West Liberty's Brown Falls Short at NCAA Nationals

March 11, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. A difficult draw and some tough wrestling luck proved too much to overcome here Friday as West Liberty's Zach Brown was unable to make it through the first day of the NCAA Division II Championships, hosted by the University of Sioux Falls at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

Brown, a junior 125-pounder from Oak Glen High School who had earned his first trip to nationals with a fourth-place finish in last month's East Regional for Coach Mitch Smith's Hilltoppers, faced a tough assignment in his opening match on Friday morning.

The Hilltopper standout was matched up against Central Region champion Brett Velasquez of defending national champion St. Cloud (Minn.) State.

Brown wasn't able to sustain any offense against the nation's No. 3-ranked 125-pounder and Velasquez finished strong to cap a 14-1 major decision.

That loss dropped Brown into Friday evening's wrestle-backs where he took on Tiffin's Guiseppe Penzone in a first-round consolation bout.

The West Liberty grappler got off to a good start, battling Penzone on even terms throughout the opening 3-minute period. The Tiffin wrestler appeared to come up with a flash takedown just before the end of the period but it was overturned on an illegal headlock thanks to a challenge by Coach Smith.

The penalty point gave Brown a 1-0 lead heading into the second period and a quick escape pushed the margin to 2-0 in the first 10 seconds of the frame.

Penzone evened the count with a takedown but Brown answered with an escape to go back up, 3-2, midway through the period.

The match turned in the final 30 seconds of the period when Penzone caught Brown with another takedown and a near-fall to grab an 8-3 lead heading into the third period.

With Brown in the "up" position, Penzone spent most of the third period trying to run out the clock. Brown rode the Tiffin wrestler for most of the period but was unable to turn him. Forced to gamble in the waning seconds, Brown gave up an escape and another takedown to end up on the short end of a 12-3 major decision.

The NCAA Division II wrestling championships are scheduled to wrap up Saturday night.
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