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Ledyard’s T.J. Hepburn wins a NCAA Division II national title

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 “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.

Hepburn’s career bio 

Kearney Hub, June 28: Hepburn to make MMA debut this Saturday, March 11: Hepburn helps Nebraska-Kearney win 2nd NCAA Div. 2 national title, March 10: Ledyard’s Hepburn part of Nebraska-Kearney’s big four

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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