ST. LOUIS (AP) — NCAA wrestling organizers flipped the competition order so Logan Stieber’s bid for a fourth national championship came last instead of third in the order. That was the lone suspense remaining from Ohio State’s first national title run.
Stieber didn’t disappoint, wrapping up an unbeaten season at 141 pounds and a huge meet for the Buckeyes on Saturday night. He’s just the fourth to win four individual titles, joining Kyle Dake of Cornell (2010-13), Cael Sanderson of Iowa State (1999-2002), and Pat Smith of Oklahoma State (1990-92, 1994).
Ohio State clinched the championship before the final round began and also got a title from Nathan Tomasello at 125. The Buckeyes bettered runner-up finishes in 2008 and ’09 scored 102 points to easily outdistanced Iowa’s 84.
Edinboro was third with 75 1-2 points followed by Missouri at 73 1-2 and Cornell at 71 1-2 with four-time defending champion Penn State sixth at 67 1-2. Sixteen schools had at least one competitor in the finals, including a meet-high three for the winners.
The Buckeyes’ lone disappointment in the finals was at 197 where Kyle Snyder couldn’t follow up a semifinal upset over top seed J’den Cox at 197 and was pinned by Kyven Gadson of Iowa State in the first period.
“The last match of my career, I wanted to go out with a bang,” Gadson said.
Stieber (29-0) decisioned second seed Mitchell Port of Edinboro 10-5, adding to a pin, two technical falls and a major decision in the tourney. Tomasello followed up a semifinal victory over top seed Alan Waters of Missouri with an 8-5 decision over Zeke Moisey of West Virginia, the lone unseeded competitor in the finals.
Earlier in the day, the Buckeyes got a third-place finish from Bo Jordan at 165 and a fifth from unseeded Kenny Courts at 184.
Freshman Isaiah Martinez of Illinois (34-0), Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State (34-0) and Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State (35-0) also wrapped up unbeaten seasons. The lone upset came at 133 where 13th seed Cody Brewer of Oklahoma beat third seed Cory Clark of Iowa 11-8.
Martinez, whose only close call of the meet came in the one-point semifinal win over James Green of Nebraska, defeated second seed Brian Realbuto of Cornell 10-2 at 157. Afterward, he did not shy away from comparisons with Sanderson, who was unbeaten as a freshman.
“Am I ready for it?” Martinez said. “I was made ready for it. Wrestling is my life.”
Dieringer, a junior who won at 157 last year, took the crown at 165 by outpointing sixth seed Taylor Walsh of Indiana 14-7 and Gwiazdowski edged Adam Coon of Michigan 7-6 at 285.
“My coach always told me the second one’s harder,” Dieringer said. “So I feel like this one feels a lot more special to me.”
Missouri, ranked No. 1 entering the meet, opened the finals with an overtime victory from its lone finalist. Drake Houdashelt (37-1), the top seed at 149, got the decisive takedown in overtime for a 3-1 victory over third seed David Habat of Edinboro.
“It was a tough match, but nothing really mattered but winning,” Houdashelt said. “And I pulled it off. I’m excited.”
Missouri was the host school and Houdashelt, who is from nearby O’Fallon, Mo., got an assist from a sellout crowd featuring floor seating that enabled organizers to set a meet attendance record of 113,013.
“Actually, I don’t hear much besides my coaches when I wrestle, but I could hear everyone screaming for me and it definitely pumped me up,” he said.
Penn State, which replaced two national champions and is redshirting two All-Americans, got a win from Matthew Brown at 174 with the tie-breaking point in a 5-4 decision coming on a technicality in the closing seconds. Referees ruled and then confirmed twice that Tyler Weems of Pittsburgh had locked hands while both wrestlers waited for several minutes.
“When you’re a little kid you dream of hitting that grand slam in the ninth inning, and sometimes it’s a bunt,” Brown said. “Still, got the job done.”
Top seed Gabriel Dean of Cornell (35-2) beat seventh seed Nathaniel Brown 7-2 at 184 after making it to the final with three straight one-point decisions.
“Could I have wrestled better? Yeah, I think I definitely could have,” Dean said. “But wins are wins, and it’s just great to walk out of here as a national champ.”
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