April 3, 2002
As the Air Force wrestling team concluded the 2001-02 campaign, many wish the dream season wouldn't end. The Falcons compiled an 11-3 dual meet record and won several tournaments. The team finished ranked 22nd in the nation, its first top 25 national ranking since 1971. Four wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships, the most since 1997-98, and three of those four earned All-American status.
"It was a Cinderella season for us," head coach Wayne Baughman said. "It was by far the most successful season we have ever had."
After starting the year with three open tournaments to gain some early-season experience, the Falcons opened their dual meet season with a disappointing one-point loss to UC Davis (23-22).
"UC Davis was a team we should have defeated," Baughman said. "At that point, I was a bit worried about where the season was headed."
In reality, Baughman had nothing to worry about. The team's only other losses all season came against nationally ranked opponents. After a win over Embry-Riddle (24-12), the Falcons suffered a 31-13 loss to No. 17 Nebraska. They would then notch three straight wins before falling to No. 13 Illinois, 26-13, in a hard fought dual meet.
Following the loss to nationally ranked Illinois, the Falcons wouldn't lose another dual meet all season. They rattled off seven consecutive victories, including a win over nationally ranked Northern Iowa. Air Force wrestled to a 17-17 tie against the 14th-ranked Panthers, but earned the win by virtue of tie-breaking criteria - a greater number of near falls.
"It was the biggest win for our program in many years. Beating a top-20 Division I team is as good as it gets," said Baughman, whose efforts earned him Colorado coach of the year honors.
To add to their outstanding 11-3 dual record, the Falcons won several tournaments, including the Colorado Collegiates and its fourth consecutive All-Academy Championship. Air Force had four individual champions at the event, including Scott Frohardt (149 lbs.), who won his fourth All-Academy title. The team also placed eighth at the prestigious Las Vegas Invitational.
The Falcons went into West Regionals with high hopes of winning the event, but managed only a fourth place finish among five teams. Despite its disappointing finish, four Air Force wrestlers advanced to the NCAA Championships. Frohardt and Terry Parham (174) each won their weight classes at the regional championships to earn automatic bids. Heath McKim (125) and Kevin Hoy (Hwt) were runners up in their weight classes, but earned a wild card bid to the NCAA tournament.
Frohardt defeated Northern Iowa's Jon Garvin, 8-0, to win the West Region championship and qualify for his fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships. Frohardt then went on to cap his outstanding career by becoming an All-American after going 5-3 in the national tournament to capture eighth place.
"Frohardt has done a great job for us throughout his career and is the winningest wrestler in Academy history," Baughman said.
Frohardt, ranked 13th in the nation, finished the season with a 47-7 (87 percent) won-loss record and led the team in takedowns, major decisions and pins. In his four-year Air Force career, Frohardt has an impressive 153-36 overall record, setting an Academy record for most career wins. He was named Colorado college wrestler of the year.
Parham, ranked 18th in the nation, earned his first bid to the NCAAs by defeating Northern Iowa's Eric Hauan (5-4) in the championship round of West Regionals. He won his first match at the NCAAs, but lost his second match to the top-seeded wrestler in his weight class -- Otto Olson of Michigan. Parham proceeded to win four of his next five matches in the consolation bracket, becoming an All-American by finishing the event in seventh place.
Parham lost just one dual meet all season and had just five losses on the year. He compiled a four-year overall record of 111-43 (30-5, 36-7, 20-15, 25-16). He also placed second at the prestigious Las Vegas Invitational and was invited to compete in the prominent Midlands tournament.
Hoy also had an outstanding season as the Falcons' heavyweight wrestler. He took second place at the West Region tournament, earning an at-large bid to the national championships. Hoy was seeded eighth in the tournament but was upset in the first round. He battled back in the consolations, winning four straight. He lost his final match to Harvard's David Rechul, 6-5 to finish in eighth place and earn All-American honors.
Hoy was the Falcons' highest ranked wrestler at No. 9. He was undefeated in 13 dual meets and finished the year with a 46-9 overall record. He won several tournaments throughout the season, including the Las Vegas Invitational and the All-Academy Championships. He also placed sixth at the prestigious Midlands Invitational.
It was the first time since 1975 that the Air Force wrestling team had an All-American and the first time in team history that three wrestlers earned All-American status the same year.
"It was a great way to end the season and we are extremely pleased with our performance at the NCAA Championship," Baughman said. "Our wrestlers defeated some of the best wrestlers in the country. It has been 27 years since we've had an All-American, but I think that jinx is broken. We got that monkey off our backs."
Several other Falcons had outstanding seasons, including McKim, who earned an at-large bid to the tournament and was the Falcons fourth NCAA qualifier. He had a 3-2 record in his first-ever national tournament. His elimination loss was a 6-5 defeat to Oklahoma's Matt Ridings on a last second reversal. McKim finished the year 11-3 in dual meets and 31-13 overall.
The Falcons will work hard in the off-season in an effort to duplicate the success of the 2001-02 season. Several solid returners, including Hoy and McKim, will anchor the team, while younger recruits and junior varsity players will give the team depth. Regardless, this year's dream season will go down in the record books as one of the best ever in Air Force wrestling history.