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Jill Lieber
March 28, 1988
Arizona State broke the state of Iowa's grip on the NCAAs
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March 28, 1988

A Cactus Supplants Corn

Arizona State broke the state of Iowa's grip on the NCAAs

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The week before the NCAA wrestling championships Arizona State coach Bobby Douglas didn't show up for practices. Douglas said he had to be at the Ohio high school tournament in Columbus to cheer on Bridgeport High, his alma mater. But Zeke Jones, the Sun Devils' 118-pounder, knew better.

"Coach is so intense that he had worked himself into a frenzy," he said. "He was afraid that if he rode us in the wrestling room—in that state of mind—guys would get hurt and never make it to the big meet. Coach didn't want that. He figured we had a shot at the title."

He figured right. Douglas brought seven wrestlers to the NCAAs in Ames, Iowa, last week, and not one finished worse than sixth. Arizona State scored 93 points to beat Iowa (85.5), Iowa State (83.75) and Oklahoma State (80.5) and win the team title. This was the first time since 1967 that a school from a state other than Iowa or Oklahoma had won the championship, and the first time in 58 years that a school from west of the Rockies had prevailed.

Remarkably, the Sun Devils triumphed without a single individual champion. Mike Davies, a 190-pounder, was the only Arizona State entrant to reach Saturday night's final round, and he lost 5-0 to Mark Coleman of Ohio State. But Douglas's six other wrestlers had racked up enough points in the consolation rounds to put the Sun Devils into the lead going into the finals. Iowa needed to win all three of its title matches to regain the trophy.

The crowd of 11,014 at James H. Hilton Coliseum didn't have to wait long to find out if the Hawkeyes would succeed. In the evening's opening match (at the behest of ESPN), the 126-pound bout, Penn State's Jim Martin defeated Brad Penrith, a two-time All-America at Iowa, 5-4, and the championship hardware was headed west.

In 1987 Iowa State wrested the title from the Hawkeyes, who had won an unprecedented nine straight crowns, but that did little to change the NCAAs' aura of predictability. Last week, six teams entered the three-day, 728-match tournament with a chance to win. Even after Penrith's loss settled the team championship, all of the ensuing title matches were exciting and meaningful:

?At 118 pounds, Jack Cuvo became the first wrestler from Division II East Stroudsburg (Pa.) to win an NCAA Division I title. (Division II titlists receive an automatic berth in the Division I tournament.) Cuvo beat Minnesota freshman Keith Nix 11-5.

? Oklahoma State's 134-pounder, John Smith, finished his college career by routing Iowa's Joe Melchiore 9-2. The victory was Smith's 90th in a row and placed him second on the alltime NCAA list behind Iowa coach Dan Gable, who won 100 straight as an Iowa State wrestler.

? Pittsburgh's Pat Santoro defeated Sean O'Day of Division I Edinboro (Pa.) 16-11 in the 142-pound division to become the third member of his family to make All-America. Father Richard and brother Tim attained the honor at Lehigh.

?At 150 pounds, North Carolina State's Scott Turner, who was named the meet's outstanding wrestler, beat Tim Krieger of Iowa State 1-0 in overtime to break Krieger's 56-match winning streak. Turner yielded a riding-time point to Krieger to send the bout into overtime—the only point he gave up in the meet.

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