EDINBORO, Pa. - Junior Evan Cheek had arguably his best match yet on the biggest stage of his collegiate career to date, as his title at 141 pounds highlighted the Cleveland State University wrestling team's performance at the Eastern Wrestling League Championships Saturday inside Edinboro's McComb Field House.
Cheek, seeded third, won his first career league title with a pair of pins, one over an undefeated foe, sandwiched around a nail-biting, sudden-victory win. As a result, he was named Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships.
Cheek had already secured a spot in the NCAA Championships with his semifinal win but was not satisfied with that achievement.
It took Cheek a little while to settle into the event. His opening bout against Tejon Anthony, who went on to earn automatic NCAA qualification, was tied, 2-2, after two periods. However, Cheek found another gear in the third and broke the deadlock by pinning his opponent in the final 15 seconds of the bout.
Facing second seed Tyson Dippery in the semifinals, Cheek used two first-period takedowns to open up a 4-2 lead after three minutes. After a scoreless second period, Dippery scored twice in the final minute of the third to continue the match. With the first sudden-victory session winding down, Cheek secured a takedown to advance to the championship bout for the first time in his career.
The championship bout saw Cheek matched up against Clarion's Brock Zacherl. Zacherl owned a 27-0 record on the season and was ranked fourth nationally by multiple outlets entering the event. However, Cheek went on the offensive from the get-go, netting a takedown fewer than 20 seconds into the bout. Cheek weathered a spell of pressure by Zacherl and then stunned the crowd by posting a pin in the final 10 seconds of the opening period.
It is only the second time that an opponent has earned a bonus-point win against Zacherl in his collegiate career.
Redshirt senior Nick Corba and true freshman Georgio Poullas both placed fourth at the event at 184 pounds and 165, respectively.
Corba dominated his opponent from Rider in the opening bout. He used seven points in the second period, including four via near fall, to open up a commanding advantage. He would win, 13-0, after netting four more near fall points in the third.
In his semifinal bout, Corba used a takedown with under 30 seconds left to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. However, his opponent managed to escape with one second left to force sudden victory and used that momentum to win the match in the extra session.
Despite having one of his eyes severely swollen, Corba continued to battle. He blew the doors off his opponent in his first consolation bout, opening up a 14-0 lead after one period thanks to 12 near fall points. He went on to close out the match via technical fall shutout.
Corba had the lead entering the third period of his final match but once again saw his opponent tie the bout and then win in the sudden-victory period.
Poullas showed much to build off in his first postseason event. He used two takedowns to open up a 4-1 lead after one period in his opening match and led, 5-1, after two periods. He held on for a 5-2 victory to reach the semifinals.
Facing the top seed in the semifinals, who owned a record of 38-1 entering the bout, Poullas showed well in dropping a 7-3 decision.
In his first consolation bout, Poullas trailed, 6-5, near the midpoint of the final period. He tied the match with an escape and then posted the winning takedown with four seconds left. He posted near fall points before the final horn and ended up winning, 13-6.
Poullas had a 4-3 lead in the third period in his final match of the day but was unable to hang on and ended losing by two points.
Junior John Vaughn was injured in the first period of his first match at 157 and unfortunately was unable to compete for the remainder of the day.
Sophomore Collin Kelly dropped a pair of close matches to seeded opponents Saturday at heavyweight. He tied his opening bout with a takedown with about 30 seconds remaining in regulation but ended up losing by a point. Facing the third seed in his consolation bout, Kelly lost a 5-3 decision.
Redshirt junior Andrew Coghill and true freshman John Kelbly both had leads in the second period of their consolation bouts at 133 and 197 but were unable to see out a win.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Ford made his EWL Championships debut Saturday, along with Poullas and Kelbly, while redshirt seniors John Martin and Gabe Stark closed their collegiate careers.
Cleveland State finished sixth in the team scoring with 25.5 points.
Corba, who helped the EWL qualify a second automatic berth at 184, will await at-large selections to see if he will qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second straight season. Corba earned an at-large berth to the event last season.
Corba will be looking to join Cheek, who will open the national championship event Thursday, March 15, just down the street from campus at Quicken Loans Arena.
CSU Results at the EWL Championships
Quarterfinals: No. 1 Sean Russell (Edinboro) over John Martin (CSU) - 23-6 TF 4:27
Consolation Quarterfinals: No. 4 Luke Werner (Lock Haven) over Martin (CSU) - 8-2 dec.
Quarterfinals: No. 3 Andy Schultz (Bloomsburg) over Andrew Coghill (CSU) - Fall 0:54
Consolation Quarterfinals: Trevor Mello (George Mason) over Coghill (CSU) - 10-6 dec.
Quarterfinals: No. 3 Evan Cheek (CSU) over Tejon Anthony (George Mason) - Fall 6:48
Semifinals: No. 3 Cheek (CSU) over No. 2 Tyson Dippery (Rider) - 6-4 SV
Championship: No. 3 Cheek (CSU) over No. 1 Brock Zacherl (Clarion) - Fall 2:52
Quarterfinals: Justin Yorkdale (George Mason) over No. 4 Ryan Ford (CSU) - 13-2 MD
Consolation Quarterfinals: No. 4 Ford (CSU) - bye
Consolation Semifinals: No. 2 Gary Dinmore (Rider) over No. 4 Ford (CSU) - 8-4 dec.
Quarterfinals: No. 3 Alex Klucker (Lock Haven) over John Vaughn (CSU) - Default 1:26
Consolation Quarterfinals: Kevin Laubach (Bloomsburg) over Vaughn (CSU) - M. For.
Quarterfinals: No. 4 Georgio Poullas (CSU) over Max Wohlabaugh (Clarion) - 5-2 dec.
Semifinals: No. 1 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) over No. 4 Poullas (CSU) - 7-3 dec.
Consolation Semifinals: No. 4 Poullas (CSU) over Nate Newberry (Bloomsburg) - 13-6 dec.
Third-Place Match: Wohlabaugh (Clarion) over No. 4 Poullas (CSU) - 6-4 dec.
Quarterfinals: No. 3 Dean Sherry (Rider) over Gabe Stark (CSU) - 12-4 MD
Consolation Quarterfinals: Kyle Murphy (Bloomsburg) over Stark (CSU) - 10-3 dec.
Quarterfinals: No. 2 Nick Corba (CSU) over Wayne Stinson (Rider) - 13-0 MD
Semifinals: No. 3 Greg Bulsak (Clarion) over No. 2 Corba (CSU) - 5-3 SV
Consolation Semifinals: No. 2 Corba (CSU) over Austin Harrison (George Mason) - 15-0 TF 5:13
Third-Place Match: No. 4 Trevor Allard (Bloomsburg) over No. 2 Corba (CSU) - 3-1 SV
Quarterfinals: No. 3 Tristan Sponseller (Lock Haven) over John Kelbly (CSU) - 13-0 MD
Consolation Quarterfinals: Logan Womelsdorf (Bloomsburg) over Kelbly (CSU) - 9-3 dec.
Quarterfinals: No. 4 Toby Cahill (Clarion) over Collin Kelly (CSU) - 7-6 dec.
Consolation Quarterfinals: Kelly (CSU) - bye
Consolation Semifinals: No. 3 Matt Voss (George Mason) over Kelly (CSU) - 5-3 dec.