PUEBLO, Colo, March 10, 2012 — Ledyard’s T.J. Hepburn won the NCAA Division II national championship Saturday night wrestling for the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Hepburn (36-3) pinned senior Jarrod Shaw of West Liberty University in 2:17 to win the title at 157 pounds and earn All-American honors for the third time.
Hepburn was one of three individual champions for Nebraska-Kearney, which won its first national championship since 2008. The Lopers had seven All-Americans (top 8 finishers) and 107 points. St. Cloud State was second with 95 points while Grand Canyon and Findlay were tied for third with 58.
Nebraska-Kearney teammates Dalton Jensen (141) and Raufeon Stots (149) won titles before Hepburn came to the mat. Hepburn’s pin clinched the title for the Lopers.
“I told my teammates I was going for the headlock to get the pin in the first period,” Hepburn told the Pueblo Chieftain. “I can’t even explain the emotions I had when I got that pin and won the national championship for the team. It was just incredible.”
After a relentless attack, Hepburn got a cradle and a pin for the victory over Shaw. “The last half hour I was having a hard time catching my breath,” Hepburn told NCAA.com. “I’ve been here before, but no matter how many times you are in a situation like this you get excited. When Dalton got that pin my lungs opened up. To be the guy to clinch it feels awesome. Just a great way to go out.”
Hepburn, a senior, ended his collegiate career on a 26-match win streak and finished 118-16 at Nebraska-Kearney. Hepburn had to go to overtime to win his semifinal match with a 4-2 decision over top-ranked Dillon Bera (20-1) of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Unable to finish a pair of shots in regulation, Hepburn found paydirt in OT.