HERSHEY — Sophomore Nolan Barger of Lycoming College showed he was one of the best 165-pounders in NCAA Division III during the Mideast Regional and then proved he belongs among the elite with an All-American finish at the national tournament in the Giant Center Saturday.
Barger, who was seeded No. 6, stormed to third place in impressive fashion with three decisive victories that capped an outstanding run through the wrestlebacks.
The former Clearfield Area High School standout pinned No. 9-ranked Jesse Bader (36-6) in 40 seconds, pulled off a five-point move late in the third period to defeat No. 1-ranked Andrew Steiert (18-5) of Wartburg and then avenged his only loss of the tourney by major decisioning Sam Guidi (43-6) of Waynesburg 12-2.
Against Steiert, Barger surrendered a takedown in the first period and trailed 3-1 after the Central Region champ escaped 10 seconds into the final period.
With the clock nearing the 30-second mark, Barger turned a single-leg shot into five points with a standing cradle, muscling Steiert to his back to get the deciding near fall points with 22 seconds remaining.
Then, Barger (36-8) avenged the only loss in his last 20 matches, a 3-2 heart-breaker when Guidi took him down in the waning seconds of their championship quarterfinal bout Friday evening.
And he dominated after taking control by working behind the two-time Presidents’ Athletic Conference titlist for the initial takedown midway through the first period and quickly tilting him for a 4-0 lead.
Down to start the middle period, Barger stood and shook off Guidi for an escape, which made him opt for a neutral start to the third period in hopes of hitting a big move.
Barger responded by taking him down two more times with a duck-under and a double-leg that resulted in back points. A riding time point made it a double-digit victory.
He was 4-0 in the wrestlebacks, including a 59-second fall Friday night, and 5-1 in his first appearance at nationals.
Barger is Lycoming’s 36th All-American wrestler, 15 of whom were two-time placewinners in NAIA, NCAA Division II or NCAA Division III.
He’ll take a 65-20 career record into his junior campaign.
In the other wrestleback finals, Eric Hensel (22-14) of Augsburg major decisioned Steiert 18-6 for fifth place and Ethan Farmer (17-5) of Wabash shut out Jesse Bader (36-3) for seventh place.