The Mountaineer wrestling emergence at the NCAA Wrestling Championships was swiftly shortened this weekend but not without an All-American honor and an eighth-place finisher.
Three wrestlers represented the gold and blue in Cleveland this season: redshirt junior Zeke Moisey, redshirt senior Jake Smith, and redshirt freshman Matthew Schmitt.
After four takedowns, an escape, and a point of riding time over Kyle Norstrem of Virginia Tech, Moisey progressed to the second round of the 125-pound weightclass with a 10-7 decision under his belt.
Going up against fourth-seeded Nick Suriano of Rutgers ended Moisey’s championship contention. Suriano pinned Moisey in two minutes and 57 seconds to eliminate him from the championship bracket.
Smith and Schmitt’s NCAA showings were even more fleeting. Smith faced Ben Darmstadt of Cornell in the lowest scoring match of the Mountaineers’ trip: a 3-0 decision. Darmstedt was seeded at second in 197. This concluded Smith’s WVU career. He’s recorded a 23-14 this season.
Schmitt’s 15-2 major decision loss to South Dakota State’s junior phenom Seth Gross was a cruel reminder to the Big 12 semifinals. In Tulsa this season, Gross dominated Schmitt 10-2 and proceeded to win the Big 12 Wrestling Championship 133 final, giving him a one-seed in the NCAA tournament.
All three moved into the consolation brackets, where they found more success.
Smith pinned Central Michigan’s Jordan Atienza in 2:54, his first win by fall of the season.
Schmitt bounced back from a major decision loss to record a major decision win, 19-8, over Josh Finesilver of Duke.
Moisey joined the two in the second round of consolation and faced familiar foe Connor Brown of South Dakota State. Moisey won the decision 10-4. Brown fell during the regular season, 8-3, in the Coliseum.
It was a clean sweep in the second round, as Schmitt and Smith both collected wins. Schmitt recorded a sudden victory pin in eight and a half minutes to Anthony Tutolo of Kent State. Smith won a 2-0 decision over Princeton’s Patrick Brucki.
Moisey added another consolation win to the record books, as he recorded a dominating 5-0 decision win over Travis Piotrowski of Illinois.
Schmitt and Smith didn’t fare as well. In Smith’s last battle as a Mountaineer, a rematch of the Big 12 Championship final occurred. Back in Tulsa, South Dakota State’s Nate Rotert had won a hard-fought 3-2 decision. He claimed another win, this time in Cleveland, as he knocked Smith out of the consolation bracket via a 4-3 decision. While at WVU, Smith had 92 career wins, only three shy of WVU’s all-time career wins list.
Schmitt met Jack Mueller of Virginia in the third round. Mueller took an early lead, and although Schmitt tacked on two, Mueller won 5-2.
Moisey, the sole Mountaineer remaining, met another familiar opponent in the fourth round of consolation. Taylor LaMont of Utah Valley was seeded seventh, to Moisey’s 13th. This was the fourth time the two had met this season, including Moisey’s most recent win in the Big 12 Championship semifinals. In upset fashion, Moisey recorded three takedowns, an escape, and a point for riding time to win in 8-5 decision fashion. This win rewarded Moisey with his second All-American honor, making him the first Mountaineer to earn All-America honors twice since Brandon Rader won in 2006 and 2007.
Moisey’s win streak concluded at the hands of Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak, who pinned him in a minute and 43 seconds. Moisey suffered an injury to his shoulder during the match.
Moisey advanced to face Ronnie Presser of Oregon State. Due to the shoulder injury, Moisey took a medical forfeit. Despite the forfeit, Moisey ended the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championship with an eighth-place finish.