Chase Pami fell just short of becoming the first Cal Poly wrestling champion of the modern era, dropping a 6-4 decision to Harvard’s J.P. O’Connor in the final of the 157-pound weight class at the NCAA Championships on Saturday in Omaha, Neb.
Pami led 2-1 early against O’Connor, the undefeated top-ranked wrestler. But O’Connor scored a late first period takedown to lead 3-2 and added reversal to lead 5-2 in the second period.
O’Connor, 35-0 this year and now a four-time All-American, held off a late Pami takedown attempt to claim the national title.
“I just had the fire and determination to win it this year,” O’Connor said. “I truly believed that I could win it during my sophomore and junior years, but it just didn’t turn out that way, which was disappointing. I tried to turn it into a positive and thought about it every day.”
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Pami (29-6) claimed his 100th career win at Cal Poly in Friday’s semifinal victory over Binghamton’s Justin Lister. Entering the tournament as the seventh seed, Pami was the lowest seed to make the final match this year.
He was trying to become the first Cal Poly wrestler to win a national championship since 1976, and just the third in school history.
Pami became the sixth Mustang to finish second and the first since Chad Mendes’ runner-up performance in 2008.
Joining Pami as an All-American for Cal Poly was Boris Novachkov, who pinned Maryland’s Steve Bell to claim seventh place.
Wrestlers finishing in the top eight are guaranteed All-American status.
Novachkov (28-5), seeded fifth at 133, was eliminated from the championship bracket in the quarterfinals Thursday.
The Mustangs finished in an 18th-place tie in the team standings with 30 points. Iowa easily took the team title with 122.5 points. Cornell was second with 86.
Also securing All-American honors was former Paso Robles High standout and Cal State Bakersfield heavyweight Mitch Monteiro.
Monteiro (21-7) beat Mark Ellis of Missouri 3-1 in the fifth-place match.