CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. - There's no question a lot of area wrestling fans had an eye on the 125-pound bracket of the NCAA Division III Championships last weekend.
Most were looking for a possible match-up between Ithaca's Seth Ecker (Pottstown) and Delaware Valley's Chris Sheetz (Upper Perkiomen), who had never met in high school but together had collected a closet full of postseason medals, including seven from the state tournament.
Ecker and Sheetz never ran into each other, at least on the mat, but finished sixth and eighth, respectively, to join Delaware Valley's Brandon Clemmer (Upper Perkiomen) and Rocky Mantella (Council Rock) as All-Americans.
Ecker, a freshman and the No. 5 seed, opened with a 5-4 decision of Thiel's Rob Miller, then pulled off a 7-3 upset of No. 4 seed Seth Flodeen of Augsburg.
Ecker nearly made it two straight surprises by taking No. 1 seed and eventual unbeaten national champion Jake Oster (26-0) of Elmhurst into overtime. However, Oster's takedown was the deciding move in the 8-6 sudden-victory thriller.
Back-to-back losses left Ecker with the sixth-place medal and a 24-8 record.
Nonetheless, Ecker became Ithaca's first All-American since current assistant coach Marc Israel was eighth back in 2002. His sixth was the highest finish by an Ithaca freshman in 26 years.
Sheetz, a sophomore and the No. 3 seed, opened with a 21-8 major decision of Jerrad Hoxie of Heidelberg. However, he was upset in the quarterfinals, falling 9-6 to No. 6 seed Mike McInally of RIT. Sheetz bounced back with a win in the consolations, but then dropped two in a row to No. 7 seed Mark Kist of Wartburg - a transfer from Iowa State - and No. 8 Tyler Erdman of Elizabethtown.
The disappointing finish left Sheetz with the eighth-place medal, his second straight All-American honor after a sixth-place showing a year ago - and a 37-7 record.
The 133-pound Clemmer dropped into the consolations after a narrow 5-3 quarterfinal loss to eventual national champion Zack Bartlett of Luther. The Aggie senior split a pair of bouts before a 7-3 decision over Ithaca's Chad Winowich in the seventh-place final. Clemmer capped his career with a 33-8 mark.
Mantella, ranked fifth in the country but the No. 2 seed at 174 pounds, debuted with a 23-second pin. He strung together three straight decisions - 9-5, 4-3 and 6-4 - to reach the final against Dubuque's Evan Brown, the No. 8 seed who blanked No. 1 seed and favorite Jerome Owens of John Wales, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.
Neither Mantella nor Brown scored in the first period, and Brown rode Mantella the entire second period. Mantella chose neutral for the third and final period, but couldn't get a takedown and Brown's riding time resulted in the 1-0 victory.
It was the first loss of the year for Mantella (31-1), a former PIAA state champion.
The Merchant Marine Academy's Phillip Greene (Germantown Academy, Blue Bell resident) went 0-2 at 133 and finished at 15-8. ... Ithaca's David Priest (Wyomissing, Douglassville resident) went 0-2 at 174 pounds and finished his sophomore season at 27-5. ... Delaware Valley - which got a gold-medal effort from Mike Wilcox, earning the senior 285-pounder the Outstanding Wrestling award - was fifth in the final team standings. Ithaca, with five All-Americans overall, the most for its program in 15 years, was sixth. ... Wartburg topped the team standings, followed by Augsburg, Wisconsin-Lacrosse and Coe.