March 7, 2009
GREELEY, Colo. - Led by a runner-up finish from senior captain Stephen Crozier (Monona, Iowa), the Air Force wrestling team placed sixth at the 2009 NCAA West Regional, hosted by Northern Colorado. Northern Iowa captured its 24th consecutive regional title, finishing with 94 points to edge out second-place Wyoming (92.5 points).
Following a 5-0 win over Northern Colorado's Brandon Kammerzell in his opening bout at 174 pounds, Crozier, seeded fourth, faced off against top-seed Jarion Beets of Northern Iowa in the semi-finals. While Beets scored the first takedown of the match, Crozier responded with an escape and a takedown to grab the lead. After an escape by Beets, the score was tied 3-3, before Crozier notched another takedown just before the expiration of the first period.
Crozier went on to dominate the second period, scoring six unanswered points, including a three-point near fall. Beets scored the first two points of the final period, but Crozier registered a reversal to take a 13-5 lead and held on to the 14-5 major decision after adding a point for riding time.
In the championship bout, Crozier matched up against Wyoming's Shane Onufer, seeded second in the tournament and ranked 18th in the nation. Onufer took the early lead and never looked back, taking a 6-3 advantage after one period and a 9-4 lead at the end of two periods. Crozier was unable to score a takedown in the match, dropping the 14-6 major decision to move into the true second-place match against South Dakota State's Scott Elliott, seeded third in the tournament.
Crozier scored the lone takedown of the opening period against Elliott to take a 2-0 lead, while a reversal and a pair of near falls in the second period gave Crozier an 8-0 advantage. Elliott closed out the second period with a reversal of his own, but would not score again in the bout. With a third-period reversal and an extra point for riding time, Crozier captured the 11-2 major decision over Elliott to capture second place. It was Crozier's second-consecutive runner-up finish at the West Regional, as he placed second at 165 pounds last season.
Also placing for Air Force was sophomore Derek Gillespie (Chesapeake, Va.), who took fourth place at 133 pounds. Gillespie, seeded fourth in his weight class opened the tournament with a match-up versus top-seed Cory VomBaur of Wyoming. After dropping a 10-2 major decision to the eventual champion, Gillespie took on third-seed Trent Sprenkle in the consolation semi-finals. Despite trailing by one in the final period, Gillespie was able to score a late takedown for the 4-3 decision over Sprenkle. However, Gillespie dropped his final match, a 10-7 decision to Northern Iowa's Steven Fitzgerald.