Mitchell Port had his hand raised, but as he looked around at the crowd inside Scottrade Center, he couldn’t help but feel a bit of disappointment despite a second-round victory on Day 1 of the NCAA wrestling tournament.
The Edinboro senior and former Bellefonte High School star only has a few matches left, and as the No. 2 seed at 141 pounds, he wants to relish every single one of them.
So even though he punched his ticket to the quarterfinals after his Session 2 win in less than a minute, it didn’t occur on the terms he would’ve preferred. Hofstra’s Jamel Hudson was injured 56 seconds into their second-round match and couldn’t continue.
“I would’ve liked to keep wrestling, man,” Port said. “Wrestling is fun. That was one of my last matches so it kind of sucks I didn’t get to wrestle him.”
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Port will get to wrestle Rutgers’ Anthony Ashnault on Friday morning and is determined to keep his quest for his first NCAA title in his final season alive. His lone loss this season is to three-time champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State. Stieber is the No. 1 seed and is on the other end of the bracket.
“I think there is a little bit more urgency to score points,” Port said. “I think I just need to stay hungry and really focus on scoring points, being aggressive.”
Edinboro coach Tim Flynn was a bit more satisfied with Port’s Round 2 win than his star senior.
“We’ll take ‘em anyway we can get ‘em,” Flynn said.
Port’s teammate and former Tyrone grappler A.J. Schopp lost his first match to Penn’s Caleb Richardson 4-2, but Schopp recovered to beat Maryland’s Geoffrey Alexander 2-1 in the consolation bracket. Schopp will face Utah Valley’s Jade Rauser on Friday.
“He didn’t have any zip,” Flynn said. “He knows what he wants to do. He needs to reset his goals. He’ll be all right.”
Stars hurting in opening rounds
Returning 125-pound champion Jesse Delgado was not his normal self on Day 1. Neither were Oklahoma State and Ohio State stars Josh Kindig and Hunter Stieber.
All three former All-Americans entered the tournament nursing injuries and all three were clearly hobbled in their first two bouts.
Delgado — who won the last two titles at his weight — was eliminated from championship contention by unseeded David Terao of American 4-2 in Round 2. Delgado walked off the mat slowly, his left shoulder heavily taped.
Kindig, who wrestled his way to the finals where he finished as runner-up last season at 149, was eliminated from the tournament entirely by North Dakota State’s Clayton Ream, who won 5-3 in a consolation pigtail bout. Entering the tournament unseeded, Kindig lost to No. 3 David Habat in the first round, then was limited in his next bout. The usually explosive Kindig could barely walk back to the center of the mat as a hamstring tear rendered him unable to mount his offense.
Also at 149, two-time All-American Stieber bowed out of the Big Ten tournament two weeks ago with an elbow injury and could be heard screaming as he tweaked his arm again in his first bout Thursday — a 9-7 loss to Hofstra’s Cody Ruggirello. Stieber was eliminated entirely by Ream in the consolation bracket.
Seeds that didn’t bloom
Earning a seed in NCAA tournament isn’t always a guarantor of a prolonged stay in the championship bracket. A bunch of seeded grapplers found that out during Thursday’s first session.
A whopping 34 seeded wrestlers were bounced in Round 1, including 17 top 10s.
Among them were two vaunted wrestlers from Iowa — third-seeded Bobby Telford (285) and fifth-seeded Josh Dziewa (141). A handful of other top fives lost in the first round too. Iowa State’s Michael Moreno — the No. 2 seed at 165 — was the highest seed to drop into a consolation bracket, while Missouri’s Josh Eblen (No. 4 at 174) and San Diego State’s Cody Pack (No. 5 at 157) were the other top fives downed Thursday morning.
Edinboro’s Schopp was another seed to fall short after advancing to the semifinals and eventually placing fourth last season.
All together, 24 wrestlers seeded in the top eight in their respective weight classes were eliminated from championship contention on Day 1.
Fans pack Scottrade Center
Scottrade Center featured a boisterous atmosphere through both sessions — primarily from a heavy contingent of Missouri fans.
In total, 18,383 fans showed up for Session 1 and 18,414 were on hand for Session 2.