Hendricks Closes In On 3rd Straight National Title

Friday, March 16th 2007, 9:32 pm

By: News On 6

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Oklahoma State's Johny Hendricks' overtime escape Friday night gave him a semifinal victory over rival Travis Paulson and moved him within one match of a third straight NCAA wrestling title.

The senior has faced Iowa State's Paulson four times this season and has won each match by a point. They were tied 1-1 after regulation Friday, and Hendricks scored the key point midway through the extra period. Paulson almost matched him, but time expired before he could score.

Hendricks will meet Iowa's Mark Perry in the 165-pound final Saturday night. Perry advanced with a 6-4 decision over Hofstra's Mike Patrovich.

Moments after Hendricks extended his winning streak to 56 matches, Missouri's Ben Askren won his 85th straight with an 8-3 win over Iowa's Eric Luedke. Askren will try to win his second straight 174-pound title Saturday against second-seeded Keith Gavin of Pittsburgh.

Two other defending champions will join Askren and Hendricks in Saturday's finals.

Penn's Matt Valenti beat Cal Poly's Darryl Vasquez 3-2, and will face Oklahoma State's Coleman Scott at 133 pounds. Scott used two first-period takedowns to post a 4-3 win over top-seeded Nick Simmons of Michigan State.

At heavyweight, Minnesota's Cole Konrad moved to another championship match by beating Oregon State's Ty Watterston 2-1. In the other semifinal, Penn State's Aaron Anspach beat Central Michigan's Bubba Gritter 5-3.

Konrad's win kept the Golden Gophers alive in the team race, but they trailed Iowa State 83.5-80 going into the final day. Minnesota has just Konrad in the finals, compared to three Cyclones. Four-time defending champion Oklahoma State is fourth with 62.5 points.

Minnesota's Dustin Schlatter also was going for back-to-back individual titles, but was derailed in the 149-pound semifinals by Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro. Gillespie ended Schlatter's 65-match winning streak with a 3-2 win, holding on after a first-period takedown.

Gillespie will face local favorite Josh Churella of Michigan. Churella beat Ohio State's Lance Palmer 5-2.

The night's biggest controversy came at the lightest weight -- 125 pounds. Long after top-seeded Sam Hazewinkel of Oklahoma completed an easy 10-0 win over Jayson Ness of Minnesota, Nebraska's Paul Donahoe and Cornell's Troy Nickerson needed four extra periods to settle their semifinal.

In the last seconds of the fourth overtime, as Donahoe was trying to escape, Nickerson was called for stalling, giving Donahoe a 2-1 win.

At 141 pounds, top-seeded Ryan Lang kept his undefeated season going with a desperate victory, winning 3-2 over Rider's Donnie Fisch on a takedown with 5 seconds left in the match. The Rider coaching staff appealed the decision, claiming the wrestlers were out of bounds, but were turned down.

Lang will face UC-Davis' Derek Moore, who beat Oklahoma's Nathan Morgan 6-2.

Top-seeded Trent Paulson, older brother of Travis Paulson, moved to the 157-pound finals with a 4-0 shutout of Illinois' Mike Poeta. He will face another Big Ten wrestler on Saturday, as Wisconsin's Craig Henning used a third-period escape to beat Hofstra's James Strouse 1-0.

Northwestern's Jake Herbert, who moved to 184 pounds after losing the 2006 174-pound final to Askren, easily defeated Michigan's Tyrel Todd. He will be matched with Iowa State's Jake Varner, who got an overtime win over Minnesota's Roger Kish in a match that gave Iowa State the lead in the team race.

American's Josh Glenn scored the only pin of the semifinals, putting Hofstra's Chris Weidman to the mat at 197 pounds. Glenn will face Iowa State senior Kurt Backes, who hung on for a 5-4 win over Penn State's Phil Davis.

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