Four Maryland wrestlers earn bids to NCAA Championships

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Jaxon Smith’s last bout of the Big Ten Championships was a chance for redemption for Smith. Smith faced Illinois’ Zac Braunagel, who beat Smith in sudden victory, sending Smith into the consolation bracket. 

This time the two faced off in the bout for third place and just like their first, they needed a sudden victory period to decide a winner. This time Smith was the victor. Smith grabbed the legs of Braunagel and brought him down, winning the bout, and earning a third-place finish. 

Maryland wrestling ended the Big Ten Championships with four wrestlers earning automatic bids to the NCAA Championships. 

Maryland entered this weekend’s Big Ten Championship tournament after a week of preparation and rest. Four Terps were allotted top ten seeds in the tournament. Braxton Brown, Ethen Miller, Jaxon Smith, and Jaron Smith were the wrestlers to receive those positions. The tournament started Saturday with an action-packed day of wrestling.

Brown was the first to take advantage of his seeding. Brown wrestled the ten-seed Gary Steen of Penn State. Brown dominated the bout leading by nine after the first two periods. Brown added to his total in the third period to win the bout, 14-0. 

Brown’s win started the day off on a good foot, but that good feeling didn’t last. 

In the 133 bout, Jackson Cockrell fell behind Illinois wrestler Lucas Byrd. Byrd ended the bout in the second period pinning Cockrell with fifty seconds remaining in the period. 

The Miller brothers couldn’t record a victory either. Kal Miller lost his bout to Nebraska’s Brock Hardy, 6-0. Eight-seed Ethen Miller was locked into a tight bout against nine-seed Chance Lamer. 

The two were tied at the end of the third period, forcing the bout to sudden victory. Lamer came out on top, earning a takedown halfway through the two-minute period, and advancing to the next round. 

The next four Maryland bouts all ended in losses for the Terps.

Michael North lost his bout to Purdue wrestler Kendall Coleman by a major decision, only scoring three escape points. John Martin Best lost the 165 bout to Iowa’s Patrick Kennedy, 22-8. Dom Solis only scored one escape-point in his loss to fifth seed Edmond Ruth (Illinois). Kevin Makosy lost his bout against Minnesota’s Isaiah Salazar by technical fall. 

The Terps finally registered a win thanks to the wrestling of Jaxon Smith. Smith, a six seed, defeated 11-seed Billy Janzer (Rutgers), 8-3. Smith tallied three takedowns in the win. 

Jaron Smith ended the first round of bouts with a 4-1 loss to Indiana wrestler Jacob Bullock.

Brown and Jaxon Smith were the only two Terps to advance to the quarterfinals. The other eight wrestlers all fell into the wrestle back bracket in hopes of earning a place on the podium. 

Brown and Jaxon Smith’s track to first place ended in the quarterfinals. 

Brown jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in his bout against Nebraska’s Liam Cronin. Cronin scored five points in the second period to take the lead from Brown. Cronin added five more points in the third period, winning the bout, 11-7. 

Smith also jumped out to an early lead in his bout against Illinois wrestler Zac Braunagel. Braunagel and Smith swapped points in the next two periods. The third period ended with the two tied, 4-4, sending the bout to sudden victory. Smith lost the bout in the sudden victory period after Braunagel landed an attack at his legs. Smith’s loss meant that all Maryland wrestlers would now be wrestling in the wrestle-back bracket.

Only two Terps were able to make it through the first two rounds of the consolation bracket. Jaxon Smith and Ethen Miller both won their second-round bouts to earn themselves an automatic bid in the NCAA Championships. 

Ethen Miller medically forfeited his third-round consolation bout after winning his second-round bout due to an illegal slam from Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez. Gomez was disqualified which awarded the win to Miller. 

Jaxon Smith won his third-round consolation bout, 3-1, over Wisconsin’s Braxton Amos. The win meant that Smith would wrestle on Sunday with a chance at earning third place. 

Four more Terps were set to wrestle Sunday. Braxton Brown, Kal Miller, John Martin Best, and Jaron Smith took to the mat Sunday in hopes of winning ninth place. 

Sunday’s action started just as Saturday’s did with a Braxton Brown win. Brown pinned his opponent, Indiana’s Jacob Moran, to advance to the ninth-place bout. 

Kal Miller also advanced to the ninth-place bout with his decision win over Illinois wrestler Danny Pucino. Miller beat Pucino for the second time in the tournament, his first was a 4-1 decision victory in the first consolation round. 

The road to ninth place ended for Jaron Smith and John Martin Best in their first bouts on Sunday. Smith lost his bout by decision to Minnesota’s Garrett Joles and Best lost his bout to Michigan State wrestler Caleb Fish in sudden victory. 

Jaxon Smith advanced to the third-place bout following his win against Iowa’s Jacob Warner. The two were tied 1-1 at the end of three periods, sending yet another Maryland bout to sudden victory. There Smith earned a takedown, to win the bout, and a chance at third place. 

Brown and Kal Miller followed Smith’s victory with two of their own, earning ninth-place finishes in the Tournament. The ninth-place finishes also landed them automatic bids to the NCAA Championships, joining Ethen Miller and Jaxon Smith, in heading to Tulsa.