CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – mike conklin and Daniel Surich marked their All-American status on the first day of competition for the TCNJ wrestling team at the NCAA Championships.
The duo both prevailed in at least one do-or-die consolation bout to give TCNJ multiple All-Americans for the third straight NCAA meeting.
Thomas Maretta and Matt Sacco came within a win of becoming an All-American, while Domenic Difrancescantonio and Quinn Haddad each lost twice to see their spectacular seasons come to an end.
Difrancescantonio picked up a takedown early in the second period to equalize Johnson and Wales’ Hayden Brown, the sixth seed who beat Difrancescantonio by a 9-2 count early in the season. Grappler J&W also made the most of the rematch, continuing to stay with a knockdown late in the second period before tacking on a breakout and takedown in the third to seal an 8-2 decision.
Difrancescantonio was unable to build momentum against Coe’s Brock Henderson in the consolations, ultimately succumbing to a major 18-4 decision. The junior’s tremendous campaign ended with a 20-5 overall record and a Middle East regional title.
Conklin caused a big upset in impressive fashion, overcoming an early retirement at the hands of fourth-seeded Coast Guard’s Tony Ulaszek, who went undefeated this season. Unfazed, Conklin backtracked and went in front late in the first frame with a takedown following a breakout from Ulaszek.
The rookie built up from there, adding four near-drop points on one out in the second period, then going top 13-4 with a knockdown to start the third. He eventually pinned Ulaszek with 21 seconds left in the fight to book a spot in the quarterfinals.
Conklin was pinned in the first period of his quarterfinal bout with Chicago’s Ryan Fleck, sending him into the consolations to meet Hai Sui with All-America honors on the line. Conklin handled his business admirably, opening a lead 5-0 before pinning Sui 24 seconds into the third period.
Conklin will face Wabash’s Alex Barr in his first fight on Saturday.
Sacco hung with Washington and Lee’s Ryan Luth for much of their opener, which was deadlocked at 2-2 after Sacco broke away in the second period. Fourth-seeded Luth, a two-time Southeast Regional champion, took control with a takedown in the closing seconds of the period, and added another in the third after a breakout to secure an 8-2 decision.
Locked in a struggle with York’s Eric Hutchinson, Sacco kept his All-American dreams alive with a dismantling in third. Hutchinson escaped in the dying seconds, but it was too late to overturn a 3-2 decision as Sacco avoided elimination with a hard-earned victory.
Sacco fell by an 8-2 count to sixth-seeded Nolan Hertel of Wisconsin-La Crosse, ending his season with a 17-5 record and a second-place Middle East regional finish.
Surich countered two takedowns by Roanoake’s Mahlic Sallah with breakouts to enter the third period down 4-2. Starting at the top, he rode eighth seed Sallah for most of the period, but Sallah slipped away late and Surich couldn’t get the takedown he needed to send the fight into overtime as the Maroon retired a 5-3 decision.
Surich then came on as fast as he could, making a pair of one-point decisions to become an All-American. He trailed Augsburg’s Nick Rogge 4-0, but an out just before the second-period buzzer saw Surich come within a point. Surich escaped with about a minute left in the third period, then scored a strikeout with 15 seconds left. Armed with plenty of driving time, Rogge could have sent the fight into overtime with a breakout, but Surich managed to prevent it and keep his season alive with a 6-5 win.
Opposed to Baldwin Wallace’s seventh-seeded Lucas Salmon with All-America on the line, Surich opened up a 4-1 lead before Salmon even shot with one out late in the second. Starting third down, Surich escaped with 33 seconds left to take the lead and held off Salmon for a 5-4 win.
Surich will face Wabash’s Charles Baczek in his first game on Saturday.
Haddad took an early lead with a quick takedown from Augsburg’s Bentley Schwanebeck-Ostermann, but it was as good as the first round for the junior Lions. After escaping just before the first-period buzzer to level it at 3-3, Haddad fell behind early in the second as Schwanebeck-Ostermann netted a strikeout and then gave himself plenty of breathing room. with two nearly four-point drops in the third en route to a major 15-3 decision.
Haddad was pinned by Lycoming’s Gable Crebs in the consolations, finishing his season at 19-6 with a Middle East regional title.
Marretta joined Conklin in the quarterfinals with a flawless performance against Lycoming’s John Fulmer, who arrived as the No. 4 seed with a Southeast Regional crown and a 36-1 record under his belt. After a scoreless first, Marretta stayed on top for the entire second period to move into first place. He took the lead with a breakout and held Fulmer from there, gaining some insurance with a dying-out takedown to claim a 4-0 win.
Marretta gave Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Jordan Lemcke, the No. 5 seed, all he could handle in the quarterfinals. Lemcke took a 1-0 lead with a breakout to start the second, but Marretta had a choice in the third period. He took the bottom, but couldn’t get out of Lemcke’s run and suffered a 2-0 defeat.
That sent Marretta into a win-take-All-American tilt with Johns Hopkins’ Hank Behaghel. The game went into the third period tied at 2, and Behaeghel got the upper hand with a breakout to start the third. As Marretta chased a takedown, Behaeghel managed to secure one himself to seal a 5-2 victory.