Amuchastegui comes up short in NCAA final
Nick Amuchastegui has never been one to back down from a challenge — on or off the wrestling mat — but Saturday's task in the NCAA Championships was just a little too daunting for the Stanford junior at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Amuchastegui's hopes of his first national championship were dashed in frustrating fashion by top-seeded Jon Reader of Iowa State. The Phoenix High standout fell behind 6-1 in the first period and couldn't penetrate the defense of Reader, who capped off a 39-0 season with a 10-3 decision that included more than two minutes of riding time and four blood stoppages.
"I don't like giving guys breaks," Reader told the Des Moines Register. "I wanted to be in his face."
The wrestlers appeared to bang heads in the opening seconds of their match at 174 pounds, opening a slight cut on Amuchastegui's nose and a larger gash on Reader's forehead above his right eye. The four-time All-American from Iowa State twice had to get his head wrapped in tape because blood from the cut kept seeping through the bandage.
An underhook and ensuing leg sweep by Reader put the seventh-seeded Amuchastegui on the mat one minute into the action, and four back points led to a 6-0 lead before Amuchastegui finally scored an escape with 25 seconds to go in the first period.
Reader boosted his lead to 7-1 with an escape in the second period, but Amuchastegui was able to get the riding time under one minute to negate some of his disadvantage.
As someone who thrives in the top position, Reader proved too strong and too skilled in the third period. Amuchastegui managed an escape with 1:45 to go to make it 7-2, then went in for a shot that just missed and Reader quickly took advantage by spinning around his hips for a 9-2 advantage. Amuchastegui worked his way free again with 26 seconds to go, but Reader went into a full split-leg position to fend off another shot attempt and close out the match.
"I don't think he wrestled his best match but he was better than the Stanford kid," Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson told the Des Moines Register. "(Amuchastegui) had a hot tournament, but when it comes down to it and they both throw their best matches out there, I think Jon's supposed to win that match."
Reader was a member of the U.S. World Junior team last summer and was one of five wrestlers to finish the tournament undefeated.
The final outcome, however, didn't take away from what was a remarkable run over the weekend in Philadelphia. Amuchastegui reached the finals with wins Friday against the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, Ed Ruth of Penn State and Mack Lewnes of Cornell, and became just the second Cardinal in program history to be an NCAA finalist. Former North Valley standout Matt Gentry earned Stanford's only championship in 2004.
For his efforts, Amuchastegui became just the fourth wrestler in Stanford history to earn multiple All-America honors. He placed fourth last season to go with his runner-up showing in 2011.
In the overall team race, Penn State had a champion in 184-pounder Quentin Wright and won its first NCAA title since 1953. The Nittany Lions scored 107.5 points to edge Cornell, which finished second for the second straight season with 93.5 points.
Oregon State's Colby Covington, the No. 4 seed at 174, wrapped up his tournament by placing fifth. Covington dropped a 12-5 decision to Cornell's Lewnes in the consolation semifinals, then edged fifth-seeded Christopher Henrich of Virginia 3-2 in the fifth-place final.
Ruth, the No. 2 seed who lost to Amuchastegui in the quarterfinals, regrouped to take third with a 6-2 decision over Lewnes, who lost to the former Pirate in the semifinals.
Stanford senior Zack Giesen was forced to settle for sixth place while becoming the program's 16th All-American with a pair of losses Saturday morning. Giesen, the Pac-10 champion at 197 pounds, entered the tournament as the No. 12 seed.
Giesen was pinned in 3:31 by top-seeded Cam Simaz of Cornell in the consolation semifinals to drop into the fifth-place finals. In his last match, Giesen again was edged by Iowa's Luke Lofthouse, the No. 5 seed, in a 6-3 decision. If was Lofthouse who originally sent Giesen to the consolation bracket earlier in the tournament with an 8-3 victory.
Giesen, a four-time state champion at North Valley High, capped his Stanford career with 109 victories, tying him for the fourth-most in Cardinal history.
In the opening match of the night, Arizona State's Anthony Robles took a 7-1 decision from Iowa sophomore Matt McDonough. Robles, who was born without a right leg, got the only takedown in the first period of the match and worked a pair of tilts to secure five back points.
"I had a lot of butterflies going out there," said Robles, who admitted he's most likely done as a competitive wrestler but wants to remain involved in one facet or another. "This year I think that was the biggest difference in my wrestling, was my mental game. Going into every match I was real relaxed, real calm. But before that, before this match, it was nothing but butterflies. I felt like I was going to throw up, I was so scared I almost started crying.
"But it's just the atmosphere. It's the true athletes that are able to just overcome that."