The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

March 23, 2013

Henderson lays claim to All-American

DES MOINES, Iowa — When Evan Henderson heard the official slap the mat, he knew one of his dreams had just come true.

The young man from New Florence had just cemented his status as an All-American at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Friday night.

Henderson, a sophomore at North Carolina, pinned Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor in 1:41 to become one of the top eight 141-pounders in the nation.

“When I heard him hit the mat it was like, ‘I got this. Thank God!’ ” Henderson said. “The pressure’s off.”

The night got a little better, as Henderson beat Atlantic Coast Conference rival Zach Neibert of Virginia Tech 7-4 in the consolation quarterfinals. He will wrestle Undrakhbayar Khishignyam of The Citadel in the consolation semifinals this morning. The worst Henderson, who wrestled at United and Kiski Prep, can finish now is sixth place. He could place as high as third.

Henderson gave up the opening takedown to Lazor, but he reversed the Northern Iowa wrestler and caught him on his back for three nearfall points. Henderson then locked up a crossface cradle and pinned him.

“I’m always looking for the cradle,” he said. “Anybody that wrestles me knows that I’ve got it. Try to stop it.”

Lazor couldn’t. With a spot on the podium so close, Henderson said there was no way he was letting go of the hold.

“I was squeezing so hard,” Henderson said. “I was (thinking) I got this. He’s going to pass out before I give up this lock.”

With the All-American status secured, Henderson lay on his back and celebrated, pointing both fists toward the sky.

Henderson said he had been dreaming of being an All-American “a long time, since before I was even a freshman in high school. I wanted to be up there in the lights, up there like, ‘Got one.’ ”

In the next match, Henderson led 5-4 after a wild first period. He rode Neibert out in the second period and escaped in the third to make it 6-4. The riding-time advantage set the final at

7-4.

In the quarterfinals on Friday morning, Henderson lost to Edinboro’s Mitchell Port for the third time this season. Henderson got off to a good start, with a first-period takedown. Port reversed him, but Henderson escaped for a 3-2 lead after three minutes.

 Things started to go downhill in the second as Henderson, who was on the bottom, tried to turn in against Port but ended up on his back. Port rode him out for the remainder for the period to take a 4-3 lead with 1:58 of riding time.

Port escaped to start the third and then took Henderson down. Henderson got a reversal and came close to backpoints, but Port ended up with a reversal, backpoints and a riding-time point for a 13-5 major decision.

Port ended up advancing to the finals by beating Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber in the semifinals.

Penn State took a big step toward a third consecutive team championship as Nico Megaludis (125 pounds), David Taylor (165), Matt Brown (174), Ed Ruth (184) and Quentin Wright (197) each advanced tonight’s finals.

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