Oklahoma City, Okla. University of Pennsylvania junior Matt Valenti became the program’s third NCAA Champion on Saturday night with a 3-2 win in the finals at 133 pounds.
The Newton, N.J. native went scoreless with Purdue’s Chris Fleeger in the first period. In the second period, Fleeger chose bottom and was rode by Valenti the entire period. Both wrestlers were warned for stalling. Valenti chose bottom in the third and reversed Fleeger. With 1:57 left in the third, Fleeger called injury time and after a fresh start reversed Valenti to tie the score. Time ran out on the clock, but Valenti had riding time to secure the match and Penn’s first National Championship in six years.
“One of the things that Coach (Jones) has stressed throughout the year is conditioning and being able to battle through competitions like this,” Valenti said of his progression in the tournament. “As a team coming into this tournament we knew that we would be in great shape towards the end of the tournament and would be able to push hard.”
Valenti finishes the season with a 36-2 record. He ended the season with a 24-match win streak. His 36 wins ties his own school record for wins in a season. He has 105 career victories, which is sixth best in program history. Earlier this year he become the first junior at Penn to reach the 100-win plateau. Valenti is the highest Ivy League and EIWA place winner.
The Quakers finished 12th with 51 points, which is the most points scored by a Penn team at the NCAA Championships. It is also the Red and Blue’s best finish since 2002 and sixth-best finish ever.
“It was a great day for Penn wrestling. Our history touched us today,” Head Coach Zeke Jones said. “Matt Valenti winning goes without saying. He is carrying on the proud tradition of Penn wrestling and he deserves it. He is such a hard working kid and he earned his right to wrestle for a national championship tonight.”
Penn junior Matt Herrington finished fifth at 174 pounds on Saturday morning to become an All-American for the first time. Herrington pinned Lehigh’s Travis Frick in 6:44. It was third meeting between the two this season and the first win for Herrington. Herrington's only losses at the Nationals were to Patrovich. He went 6-0 against the rest of the field and pinned two top-10 grapplers.
Herrington had a rematch with the wrestler who sent him to the consolation bracket, No. 5 seed Mike Patrovich. Unfortunately, Patrovich was on the winning end, taking the match 9-4. Herrington was taken down in the first and escaped. In the second, he tied the score with an escape, but was quickly taken down. Herrington escaped, but Patrovich hit another takedown to go ahead 6-3.
In the bout for fifth place, Herrington fell behind early. Frick took him down, but Herrington escaped to stay within one. In the second, Frick chose bottom and escaped to go up 3-1. Herrington added another escape in the third and tied the match when he was awarded a point for two stalling falls on Frick. Several seconds later Herrington scored a takedown to pull ahead and then turned Frick and stuck him to the mat.
133 No. 6 seed Matt Valenti
Def. Brandon Strong (Air Force) F; 5:45
Def. No. 11 seed Robbie Prestion (Harvard) F; 6:57
Def. No. 3 seed Tom Clum (Wisconsin) D; 7-2
Def. No. 2 seed Nathan Morgan (Oklahoma State) D; 7-3
Def. No. 5 seed Chris Fleeger (Purdue) D; 3-2 (First)
174 No. 12 seed Matt Herrington
Def. Alex Maciag (North Carolina) MD; 16-4
Lost to No. 5 seed Mike Patrovich (Hofstra) D;8-4
Def. Aaron Miller (Kent State) F; 5:46
Def. No. 11 seed Brandon Mason (Oklahoma State) D;5-1
Def. No. 9 James Yonushonis (Penn State) F; 0:49
Lost to No. 5 seed Mike Patrovich (Hofstra) D; 9-4
Def. No. 8 seed Travis Frick (Lehigh) F; 6:44 (Fifth)