ST. LOUIS, MO., March 21 – He started the 2015 NCAA championships unseeded and a relative unknown in the wrestling community. But after four upsets over seeded wrestlers, N.C. State freshman Kevin Jack of Danbury came away with a fifth place finish at the 2015 NCAA Division I wrestling championships and All-American honors in his first year of collegiate wrestling.
Two other Connecticut wrestlers participated in the tournament. Granby’s Dominick Malone of Northwestern (133) wrestled for the third year. He went 1-2 in the event with an 11-0 win over Ian Nickell of Cal State Bakersfield in the first round of consolations. Brookfield’s Jack McKeever (184) of Binghamton went 0-2 in his NCAA tournament debut.
Jack was outstanding, winning five of seven matches. “Coming in as a true freshman, it was great knocking off three seeded opponents to get to the semifinals last night,” said Jack. “Being able to get there relaxed me, and allowed me to compete without all the pressure of trying to become an All-American.
“Honestly, there was nothing better than getting my hand raised in this arena and I got to experience that four times this weekend. Plus I ended my season with a win, it certainly has been a great experience.”
Originally going to redshirt this season until an illness opened up a spot in the starting lineup very late in the regular season, Jack made the most of his opportunities after earning an NCAA automatic bid at 141 pounds.
In action on Saturday, Jack split his matches. He fell to No. 14 seed Dean Heil of Oklahoma State, 12-6, but quickly recovered and won his fifth place bout over No. 11 seed Chris Mecate of Old Dominion, 3-0.
Against Mecate, the two wrestled to a scoreless first period. Jack started the second in the down position and his escape was the lone point of the period. Jack started the third on top, and after a second stall was called on Mecate to give Jack a 2-0 lead, Jack rode him out the entire period and with ride time won 3-0.
Jack reached the semifinals with wins over No. 5 seed Josh Dziewa of Iowa (6-3), No. 12 seed Joey Ward of North Carolina (6-5) and No. 4 seed and 2014 NCAA Finalist and four-time ACC champion Devin Carter of Virginia Tech (10-8). Jack’s first loss of the tournament was to three-time defending national champion, No. 1 seed Logan Stieber of Ohio State, who eventually won the championship.
Jack was the only opponent Stieber wrestled that he didn’t pin. Jack finished the season with a 31-10 mark and his 31 victories is the most ever for a North Carolina State freshman. It’s also No. 14 all time among Wolfpack single season records for most wins.
Jack became just the fourth wrestler from Connecticut to earn All-American honors at the Division I and the first freshman to do so. The most recent Nutmeg State wrestler to earn All-American honors was Middletown’s Orville Palmer, who finished seventh at 197 pounds for Oklahoma 15 years ago in 2000.
2015 NCAA Division I national championships
At St. Louis
2015 NCAA Tournament results
Kevin Jack (141),
North Carolina State
Def. (5) Josh Dziewa, Iowa, 6-3
2R: Def. (12) Joseph Ward, North Carolina, 6-5
QF: Def. (4) Devin Carter, Virginia Tech, 10-8
SF: Lost (1) Logan Stieber, Ohio State, 12-2
Conso SF: Lost (14) Dean Heil, Oklahoma State, 12-6
5th place: Def. (11) Chris Mecate, Old Dominion, 3-0
Dominick Malone (133), Northwestern
Lost (13) Cody Brewer, Oklahoma, pin 3:28
Def. Ian Nickell, Cal-Bakersfield, 11-0
Lost (14) Rossi Bruno, Michigan, pin 1:26
Jack McKeever (184)
Lost Ben Stroh, Wyoming, 4-0
Lost Brett Pfarr, Minnesota, 11-4
NCAA Division I
Orville Palmer (Middletown), Oklahoma, 197, 7th, 2000
Jim Guzzio (Madison), Maryland, 134, 5th, 1997
John Engel (Stamford), Lehigh, 118, 1st, 1931