Ben askren

As this juncture, we’re roughly 11 hours into the first day of 2008. The college football bowl games are generally disinteresting, as evidenced by this Hawaii-Georgia game that’s clogging up the high-def football experience.

You can read about pigskin anytime, but 2007 has come and gone (cliché alert) and there’s so much to recap in the nutty year that was.

Early on in 2007, one of the best high school wrestlers in the country – Corey Jantzen – was embroiled in an eligibility dispute with the New York High School association regarding his participation in The Midlands. Jantzen was eventually ruled eligible, but the decision by the NYSPHSAA still left a sour taste in the mouths of wrestling fans from the great wrestling state of New York. It’s bad enough they can’t hit certain out of state tournaments. Jantzen placed at the tournament and won his fifth state championship later in the year. ... Former Iowa wrestlers Luke and Ty Eustice made one of their numerous appearances giving answers for the show Jeopardy! ... Ursinus coach Bill Raich won his 400th dual when his squad topped Plymouth State at the North/South Duals. ... James Madison University rejected a plea from students to save eight sports the school would cut at the end of the 2006-07 season, including wrestling. ... For the second consecutive year, a fall by Cole Konrad gave Minnesota the championship at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals. Konrad pinned Tyler Perry of Missouri to give the Gophers a second straight title, while Nebraska-Kearney’s Tervel Dlagnev did the same as his fall gave the Lopers a finals victory over rival Nebraska-Omaha. Augsburg beat Wartburg in Division III, while Lindenwood won the NAIA crown. ... Former UC-Davis coach Mike Burch was awarded $725,000 stemming from his support to keep female athletes on his squad which ultimately led to his termination as coach at Davis. ... The National Wrestling Hall of Fame announced its class of 2007 Distinguished Members, which included Barry Davis, Greg Gibson, Larry Kristoff, and Bill Weick. ... Longtime Minnesota wrestling coach Wally Johnson died at the age of 91. Johnson coached the Gophers from 1952-1986. ... Wisconsin beat Iowa in a dual meet for the first time in 40 years. The Badgers had last beaten the Hawkeyes in 1965.

NCAA wrestling official Pat McCormick was named one of Virginia’s outstanding scientists by Gov. Tim Kaine. Dr. McCormick has taught at Hampton University for the past 12 years. ... Oklahoma City University announced it was adding women’s wrestling as a varsity sport one year after the school added men’s wrestling. Archie Randall, the long-time El Reno High School coach, will head up both teams. ... Oregon State won the Pac-10 conference championship in coach Jim Zalesky’s first year. ... Iowa led the nation in home attendance, averaging 6,740 per home dual according to attendance figures released by Denny Diehl. ... Using up another one of his nine lives, former Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner survived a plane crash near Lake Powell. ... Minnesota senior Torrey Line announced his intention to attend the University of Minnesota. Line missed his entire senior year battling a form of bone cancer. Line was the Cadet Greco-Roman National Champion in 2005. You can follow the progress at

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a resolution encouraging the state-funded schools within the state to sponsor collegiate wrestling. It passed unanimously. ... Minnesota won the Big Ten, Iowa State won the Big 12, Hofstra won the CAA, Edinboro won the EWL, Central Michigan won the MAC, Northern Iowa won the West Region, Liberty won the East Region, UT-Chattanooga won the SoCon, N.C. State won the ACC, and Cornell won the EIWA in early post-season action for the month, setting up the field for the 2007 NCAA Championships in Auburn Hills. ... Jeff Swenson announced he was stepping down as Augsburg head coach at the end of the season. ... In Pennsylvania, Central Dauphin became the first District III team to win a PIAA state high school team title in AAA. ... Minnesota won the Division I championship, outdistancing second place Iowa State. One of the most intriguing parts of the 2007 Division I Nationals was the fact that all 10 champions came from different schools. UC Davis’ Derek Moore not only became his school’s first All-American, but the first NCAA champion as well. Moore, named the Outstanding Wrestler, finished an undefeated season with a technical fall over Northwestern’s Ryan Lang. Paul Donahoe of Nebraska won the D-I title at 125, denying Oklahoma’s Sam Hazewinkel of the coveted gold that eluded him his entire career. Matt Valenti repeated as the champ at 133 pounds, defeating Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State. Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota was denied a second title with a semifinal loss to Edinboro’s Gregor Gillespie, who eventually topped Michigan’s Josh Churella in the finals. Trent Paulson of Iowa State took home the crown at 157 pounds; Mark Perry of Iowa finally got a win over Oklahoma State’s Johny Hendricks to claim the crown at 165. Ben Askren of Missouri finished an unbeaten season by defeating Pitt’s Keith Gavin in the finals at 174 pounds. Northwestern’s Jake Herbert won his first NCAA championship by defeating Iowa State’s Jake Varner at 184 pounds. American’s Josh Glenn became the first NCAA champion in that school’s history by defeating Kurt Backes of Iowa State in overtime, and Cole Konrad won his second NCAA championship by defeating Aaron Anspach of Penn State. Sacred Heart’s Payam Zarrinpour became the first All-American in school history for Sacred Heart and Ryan Hluschak became only the second All-American for Drexel. For the first time in five years, a top-seeded wrestler was knocked off in the first round of the D-I championships as Brandon Halsey of Cal State-Bakersfield topped Max Askren of Missouri. ... The National Wrestling Media Association presented its annual awards at the Division I Championships with Jay Hammond’s “History of Collegiate Wrestling” picking up the award for best wrestling publication, Mike Finn of W.I.N. received the award for print journalist of the year, Jeff Nolan of Connecticut was voted photographer of the year, Northern Iowa’s Colin McDonough was voted SID/publicist of the year, Penn State’s Jeff Byers was voted top wrestling broadcaster of the year and InterMat picked up wrestling web site of the year. ... The National Wrestling Coaches Association announced Dan Gable as the Meritorious Service Award winner, while Ray Brace, Dennis DeLiddo, Tim Cornish and Greg Dumas received the Dan Gable “America Needs Wrestling” Award. ... Ben Askren repeated as the Dan Hodge Award winner as voted on by W.I.N. magazine. Askren also led all of the NCAA in falls during the season with 29. ... Jessie Reyes resigned as the head coach at Purdue. ... The month ended on a sad note as legendary Granby High School coach Billy Martin Sr. passed away at age 89.

