NEW YORK, NY - Anthony Ashnault reached All-American status for the second straight season at 11:47 a.m. ET inside the world’s most famous arena – Madison Square Garden – with a 5-4 decision over No. 12-seed Chris Mecate of Old Dominion in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Wrestling Championships in New York City.
The No. 4-seed Rutgers University 141-pounder and former South Plainfield High School star became the first Scarlet Knight to reach the semifinals since Mike Leta in 1960. The ex-Tiger also became the second two-time All-American in Rutgers wrestling history since Anthony Surage in 1980 and 1983.
After outscoring his opposition 31-2 on day one, Mecate offered a challenge to the cool, calm, and collected now 31-2 grappler.
Ashnault led 3-2 after the first period, but Mecate controlled Ashnault the entire second period, obtaining 1:25 minutes of riding time heading into the final frame.
However, Ashnault stayed composed and earned a late takedown with 24 seconds left in the third period for the victory. Mecate got an escape as the seconds wound down and had enough riding time for a point, but it didn’t matter.
Ashnault will return to action during the night session on Friday at 8:00 p.m., locking horns with No. 1-seed Dean Heil of Oklahoma State (31-1) in the semis. Heil beat North Carolina’s Joseph Ward 8-3.
Ashnault will be looking for revenge as Heil topped the 141-pounder in last year’s consolation round that resulted in injury and Ashnault finishing in eighth place.
"I could've done better on bottom, I didn't really do my best down there in the second period but a win is a win still,'' Ashnault said after the quarterfinals to reporters. “And moving on to the next round, semifinals of the national tournament, seeing my dreams come true as a little kid right in front of me. It's really a cool experience right now.
“I've envisioned the moment of walking out in the finals so many times that I just want it to become a reality, and I'm going to do everything I can in the next round to get it done.”