ST. LOUIS - The four-year journey is over. Jesse Jantzen is
an NCAA champion.
Jantzen punctuated a brilliant collegiate career with an impressive 9-3
victory over Zach Esposito of Oklahoma State in the 149-pound final to capture
his first NCAA Division I wrestling championship last night before a crowd of
15,081 at the Savvis Center.
Jantzen, the top seed, became only the second national champion from
Harvard. The first, John Harkness, who won the 175-pound title in 1938, was in
the crowd and congratulated Jantzen after the match.
Jantzen also became the first wrestler from an Ivy League school to become
a three-time All-American. He finished the season with a 38-1 record after five
straight dominant wins and was named the tournament's most outstanding
"It feels great. It's the pinnacle of my career," said Jantzen, the first
Long Island product to win the national title since Longwood's Kerry McCoy
earned crowns in 1994 and 1997 for Penn State. "I fell a little short the past
two years and it was eating away at me. I felt really good once I secured the
first takedown against a wrestler that's so good on his feet."
Jantzen countered Esposito's hip toss just 12 seconds into the bout and
gained the takedown for a 2-0 lead. He quickly worked a spiral half-Nelson for
three back points and a 5-0 lead. His relentless pressure on Esposito took the
huge Oklahoma State crowd right out of the match.
The sea of orange that enveloped the bleachers to the right of the ring
chanted and roared when Esposito (33-2) entered the staging area. Then it sat
in stunned silence as Jantzen controlled the bout.
The signs that read "Zach Attack" and "Get Your Cowboy Up" were no longer
on display in the second period. The one banner that stood out read, "Even
Scholars Place at Nationals." It was creative enough to warrant air time on
"So many people were pulling for him because they know how much Jesse has
put into the sport," Harvard coach Jay Weiss said. "He's a tireless competitor
who trains as hard as anyone. He's the best wrestler in the country."
Jantzen's lead grew to 6-0 when he used his quickness to sit-out in the
first second of the second period for a point. He got to his feet and went back
in for another takedown to make it 8-0 and cruised from there, totaling 3:42
of riding time.
"He's raised the bar on and off the mat at Harvard," Weiss said. "He's a
class act with such unbelievable character. He's probably put the bar too high
for some people to aspire to. It's been special to coach him."
Jantzen, featuring two blackened eyes and facial cuts, credited his coaches
and the addition of assistant Jared Frayer, a two-time All-American at
Oklahoma who became his personal workout partner.
"Coach Frayer exploited my mistakes and weaknesses and helped me improve in
those areas," Jantzen said. "It was a huge learning tool."
The championship was a longer time coming than expected. Jantzen was the
most heralded wrestler ever to come out of a Long Island high school, winning
six county titles and posting a 221-3 record for Shoreham-Wading River. He went
undefeated four times and won an unprecedented four state championships. When
he left for Harvard, more than a few people, including Jantzen, expected him to
win at least one NCAA crown.
Finally, in his last go-round, it happened.
Jantzen is on top of the country.
Skretkowicz shines. Hofstra finished 18th in the team standings with 29
points. Junior Chris Skretkowicz (197), the No. 2 seed, became a two-time
All-American when he won five of seven bouts and took fifth place. "He had one
bad round and it cost him a shot at the title," Hofstra coach Tom Ryan said.
"He'll learn and come back strong next year." The Pride had three wrestlers win
three matches but fail to place. Tom Noto (125), Ralph Everett (165) and Noel
Thompson (174) each was one win away from becoming an All- American.
NCAA Division I wrestling
national champions who
attended Long Island high
Year/Name Weight College High
1952 Joe Lemyre 167 Penn State Baldwin
1967 Tom Schlendorf 191 Syracuse Calhoun
1968 Ken Melchior 115 Lock Haven
1971 Carl Adams 158 Iowa State
1972 Carl Adams 158 Iowa State
1977 Nick Gallo 118 Hofstra
1980 Noel Loban 190 Clemson
1984 Carl DeStefanis 118 Penn State Locust
1985 Chris Edmond 167 Tennessee Freeport
1987 Peter Yozzo 142 Lehigh
1994 Kerry McCoy Hwt. Penn State
1997 Kerry McCoy Hwt. Penn State
2004 Jesse Jantzen 149 Harvard
COMPILED BY ANDY SLAWSON