All four of the New York wrestlers taking part in the medal rounds on Saturday morning finished their seasons on a winning note, with third place showings for Nahshon Garrett at 125, Steve Santos of Columbia at 149 and Steve Bosak at 184. Mike Nevinger grabbed fifth at 141 as the Big Red had at least four All-Americans (along with finalist Kyle Dake) for the ninth consecutive campaign. Here’s a little more on the performances of each of those wrestlers this weekend.
Nahshon Garrett, 3rd at 125
The freshman from California finished off a tremendous first season for the Big Red with a third place finish at the NCAA tournament, beating two higher seeds on Saturday to get there.
In his first match of the day he surrendered a pair of takedowns in the first and trailed 4-2 after that stanza against the fifth-seed, Jarrod Garnett. Heading into the third, the Virginia Tech grappler led 9-6, but the Big Red freshman took control from there, immediately getting the escape and a takedown to knot the match at 9. From there, he was dominant in the top position, riding his opponent out and racking up three near fall points along the way for the final 13-9 margin.
He then squared off with the tournament’s top seed, Alan Waters of Missouri. The pair met twice earlier this season, with the Tiger wrestler coming out on top on both occasions. But Garrett said he felt confident this time.
“Honestly, I knew his game plan and I knew what he was going to do,” Garrett said. “He was sitting on a knee like I knew he would. He wrestled tough, but I knew what I had to do. I figured I would ride him out. I’d been doing so well this tournament riding people out, I felt I could do that if I didn’t score points at all before that. He’s obviously really good on top. The last couple of times we wrestled, I didn’t really know how to get out. But no one was able to ride me this weekend.”
The match went as Garrett expected. After a scoreless initial period, Waters selected the down position and Garrett took control. The California native not only rode Waters out, but also registered a pair of near fall points near the end of the second to take a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Garrett quickly escaped and tacked on a late takedown. With riding time added, the Cornell wrestler triumphed 6-1.
The victory cemented Garrett in the Cornell record books for another reason – he’s now the Big Red single season leader in wins with 43. Who were the former holders of that mark with 42? Cam Simaz and Garrett’s current coach Mike Grey.
When Garrett was told about that achievement, he smiled.
“We were just talking about me one upping him because he took sixth his freshman year,” Garrett said of Grey. “Now that I have that record over him, it’s pretty sweet.”
So is the bronze, although Garrett admitted he has plenty left to achieve.
“[Third place] isn’t what I came here for,” he said. “I’m very content with it right now, but I’m not satisfied. I’m not going to be satisfied until I get that title.”
Mike Nevinger, Fifth at 141
Mike Nevinger said his goal coming into the tournament was to be a national champion after taking seventh a year ago. After losing in the first round on Thursday to Virginia Tech’s Zach Niebert in overtime, which he called “heartbreaking”, he said he knew he had to put it all together to get back on the podium, both for himself and for his team.
He did just that, earning fifth on Saturday with a victory over North Carolina’s Evan Henderson.
“I think it’s just toughness,” he said. “Obviously, you’re just crushed after that first loss. But you just have to regroup and know that you’re a good enough wrestler to go out there and be an All-American. You just have to go out there and wrestle. Don’t make excuses for yourself, just come back strong and go from there. I just needed to go out and wrestle smart and wrestle my match. If I keep it tight and wrestle tough on top, I’m going to come out on top.”
In his first bout on Saturday, Nevinger was defeated by the top seed, Hunter Stieber of Ohio State. However, in the fifth place bout, he began strong with a takedown and three back points to take a 5-0 advantage into the second. The former Letchworth star extended his lead in the second with another takedown and after an exchange of escapes in the third, Nevinger walked away with a 9-2 win and a fifth place medal.
Nevinger went from seventh as a sophomore to fifth as a junior. He’s looking for more in his final season as he said his goal is to be a national champion.
“All areas could use improvement,” he said. “I definitely have to get more attacks going on my feet and work on my baseline ‘D’ like always. I know I have a lot of things to work on this summer so I can come back stronger next year.”
Steve Santos, Third at 149
Steve Santos became the highest finisher in Columbia wrestling history on Saturday when he took third at 149 pounds.
“It was a great accomplishment as an individual and for our program. It just feels awesome,” Santos said. “Columbia has a long history of wrestling and a great core following. To represent Columbia like that is a great feeling.”
In his first contest of the morning, his opponent, Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State struck first with a takedown, but Santos managed an escape to trail 2-1 after the opening stanza. Santos imposed his will in the second period, riding the Beaver wrestler for the entire two minutes. In the final period, Santos took down and got right to his feet, reversing his opponent and riding him out for a 4-2 victory (with riding time) and a spot in the bronze match.
In that third place tilt, Santos once again took control, this time against last year’s NCAA runner up Dylan Ness of Minnesota. He entered the second with a 4-2 lead and over 1:40 riding time. In the third, Santos immediately took Ness down to increase his advantage to 6-2. The Gopher escaped late, but the Brick, New Jersey native completed his Columbia career with a third place medal.
“I knew he likes to roll around like that, but I’m just as good in there,” Santos said of the unconventional Ness. “I kept solid; I knew I didn’t want to let him wrestle his match. I kept my position and when he showed any vulnerabilities, I just attacked right away.”
Steve Bosak, Third at 184
It might not have been the perfect ending that Steve Bosak said he was looking for, but he finished his career on a high note by taking third place on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett.
After a scoreless first period, the four-time All-American from the MAC chose down against Bosak. However, he never came close to escaping and was warned for stalling twice, resulting in a point for the Big Red. There was no further scoring in the third after Bosak took neutral and the Cornell 184-pounder collected a 2-0 victory with riding time to add a bronze medal to his 2012 national championship and 2011 fourth place showing.
“I was proud of how I wrestled and finished out. I feel good,” Bosak said right after the match, adding that his ultimate goal was to repeat as an NCAA champion.
“When the seedings came out, I felt disrespected,” he said of getting the #4 spot in the bracket. “I was unsure why the seeding committee did that, but when it came down to it, I knew I had to wrestle everyone anyway to win it.”
In his first bout of the morning, Bosak came out on the offensive, getting in deep on a shot early that was defended by his opponent, Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland. However, the Big Red senior did put points on the board in the opening stanza with a takedown and then remained on top for the remaining 50 seconds of the first. A Bosak escape in the third was the only other scoring in the bout as the Big Red senior finished off a 3-0 decision.
Cornell assistant coach Damion Hahn said Bosak will be extremely hard to replace for his squad.
“It’s emotional because we’ve been together for a long time,” he said of the 184-pounder. “He’s one of the Cornell greats. He did a phenomenal job this weekend. I know a national title is what he wanted. He fell a little short, but I don’t think anybody could be more pleased with his performance. He is a competitor, he has heart, he has every intangible thing you could want in a wrestler. He will be greatly missed, no doubt about it.”