OKLAHOMA CITY - Cael Sanderson admitted that he almost gave up on James English. It's a good thing he didn't.
The sixth-year senior rewarded his coach's faith in him with a seventh-place All-America finish Saturday at the 2014 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Center.
English joined Nico Megaludis (3rd at 125), Zain Retherford (5th at 141), Matt Brown (5th at 174) and Morgan McIntosh (7th at 197) as Nittany Lions who finished the 2013-14 season with wins early Saturday.
Perhaps the most compelling story of the tournament was English earning All-America status. The sixth-year senior has battled back, neck and shoulder injuries and it was only late this season he earned the starting nod. He also revealed that he pulled a hamstring at the Big Ten Championships and didn't wrestle live in the days leading up the NCAA tournament.
In the 149-pound seventh-place bout, English was paired with Oklahoma's Kendric Maple, who was the 141-pound champ a year ago. The match went into the tiebreaker period tied, 1-1. English escaped with 10 seconds to go in the first 30 seconds and then rode Maple for the whole 30 seconds to earn a 2-1 tiebreaker win and seventh-place finish.
After English had his hand raised, he ran to Sanderson, who picked him up, slung him over his shoulder and carried him away.
"I thought and thought about bringing him in and saying, 'Hey, James, you don't need to spend the money to go to school again.' I was almost giving up on him there for a while. But he just kept coming and coming and it's just perseverance," Sanderson said.
"It's not even about the team race, it's just about a kid who just kept fighting. To go out with a win in a crucial time, that's a big deal. That's an emotional deal. That was pretty cool."
English was still in tears moments later when he addressed the media and talked about his ride on his coach's shoulder.
"It was pretty awesome. I look up to our coaches. They're not only the best coaches but the best people in the world. Cael told me after the match that I made him so proud and that meant the world to me. Just that feeling at the end was awesome," he said.
"When I lost the match in the championship round, you can't dwell on it. It's not gonna do you any good. I had to make the best of whatever situation I have and just keep fighting the whole time. If there's one word to describe how I wrestled out there it's just fight the whole way through."
Megaludis decisioned Iowa's Cory Clark, 5-2, in the consolation semifinals and then dominated Virginia Tech's Joey Dance, 6-1, in the third-place bout. He's a three-time All-American. He was runner-up his first two years.
Retherford gave up a takedown in the second sudden victory period and lost to Mitchell Port, 3-1, in the consolation semifinals. He received a medical forfeit in the fifth-place bout.
"I wanted to win. I came in wanting to win the tournament. That didn't happen but it's early in my career yet. I've got at least three more opportunities here so I'm just looking forward to that," the true freshman said.
Brown lost 3-1 in sudden victory to Minnesota's Logan Storley in the consolation semifinals. Then, in the fifth-place bout, he met Iowa's Mike Evans for the fifth time this season. Evans beat Brown in the quarterfinals but Brown got revenge with a 6-3 win for fifth.
McIntosh decisioned Iowa's Nathan Burak, 3-1, to take seventh.