Boris Novachkov is wrestling his best with his parents in the stands for the first time this season.
If the Cal Poly wrester can avenge his only loss of the season today, he’ll be able to boast about another significant first — being the Mustangs’ first Division I national champion in 35 years.
“I feel like I wrestled my best in the semis, and I have a lot of confidence right now,” Novachkov said by phone Friday. “I’m ready to go for tomorrow.”
Seeded third at 141 pounds, Novachkov upset No. 2 Michael Thorn of Minnesota with an impressive 9-3 decision in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships in Philadelphia, setting up a rematch with top-seeded Kellen Russell of Michigan.
Novachkov (31-1) also topped Andrew Alton of Penn State, 4-2, in the quarterfinals Friday morning.
In their only career meeting, Russell (37-0) beat Novachkov 3-2 in the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in early December.
At the current national meet, Russell had a close call in the first round and needed two overtime victories to advance to today’s final round, which will be televised by ESPN in a broadcast scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
“This time I just have to be more offensive and just let loose and try to score a lot of points,” Novachkov said.
“He’s had a lot of close matches. He had a couple that went to overtime. I’m just trying to stay out of there because I know he knows how to win those kinds of matches.”
Against Thorn, Novachkov held a 3-1 advantage going into the third period, and after giving up an escape the Cal Poly wrestler scored a second takedown, a three-point near fall and a point of riding time for the final advantage.
Novachkov had an escape and one point on riding time to defeat Alton.
Novachkov’s mom and dad, Stefan and Zhiva, have been able to attend matches at the Wells Fargo Center this week. Living on the East Coast, it’s the first time the Novachkovs have been able to see their son compete this season without having to dial up streaming video on their computer.
If Boris can remain undefeated in their presence, he’ll surpass a number of elite Cal Poly wrestlers in recent memory.
Four Mustangs have made it to the national semifinals in the past five years.
Chase Pami made an unexpected run to the title match as the seventh seed last year, and Darrell Vasquez settled for fifth place in 2007.
Chad Mendes, now a successful MMA fighter for the UFC, had an undefeated season blemished by a loss in the championship final in 2008.
Only two Mustangs grapplers have ever won Division I titles, the last being 118-pounder Mark DiGirlamo in 1976.
Tom Kline captured the 191-pound title in 1969.
“Boris is very talented in all areas,” said Cal Poly co-head coach John Azevedo, who will retire this offseason after eight seasons leading the program. “Chad was a great wrestler, but Boris is probably the better wrestler all-around. He’s had a great season, and he’s wrestling well at the right time.”
Cuesta at Western State Conference Meet
The Cuesta men’s track and field team placed first or second in all of the running events, and Rachel Murphy won the women’s pole vault by clearing a height of 11 feet, seven inches at the Western State Conference meet.
For the men, Michael Salvatierra took first place in the 800 meters with a time of 2 minutes, 0.01 seconds, Paul Denlinger won the 3,000 meters (8:56.78), Nathaniel Hargitt won the 110 high hurdles (15.87) and Bryce Van Boxtel won the 400 low hurdles (56.73).
Bobby Dieda also took first place in the Javelin with a distance of 46.02 meters.
For the women, Murphy was the only player to win an event. However, Kasey Urman placed second in the 800 meters (2:24.59) and the 1,500 meters (4:56.42).
The Cuesta men won the meet; the women were sixth.