NEW YORK -- Senior Nahshon Garrett opened the night and closed his collegiate career with his first national title, and junior Gabe Dean put the cherry on top with his second consecutive crowning in front of a frenzied, sold-out Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening at the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships. An ESPN audience and 19,270 fans the World's Most Famous Arena witnessed Garrett's 7-6 win over No. 2 seed Cory Clark of Iowa at 133 pounds and Dean's 5-3 triumph over No. 7 seed TJ Dudley of Nebraska at 184 pounds.
Cornell finished seventh in the team race with 67 points, crowning three All-Americans after qualifying nine for the national championship meet. It is the Big Red's ninth consecutive top 10 team finish and eighth straight among the top seven teams. The two individual titles bring Cornell's haul to 19 in program history, while its three All-Americans give the Big Red 76 all-time, including 15 national crowns and 59 All-Americans under head coach Rob Koll.
The four-time All-American Garrett punctuated the season with a perfect 37-0 record, matched a school record for most wins without a loss in a season (Kyle Dake in 2012-13), and ended his career with 149 wins - second on the school's list. He became Cornell's 13th national champion, and his 20 wins in NCAA tournament competition tied a record previously held by four-time national champion Dake and fellow former title-winner Troy Nickerson. He concluded his career with 38 consecutive wins. Garrett joins fellow Big Red wrestlers David Hirsch and Travis Lee in advancing through the 133-pound field for a championship.
Garrett picked up a takedown 46 seconds into the match and rode him hard for a half-minute before Clark was able to escape to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Iowa junior was able to defend a deep shot sandwiched between a pair of stall warnings, one for each wrestler, before time ran out in the first. Clark escaped immediately, but Garrett responded by taking him down immediately following the award to extend the lead to 4-2. Clark escaped and then defended a late shot in the second as time ran out before Garrett could finish. The Big Red senior escaped after opening the third on bottom to extend his lead to 5-3 with 90 seconds left. A second stall call on Garrett gave Clark a penalty point to get within 5-4, but an emphatic takedown after the call gave Garrett a 7-4 edge. He again rode Clark hard before giving the Iowa wrestler another penalty point and an escape with seven seconds left, but Garrett avoided a final push to claim the 7-6 win and his first national title.
"[Our crowd is] awesome. It's easy to get caught up in when they were singing the national anthem - I was in tears because I was overwhelmed by the glory of the spectating and just everything emanating from me and from everybody else and it's just a pretty amazing thing," Garrett said. "I was a little emotional before my match, so I had to calm myself down."
He did that and more. With the craziness that surrounds the championship - from the noise and distractions from the crowd to the wait for television breaks and pyrotechnic introductions - Garrett waited calmly, silently and motionless, in the center circle while his opponent bounded around, trying to get rid of nervous energy and keep his body warm. But Garrett's serenity won out - securing the only three takedowns en route to standing at the top of the podium for the first time after three other trips lower down, including a runner-up finish in 2014 at 125 pounds. His next stop will be the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, from April 9-10.
Dean's second straight title came in a controlled nail-biter against Nebraska's Dudley. Dean took nearly every shot in the match and defended one third-period shot for the decisive takedown in the 5-3 victory. Dean had the match's only two takedowns, and that was enough to return to the top of the podium and become the fourth multiple-time NCAA champion in Cornell history, joining four-timer Dake and two-time champs Dave Auble and Travis Lee. Dean finished his junior campaign 34-1 and is now 117-6 over his three-year career.
The three-time All-American took the only real shots of the first period, getting to a leg three times but only drawing a stall warning on Dudley for consistently backing away in the first three minutes. Dudley chose bottom to begin the second and earned a quick escape to take a 1-0 lead. Dean was credited with a takedown with 40 seconds left in the second, and after a Nebraska coach's challenge, the call was confirmed, though Dudley was also awarded the escape to knot the match 2-2. Dean began the third on bottom and took a 3-2 edge with an escape six seconds in and kept significant pressure on Dudley. He got in on a leg but couldn't finish several times before the Nebraska junior took a shot. Dean countered with a go-behind for a takedown to extend his edge to 5-2 and kept away from his opponent for the final 20 seconds to leave the mat with his second national title.
"I remember coming into Cornell when I was a kid, getting my butt kicked every day by Cam Simaz. I guess it's great to be on the other end of that now and not getting my head shoved into the bleachers every day," Dean said. "But the point was these kids, not just me but my whole class, we kept coming back and didn't take no for an answer. And you know what, we didn't have the perfect NCAA Tournament, but we've got a lot of fighters on our team and a lot of support. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
Cornell junior Dylan Palacio capped off his first All-America season with a fourth-place finish at the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The EIWA champion closed his season with a 19-3 record in the 157 pound weight class.
Palacio received a medical forfeit against fourth-seeded Ian Miller of Kent State in the consolation semifinals, an anticlimactic finish to a highly anticipated match between two of the nation's most exciting wrestlers. That propelled him into the third-place match against Virginia Tech's Nick Brascetta, the No. 8 seed.
A scoreless period spent circling included only one scoring opportunity, a shot by Brascetta that Palacio was able to successfully defend. Palacio took bottom to begin the second and escaped 39 seconds into the period after a near-reversal to get on the scoreboard with a 1-0 lead. Palacio got in on a single leg, but Brascetta was able to re-shoot for the opening takedown and rode out Palacio to take a 2-1 lead with riding time into the third. Brascetta took down to begin the third and earned a quick escape to go up 3-1. Needing a big move, Palacio wasn't able to attack as the Hokie tied him up most of the final two minutes for a 4-1 final.
Jeremy Hartigan is associate director of athletics for communications.