The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 19, 2014

Neosho grad Stauffer representing Arizona State at NCAA meet

Neosho High School graduate Blake Stauffer will be Arizona State’s lone representative at the NCAA Wrestling Champions today at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

Stauffer (20-8, 12-1 duals) will compete at 184 pounds. He opens today’s morning session against Michigan’s Domenic Abounader (15-9, 5-6 duals), who is a No. 9 seed. Stauffer’s next match will be against either Nebraska’s Timothy Dudley or Davidson’s Donald Patrick.

This season, Stauffer went undefeated in the Pac-12 slate and rounded out the dual schedule by winning 10 of his last 12 matches. Eight of his past 12 wins have come in the form of either a major decision or a tech fall.

Stauffer, a sophomore also qualified for the national meet last year at 174 pounds. During his senior year at Neosho, Stauffer was named the 2011 Missouri Wrestler of the Year. He finished his high school career with two state championships and a 193-9 record.

In the team competition, Penn State is favored to win its fourth consecutive NCAA wrestling title despite challenges from traditional powers Iowa, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Minnesota.

“I think the parity is great,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “It takes time. Not too long ago, I think you only had three teams with a chance to win, Now, I think there are 10 or 15 that think they can win and have the resources to do so.”

The finals will be Saturday.

Penn State could be a factor in several classes.

Jessie Delgado of Illinois (25-2) returns to defend his title at 125, but last year’s runner-up, Penn State’s Nicholas Megaludis (26-3), is back.

Ohio State’s Logan Steiber (25-1), the No. 2 seed at 141, won 133 last year and is a two-time national champion. Mitchell Port of Edinboro is undefeated (26-0) and seeded No. 1. Penn State freshman Zain Retherford (29-1) beat Steiber early in the season, but Steiber beat him in the Big Ten final.

Oklahoma State has qualifiers in every class. The Cowboys have won the national title the past two times the championships were held in Oklahoma City.

“Driving down the road here makes it real easy for us,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. “Sometimes, that translates into great wrestling. We have to get focused, and we have to wrestle our best three days that we’ve wrestled all year.”

Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry (25-1) returns to defend his title. Oklahoma’s Andrew Howe (24-1), a past national champ, also is in this class and is seeded No. 2. Perry’s only loss this season is to Howe, but Perry beat him 3-2 in the Big 12 tournament for Howe’s only loss.

“You have to take one match at a time and get ready,” Perry said. “If we meet up again, so be it. I’ll be excited.”

Kendric Maple (22-4) leads Oklahoma, He won 141 last year and is the No. 4 seed at 149 this year. Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt (34-1) is the top seed. Houdashelt beat Maple 3-2 in their only meeting this season.

Iowa’s Derek St. John (25-4), the defending champion at 157, is seeded second. Nebraska’s James Green (29-1), the No. 1 seed, beat St. John at the Big Ten Championships. Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan (27-5) is the only wrestler to beat Green this season.

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