It was announced that Minnesota assistant wrestling coach Joe Russell would receive the Medal of Courage award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. ... Minnesota’s Zach Sanders was named the winner of the Dave Schultz Award, presented annually by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame to the top high school wrestler in the country. ... After spending several weeks in January at #1 in the rankings, Missouri rewarded coach Brian Smith with a five-year contract extension. ... Just a handful of high school fans watched two of the nation’s best underclassmen battle at the Brute Scholastic Showcase at Delaware State. Scott Winston of New Jersey topped Quentin Wright of Pennsylvania in the best individual match in the event. Winston won in overtime.

Rutgers coach John Sacchi announced his retirement from coaching ... Darton College in Georgia announced it was adding wrestling as a sport on the junior college level. ... Amateur Wrestling News named Wartburg coach Jim Miller its Man of the Year. ... Eastern Illinois announced it was dropping wrestling because of Academic Progress Rate issues, which set off a series of questions about how the APR is used, misunderstood and calculated. Later in the year, EIU Athletic Director Rich McDuffie was dismissed from his post. The decision stands as one of the most disruptive for wrestling programs around the nation – at least during the time. A more damning decision would be coming later in the year. ... The Division I wrestling committee announced plans to modify the qualifying format for the NCAA Championships ... Reggie Wright was named the new coach at Delaware State and Scott Hinkel was named the new head coach at Purdue. ... Penn State’s Aaron Anspach was denied by the NCAA on his appeal for a sixth-year of eligibility.

Las Vegas hosted the U.S. World Team Trials along side the Grappling World Team trials, confusing wrestling fans on one side and grappling fans on the other. Each group of fans were confused by the rules, and most American wrestling fans are still confused by the FILA rules regarding freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. ... Ohio State was represented on the World Team by coaches Joe Heskett and Tommy Rowlands. ... Pat McNamara was named the head coach at SIU-Edwardsville as the school moves towards becoming a full member of NCAA Division I. ... Steve Silver was named Man of the Year by USA Wrestling and Sharon Dowden was named Woman of the Year. ... Long-time Manchester coach Tom Jarman announced his retirement. ... Cole Konrad was named the Jesse Owens Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year. Konrad won the award over Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and Greg Oden, both of Ohio State. ... Howie Miller’s wrestling movie, “Veritas,” was screened at the South Side Film Festival in Bethlehem, Pa. It’s simply awesome. Bucknell wrestling supporter Bill Graham received the NAADD Donor of the Year award. ... Ben Askren of Missouri was nominated for Best Male College Athlete at the ESPY Awards. ... Gannon and Mercyhurst announced they were joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. ...

InterMat released its annual Division I recruiting class rankings and Ohio State came out as the top squad in the recruiting arms race. ... Askren was named Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year, adding more hardware to his already full trophy case. ... SUNY-Martime announced it was cutting three sports, including wrestling, all without notifying the head coach of the decision. ... Scott Shipman took over as head coach at Gardner-Webb. ... In one of the rashest decisions in recent memory, Oregon Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny announced the school was dropping wrestling and adding baseball and competitive cheer. Shortly thereafter, was launched to inform the masses of the unethical nature in which the program was cut. While losing EIU was bad, losing Oregon from the Pac-10 would drop the conference to just three all-sports members sponsoring the sport. ... Veritas officially went on sale at ... Fargo hosted the Cadet and Junior Nationals again and Nicole Woody became the first four-time women’s junior freestyle champion. ... The NWCA announced Oregon as the host for the All-Star Classic, a move designed to draw more exposure to the situation in Eugene. ... Rutgers announced Scott Goodale as its new high school coach. ...

