Team sets history with third-place finish; Habat, Port fall in finals
Story first appeared in the March 26, 2015 edition of the Edinboro University Spectator, which was distributed on campus and around the town of Edinboro.
ST. LOUIS – Ohio State, Iowa and Edinboro. Those were the top three teams in Division I wrestling this season.
Put it in terms of enrollment, 57,466, 31,387 and 7,100.
Enrollment, funding, scholarships, equipment, facilities; none of that mattered last week as the Fighting Scots tallied 75.5 team points at the 2015 Division I Wrestling National Championships at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 19-21 and finished third in the team race, behind the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, capturing the first national team trophy in school history.
“It’s awesome,” head coach Tim Flynn said of achieving the best finish at nationals in program history, bettering the fifth place finish last season. “It’s something that has culminated from years and years of work and these kids being together. They did the work. They did what was asked of them. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
That feeling wasn’t quite as happy as Flynn would have liked it to be, as the Scots suffered two losses in the championships, the night where the Scots were presented their trophy. However, the team title was possible due to a pair of third-place finishes, and a pair of runner-ups.
Dave Habat (below), the third-seed at 149 lbs., battled top-seeded Drake Houdashelt of Missouri in the title match to start off the sixth and final session of the championships. Houdashelt claimed the national championships with a 3-1 win in sudden victory.
The two were scoreless after the first period, despite a few solid shots by Habat in the opening frame. Houdashelt earned an escape in the first minute of the second period to take the lead, but Habat knotted it up at 1:17 into the third period.
In sudden victory, Habat went for a shot, but was defended by Houdashelt and the redshirt-senior was knocked backwards by the defense, which the Missouri Tiger took advantage of, registering the lone takedown of the match to earn the title.
“I felt like there were some moves I could do that would work,” Habat said. “I analyzed it well, but I just didn’t pull the trigger. He just was wrestling real good. Then we went to overtime and I felt very confident that I was going to win and then he moved me out of bounds where it was kind of slippery. No excuse, but I just kind of hit and slipped off and there was absolutely nothing I could do.”
“Dave put himself into position to win,” Flynn added. “He had a little trouble getting out of the collar tie, but it is a one takedown game. Hats off to Houdashelt, he got the takedown.”
Despite the loss, Habat had an impressive run to the finals, which included a 3-2 decision against #2 Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern, who Habat lost to in the Midland Championships earlier this season.
The Cleveland, Ohio native’s runner-up finish earned him his second All-American honor of his career.
Fellow redshirt-senior Mitchell Port closed out the championships as Edinboro bookended the final session. Port faced top-seeded, undefeated Logan Stieber of Ohio State, who was looking to become just the fourth four-time national champion in NCAA Division I history.
Stieber took a 2-1 lead early in the first period and earned another takedown late in the opening frame before Port fell to the mat and screamed in pain loud enough to be audible on television and hush the crowd of 19,715, the largest ever for a single session.
The injury, which occurred with 16 seconds left in the first period, changed the dynamic of the rest of the match. Stieber began to take total control as he earned a takedown late in the second period and registered another takedown and escape in the third.
Port did scored the final points of the match, earning an escape with 1:08 remaining and a takedown with 40 seconds left, but Stieber took the 11-5 decision, a perfect season, his 51st straight victory and his fourth national championship.
“Logan Stieber is a four-time national champion,” Flynn commented. “He is a great wrestler. You’ve got to be healthy for sure to battle him. Him twisting his kneecap there didn’t help the cause.”
Port’s runner-up finish earned him his third All-American honors, just one of eight Edinboro wrestlers to do so.
Vic Avery hoped to be wrestling on Saturday night with a national championship on the line, but the redshirt-junior fell to #1 Gabe Dean of Cornell, 4-3 in a second tiebreaker. Avery, who entered the championships as the 13th seed, upset the fourth, fifth, sixth and third seed on his way to a third place finish and first All-American honor.
Avery is coming for more at nationals next season.
“I’ve been in the backside my whole career, battling for third,” he said. “It’s nothing new to me. I want to be in the finals, I want to be on the stage and I want to win the championship. People are happy. I’m happy I took third, but at the same time I’d rather not place this year if it meant I could win it next year. I just hope I showed some people that I’m tough and hopefully I opened some eyes. I’m here and I’m coming for Dean next year as well.”
Redshirt-senior A.J. Schopp displayed one of the greatest paths through a national championship, and one of the most difficult as well. Schopp, who entered as the ninth-seed, was upset by Caleb Richardson, 4-2. Schopp was sent to the consolation bracket and responded well. The Tyrone, Pennsylvania native tore off seven straight victories on his way to a third-place finish and his third All-American status.
Schopp’s streak impressively included four falls, including two over seeded opponents. His finish is the best of his career after finishing fourth the last two seasons, but it may have been simply fear that motivated Schopp in the championships.
“Scared,” he said as to what he felt after the opening loss. “I could have been knocked out at any point during those four matches that I needed to solidify my All-American status, but it was really cool that I got one win and I just started pinning people. That’s what I love to do.”
Flynn had some praise for Schopp, who ends his career as Edinboro’s all-time pins leader.
“He did a nice job just staying focus,” Flynn said. “We saw a little bit of the old A.J. Schopp up on top and he got a couple falls. That was really tough to do. It was Herculean.”
Kory Mines, the 12th seed at 125 lbs. and Vince Pickett, who was unseeded at 197 lbs., also qualified for the national championships.
Mines, in his second trip to nationals, earned two wins to start off, including an upset of #5 Sean Boyle of Chattanooga. However, Mines fell to the consolation bracket after #4 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State, the eventual national champion, won by tech. fall, 16-1. Mines was eliminated in the next match after losing by an 11-0 major decision.
Pickett had a rough outing in St. Louis as he lost his first two matches. The first he lost by a 16-4 major decision and the second one, which eliminated the junior, was a 7-0 decision to #11 Alex Polizzi of Northwestern.
Regardless of the statistics, the conference, the money, Edinboro took the wrestling world by storm last week in St. Louis, putting three into the semi-finals for just the second time in Edinboro history and had four All-Americans, tying the school record.
“We don’t care about how the facilities look, how much resources we have or how much money we get, we have wrestling mats and wrestling shoes just like everybody else,” Habat said.
And Edinboro does pretty well with those.