The 2016 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships took a break from St. Louis this year. Not to worry area, wrestling fans; the championships will be back in St. Louis in 2017 at the Scottrade Center. This year's championships were held in the most famous arena of them all – Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The 2016 championships didn't disappoint. While the Penn State Nittany Lions, coached by Cael Sanderson, ran away with the team title, there were a number of intriguing matches along the way culminating in an exciting night of championship matches this past Saturday, televised on ESPN.
Three African-American wrestlers took home NCAA Wrestling titles. Mizzou junior J'den Cox – a Columbia, Missouri native and four-time Missouri state champion in high school – took home his second national championship in three years at 197 pounds by defeating Morgan Macintosh of Penn State.
Nashon Garrett – a four-time All American, senior from Cornell and native of California – took home his first NCAA national championship at 133 pounds by defeating Corey Clark of Iowa.
Myles Martin, a New Jersey native wrestling for Ohio State, came in as an 11 seed and was the lowest seed to take home a national championship. Martin was also the only true freshman to win a title when he defeated Bo Nickal of Penn State at 174 pounds.
Other national championships went to Nico Megaludis of Penn State (125 pounds), Dean Heil of Oklahoma State (141 pounds), Zain Retherford of Penn State (149 pounds), Isaiah Martinez of Illinois winning his second title (157 pounds), Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State winning his third title (165 pounds), and Gabe Dean of Cornell winning his second title (184 pounds).
In the showcase bout of the night, defending world champion for the United States Kyle Snyder (representing Ohio State) defeated two-time defending champion from North Carolina State Nick Gwiazdowski in overtime.
Other than Cox, three other Mizzou wrestlers took home medals. Lavion Mayes, a Mascoutah High School product, took third at 149 pounds. Daniel Lewis, a redshirt-freshman and four-time Missouri state champion from Kansas City, took fourth at 165 pounds. And Willie Miklus took sixth at 184 pounds. Mayes and Lewis are African-American, so three of the four Mizzou All Americans were African-American.
In other news of local interest Tommy Gantt, a Cahokia native and African American, earned All American honors by placing eighth for North Carolina State at 157 pounds.
Mizzou finished the tournament in sixth place behind champions Penn State, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Iowa. Next year, with the tournament returning to St. Louis and home turf, Mizzou Coach Brian Smith hopes to compete for a title powered by returning champion Cox and returning All Americans Lewis, Mayes, and Miklus.
The eyes of the wrestling fans in America now turn to the Olympic Trials next month in Iowa City. All NCAA champions automatically qualify to compete in the trials although outside of Snyder all are considered long shots to make the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Follow Umar Lee on Twitter @STLAbuBadu.