InterMat’s #1-ranked high school recruit for the Class of 2008 announced his intention to wrestle at Northwestern. The NWCA hosted its annual convention in Lake Tahoe. Qualifier allocations were discussed and John Smith, Derek Moore and Jim Zalesky were technique presenters. ... W.I.N. magazine named Jason Bryant (shameless plug) its wrestling journalist of the year. ... Wagner College made a smart move by leaving the CAA to head for the East Region, giving the Seahawks a chance to have a better chance to quality wrestlers to the NCAA championships. ... Jay Weiss of Harvard and Trent Kroll of Oregon were named recipients of the U.S. Marine Corps Excellence in Leadership Award at the NWCA Convention. ... Dax Charles was named the new head coach at Colorado State-Pueblo. The school announced it was re-instating wrestling and Charles was tabbed to lead the way. ... Penn State sophomore Bubba Jenkins won the 145.5-pound championship at the FILA Junior World Championships in China. ... The NWCA announced Dan Hinkel, Tom Jarman, John Sacchi and Tony Iasello as Lifetime Honorary members of the NWCA. ... The NWCA announced the upcoming recipients of the Dan Gable “America Needs Wrestling” Award: Greg Hatcher of Arkansas, John Licata of Virginia and Steve Silver of Texas. Hatcher has been instrumental in bringing high school wrestling to the state of Arkansas. Licata’s leading the charge with Equity in Athletics to help save the eight sports at JMU, and Silver’s was a driving force in bringing the NWCA All-Star Classic to Dallas in 2006.

Joey Rivera was named the interim head coach at East Stroudsburg after Jason Kutz left to return to his post as an assistant at Lehigh ... Scott Winston of New Jersey, InterMat’s #2-ranked recruit, announced his intention to follow Scott Goodale to Rutgers. ... The Wrestling World Championships took place in Baku, Azerbaijan and it was a record-setting performance for the U.S. Greco-Roman team. The team won its first World Championship and was led by “the world’s most exciting Greco-Roman wrestler,” Harry Lester. Lester took Bronze at 145.5 after being straight up hosed in his semifinal. Yeah, FILA did it again. Brad Vering took home a silver medal after a gritty performance and Dremiel Byers’ bronze medal finish was also crucial. ... Kristie Marano won her ninth world medal, tying Bruce Baumgartner for the most world medals all-time. Baku cab drivers are easily worse than NYC cab drivers and USA Wrestling’s Craig Sesker doubled as a Russian soldier at Baku’s version of the Santa Monica fishing pier.

Just weeks after wrestling at the World Championships, Joe Heskett had sudden heart surgery after a practice at Ohio State and ended his wrestling career just after his fifth-place finish at the Worlds. ... Casey Brewster was named the head coach at Sacred Heart ... Minnesota was voted #1 unanimously in the USA Today/InterMat/Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll. ... Resilite Sports Products energy conservation project won it the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award from the state of Pennsylvania.

Edinboro won the first three Division I dual meets of the season, beating Army, Mercyhurst and Maryland. ... Former Navy All-American Doug Zembiec was posthumously presented the NCAA Award of Valor. Zembiec was killed in action in Baghdad in May. ... Dan Gable and Dennis Hastert along with the NWCA lobbied the Pennsylvania General Assembly to protect Olympic sports in the state-funded system of higher education. ... Two-time All-American Troy Nickerson of Cornell will miss the entire 2007-08 wrestling season. ... Over 4,000 people came to McArthur Court at the University of Oregon for the NWCA All-Star Classic. ... Maryland knocked off fifth-ranked Michigan at the Journeymen/Brute Northeast Duals in the year’s first major dual upset.

Iowa returned to the top of the rankings for the first time in seven years after they went up to Ames and topped the Cyclones at the Hilton Coliseum. With the “Hokeyes” (as they have been dubbed by the internet public) in the lineup, second-year coach Tom Brands has his squad firing on all cylinders (another cliché alert). Joey Slaton, Brent Metcalf and Jay Borschel are all nationally ranked and the core of Iowa starters has given that fire back to the Iowa faithful. Cael Sanderson’s Iowa State team is ranked just behind the Hawks and still eyeing an NCAA championship. The teams finished 1-2 at the Midlands, while preseason #1 Minnesota won the Southern Scuffle with ease. December also saw the rise of collegiate wrestling’s do-or-die phenom Darrion Caldwell from N.C. State. Caldwell was on fire in Las Vegas, dominating the field, but at the end of the month, he failed to place with his high octane style either being exploited or just chalking it up to a bad day. ... St. Paris Graham became the first public school to win the Ironman. The Falcons outdistanced second place Blair Academy. ... Central Michigan won the Reno Tournament of Champions and Michigan won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. ... Wrestling lost former NCAA champion Tab Thacker in the late days of the year. Thacker, the 1984 Division I champion that tipped the scales at well over 400 pounds, was prominent in the Police Academy series of movies and his role as Finch in the Goldie Hawn movie “Wildcats” was quite funny.

Happy New Year folks!

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