Boise State senior Ben Cherrington has wrestled his way into the National Championship match at 157 pounds at the NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City. Cherrington, the #5 seed in his weight class coming into the competition, has defeated Kevin Ward of Oklahoma State (7-0), Will Rowe of Oklahoma (7-0), Joe Johnston of Iowa (8-3) and Michael Chandler of Missouri (8-1) to reach the final. His opponent will be fellow Pac-10 wrestler Brian Stith of Arizona State in a match televised live on ESPN tonight.
Cherrington pined Stith in the final of the Pac-10 Championships just two weeks ago. They could have just called them the two best wrestlers in the nation at that point! Both Cherrington and Stith have already secured All-America status by finishing in the top eight; it's the second consecutive honor for Stith, who finished sixth last year. Cherrington is 19-0 on the season, while Stith is 19-5. In order to reach the national championship match, Stith defeated Jake Yost of Tennessee-Chattanooga 7-1, Tony Hook of Oregon State 2-1 in overtime, Andrew Flanagan of Harvard 8-0 and Derek Zinck of Lehigh 8-3.
Cherrington had this to say about tomorrow night's match with Stith: "He is going to be tough. He shut me down in our first match in the Pac-10 finals. It will be nice to get another shot at him. He is a tough kid and I will need to be on my game if I want to win." Stith, whose loss to Cherrington in this year's Pac-10 final prompted a protest by Arizona State coaches, had this to say about losing to Cherrington: "It has given me motivation to make it to the NCAA finals this year. In the Pac-10 finals it was 1-1 going into the third period and it was a close match. There was a one-second pin rule I was not aware of and I lost. After that I was really down for two or three days. But now here I am in the finals and it has given me a lot of motivation to win."
Boise State had three other wrestlers still wrestling in the consolation round today but all three lost in the fifth round of consolation to highly-ranked opponents. Scott Jorgensen was defeated 5-0 by Mack Reiter of Minnesota, the #4 wrestler in the nation at 133 pounds. Tyler Sherfey lost to #3 Mark Disalvo of Central Michigan 3-2 at 149 pounds, while 197-pounder Casey Phelps was outpointed 3-2 by third-ranked B.J. Padden of Nebraska
A victory over Stith Saturday would make Cherrington Boise State's second individual NCAA Champion in the sport of wrestling. Kirk White was the Broncos' first, winning the 1999 NCAA Championship at 165 pounds.
Jorgensen won both of his matches in the morning session, defeating Patrick Aleksanyan of Nebraska, 13-6, and Michael Mormile of Cornell, 6-1.
Sherfey also won his two morning matches, downing Anthony Baza of Cal State Bakersfield 3-2 and handing Morgan Atkinson of Cal State Fullerton a 4-2 loss.
In the 197-pound weight class, Phelps defeated Dave Dashiell of North Carolina 3-2 and Adam Wright of Old Dominion, 7-3. Andy Patrick was eliminated from the heavyweight class this morning when he was pined by Adam LoPiccolo of American University at the 3:50 mark of the match.
Arizona State is in a battle for a high standing at the Championships; the Sun Devils are currently in 5th place in the nation with 56 points. Although all national wrestling "experts" had no more than two Pac-10 teams ranked in the top 25, there are four that appear likely to finish there when it's all said and done. In addition to #5 ASU, Cal Poly is in 19th with 32 points, Oregon is in 22nd with 28 points and Boise State is in 24th with 27.5 points.