It’s going to be a short drive to the wrestling national championships for Jake Tindle’s family.
After winning the Southern Conference (SoCon) title at 197 pounds, the redshirt sophomore knew his family would be able to see him compete at the NCAA national tournament.
“It’s maybe 20 minutes from our house to the Scottrade Center,” said Tindle.
His road to the national championship was difficult. He started the season at 184 pounds, but moved up to 197 later in the season when Derek Nagel solidified his spot in the lineup.
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Tindle had 15 matches at 184 and 20 at 197. He wrestled in all of SIUE’s SoCon dual meets at 197 with a 4-3 record and ended up as the No. 4 seed for the league tournament in Asheville, North Carolina.
“Having bumps and bruises can be a little harder when you’re wrestling the big boys,” said SIUE coach Jeremy Spates. “I think there was definitely some adjustment to the weight class. He came with a great attitude and wrestled really well and really smart throughout the tournament.”
“It was amazing,” Tindle said. “The whole season I didn’t feel like I was wrestling the way I knew I could.”
The Cougar redshirt sophomore used his mental game for an edge.
“I really thought about what I was doing wrong in my matches and tried to change that, like points at the end of periods, not fighting hard enough to get an escape, and little things that add up in the tight matches,” said Tindle. “I made sure that I wasn’t letting anything slip away.”
Two of his matches were against wrestlers who had already defeated him during the season.
“The first match at the SoCon Championships was against someone I had beaten before and I actually had bronchitis in South Carolina the first time, so conditioning was really tough for me and I was getting tired in the first 30 seconds of my matches,” he said.
After a 4-0 decision of Davidson’s Ian Solcz, Tindle moved on to face Chattanooga’s Scottie Boykin.
“The second match was a big difference,” said Tindle. “I wrestled him at home two weeks before the tournament but I lost 10-5. He’s a really strong, athletic kid and he came out strong right at the whistle. I got away, but was really flat and letting him get to his spots.”
Spates liked Tindle’s attitude heading into the SoCon Championship.
“It was after his first or second match that he said to me, ‘I didn’t come out here to lose. I came out here to win this tournament.’ I was kind of shocked when he said it, but I was really excited that that was his attitude coming in,” said Spates.
Tindle edged Boykin 5-4 setting up a championship match against Marshall Haas of The Citadel.
“He’s a really strong kid,” said Tindle. “I’m more athletic than him, but I definitely felt the size difference because I’m pretty small for my weight.”
In the championship match, Tindle reminded himself of what he had learned in practice.
“I was really struggling to get any good attacks at that time so I went back to practice when we work on short time and the opponent’s go-to attack,” Tindle said. “I hit a misdirection low single, and I got it textbook, finished it, and flattened him out.”
He became the second winner of the day, joining teammate Connor McMahon as an NCAA qualifier.
“Connor is a really good friend of mine, and he got Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships. It was great,” Tindle added.
“I think it helped him,” Spates said. “When we came off the mat with Connor, you could see it in Jake’s face that it really gave him some confidence. Seeing someone else do it makes it a little easier. But Jake was confident all the way through.”
With a quick drive over to the Scottrade Center, the tournament runs Thursday through Saturday, Tindle figures to have a big cheering section.
“Everyone has been really excited. Since I’m from here, I’ve got some friends coming to watch me on Thursday. Some people were surprised, because going into conference I was down a little bit and hadn’t done so well in my last couple of matches, but I really put it together,” he added.
Spates said any time the national tournament is a short distance away it becomes a higher priority to make sure you’re there as a competitor rather than a fan.
“As a coaching staff, that was important to us,” said Spates. “It’s down the road, and we have a lot of people coming to watch us wrestle so we wanted to make sure we represented and put on a good show at the tournament, so I’m assuming that was in Jake’s mind too.”
Tindle’s first match of the NCAA Championships is against Northwestern’s Alex Polizzi.
About the tourney
There’s no odds-on favorite for the NCAA team wrestling title for the first time in years.
About the only thing everyone seems to agree on is that it won’t be Penn State.
The four-time champions Nittany Lions likely will see their run atop college wrestling come to an end during this year’s national meet.
In place of Penn State is a trio of favorites: Iowa, Ohio State and Missouri, with Cornell, Minnesota and Oklahoma State close behind.
The Hawkeyes spent most of the season ranked first. But Missouri beat Iowa last month, and Ohio State managed to tie the Hawkeyes for the Big Ten title.
On paper, Missouri could easily be considered the team to beat. But the Tigers have never won the NCAA team title before — and Saturday’s evening session at the NCAAs will be a wrestler’s biggest stage, outside of the Olympics and the world championships. Still, Missouri has three top seeds in defending J’Den Cox at 197 pounds and redshirt seniors Alan Waters (125 pounds) and Drake Houdashelt (149).
Missouri has Lavion Mayes, of Mascoutah, competing in the nationals. He went 33-2 at 141 pounds and is ranked No .