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The NCAA Championships have concluded. Iowa ended a title drought and has plenty of the pieces for No. 25 in 2022. Iowa State overcame a lackluster first round to tie for 13th. Northern Iowa's young lineup is one to watch next season, while next season is in limbo for Outstanding Wrestler Shane Griffith, who won a title for Stanford, which seems determined to cut the program.
Here are five takeaways from last week's tournament in St. Louis.
1. Iowa's depth too much
Iowa's depth and balance was just too much for the rest of the NCAA wrestling field.
The Hawkeyes had seven All-Americans and two more were a win shy of the podium. Each Hawkeye won at least one match. Five finished third or better with another fourth.
Iowa tallied 129 points, despite two No. 1 seeds losing in sudden victory in the finals. Top-ranked 165-pounder Alex Marinelli's unfortunate medical forfeit from the tournament limited him to just four team points. The Hawkeyes still wrapped it up before the finals.
Four amassed 19.5 points, including Spencer Lee's team-high 24.5. Two added 12.5 or more. Those six were enough to win it without the rest.
It is no surprise tight-knit group reveled in the team achievement and rallied around each other.
With everyone likely back and some others like Abe Assad, Patrick Kennedy and Jesse Ybarra, who could contribute, the Hawkeyes could be even stronger and better in 2022.
2. Iowa State made more with less
Iowa State's start to the NCAA Championships was abysmal at best. The Cyclones went 2-6 in the opening session, including an 0-4 start.
David Carr's march to the 157-pounder title and heavyweight Gannon Gremmel's semifinal appearance to get fifth was enough to elevate Iowa State into a tie for 13th with 37.5 points.
Former All-American Jarrett Degen and seventh-seeded Ian Parker (141) combined to win just one match.
Depending who returns from a team that was just eight points out of the top 10, the Cyclones could get support for Carr and make the jump.
By the way, is there anyone who seems to enjoy the sport like David Carr? His ear-to-ear smile after wins, in post-match interviews and during the award ceremony is refreshing. So is Carr's mentality of shooting for takedowns to ice victories instead of riding leads to the end.
3. UNI's future looks bright
The Panthers finished 19th with freshman Parker Keckeisen as the only All-American.
Classmate Brody Teske entered as the fifth seed and was a match away from placing.
Redshirt freshman Lance Runyon had to medical forfeit before stepping on the mat at 174. Triston Lara knocked off a No. 10 seed, while Austin Yant won two matches. All are back and heavyweight Carter Isley could return after winning two matches.
If oft-injured All-American Jacob Holschlag rejoins the lineup and talent gains a year of experience, the Panthers could make a run at the top 12.
Also, Keckeisen is fun to watch. Fans and pundits have estimated Keckeisen took more shot attempts than anyone in the entire tournament. His ability to pull teammates up to his level will be key from now to next March.
4. Rally around Stanford
One of the more compelling storylines was the performance of Stanford wrestlers, competing despite the school's plan to cut the program as soon as the season ended. If that holds true, 165-pounder Shane Griffith closed the program with a national crown and Outstanding Wrestler award from the tournament. The crowd showed its support, chanting 'Bring Stanford Back' in an emotional moment.
Griffith, who was wearing a 'Keep Stanford Wrestling' sweatshirt for warmups but an all-black singlet void of the school's signature red color or school name, acknowledged the crowd's gesture.
The school remains resistant to keeping the program, despite fundraising efforts that collected more than $12 million to help support it.
'Just fighting the fight,' Griffith said. 'Whether it's a weeklong battle, a year long, 10 years from now, we're going to keep fighting the fight.
'There's nothing more that we're trying to do than keep this program at Stanford. The way things are rolling right now I think we have a good shot.'
If you're looking for any hope, in 2008 Arizona State cut its program only to reinstate it 10 days later when leaders rallied to raise financial support. The Sun Devils placed fourth this year with 74 points and earned a team trophy.
5. Top seed woes
5) TOP SEED WOES: Only three No. 1 seeds walked away with titles Saturday, including the most dominant pound-for-pound wrestlers in Iowa 125-pounder Spencer Lee and Minnesota heavyweight Gable Steveson. Penn State's Aaron Brooks also won as the top seed at 184.
Four lost in the finals, two were upset in the semifinals and one didn't advance out of the quarterfinals. Now, you understand why wrestlers say seeds are only a number.
Do you have a favorite moment or observation from the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships? Please share with @kjpilcher on Twitter.
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