As we noted yesterday, NCAA.com is running a series of polls this week to determine the best championship match in NCAA history. Not surprisingly, several Iowa wrestlers are featured in the championship matches selected by the NCAA.com folks. You should definitely go vote for them. Here are the final two quarterfinals, which are open for voting today:
At the 2013 NCAA Championships, Cornell's Kyle Dake became the first wrestler in NCAA history to win four titles at four different weight classes after defeating two-time NCAA champ David Taylor of Penn State.
All on the Line
Rival grapplers Lee Kemp of Wisconsin and Kelly Ward of Iowa State were the top two seeds of the tournament in 1978, and for Ward the team title was on the line in this finals matchup. Kemp jumped out to an early lead and although Ward closed the gap, was unable to top the Badger wrestler.
BHGP: There's no Iowa wrestler in any of these matches, so there's no obvious choice here. I find the inclusion of Dake-Taylor somewhat surprising, though, because while Dake's win was unquestionably historic and significant, the match itself -- like his other title matches -- was not a particularly classic encounter. The stakes were enormous and the hype was almost unprecedented, but the match itself was not an all-timer. It was a good match, but not a great one. For that reason, I'd be inclined to vote for the Kemp-Ward match.
In one of the biggest shockers in NCAA wrestling history, Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State defeated Iowa's Brent Metcalf, considered at the time to be the best collegiate wrestler regardless of weight class.
The Final Escape
An escape by Iowa wrestler Joe Williams with only six seconds remaining proved to be the winning point in the 1996 NCAA Championships finals match at 158 pounds. Williams defeated Illini wrestler Ernest Benion 9-8 to claim the title.
BHGP: Ouch. It's not surprising to see Metcalf's loss to Caldwell represented -- it was a tremendous shock, after all, and an incredibly memorable match (albeit not for reasons that make us happy). Still, that memory is such a bitter pill that I can't possibly endorse voting for it to be recognized as the greatest championship match in NCAA history. Go with Joe.