CLEVELAND _ If it wasn't for bad luck, Brian Singleton would have no luck at all.
For the second time in as many appearances at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, the former Crestwood High School and current Kent State junior standout butted heads with the best wrestlers in the nation and proved his worth by reaching the round of 12. That's a major accomplishment in itself, but Singleton remained one step shy of reaching his ultimate goal: to become the first KSU wrestler since 1986 to earn All-American honors.
Two years ago, he bowed out after absorbing two devastating one-point losses.
Friday night at the CSU Convocation Center, Singleton ran into the top-rated wrestler in his weight class (142 pounds), Oklahoma State senior Steven Schmidt (29-1), in the most unlikely of places: the fourth round of wrestlebacks.
And Schmidt proceeded to hand Singleton yet another tough loss, 8-4, to end his All-American hopes once again.
"That's a tough draw," said Kent State coach Frank Romano. "To get the No. 1 guy in that round is pretty unusual. That guy is real tough."
Singleton (17-5) earned the right to battle Schmidt after winning his first two consolation bouts Friday morning.
First he scored four takedowns in the final period to manhandle Boise State junior David Levitt (17-14) 14-5. Then in the third round of wrestlebacks, Singleton broke a 2-2 tie in the third period by scoring a reversal and backpoints against Fresno State freshman Trent McDowell. McDowell scored a late takedown to trim the lead to 6-5, but Singleton held him off in the closing seconds.
Next in line was Schmidt, who entered the tournament undefeated but slipped into the consolation rounds after a shocking loss to Missouri's Mike Harp in the quarterfinals Friday morning.
And the reigning All-American wasn't about to suffer two upsets in one day.
Schmidt scored a first-period takedown to grab a 2-1 lead, added an escape in the second period, then put the match away with two third-period takedowns. Singleton couldn't muster any offense, as all of his points came on escapes.
"(Singleton) has been on the doorstep twice now, one match away from becoming an All-American," said Romano. "But he finished in the top 12 for the second time and he won three matches, so he did pretty well. He'll get another shot, and we're hoping next year he can get over the hump."
Overall, Mid-American Conference wrestlers fared extremely well on Friday.
Ohio's Shawn Enright (134) and Dwight Gardner (158) both advanced to the championship match in their respective weights along with Central Michigan's Casey Cunningham, who Singleton defeated in the 142-pound title bout at the MAC Championships.
Enright and Gardner (both All-Americans last year) pulled off stunning upsets.
Enright (No. 7 seed) knocked off No. 2 seed Mark Angle of Clarion in the quarterfinals, then defeated No. 3 seed Jeremy Ensrud of Oregon in the semifinals. And Gardner (No. 3) defeated No. 2 seed Temoer Terry of Nebraska to reach today's championship match.
"That gives the MAC three wrestlers in the NCAA finals, and I don't know if that's ever happened," said Romano. "We had six guys finish in the top 12 out of 15, and that's pretty good. It should help us get more bids next year."
Former Aurora High School star Tim Courtad (26-7) was not so fortunate.
The Miami junior lost 16-1 to Oregon State junior Mat Orndorff (25-8, second in the PAC-10) in the second round of wrestlebacks on Friday morning.
"Tim has been a very dominant wrestler," said Miami coach Chuck Angelo. "But everyone here is dominant, and that's something you never realize until you actually get here. This was his first time here, and he sort of got blindsided.
"We'll probably redshirt Tim next year and give him two years to develop and perfect the skills he needs to come back here and compete for a championship."
Action concludes today with two sessions. The remaining wrestlebacks will be contested beginning at 10 a.m., followed by the championship finals a 6 p.m.