DES MOINES, Iowa — University of Iowa wrestler Derek St. John became the 52nd national champion in program history following a 3-2 decision over Northwestern’s Jason Welch in the finals of the 2013 NCAA Championships.
St. John, a three-time All-American and 2012 NCAA runner-up, put together five-straight wins to climb to the top of the 157-pound bracket and claim his first career national crown.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s awesome,” said St. John. “It’s what I’ve been working toward the last four years, and I finally, finally got it. It’s unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable.”
After a scoreless first period, St. John piled up two minutes of riding time by riding Welch out in the second frame. He started down in the third period, and was awarded the first point of the match when Welch was called for locked hands. He extended his lead to 2-0 with an escape 48 seconds into the final period, but Welch tied it up, 2-2, after catching St. John with a reshot on the edge of the mat. St. John then scored the deciding point by escaping with 37 seconds left in the match.
“That’s just part of the game,” St. John said about staying calm in the final period. “You’ve got to stay cool as a cucumber. When I went to my back there, good burst of energy on his part and he caught me off guard a little bit. Just keep wrestling. Don’t bail just because you’re getting in a little bit of trouble.”
St. John’s title was the 80th individual NCAA wrestling championship in school history.
The Hawkeyes also earned a runner-up finish at 133 pounds. Tony Ramos was stopped one step short of the gold medal stand following a 7-4 loss to Ohio State’s Logan Stieber. Stieber, the defending national champion, jumped to an early 4-1 lead following a pair of first-period takedowns. He opened the second frame with an escape before Ramos cut the lead to 5-3 with a single-leg attack. The pair then scrambled into a position that nearly resulted in nearfall points for Ramos, but after an official review, the points were left off the board and Stieber eventually escaped to extend his lead, 6-3. Ramos cut the lead to 6-4 with a third-period escape, but Stieber held on for the 7-4 win with 1:10 riding time.
“I’m upset. I gave up two quick takedowns right away and had to come back throughout the match,” Ramos said, “but I feel like I wrestled hard. I felt like I wrestled every position. I was attacking. I was coming out on bottom, scoring points. So yeah I’m upset, but I feel like I wrestled a hard match.”
Ramos’ runner-up finish marked his second consecutive All-America honor. He placed third in 2012 and finished this season with a 31-2 record.
“It’s a step better,” said Ramos. “But it’s also a step worse. I finished my season with a loss. I’d rather go out with a win.”
Iowa finished fourth in the team race with 73 points. Penn State won its third straight NCAA title with 123.5 points. Oklahoma State (119.5) and Minnesota (103) finished second and third, respectively.
Iowa closed the 2012-13 season with a Big Ten dual title, four All-Americans and one national champion.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RESULTS (# indicates tournament seed)
174 – #1 Chris Perry (OKST) dec. #2 Matt Brown (PSU), 2-1 (TB-1)
184 – #1 Ed Ruth (PSU) major dec. #3 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), 12-8
197 – #2 Quentin Wright (PSU) dec. #1 Dustin Kilgore (Kent State), 8-6
285 – #2 Tony Nelson (MINN) dec. #5 Mike McMullan (NW), 6-2
125 – #2 Jesse Delgado (Illinois) dec. #4 Nico Megaludis (PSU), 7-4
133 – #1 Logan Stieber (OSU) dec. #2 Tony Ramos (IOWA), 7-4
141 – #2 Kendric Maple (OKLA) dec. #4 Mitchell Port (Edinboro), 4-3
149 – #1 Jordan Oliver (OKST) dec. #2 Jason Chamberlain (Boise State), 3-2
157 – #2 Derek St. John (IOWA) dec. #1 Jason Welch (NW), 3-2
165 – #1 Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. #2 David Taylor (PSU), 5-4