By Mo Nuwwarah, Opinion Editor
Eric Ellington pinned Trent Cox 3:42 into their match, giving St. Cloud State a 19-18 win over no. 1 UNO in a dual Friday at Sapp Fieldhouse.
The dramatic pin sealed the Mavericks’ first dual loss since Jan. 22, 2010, and the first home loss since Feb. 21, 2008.
Heading into the final two matches, UNO held a seemingly comfortable 18-7 lead. Head coach Mike Denney elected to hold 125-pounder Cody Tyler out of the dual to give him more time to recover from an injury sustained in Thursday’s 21-12 victory over Augsburg.
“I thought, ‘well, we’re (still) up by five,’ and Trent’s been wrestling really well,” he said. “(He) just got caught.”
Lacking an available backup, UNO forfeited the weight class.
Despite the six-point concession, the Mavericks appeared to be well on their way to winning the dual, as Cox dominated the first period, building a 3-0 lead with 2:47 of riding time. However, early in the second period, Ellington completed a double-leg takedown, instantly putting Cox on his back and pinning him, giving the third-ranked Huskies the upset.
Still, Denney was pleased with the overall showing by his team, which won six of the nine contested weight classes.
“We performed,” he said. “I can’t ever remember wrestling that well and losing a dual.”
Top-ranked 141-pounder Mario Morgan started the night strongly for UNO, using suffocating control to shut out Gabe Suarez 4-0.
Another top-ranked Maverick, Esai Dominguez, followed with a close win over No.4 Jacob Horn at 149 pounds. A second-period takedown with less than 30 seconds to go gave Dominguez a 6-5 lead, which he held through the third period for the win.
George Ivanov, UNO’s final No.1-ranked wrestler, erased a 3-1 deficit with three third-period takedowns. The 157-pound sophomore edged fifth-ranked John Sundgren 7-6.
“We call him ‘the nightmare,” Denney said. “He’s gritty. He’s never out of a match.”
The Huskies got on the board when no. 2 Tad Merritt took a 13-5 major decision over Nathan Sigman at 165. Merritt’s riding time gave him the crucial thirteenth point, allowing the Huskies to close the gap to 9-4.
After Sigman’s loss, two third-ranked seniors got the Mavericks back on track. Ryan Pankoke, at 174 pounds, dominated No. 7 Shamus O’Grady en route to a 9-3 victory, and Aaron Denson shut out Mic Berg 4-0 at 184 pounds.
Matt Baker stretched the lead to 18-4 with a 3-2 win against Luke Munkelwitz at 197 pounds. After two uneventful periods, Baker completed the first and only takedown of the match in the third period for the decisive points.
“I went into it really relaxed, and I just knew I had a bigger gas tank than him,” the eighth-ranked Baker said. “That’s what I train for.”
UNO’s Taylor Escamilla, ranked eighth at 285 pounds, gave No. 1 Jacob Kahnke all he could handle in a 5-3 loss. With the crowd roaring, Escamilla fought hard for a takedown for the last minute of the match. Though he was clearly exhausted, Kahnke successfully defended the attempts and held on, setting the stage for the Huskies’ dramatic comeback finish.
“i’ve been a part of this program for three years, and i’ve only been a part of two losses in duals,” Baker said. “It’s disappointing, but we’ll rebound.”