Looking back at 2015: NCAAs

The NCAA Wrestling Championships are the marquee event for all three levels of NCAA college wrestling. All three editions of the 2015 championships -- Division I, II and III -- had plenty of drama and compelling storylines to make them must-see events for fans of the oldest and greatest sport.

That championship season for Buckeyes, Huskies, Auggies

The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate after winning the team title at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
For the Ohio State wrestling program, the 2014-15 season started with the tragic death of a former teammate, Kosta Karageorge (who wrestled heavyweight the previous season), found dead from an apparent suicide Thanksgiving weekend ... and ended triumphantly with the Buckeyes sharing the 2015 Big Ten conference championships team title (with Iowa), then winning their first team crown outright at the 2015 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Ohio State won the 2015 NCAA team title with a total of five All-Americans. Three made it into the finals, with two -- Nathan Tomasello at 125, and Logan Stieber at 141 -- winning individual titles. With the team championship, the Buckeyes joined that elite group of a dozen college mat programs that had won at least one team title in the 85-year history of the NCAAs.

Stieber's title was his fourth, making him the fourth-ever NCAA D1 four-time individual champ. (As Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan correctly stated, "More people have been on the moon than have won four national titles.") That wasn't the end of the honors for Logan Stieber. At the 2015 NCAAs, he was named the NCAA's Most Dominant Wrestler for the 2014-15 season, and the NWCA's Most Outstanding Wrestler for the championships. After the NCAAs, Stieber was named winner of the Hodge Trophy as best college wrestler of 2015, InterMat's Wrestler of the Year, Ohio State Male Athlete of the Year, and the 2015 Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year.

In Division II, the St. Cloud State University wrestling program had been the proverbial bridesmaid, having placed second at three consecutive national championships from 2011 to 2013. That all changed this year, when the Huskies won the team title at the 2015 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis in March, their first national championship in wrestling ... or in any sport. St. Cloud State edged out University of Nebraska-Kearney (which had won three straight titles from 2011-13) by eight points. The Huskies had six wrestlers at the NCAAs; all earned All-American honors. Two were finalists, with Tim Prescott winning the 125-pound crown. That's in sharp contrast to the previous year, when the school located in St. Cloud, Minn. had no finalists at the 2014 NCAAs, and placed sixth in the team standings.

Months after winning the NCAA D2 crown, St. Cloud State wrestling scored more great publicity, announcing it had signed Devon Berry, a multi-sport high school athlete from Georgia who has cerebral palsy, a disease which impairs muscle control, but hasn't stopped him from wrestling, playing football, and throwing the shot put and discus ... and earning a 3.7 overall grade point average.

"I don't think there's anything this kid can't do," SCSU head wrestling coach Steve Costanzo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when Berry signed his letter of intent this fall. "He's one of the most incredible people I've ever met." (Berry's scholarship story was one of the most-read --and shared -- InterMat news stories of the last half of 2015.)

Augsburg College won the team title at the 2015 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. in March for the 12th time in the history of the program, but for the first time since 2010. Six Auggies earned NCAA All-American honors; three made it to the finals, with two leaving the mat with national titles: Mike Fuenffinger at 125 pounds, and, at the opposite end of the weight scale, Donny Longendyke at heavyweight. In addition, the Minneapolis-based school swept the awards presented by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA). Augsburg head coach Jim Moulsoff was named Division III National Coach of the Year and Division III Rookie Coach of the Year (having taken the helm for the 2014-15 season after long-time coach Matt Matzek left the college to teach and coach in his hometown in Wisconsin), while Tony Valek earned Assistant Coach of the Year honors. Augsburg's Fuenffinger was selected the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler, while the Auggies' 165-pounder Eric Hensel earned the Most Falls in Least Time award at the championships.

Fab freshmen Martinez, Tomasello, Snyder

Three college freshmen had stellar seasons in their first year of competition. Illinois' Isaiah Martinez capped off a flawless season as a freshman -- the first first-year collegian to do so since Cael Sanderson for Iowa State in 1999 -- by winning the 157-pound title at the 2015 Big Ten and NCAA Division I championships ... then being named InterMat Freshman of the Year in a unanimous vote of the website's staff. Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello was a key contributor to the Buckeyes' championship season, claiming the 125-pound crown at both the 2015 Big Tens and NCAAs. His true freshman teammate, Kyle Snyder, made it to the 197-pound finals of the conference and national championships ... but has truly left his mark on the mat in international freestyle wrestling. Snyder defeated 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner at the 2015 U.S. Open, then at the finals of the 2015 U.S. World Team Trials in June to qualify for the World Championships where the big Buckeye became the youngest U.S. wrestler to win a world title at age 19. Snyder originally had announced he was taking a year away from Ohio State to prepare for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but head coach Tom Ryan said the Maryland native had enrolled in classes for spring quarter and would return to wrestle for the Buckeyes.

An NCAA scoring fiasco

It wasn't all good news coming out of the 2015 NCAA Division I championships. A scoring error in a 157-pound quarterfinals match between Cornell's Brian Realbuto and Kent State's Ian Miller at the 2015 NCAAs actually altered the outcome of the match. Coupled with the NCAA's handling of the situation, the incident left many within the college wrestling community scratching their heads and openly expressing their anger.

In a nutshell, the scoreboard indicated an incorrect score, which eventually sent the match into sudden victory, ultimately resulting in a win for Cornell's Realbuto, who advanced to the finals. During the quarterfinal round, Kent State coaches protested the result; however, at the time, the NCAA ruled that they did not challenge the score during the match, therefore the result would not be reversed.

Months later, in issuing rules for the 2015-16 season, the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee put out a clarification, stating that coaches can approach the scoring table if there's an issue with either the time on the clock, or the score of the match on the scoreboard, making clear that all match disputes must be resolved during the match, before the wrestlers leave the mat, or before the score sheet leaves the scoring table. The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee also made clear: tournament officials can't adjudicate match outcomes.


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