Wilson turns heads, takes third

CLEVELAND — Not even Tariq Wilson could be too upset about Saturday afternoon.

The Steubenville High School graduate put the finishing touches on a superb showing at his first NCAA Division I Wrestling Tournament with a bronze-medal finish at 133 pounds.

He became the first OVAC product in 10 years to garner all-American status in Division I wrestling, joining Buckeye Local graduate David Bertolino, who turned the trick in 2008 for Iowa State, which was then coached by Bridgeport graduate Bobby Douglas.

“I give the overall weekend an A minus,” Wilson said via text message. “I grade it that way because I performed well and had a different mindset coming into the tournament. But, the minus is there because this, for me, doesn’t complete my goals and I realize I still have things to work on.”

The different mindset paid dividends and it was needed, too. Especially after the way that Wilson was sent into the consolation bracket.

A little more than 12 hours after dropping a heart-breaking decision in the championship semifinals, Wilson was back on the mat inside Quicken Loans Arena trying to make ammends.

In the consolation semifinals, Wilson posted his first of two major decisions, outscoring Rutgers’ Scott Delvecchio, 13-3.

“It wasn’t that hard to bounce back,” WIlson said. “If you take too much time dwelling on a match that you can’t change, you can not (make) progress and move forward. I just had to remind myself that after (the semifinals).”

In the consolation final, Wilson found himself up against third-seeded and fellow semifinalist Luke Pletcher of Ohio State.

Again, Wilson simply had his way with his third seeded wrestler of the tournament, posting an impressive major decision, 17-8, to clinch the bronze.

Also during the course of the tournament, Wilson defeated the fourth and fifth seeds. His only loss of the event came to North Dakota State’s Seth Gross, who was the defending national champion in the class.

On Friday afternoon, after his quarterfinal win, Wilson was the recipient of a standing ovation and eventually started trending, nationally, on Twitter.

“I think I’ve earned respect from a lot of people over the duration of the tournament,” Wilson said. “It seems like I won over the hearts of a lot of people this weekend, which is exciting.”

All told, Wilson won five matches, three of which came by virtue of major decisions, which were big in helping the Wolfpack garner a top five national finish because of the team bonus points that came with them.

Wilson will enter his red-shirt sophomore season with a bit more of a target on his back thanks to the all-American and all-ACC finish.

But, it’s a welcome bullseye.

“This will just (continue) to help me build my confidence for next year,” Wilson said. “Right now, I believe the sky is the limit for me. I am going to work hard and keep improving, so I can continue to progress in the sport.”