CLEVELAND, Ohio – Saturday night was a truly historic evening for Ithaca's storied wrestling program when competition concluded at the Cleveland Public Auditorium. Not only did the program crown its 12thindividual National Champion when 141-pound sophomore Ben Brisman defeated top-seed Brett Kaliner of Stevens, but it also took home some additional hardware in three prestigious national awards.
After the conclusion of the issuing of the team awards, the NCAA and NWCA issued their year-end awards. Ithaca was extremely well-represented in the final presentations of the evening. Junior 184-pounder Jake Ashcraft took home two honors during the ceremony. First, he earned the NCAA's Most Dominant Wrestler Award, which tracks points earned in the form of decisions, major decisions, tech falls and falls and converts that into a wrestler's final average points accounted for during the year. A bit later, he also was announced as the wrestler earning most pins at the National Championships.
Head coach Marty Nichols '90 also added to his haul from the weekend. Recently named NWCA National Coach of the Year in addition to his NWCA Hall of Fame induction this past Thursday at the NWCA annual awards banquet, Nichols took home another award on Saturday night when he was named the 2018 NWCA Coach of the Year for his team's performance at the this weekend's championships.
Ashcraft enjoyed a truly historic season at 184-pounds. Racking up an unprecedented amount of falls in record fashion during the season, he rolled into Division III Championships as the second-seed and sitting on 24 pins during the year, which ranked among the most in Division III. Although his bid for a National Championship was ended in a stunning Quarterfinal Round loss to Western New England's John Boyle, Ashcraft rolled through the wrestle-backs to earn an All-America third-place finish, besting Boyle in a 14-2 major decision in his final bout of the weekend.
He finished the year accounting for 4.94 team points per bout, which was the highest in Division III by a fairly sizeable margin. He is the first Ithaca wrestler to ever take home the prestigious honor.
Paving the way for Ashcraft's first award on the evening, was a 2018 Division III NCAA Championships best four pins during the course of the competition over the past two days. He recorded the four falls in a combined 8:31 of wrestling action. On his ledger were a pins of: unseeded Hunter Bates of Wabash (1:29), unseeded Deuly Espinal of SUNY Cortland (4:28), sixth-seed Kaejion Jennings of Millikin (1:06), and fifth-seed Christos Giatras of Augustana (1:28).
Nichols was a deserved honoree for the Coach of the Tournament, helping the Bombers to a third-place finish in the team standings with 79.0 team points. It is the highest finish for Ithaca in his 22-year tenure at the helm of the program. He guided five wrestlers to All-America honors, the program's most since also securing five during the 2012 National Championships.
The awards were fitting conclusion to what has been an amazing weekend for Ithaca Wrestling.