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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Last Time that Kansas City Hosted NCAA's....

    The NCAA DI Wrestling Championships are returning to Kansas City! It’s been awhile since Kansas City hosted the national tournament. 21 years to be exact. 21 years is a long time in the real world, but seemingly a century in the wrestling world. A lot has changed since 2003. Just how much? Well, here’s some fun notes from the 2003 tournament that would illustrate just how long ago it was. 

    Oklahoma State started a run of four consecutive national titles outdistancing Minnesota by 38.5 points. 

    Travis Lee won the 125 lb title for Cornell. He was the first national champion for Cornell since David Hirsch in 1994 and it helped propel Cornell into a consistent national power. 

    The stud freshman of the year was Teyon Ware, the national champion at 141 lbs. He was one of two freshman national champions - Jake Rosholt was the other. Ware was the top seed at 141 and Rosholt was the #10 at 184. 

    Ware and Zack Esposito were freshmen and the top-two seeds at 141 lbs. Braeden Davis and Luke Stanich are the first freshmen to be seeded #1/#2 at the same weight class since Ware/Espo.

    2003 was just a year removed from Cael Sanderson becoming just the second DI wrestler to capture four national titles. A year later, he’d win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Athens. 

    Speaking of four titles, Greg Jones was on track to winning four titles after capturing one as a freshman in 2002. He went 2-2 at this tournament and it was the only time he missed out on the NCAA podium or didn’t win. 

    Jones was one of four 2002 national champions that didn’t repeat in 2003. The others were Aaron Holker (141), Jared Lawrence (149), and Luke Becker (157). 

    Josh Moore, Scott Moore, Jeremy Spates, John Clark, Chris Pendleton, Alex Clemsen, and Damion Hahn are current DI head coaches that competed in the tournament. 

    In one of the most dramatic moments of the tournament, Damion Hahn locked up a takedown in the closing seconds of the 197 lb finals to defeat Jon Trenge. 

    Steve Mocco won his first of his two NCAA titles as a sophomore wrestling for Iowa. Shockingly enough, Mocco redshirted the next year then transferred to Oklahoma State.

    Penn State placed sixth at the 2003 tournament. It was their first top-20 showing since 1999 when they took fourth. 

    Arizona State’s Eric Larkin was the 149 lb champion and Hodge Trophy winner. His son, Kaleb, is a redshirting freshman on the ASU roster this year. 

    The last time Lehigh had a freshman in the NCAA finals was in 2003 with Troy Letters at 165 lbs. Coincidentally, they have a pair of freshmen seeded second this year (Luke Stanich/Ryan Crookham). 

    At this point in time, Missouri had never had an NCAA champion. 

    The 2003 tournament was the most recent time that Northern Illinois had two All-Americans. Scott Owen took fifth at 157 and Ben Heizer was sixth at 184. 

    Boise State, Boston, Cal-State Fullerton, Duquesne, Eastern Illinois, Fresno State, James Madison, Oregon, Portland State, Slippery Rock and UC Davis had wrestlers competing at this tournament…so, yeah. 

    Along those same lines, this was before Fresno State dropped wrestling….the first time.

    At this time, Nebraska was in the Big 12, Missouri was officially in the Big 12, Maryland was in the ACC, and Rutgers was in the EIWA. Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia were in the EWL. 

    In addition to the current conferences, wrestlers also qualified from the CAA, East Regional, EWL, and the West Regional. 

    This was an era where wild cards were given out by conferences, rather than the NCAA, which led to unbalanced brackets. Below is the number of participants per weight class. 

    125 (34)

    133 (36)

    141 (32)

    149 (32)

    157 (36)

    165 (32)

    174 (33)

    184 (34)

    197 (34)

    285 (29)

    Shawn Bunch, Rad Martinez, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Eric Larkin, Jerrod Sanders, Brian Cobb, Jacob Volkmann, Shane Roller,Tyron Woodley, Rashad Evans, Jake Rosholt, Gerald Harris, Mo Lawal, Stipe Miocic, Ryan Bader, Carmelo Marrero, and Kellan Fluckiger, Pat Cummins all participated in the 2003 NCAA Tournament and then went on to have success in the MMA world. 

    Evans was responsible knocking Greg Jones out of the tournament. 

    Nick Nemeth competed for Kent State at 165 lbs. He’s been known in the WWE as Dolph Ziggler.

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