Mar 20, 2014 11:42 PM by Jordan Mason
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Four Air Force wrestlers wrapped up the opening day of competition at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, being held at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Leading the way for the Falcons were Josh Martinez (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Devin Hightower (Sr., Colorado Springs, Colo.), who each posted 1-1 records on Thursday and will continue competition in the consolation bracket.
Also competing for the Falcons on day one were seniors Greg Rinker (Northampton, Pa.) and Josh Kreimier (Fort Collins, Colo.), who both dropped a pair of matches.
Martinez, seeded fourth at 125 pounds, began the day with a victory, defeating North Carolina's Nathan Kraisser, 8-4. After taking a 2-1 lead at the end of one period, Martinez scored a takedown and a two-point near fall in the second period, increasing his advantage to 6-2. He held a 7-2 lead in the third period before Kraisser scored a takedown in the final seconds of the bout, and closed out the match with an escape to take the win.
Meanwhile, in his second match of the day, Martinez faced off against Iowa State's Earl Hall. Unfortunately, Martinez was unable to avenge an earlier loss to Hall, dropping an 8-1 decision. Martinez now moves into the consolation bracket, where he will face Lehigh's Darian Cruz.
Hightower, competing at 184 pounds, also picked up a victory in his first match of the day, scoring a 5-1 decision over 16th-seeded Nick Vetterlein of Virginia Tech. Hightower scored a late first-period takedown against Vetterlein and extended his lead to 3-0 with an escape in the second period. Hightower's advantage increased to 5-0 with a two-point near fall in the third period, before Vetterlein scored an escape for his only point of the match.
In his second bout, Hightower faced a formidable opponent, taking on top-seeded and undefeated Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland. Despite a hard-fought battle, Hightower was unable to get past Sheptock, dropping a 4-0 decision. Next up for Hightower is a match-up with Northern Iowa's Ryan Loder, the 15th seed, in the consolation bracket.
Rinker, competing at the NCAA Championships for the first time, started out with a tough match against sixth-seed Mason Beckman of Lehigh at 133 pounds, giving up a technical fall. He then closed out the tournament with a 10-4 loss to Rider's Chuck Zeisloft.
Meanwhile, Kreimier, in his third NCAA appearance, also had a pair of challenging bouts at 157 pounds, starting with a match-up against Nebraska's James Green. After dropping a major decision to the top-seed wrestler, Kreimier moved into the consolation bracket for a close bout against North Carolina State's Thomas Gantt. After going scoreless in the first two periods, Kreimier was first to get on the scoreboard, earning an escape, before Gantt took the lead with a takedown. Kreimier was able to score the escape to tie the match at 2-2, but Gantt registered a takedown and two-point near fall in the final seconds to pick up the 6-2 decision.
Action continues at the 2014 NCAA Championships tomorrow morning, with the first session slated to begin at 10:00 (CT).