The 149-pound final Saturday night was supposed to be a landslide victory and the coronation of Iowa junior Brent Metcalf. But someone forgot to tell Dorrion Caldwell of North Carolina State. Metcalf toed the line at the Scottrade Center as the defending champ at the weight class and riding a 69 match winning streak. That came to a screeching halt against Caldwell.
In the opening moments of the match, Caldwell took down Metcalf, and cruised to an 11-6 victory over the Hawkeyes' best grappler.
As time expired, Caldwell started his celebration. The only problem: Metcalf had no designs of having a front row seat. Before the wrestlers shook hands, Caldwell ran towards the edge of the mat and did a cartwheel- back flip combo. Metcalf chased after him and shoved him as Caldwell was about to land. It never faced the Wolfpack sophomore. He popped up and continued his animated display as he walked back to center mat to shake Metcalf's hand.
Metcalf's reaction cost the Hawkeyes one team point, and it could have cost them more. If Caldwell had fallen off the mat (which was on a 4-foot high stage) Metcalf would've been kicked out of the tournament. Even though his season was done, all team points he had earned for Iowa would have been stripped from the Hawkeyes' total.
Iowa entered the night with a slim 9.5 point lead, and held onto the top spot (despite Metcalf's penalty.) They finished with 97.5 points and beat out Ohio State to earn their second straight NCAA team title and their program's 22nd.
Illinois' top-seeded wrestler Mike Poeta took the mat after the electric end of the149 weight class. Poeta, who was making his second straight finals appearance, fell once again. This year's road block was Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska by a 5-1 score. Poeta dominated his first three opponents. In the semifinals he beat Jordan Leen of Cornell. Leen edged him in the finals last year. Against Burroughs he spun his wheels, never gaining any momentum against the Huskers junior. Both grapplers entered the match unbeaten.
Heavyweight Mark Ellis of Missouri gave fans (especially the large contingent of Mizzou faithful) a finale to remember. It took the junior overtime, but he edged Duke's Konrad Dudziak 3-2 in tiebreakers. Ellis was on of the biggest surprises for the Tigers this season after losing two of his last three matches leading up to the Championships.
In his press conference later, a tearful Ellis credited a lot of his success to assistant coach Ben Askren. Askren won two national titles at Mizzou in 2006 and 2007, and took Ellis under his wing when Ellis was a freshman. Ellis says without that support from Askren he would have quit wrestling all together.
My early prediction: Ellis will be the heavyweight to beat next March in Omaha. He's not as flashy or dominating as Ben Askren was, but he possesses the same mental toughness that Askren displayed for four years at MU.
To watch the entire Ellis press conference, click here.