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Illinois' Delgado successfully defends 125 title against Garrett at 2014 NCAAs

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Twists. Turns. Suspense. The 125-pound title match at the 2014 NCAAs had it all.

After seven minutes of action-packed wrestling – except for a trio of video reviews -- Jesse Delgado of the University of Illinois managed to hold onto his 125-pound title at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City Saturday night.

In a battle of California natives wrestling for schools in the Midwest and upstate New York, the top-seeded Delgado edged No. 2 seed Nahshon Garrett of Cornell University, 3-2, in the 125 finals.

The match was exciting and action-packed, notable for its fierce scrambles, bent-like-a-pretzel contortions, and seemingly frequent video reviews (a total of three in a three-minute period).

Delgado won the title at the 2013 NCAAs by beating Big Ten rival Nico Megaludis of Penn State, 6-4, in the 125 finals, making him the first Fighting Illini NCAA champ since Matt Lackey in 2003.

Originally from Gilroy, Calif., Delgado started his college career at Cal Poly… but transferred to Illinois when associate head coach Mark Perry made the move to the Midwest.

Delgado and Garrett have some on-the-mat history between them, with Delgado beating the Big Red wrestler twice in two meetings.

How Delgado (30-2 season record) got to the finals: Rd. 1: pinned unseeded Jake Rause (Utah Valley), 6:53; Rd. 2: dec. No. 16 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech), 6-1. Qtrfinals: dec. No. 8 Cory Clark (Iowa), 10-5. Semifinals: dec. No. 5 Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa), 9-6.

How Garrett (34-2 season record) got to the finals: Rd. 1: maj. dec. unseeded Jamie Franco (Hofstra), 6-0; Rd. 2: dec. No. 15 Anthony Zanetta (Pitt), 6-0; Qtrfinals: No. 10 David Terao (American), 11-0; Semifinals: dec. No. 3 Nico Megaludis (Penn State), 6-4.

Finals action:

  • 1st Period: Garrett started the action with a bang, going for a takedown… however, upon video review, the TD was denied, no score. Garrett attempted another takedown, referee denied it, Cornell protested, and, upon video review, the referee decision was upheld. A third video review in the first three minutes, this time, Illinois coaches protesting the referee nixing a takedown of Delgado. The off-the-mat officials backed the mat official. Despite plenty of action and time outs for reviews, no scoring.
  • 2nd Period: Delgado chooses down, scores an escape with 30 seconds left. The champ scores an edge-of-mat takedown in the remaining time to make the score 3-0 Delgado.
  • 3rd Period: Wrestlers start in neutral (standing) position. Both receive stall warnings. Delgado gets a follow-up stall notice, giving one point to Garrett. Garrett had also earned one point riding time… but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit, as Delgado wins the match – and his second title – 3-2.

Quotes from the champ:

  • On which was more difficult – the first or second title: “They were both hard. I think it’s always harder repeating, but they both presented their own changes. He (Garrett) threw me off in that match a little bit. He controlled the match again. (Nico) Megaludis controlled the match last year. But I came out with a win."
  • Scrambling: “I think once Mark (Perry) saw I had a feel for it (scrambling), they started working with me. But basic defense is what he wants. I think they’re on the edge of their seats sometime when I get twisted like that. I think it makes it a little fun for people to watch, though, if they’re not from Penn State or Ohio or Cornell.”
  • This year’s title match: “He was pretty solid the whole match. I really didn’t get the angle I wanted. But he messed up one time and I capitalized. He was out of position for a split second, half-a-second, maybe. I saw it, took advantage of it. I knew if I got to his leg, I was going to finish. And that’s where I got it, and only had to do it one time.”
  • On coach Mark Perry: "He's like family. He's changed my life completely. It's more than a coach. It's a mentor. It's a brother. It's a friend. It's someone I'm going to have the rest of my life. It's family."

2014 NCAA All-Americans – 125 pounds

  1. Jesse Delgado (Illinois)
  2. Nahshon Garrett (Cornell University)
  3. Nico Megaludis (Penn State)
  4. Joey Dance (Virginia Tech)
  5. Cory Clark (Iowa)
  6. Dylan Peters (Northern Iowa)
  7. Darian Cruz (Lehigh)
  8. Earl Hall (Iowa State)

Take a look back: For all College Wrestling Examiner articles on the 2014 NCAAs, click here... and check out Mat Bracketology, College Wrestling Examiner's weight-by-weight analysis of seeded wrestlers, by clicking on the Mat Bracketology link.

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