March 23, 2009

Troy Nickerson Claims National Championship

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The wrestling team traveled to St. Louis hoping to return as national champions. However, only junior Troy Nickerson was successful in that quest. The Red, which entered the tournament ranked second, finished fifth. Nickerson, competing at 125 pounds, won all five of his matches en route to claiming an individual National Championship.
Nickerson was one of four Red wrestlers to earn All-American status. The others were seniors Steve Anceravage and Jordan Leen and freshman Cam Simaz. Cornell finished behind Iowa, Ohio State, Iowa State and Nebraska, in that order. Iowa also won the National Championship last season and has won 22 total in its history.
Nickerson placed third at Nationals in 2006 and finished second to Paul Donahoe in 2007. He exacted his revenge on Donahoe in this year’s finals. Both wrestlers made it to the championship match undefeated and they were the two top-ranked wrestlers in their weight class. Adding to the drama, although Nickerson was ranked first in the country, it was Donahoe who received the top seed at Nationals.
Donahoe defeated Nickerson 2-1, in overtime, during the 2007 finals for Nebraska. Neither wrestler competed in the 2008 National Championships, although for very different reasons. [img_assist|nid=36135|title=T is for Winner|desc=Junior Troy Nickerson won all five of his matches to earn his first National title at 125 pounds last weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. The No.2 seeded Red finished fifth overall.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Nickerson had an injured shoulder that kept him off the mat. Donahoe was unable to defend his championship because he was kicked off the Nebraska wrestling team, along with teammate Kenny Jordan, after controversial pictures of the two surfaced online. He transferred to Edinboro, where he starred this season.
The championship match between Nickerson and Donahoe, which was televised live on ESPN, was extremely competitive. During the first period, neither wrestler gave his opponent an opportunity to score points. During the second and third periods, each wrestler earned an escape point, but was unable to mount a serious offensive attack. The match entered overtime at 1-1 and again, neither wrestler had any luck trying to score points.
In the first half of the second overtime, Nickerson began in the down position. He aggravated his shoulder injury and held up the match to use injury time, but quickly returned. When the match resumed, Nickerson made an aggressive move for an escape. Donahoe was forced to lock his hands in order to hold on to Nickerson, thus committing a technical violation and handing Nickerson a point. In the second half of the overtime, Nickerson rode his opponent for the full 30 seconds, preventing an escape and preserving the 2-1 lead, and reversing their score from 2007.
“One thing my father told me since I started wrestling: ‘You can ride anybody for 30 seconds.’ I went in there, stayed strong, and that’s what I did,” Nickerson told ESPN after the match.
Nickerson, who was seeded second, went 5-0 at Nationals. He earned bonus points in each of his first three matches. He triumphed against the third seed and first seed, respectively, in his final two matches.
“I was lucky to go out there and have three perfect days of wrestling, have five great matches, and win that title,” he said.
Senior Jordan Leen was unable to defend his National Championship at 157 pounds, but did qualify as an All American for the third time in his career. The third-seeded Leen lost to eventual runner-up Michael Poeta, of Illinois. Leen defeated former National Champion Gregor Gillespie to finish third.
Leen’s classmate, Steve Anceravage, will also finish his career an All American. The sixth-seeded Anceravege lost his second match in the 174-pound bracket to Penn State’s Quentin Wright. Anceravage had a strong showing in the wrestlebacks and defeated Wright in his final match to finish fifth in the weight class.
Freshman Cam Simaz won four matches at Nationals in order to secure an eighth-place finish at 197 pounds. The rookie was unseeded, but did what he has done all season long — exceed expectations.
“The only thing you can say about Cam is he is a star,” Nickerson said. “He’s got some great potential for the future. As he matures and grows more into the weight class, he’s definitely going to be a threat contending for a National Championship next year.”
Several Cornell wrestlers who had been expected to compete seriously for a National Championship this season did not. Most notably, top-seeded Mack Lewnes failed to deliver at 165 pounds. Lewnes, a sophomore, was an All American last season and went undefeated this year. He was a favorite to capture a National Championship, but lost to two unseeded opponents and failed to score points at Nationals.
“I really think he was feeling a lot of pressure. He had a couple struggles and things didn’t go quite his way,” Nickerson said. “As unfortunate at it is, I’m very confident in Mack for next year. I know he’s going to come back next year and be right there contending.”
Sophomore Mike Grey, who was seeded eleventh at 133 pounds, went 3-2 at Nationals. Both of his losses were to wrestlers ranked in the top-six. He earned two major decisions during his victories for the Red.
Senior heavyweight Zach Hammond was 1-2 in the tournament. Sophomore Justin Kerber lost both of his matches at 184 pounds. Classmate DJ Meagher, who competed at 149 pounds, won one match by forfeit, but lost his other two matches. In total, the Red tallied 73.5 points. They were 23 points behind the champion Hawkeyes.
“I’m really excited to come back next year and try to defend my title and hopefully make a run at a team championship,” Nickerson said.