Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wrestling: Kendric Maple Wins National Championship

Kendric Maple became the first Sooner to take home an individual championship in eight years, since Teyon Ware claimed the 141-pound title in 2005, after he topped Edinboro's No. 4 Mitchell Port with a 4-3 decision. With the title, he becomes Oklahoma's 66th individual national champion in program history.

"It's a feeling of absolute, total satisfaction," Maple grinned. "It's a great honor to be here, in this spot. I just love this sport."

Additionally, Maple is the first national champion produced by Oklahoma head coach Mark Cody.

"It's been a while since OU has had a national champion, so this was a long time coming," explained Cody.

"It's a wonderful accomplishment. It definitely sets the benchmark for the future of the program. With all the young guys in our program, and all the new ones coming in, we have to make a statement. If they're going to come to the University of Oklahoma, they have the potential to become a national champion."

On his national champion's accomplishments, Cody explained that, "This is wonderful for Kendric - I'm so proud of him - on and off the mat. I was so happy that they mentioned he was a 4.0 student while he was up there, and the crowd cheered for that. He does great both academically and athletically, which is wonderful. He's the total package, just an outstanding young man."

Maple's success couldn't have come without the help of assistant coach Michael Lightner, and Cody recognizes that.

"I have to acknowledge our assistant coach Michael Lightner in the entire process. We put him in charge of coaching our 133- and 141-pounder and they have both become All-Americans - so we couldn't do it without him."

It wasn't an exciting match - one a little out of the realm for Maple - with not much action and low scoring, but the Wichita, Kan., native nabbed the victory with a 4-3 decision, based on riding time advantage points.

"It was definitely closer than I wanted it to be," expressed Maple. "Port is a go-hard. He comes at you the whole time, and I felt like I couldn't really fire off my legs, I kind of tweaked my ankle and couldn't really fire, so I was scared to shoot most of the match. He kind of pushed me, and I was glad to come out with it."

Maple struck first with his lone takedown of the match at the 2:13 marker in the first period. Port countered with a late escape to bring the match within one with 0:40 remaining on the clock, but neither wrestler could post any more points in the first three minutes. Port was blanked in the second period, while Maple increased his lead by two with an escape midway through.

The two-time All-American was just five seconds shy of the riding time advantage to begin the third and final period of regulation, but secured the advantage quickly. Port countered with an escape at the 0:38 marker, to bring the match within one, 3-2, with little time left on the clock. Just seconds later, Maple's second stall call would tie the match, 3-3 all.

The ride time secured early in the third proved to be pivotal, as it secured the national title for Maple.

"The whole time through I heard Coach Lightner in my head just telling me `You have to keep your head in the game, keep your head in the game' and it just worked out, thankfully," continued Maple.

Maple entered the finals as one of seven wrestlers with an undefeated record, and leaves Des Moines as one of five student-athletes in Division I NCAA wrestling to end the 2012-13 season with an undefeated record. He joins Penn State's Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197), Ohio State's Logan Stieber (133), Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver (149) and Cornell's Kyle Dake (165) on the prestigious list.

En route to his championship title, Maple claimed his second consecutive All-America honor after he topped Iowa's Mark Ballweg in the quarterfinals with a 12-3 decision. With the accomplishment, he became the first two-time All-American in back-to-back years to accomplish the feat since Tyler Caldwell and Zack Bailey each earned All-American status in 2010 and 2011. With the back-to-back recognition, Maple became the 38th two-time All-American at OU and the 72nd multiple All-American honoree in Oklahoma wrestling history.

Maple ends his junior campaign at Oklahoma with 102 wins to become the first wrestler under head coach Mark Cody to reach the century marker. He is the 13th Sooner to reach 100 wins in program history, and the first OU wrestler to surpass the 100 barrier since Sam Hazewinkel recorded 132 wins in 2007.

The 2013 Big 12 Champion led the Sooners on the season with 31 overall wins and zero losses to own an undefeated record - the lone OU wrestler to accomplish the feat. Throughout the season he also totaled eight major decisions, seven falls and four tech falls, and recorded the third fastest fall in OU history after he pinned American's Matt Dorf in 13 seconds.

"Next year, it will feel better than it does right now," explained Maple. "But for right now, this is pretty amazing."

Earlier today, Oklahoma's redshirt freshman, Cody Brewer, finished seventh at 133 pounds to earn the first All-America honors of his career in the Crimson and Cream. For the full release on Brewer's medal round action, click here.

Kendric Maple's Road To The Championship

Session I:
No. 2 Kendric Maple (OU) major dec. Frank Goodwin (Maryland), 13-1
Session II Championship: No. 2 Kendric Maple (OU) fall Joey Lazor (UNI), 2:41
Quarterfinals: No. 2 Kendric Maple (OU) major dec. No. 7 Mark Ballweg (Iowa), 12-3
Semifinals: No. 2 Kendric Maple dec. No. 6 Undrakhbayer Khishignyam (Citadel), 4-0
Championships: No. 2 Kendric Maple (OU) dec. No. 4 Mitchell Port (Edinboro), 4-3
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