoring was limited to one escape
per wrestler, tying the score at 1-1. However, with just thirty seconds
left, fourth-ranked Jayne scored a takedown to defeat the seventh-ranked
lbs: Regulation wasn’t enough time to settle things
between third-ranked Teyon Ware of Oklahoma – the 2003 NCAA champ
at this weight -- and Lehigh’s Cory Cooperman (ranked fourth). With
the score tied 1-1 in regulation (each point scored on escapes), the
Sooner was able to score an escape with fourteen seconds left in the
second overtime for a final result of 2-1 Ware.
lbs: In the first match of the evening between the first
and second-ranked wrestlers, Oklahoma State’s Zack Esposito
demonstrated his top rating by defeating #2 Dustin Manotti of Cornell
8-3. Esposito scored two takedowns early in the match to build a
4-1 lead, and never looked back.
lbs: This weight class featured two All-Stars who each
wrestled in high school in Ohio, but had never faced each other on
the mats… until now. Second-seeded Jake Percival of Ohio University,
runner-up at the 2004 NCAAs, scored three first-period takedowns on
Ryan Bertin of the University of Michigan, the 2003 NCAA champ in
this weight class. Despite Bertin scoring a number of points in the
second and third periods, Percival maintained the lead, winning the
match with a final score of 11-7.
lbs: In a hard-fought match-up between #1 and #2, defending
NCAA champ (and top-ranked wrestler) Troy Letters of Lehigh defeated
senior David Bolyard of Central Michigan by the score of 3-2. Bolyard
scored first with a takedown in the middle of the first period. Letters
tied the score with an escape in each of the first two periods. Bolyard
chose down at the beginning of the third period, and was unable to
escape, allowing Letters to score enough riding time to be the deciding
factor in the Lehigh victory.
lbs: There’s a real rivalry emerging between #1
Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State and #2 Ben Askren of Missouri.
The two Big Twelve rivals have wrestled each other a handful of times;
most recently, at the 2004 NCAA 177 lb. finals, where Pendleton prevailed
to take the crown. The Cowboy handed Askren his first loss of the
season with a 6-3 final score. Pendleton scored his points with two
takedowns, an escape, and riding time. Score of the Pendleton vs.
Askren career rivalry: 5-1 in favor of the Cowboy.
lbs: West Virginia’s Greg Jones won his third career
All-Star Classic match with a 3-2 victory over Paul Bradley of the
University of Iowa. Jones, a two-time NCAA champion and top-rated
wrestler in his weight class, scored first with a takedown on the
second-ranked Hawkeye, which was followed by a Bradley escape to make
the score 2-1 at the end of the first period. The senior Mountaineer
scored an escape at the start of the second to make the score 3-1.
Bradley got a one-point escape at the beginning of the third but still
ended up on the losing end of the 3-2 final score.
lbs: It was an unexpected homecoming for Scott Barker,
who wrestled in high school in the St. Louis area and had been on
the University of Missouri team until he was released by coach Brian
Smith. The seventh-ranked Barker was brought in from the University
of Oregon as a last-minute substitute for the injured Jon Trenge to
face off against Ohio State’s J.D. Bergman. Barker scored two
escapes early in the match to lead 2-1. However, the Buckeye scored
a series of takedowns to end the match with an 8-3 victory.
There was no scoring in the first period of the final
match of the evening, pitting Steve Mocco, the nation’s top-ranked
big man now wrestling for Oklahoma State, and Minnesota’s Cole
Konrad, ranked second. Mocco scored an escape early in the second
period, which the Golden Gopher answered with an escape of his own
in the third period, sending the match into overtime tied at 1-1.
The Cowboy got an escape in the first overtime, then rode Konrad in
the second overtime to lasso the 2-1 victory.
big night. In addition to the All-Star Classic, the evening also
included a high school dual between two of the best teams in the region
(Granite City, Illinois vs. Oak Park in Missouri), along with a speech
from legendary wrestler/coach Dan Gable, and some exhibition matches
featuring youth and other collegiate wrestlers. The event was well-attended;
3,190 fans nearly filled Vadalabene Center.
me in St. Louis next March. For
most of these All Stars, this will not be the last trip to the St.
Louis area. They hope to return to the Gateway City in March 2005
for the 75th Anniversary NCAA Division I Championships,
to be held at the same location as the previous year: the Savvis Center
in downtown St. Louis.