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DES MOINES, IOWA – Wresters have careers that aren’t as exciting or as grueling as the two matches No. 8 Micah Burak had on Thursday’s first day of competition at the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships. After a fantastic comeback in his first match, erasing an early five-point deficit, Burak punched his ticket to a second NCAA quarterfinals with a gutty, double-overtime win. His reward? A date with an NCAA champion who hasn’t lost since December of 2010 in No. 1 Dustin Kilgore of Kent State. Kilgore has won 60 consecutive matches, including the 2011 NCAA championship since that last lost. The man to hand him that loss? Micah Burak. The win for Burak came at the 2010 Southern Scuffle, 6-4.
A returning All-American, Burak began his climb to the podium last year with a win in the first round over Ohio State’s Andrew Campolattano – who happened to be Burak’s opening opponent again this year. It appeared as if history wouldn’t repeat itself as Campolattano scored on a blast double early in the first period and then added three backpoints for a 5-1 lead after the first period. Burak’s deficit was 6-1 after the second period, but Burak was tough on top, riding for most of the second period and earning a stalling warning on Campolattano – a factor that would come into play in the third period. Campolattano was unable to keep Burak down, conceding the escape early. After the escape, Burak drew a second stall on Campolattano for a penalty point to close the gap. Burak immediately followed with a takedown to close within one. Burak looked for a tilt, but it was wasn’t there. Instead, Burak granted an escape and looked for the tying takedown. He was quickly in the hunt for the winning takedown after a third stall on Campolattano brought Burak again within one with less than ten seconds left. On the edge of the mat, Burak went upper body and connected on a hip throw in the final seconds for the winning score to move on.
In his nightcap, Burak needed 11 minutes of wrestling to defeat No. 9 Jake Meredith of Arizona State, 3-2, in a second round of tiebreakers. Burak scored the only takedown of the match at the 2:40 mark, but was hit for stalling before the end of the first period – a call that would play a role later. After a scoreless second period, Meredith chose top for the third. He was not able to find a tilt, but he drew a second stall call on Burak in the waning seconds and earned riding time to tie the match, 2-2. Neither man was able to score in the first sudden victory or the first round of tiebreakers, repeating the scoreless work in the second round of sudden victory. Burak rode out the first round of the second tiebreaker, and escaped midway through the next for the winning point.
Burak was joined in the second round by No. 10 seed C.J. Cobb. In his first NCAA Championships match, Cobb was guarded, but effective in a 2-0 win over Nebraska’s Ridge Kiley. Cobb defended perfectly in the first period to go to the second scoreless. In the middle period, he worked his escape at 3:45 to take a lead. In the third, Cobb rode out, picking up riding time for the two-point win.
Up against No. 7 Mark Ballweg of Iowa in the second round, Cobb was again on the defensive to start and again was good in the scramble to keep the first period scoreless. Ballweg was able to escape 21 seconds into the second period, a point Cobb equaled with his escape five seconds into the third period. With one minute to go, Cobb initiated the offense, but Ballweg finished the scramble for the only takedown of the match. Cob escaped quickly, but couldn’t get through to lose, 3-2.
Senior Mark Rappo went 1-1 in the morning, picking up the first win of the entire NCAA Championships with a 13-4 major decision over Max Soria of Buffalo in a pigtail. Rappo was dominant in the first to the tune of a 7-1 lead off two takedowns and three backpoints. Rappo would go on to add takedowns in the final two periods for the win.
In the first round, Rappo met Sean Boyle of Michigan in their fourth career meeting. Rappo was close to takedowns in the first, but the scores went Boyle’s way for a 4-2 lead. After an escape from Boyle in the second, Rappo matched with an escape of his own to start the third. Rappo tried to find a miracle takedown late, but Boyle circled and scored for an 8-3 decision.
Attempting to wrestle back, Rappo met David Thorn of Minnesota. After a few quick shot attempts from Rappo, it was Thorn who scored first. Rappo earned an escape, but was countered into a takedown at the one-minute mark. Thorn worked a tilt, then found the fall at 1:19. Rappo will graduate a career record of 80-36.
Three of Penn’s first-time qualifiers were defeated in their opening matches. 174-pounder Ian Korb was trailing No. 4 Robert Kokesh of Nebraska, 4-0, in the second period when he was caught in a half nelson and pinned at 4:08.
Korb rallied with a dominant second match, scoring a major decision over Chad Welch of Purdue, 12-4. Korb had five takedowns in the match, two each in the second and third periods to pull away for the win.
Canaan Bethea was a tough-luck loser to Kevin Radford of Arizona State, 4-3. Radford scored the first takedown of the match late in the opening period, but Bethea escaped quickly. Bethea also found neutral to start the second to tie the bout. In the third, Radford was able to notch a reversal to take a 4-2 lead. Bethea would again escape quickly, getting within one. It appeared Bethea was in on a winning takedown at the end, but it was ruled to be after the buzzer. The Penn bench asked for a video replay, but the replay was not conclusive enough to overturn the call.
In his second match, Bethea was again on the short end of a one-point match, this time a 5-4 decision to Fred Garcia of Lock Haven. Bethea looked for a quick takedown, but it was Garcia who came out of the scramble with a takedown. Bethea was out quickly for the escape to bring the match to the second at 2-1. Garcia quickly escaped, and then was awarded a penalty point when Bethea was hit for a technical violation on the edge of the mat while trying to pull away from a low single from Garcia. In the third, Bethea rallied to tie the match with an escape and then a takedown. Garcia worked his escape shortly, and Bethea’s late shots were defended to end Bethea’s season.
Heavyweight Steven Graziano was game against defending national champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota, not allowing a takedown by the No. 2 seed until the final seconds. Nelson was able to ride the entire second period, though, and added an escape in the third for a 4-0 decision.
Graziano’s NCAA run came to a close with a 4-1 loss to Evan Knutson of North Dakota State. Graziano broke a scoreless tie with his escape in the second, nearly building a lead via a low single late. Knutson was able to scramble out of bounds, earning a stall call but avoiding the takedown. In the third, Knutson tied the match with a quick escape. He then took the lead with a single leg that Graziano tried to counter with a throw. The big move didn’t work and Graziano was knocked off.
The Quakers return to the mats Friday morning at 10 a.m. CST.
125: Mark Rappo
Pigtail Round: def. Max Soria (Buffalo), 13-4
First Round: lost to Sean Boyle (Michigan), 8-3
Consolation First Round: lost to David Thorn (Minnesota), FALL 1:19
141: #10 C.J. Cobb
First Round: Def. Ridge Kiley (Nebraska), 2-0
Second Round: lost to #7 Mark Ballweg (Iowa), 3-2
174: Ian Korb
First Round: lost to #4 Robert Kokesh (Nebraska), FALL 4:08
Consolation First Round: def. Chad Welch (Purdue), 12-4
184: Canaan Bethea
First Round: lost to Kevin Radford (Arizona State), 4-3
Consolation First Round: lost to Fred Garcia (Lock Haven), 5-4
197: #8 Micah Burak
First Round: def. Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State), 8-7
Second Round: def. #9 Jake Meredith (Arizona State), 3-2 (TB 2)
285: Steven Graziano
First Round: lost to #2 Tony Nelson (Minnesota), 4-0
Consolation First Round: lost to Evan Knutson (North Dakota St.), 4-1