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NCAA WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Jantzen proves he's best /Harvard senior and former SWR star wins 149-pound NCAA title, is named most outstanding wrestler

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

wrestler.

"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

ESPN.

"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.

Local Heroes

NCAA Division I wrestling

national champions who

attended Long Island high

schools:

Year/Name Weight College High

School

1952 Joe Lemyre 167 Penn State Baldwin

1967 Tom Schlendorf 191 Syracuse Calhoun

1968 Ken Melchior 115 Lock Haven

Lindenhurst

1971 Carl Adams 158 Iowa State

Brentwood

1972 Carl Adams 158 Iowa State

Brentwood

1977 Nick Gallo 118 Hofstra

Deer Park

1980 Noel Loban 190 Clemson

Copiague

1984 Carl DeStefanis 118 Penn State Locust

Valley

1985 Chris Edmond 167 Tennessee Freeport

1987 Peter Yozzo 142 Lehigh

Sayville

1994 Kerry McCoy Hwt. Penn State

Longwood

1997 Kerry McCoy Hwt. Penn State

Longwood

2004 Jesse Jantzen 149 Harvard

Shoreham-

Wading River

COMPILED BY ANDY SLAWSON

New York Sports