Redshirt junior Jake Woodley is finally an All-American.
After earning bids to the NCAA Championships three years in a row but never earning wins past the first round, No. 26 at 197 pounds Woodley broke through to the semifinals. He upset three top-15 wrestlers on his path while becoming the lowest-seeded wrestler to ever make an NCAA semifinal.
The 197-pounder defeated Missouri’s No. 7 Rocky Elam, 4-1, in the first round and Michigan State’s No. 10 Cam Caffey via decision, 4-3, to advance to the quarterfinals. There he topped Penn State’s No. 15 Michael Beard, 8-3, becoming OU’s 277th All-American and advancing to the semifinals.
“I knew I could beat the top guys, but I wasn’t really putting it together earlier in the year,” said Woodley, who finished the regular season with an 8-7 record. “It feels good to get some wins because I haven’t had any over the top guys so far this year.”
In the semifinal bout, the Pittsburgh native was downed by Pittsburgh’s No. 6 Nino Bonaccorsi, 4-1, moving him to the consolation semifinals. In that bout he lost to Iowa’s No. 5 Jacob Warner, 2-1, eliminating him from the tournament and ending OU’s season. Woodley finished sixth and will walk in the Parade of All-Americans before the championship final matches Saturday evening.
“I’m proud of Jake because he wrestled up to his standard,” OU head coach Lou Rosselli said.
Behind Woodley’s historic performance, No. 19 Oklahoma (5-5, 2-4 Big 12) is in 24th place and is the fifth highest Big 12 team in the tournament with 17 points entering tonight’s finals after surprisingly tying Oklahoma State for the Big 12 title.
No. 11 at 133 pounds Tony Madrigal and No. 23 at 174 pounds Anthony Mantanona, both juniors, were eliminated on day one Thursday. Madrigal fell to Navy’s No. 27 Jacob Allen, 7-1, and Mantanona was pinned by Rutgers’ No. 26 Jackson Turley. Redshirt senior No. 10 at 157 pounds Justin Thomas’ season also came to an end on day one after he fell to Missouri’s No. 7 Jarrett Jacques, 3-1.
No. 5 at 141 pounds Dom Demas No. 13 at 149 pounds Mitch Moore, also both juniors, were both eliminated in the blood rounds on day two. Demas lost to North Carolina’s No. 10 Zach Sherman, 2-1, and Moore lost to Northwestern’s No. 25 Yahya Thomas, 3-1.
Demas finished his season with a 15-2 record and was the 141 pound Big 12 champion for the second time in his career. Moore finished his first season at OU with a 12-5 record after transferring in from Virginia Tech over the summer.
Redshirt freshman No. 19 heavyweight Josh Heindselman was eliminated by Wyoming’s No. 13 Brian Andrews, losing on day two in the consolation bracket. The Piedmont, Oklahoma native had a breakout season, going 10-7, and advancing to his first NCAA Championship.
The Sooners’ season ends with their first conference title since 2002 followed by an impressive showing on the national stage. OU brings back five wrestlers that have made Big 12 finals next season and will have high expectations to compete in the Big 12 and nationally again.
"Everything is a process whenever you're trying to build a program," Rosselli said. "We had some opportunities to move up even more this week, but at the end of the day, we made a lot of great progress this season, and the future is bright in Norman."
Correction: This article was updated at 4:51 p.m. March 20, to change Nino Bonaccorsi's name from Nico, and correct the score of the match between Jacob Warner and Jake Woodley from 2-0 to 2-1.