ST. LOUIS -- Jake Residori guaranteed himself All-American status at 174 pounds Friday at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Scottrade Center.
He became the first SIUE wrestler to earn All-American honors in SIUE's Division I era and the eighth Cougar wrestler all-time to earn Division I All-American status.
The last was four-time Division II national champion Tim Wright, who placed third at the 1987 NCAA Division I Championships. Previous SIUE wrestlers who earned Division I All-American status include Mark Hattendorf (1978 and 1979), Tom Reed (1980), Don Stevens (1983 and 1984), Alan Grammer (1985 and 1986) and Al Sears (1985).
Residori's rise as an unseeded wrestler at the 2017 Championships was impressive even before he defeated fourth-seeded Zach Epperley of Virginia Tech 8-3, earning a spot in the top eight nationally. In his first two matches, he bested both of the Big 12 Conference finalists and ended up being the only wrestler to win a pigtail match at the Championships and gain All-American honors.
"The road he took to do it is unbelievable," said SIUE Head Coach Jeremy Spates. "He never stopped in the whole tournament. He fought from whistle to whistle in every match."
Through the matches late Friday, Residori accumulated the most wins by any wrestler at the Championships.
"That's not easy but because this isn't an easy tournament," said Spates.
After the win over Epperley that guaranteed All-American status, Residori dropped a 12-2 decision to Michigan's Myles Amine. Residori will compete Saturday for seventh place against Kyle Crutchmer, of Oklahoma State, who he previously defeated 6-5 in the first round of the tournament.
Friday's events lifted the spirits of SIUE wrestling fans everywhere.
Spates, in his fourth season as head coach, started using the Twitter hastag #RestoreTheGlory as a battle cry for his team and a reminder of the program's deep history. Residori's All-American status puts SIUE back on the national scene.
"That's the ultimate goal in our program - to be an All-American and be a national champ," said Spates. "It's a big step in the right direction. I'm so happy for Jake and for our coaches and everybody who have worked so hard to get there."
SIUE nearly had a second wrestler advance to the top eight. Freddie Rodriguez lost in the 125-pound quarterfinals 15-0 to Minnesota's Ethan Lizak, who moved forward for a shot in the finals. Fellow Southern Conference rival Nathan Kraisser grabbed a 4-1 decision in the consolation round over Rodriguez.
"Freddie has done a great job for us," said Spates. "He has won big dual matches for us. Today, he came out here and was a hair away. He wrestled hard. He fought the whole time too. He just came up a little bit short."
"People now know SIUE because of Jake and Freddie," said Spates. "They laid it on the line and fought hard."