There was some Mizzou deja vu in overtime of the semifinals of the NCAA Wrestling Tournament at 149 lbs.
Freshman Jason Tsirtsis pushed top overall seed Drake Houdashelt of Missouri into overtime. The ESPN cameras chose to focus on the anguish of his parents as an escape would determine whether Tsirtsis would advance.
Tsirtsis already had an eventful day by defeating defending national champion Kendric Maples 2-1 in the quarterfinals. The Cinderella run could have been put on hold as Tsirtsis began bleeding during the match. But as the match got more tense and anguish entered the minds of Houdashelt’s parents and Mizzou fans, reality set in as Tsirtsis worked his way toward the edge of the mat in the final seconds.
The moment came down only to whether Tsirtsis could escape Houdashelt and gain that sudden death point. With time running out, Tsirtsis wriggled his way free pushing Houdashelt toward the edge of the mat and ecstasy could begin for the freshman. Tsirtsis was improbably moving on to the championship on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Oklahoma City. The final will be aired on ESPN.
It was an emphatic and surprising victory.
“I think coming in here, being a freshman and what-not, it doesn’t really mess with my head at all,” Tsirtsis said. “Just real confident and treated it like another tournament. So that aspect didn’t really feel like that was a factor at all. And with that escape, the last couple of seconds, we do those type of things in the room to where we’ve got 10, 15 seconds to get an escape. And I was comfortable with nine seconds left. I’ve gone out from a lot of people with nine seconds left. So I felt good, I felt confident.”
That practice and comfort clearly paid off as Tsirtsis needed overtime to defeat last year’s defending champion in quarterfinals too.
Tsirtsis became an All American thanks to his win in the quarterfinals. He is joined by Pierce Harger (165 lbs.) and Mike MacMullen; (heavyweight) as All Americans thanks to their finishes in the tournament. Only Tsirtsis though will compete for a national championship.
Tsirtsis will take on Oklahoma State’s Joshua Kindig, the 11th seed in the tournament, for the national title on Saturday night.
It should be exciting and we will see if NU can take home some extra hardware from Oklahoma City.