A match that Maryland wrestling fans have been anticipating since November finally came to fruition Saturday night in Oklahoma City. In the finals of the NCAA wrestling championships at 184 pounds, top ranked Jimmy Sheptock put his perfect 32-0 record against second seeded and two time defending NCAA champion, Ed Ruth from Penn State. Sheptock was the only Terrapin remaining in the championship bracket on finals night. Sheptock fell behind early and never recovered in his bid to become Maryland's first national champion since Gobel Kline in 1969 as Ruth took a 6-2 decision.
With ESPN determining the order, they decided that they wanted their feature match to be the 165 pound bout between top seeded David Taylor also of Penn State and the second seed, Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State. Thus the first match of the night came at 174 pounds matching two more top seeds Chris Perry, another OSU wrestler, and Andrew Howe of Oklahoma. So Terps fans didn't have to wait long as the Sheptock - Ruth clash came up as the second match of the night starting shortly after Perry was crowned the 174 pound champion for the second consecutive year.
With so many Oklahoma and Oklahoma State wrestlers on hand and a large contingent of Penn State fans looking to see if the Nittany Lions could win a fourth straight national title, the roars from the large crowd drowned out the most vocal Terrapins fan - Robin Ficker - though at one point I thought I heard a few chants of HEAD-LOCK SHEP-TOCK perhaps from the anti-Penn State contingent.
Ruth started quickly. He came after Sheptock in the first seconds of the match and scored a quick single leg takedown. Sheptock managed a quick escape to trail 2-1 less than half a minute into the first period. Ruth took a second shot with about 1:40 to go in the first and scored another takedown. He was able to ride out the period and build up a significant riding time advantage.
Sheptock started the second in the down position and Ruth continued to build his riding time advantage - riding out the period and locking up that potential bonus point before the second period ended. Ruth continued to dominate the Maryland All-American scoring a reversal early in the third to move ahead six to one.
Urged on by his coaches, Ruth allowed Sheptock the escape in order to try to score a major decision and win bonus points for his team. To his credit, Sheptock continued to fight hard but though he secured one position where a quick, strong attach might have scored him some points, he couldn't penetrate Ruth's defenses. He did prevent the Penn State wrestler from scoring any additional points.