The first day of the NCAA wrestling championships came to a close Thursday night and of the five wrestlers Maryland sent to Oklahoma City, only one remained alive in the championship round. It should come as no surprise that that wrestler is the top seed at 184 pounds, Jimmy Sheptock.
The opening rounds
The morning session didn't start off well for the Terps as 133 pound freshman Tyler Goodwin lost a 14-5 major decision to ninth seeded Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State. Twelfth seed Richard Durso from Franklin & Marshall held on to knock Shyheim Brown out of the championship round at 141 pounds with a 5-2 decisioni.
This was the point when I tuned in to the ESPN3 feed to watch Sheptock's opening round match against Benjamin Stroh of Wyoming. I was greeted by the unmistakable baritone of Montgomery County's own Robin Ficker chanting "HEAD-LOCK! SHEP-TOCK!" Even the announcers covering this match were familiar with the Terrapins' wrestling super fan mentioning him twice by name.
Sheptock picked up a takedown late in the first round and allowed Stroh to escape to take a 2-1 lead into the second period. Starting in the down position, Sheptock picked up the quick escape and followed that with a multi-move takedown to finish the second ahead 5-1. Stroh began the third period down and again, Sheptock essentially allowed the escape after picking up about 12 seconds of riding time. Before the period ended the top seed scored another takedown and a two point near fall. After holding on to build up his riding time advantage to put another point in the bank, Sheptock allowed Stroh his third escape of the match and conserved his energy to take the 10-3 decision.
Speaking of energy, neither of Maryland's next two wrestlers showed a great deal in their opening round matches. Christian Boley looked listless and tentative in his match against unseeded Cody Reed of Binghamton and ended up paying the price. After a scoreless first period, Reed started the second in the down position and made the quick escape for the round's only point. Boley did the same in the third to send the match to sudden victory. It was Reed who was sudden scoring the takedown to notch the victory and send Boley to the consolation bracket.
Spencer Myers faced off against Chattanooga's Dawson Peck in the heavyweight class and the two jostled through a scoreless first period. Myers started the second period on top and rode out the entire period to pick up a near insurmountable two minute riding time advantage. This would prove to be the difference in the match which came to a bit of a controversial close after each wrestler picked up one point in the third. Toward the end of the match, Myers appeared to be fighting through exhaustion and was hanging on. Peck sensed this and nearly scored a takedown as time expired. After a video review lasting more than three minutes the referees let the call on the mat stand and Myers was through to the second round.
Round two - Thursday night in OKC
Although Tyler Goodwin lost by fall to Nick Smith of Northern Illinois in his 133 pound consolation round match and Spencer Myers was knocked out of the heavyweight class by Iowa's fifth seeded Bobby Telford, the Terps fared slightly better in the evening matches. For Myers, wrestling as the twelfth seed, his 0-3 decision losing to the higher seeded Telford was not wholly unexpected.
Sheptock won his way through to the quarter final round with a workmanlike 4-0 decision over Devin Hightower of the Air Force Academy. Sheptock may have caught a break when the unseeded Hightower upset sixteenth seed Nick Vetterlein of Virginia Tech.
The Terps picked up two wins in the consolation rounds as Shyheim Brown won the most exciting match of the day that featured a Terrapins wrestler. Facing Joey Delgado of Oregon State, Brown yielded a takedown in the first to fall behind 2-0 just before the end of that period. Starting the second on top, he scored a quick three point near fall. Delgado then engineered an escape to even the match at three all.
Brown opened the third in the down position and couldn't pull off the escape as Delgado built and secured a riding time advantage that looked as though it would be the deciding factor in the match. However, Brown managed a dramatic two point reversal with just ten seconds remaining and held on for the 5-4 decision. Christian Boley, wrestling at 197 pounds also moved on in the consolation bracket with a relatively easy 9-3 win over James Fox of Harvard.
The wrestling begins again at eleven o'clock Friday morning. It will conclude with the title matches on Saturday.