Big 12 Wrestling: Session #2

Despite a tough start in the morning session, which saw them send all but two wrestlers into the consolation rounds, the Cyclones battled back with a strong afternoon showing at the Big 12 Championships at Hilton Coliseum. With two finalists already headed for tonight's event, ISU crowned five third-place finishers in the second session, which means it will be represented by seven wrestlers at the NCAA Championships.

The strong move in the afternoon session shot the Cyclones into third place overall with 43.5 points. Oklahoma State, which sent eight wrestlers into the championships, held onto its huge lead in the standings with 71.5 points. Nebraska ranked second with 53.5 points, while Missouri sat in fourth (34) and Oklahoma fifth (31.5).

"We haven't exceeded our seeds, but we're wrestling well though," said Cyclone head coach Bobby Douglas. "We didn't expect to upset anyone, so we're probably where we are. You can look at the seeds and see where the upsets are. I'm really proud of the way the guys are wrestling. This is a tough tournament."

The spark that got ISU going Saturday afternoon actually was an upset. Fourth-seeded Grant Nakamura put a semifinal round loss behind him to knock off three seed Cody Stites of Oklahoma State, 3-2, in overtime. Nakamura, who had lost to Stites 9-4 in the regular season, recorded a takedown in overtime to pull out the upset and advance to Nationals.

"Anytime you get a big win, especially if it's an upset, it helps get the momentum going," Douglas said. "Grant gave us some fire, and the rest of the team followed up."

The Cyclones would get four more victories in third-place matches. After beating him in the preliminary round, Trent Paulson disposed of Oklahoma's Jeff Ecklof again Saturday afternoon, 3-1. After getting an escape to open up a 1-0 lead early in the first period, Paulson needed a takedown in overtime to clinch his victory.

Unfortunately, Paulson's brother Travis would not be so lucky late in his third-place match against Nebraska's B.J. Wright. Holding onto a one-point lead in the closing seconds of regulation, Paulson gave up a takedown and ended up losing 3-2.

"They're performing well," Douglas said of the twins' effort. "(Travis) had a mental breakdown at the end. But they're both freshman and have done well."

Nick Passolano recorded another dramatic victory for the Cyclones at 165 pounds when he held off Oklahoma's Charles Jones, 4-2. Passolano used a takedown and escape in the early stages of the match to take control.

His teammate Kurt Backes, though, didn't have the luxury of an early lead in his 184-pound match. Backes fell behind 1-0 and was dominated in the second period and fell behind by more than two minutes in riding time. But a takedown early in the third period got Backes going in the right direction. After giving up an escape he added a takedown and two-point near fall to pull out a 6-3 win.

"Backes came back and wrestled a very good match," Douglas said. "He started off slow, but figured out how to win." Coleman capped off ISU's consolation-round comeback with a 7-2 victory over Nebraska's Nathan McClain, 7-2. He used an early takedown to gain control and later got a third period reversal to go ahead by a 6-1 margin.

The Cyclones have two wrestlers set to take the mat in the evening session. Second-seeded Zach Roberson will have Oklahoma State's top-seeded Johnny Thompson standing in front of him and a Big 12 title. Thompson won the only regular season meeting between the two, 8-3.

Top-seeded Nate Gallick will face Nebraska's Matt Murray, who is riding the momentum of a 4-3 win over defending national champion Teyon Ware in overtime.

"This is Roberson's last shot at it, and if Gallick wants to be a national champion he has to win this," Douglas said.

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