OMAHA - When a wrestler is facing a big moment in a match, he often will go to a favorable move. After all, why get risky when something as valuable as All-America honors are at stake?
For Scott Giffin in his Round of 12 match at the 2010 NCAA Championships, with the score tied 1-1 and less than 20 seconds to go it was time for old reliable - a quick single. Giffin, unseeded at the beginning of the tournament, struck briskly to No. 6 Mike Benefiel's right leg, getting the Oklahoma State wrestler off balance and tripping him down to the mat at 6:46 to secure a 3-1 win.
"I really felt as if I could take him down when I wanted to," Giffin said. "So, while it took a while, I wanted to set up the one perfect shot I needed - and it connected."
The emotion of a long season overtook Giffin after the match as he jumped up to salute his family and the Penn cheering section across the arena.
"My first thought was that I was an All-America," he said. "I put everything I had worked for this season and my career into that one shot. I just had to make it count."
With the win, Giffin became the first All-America for Rob Eiter as a head coach. The second-year leader of the Quakers was proud of his charge after the match.
"We all knew Scott had this type of talent and potential," Eiter said. "At this tournament, sometimes it can be more mental than physical. Scott had been wrestling with a lot of confidence of late and it helped carry him through a tough road."
The head coach continued, "I am just so happy for him. He changed a lot this year and worked on all areas of his style. He finally started believing that he was one of the best in the country."
When asked after the match if he was nervous during Giffin's Round of 12 match, Eiter admitted to a bit of nerves. But he said he knew Giffin had what it took to ease everyone's anticipation.
"Scott certainly has one of the best single-legs in the nation," Eiter said. "He can score almost every time he takes one. That helps overcome nerves."
With the victory, Giffin ensured that he would finish no lower than eighth at 174 pounds, in the process becoming Penn's 24th All-America. He is the first Quaker to reach the podium since Matt Valenti won his second national title in 2007. Giffin is the fourth Penn wrestler to All-America at 174 pounds, joining Matt Herrington (2006) and Rick Springman (2000, '02) as national placewinners.
Giffin had a rough road to the podium, needing to win four matches in a row after losing in the first round. A junior tri-captain for the Quakers, Giffin showed veteran poise throughout the wrestleback rounds, scoring points late in matches throughout the bracket. After scoring seven points late in an 11-4 win over Cal Poly's Ryan DesRoches Thursday evening, Giffin began his Friday wrestling with a 6-4 win in sudden victory over Justin Zeerip of Michigan - the school where Giffin began his collegiate career before transferring to Penn in 2007. Giffin wasted little energy in overtime, blasting in at 6:17 for the winning points.
In his next match, Giffin held a 4-3 lead over Missouri's Dorian Henderson but was in bottom position late in the bout. Giffin did not panic and slipped out and came up in top position at the buzzer to add two points and pull away for the 6-3 win.
After his win over Benefiel in the Round of 12, Giffin embraced head coach Rob Eiter and assistant coach Matt Valenti - a three-time All-America and headed quickly to the back. After all, he had another match to wrestle against Illinois' Jordan Blanton.
In the consolation quarterfinal bout, Giffin was defeated by Blanton, 8-4. Giffin scored first, shooting on a single at 0:22. Blanton escaped at 1:14 and countered a Giffin attempt to a takedown at 2:03. Giffin popped out quickly, only for Blanton to come in again at 2:19 for a 5-3 lead after one. In the second period, Blanton escaped at 3:50 to take a 6-3 lead. Giffin was close to tying the match at 4:52 with a good single shot, but the two went to a stalemate. In the third, Giffin was up and out at 5:08 to get within two. At 5:36, Giffin again made an attempt to tie, but couldn't get the finish and went to a stalemate. Late in the bout, Blanton again came up with a counter, taking an 8-4 lead at 6:18.
Giffin will wrestler Northern Iowa's Jarion Beets Saturday for seventh place. That match will be part of medal round coverage on ESPNU beginning at 10 a.m. CST.
Giffin knows his work is not done.
"No one wants to end their season with a loss," he said. "I just need to stick to what I do best and keep scoring."
If he needs any help getting up for tomorrow's match, he has to look no further than his head coach. Eiter mentioned that he lost a seventh-place match in a national team event in his own career and he still remembers it to this day.
"The seventh-place bout can be difficult to get excited for," he said. "But you want to go out with a win. You will remember that for ever. The easiest way to be ready for that match is to never be satisfied. There is always something to strive for."
Giffin was the lone Penn wrestler to win on Friday, as Bryan Ortenzio, Cesar Grajales and Micah Burak all lost in the second round of wrestlebacks.
For Grajales, his Penn career ended with a 2-0 loss to Bucknell's Kevin LeValley. Grajales had a good attempt at scoring at the end of the first period, but time ran out before he could secure the points. In the second, LeValley escaped at 3:07 to take the lead. Grajales chose bottom in the third period and could not escape, giving LeValley a riding time point for the win. Grajales finishes his Penn career with a 110-38 record, tied for fifth in wins by a Quaker with Olympic gold medalist Brandon Slay.
Burak was defeated by Ohio State's Cody Magrum, 3-1, to be eliminated at 197. Magrum broke a scoreless tie at 3:03 with an escape. In the third, Magrum scored the match's only takedown at 6:41, breaking a 1-1 tie. A freshman, Burak finishes his rookie season with a 23-7 record.
Ortenzio was knocked out of his first NCAA Championships via fall by William Ashnault of Rutgers in 5:47. Ortenzio was leading 1-0 after two periods when Ashnault reversed him to his back for the pin in a situation where Ortenzio appeared to be caught in a tight choke around the neck. Ortenzio finishes his junior season with a career-best 30-13 record.
In the team race, Penn sits in a tie for 39th out of 78 teams. The Quakers are tied with Northern Iowa with 9.5 team points. That tie will be broken tomorrow morning in Giffin's match with Beets.
Download: Day Two Team Scores.pdf