Fourth-place finish motivates Schopp

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For A.J. Schopp, the goal is the same, only the year has changed.

“I already have it in my phone. It did say 2014 133-pound National Champion. Right after I lost I changed it to 2015. Because I know I’ve got to set new goals. Every time I see it it’s right there and I really do want it,” the Edinboro 133-pounder and Tyrone Area High School grad said Saturday after he finished fourth in the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“It’s frustrating, kind of. I really wanted to be on top. I know I could’ve done it, obviously.”

Schopp dominated Minnesota’s David Thorn by major decision, 12-4, in the consolation semifinals. Then, in the third-place bout, he was edged, 1-0, by Northern Iowa’s Joe Colon, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. It’s the second consecutive fourth-place finish for Schopp.

Schopp, along with teammates Mitchell Port (third at 141) and David Habat (fourth at 149) spurred the Fighting Scots to a fifth-place finish. Schopp said they want more.

“We came in here thinking, yeah, we’ll probably get Top 10, but thinking it’d be nice to get a team trophy [by finishing in the top four]. Now that we’re this close it’s like, ‘why not us?’ It’d be nice,” he said.

“Obviously you’ve got to care for yourself, but really now we see that our team can do it. It would be phenomenal for us to get that team trophy. Little, small Edinboro’s coming up on top. It’d be nice to get it.”

Schopp and Port, who is from Bellefonte, both relish the chance to excel even in the shadow of Penn State.

“I love it. I always say I love when people doubt me and give me that motivation. Doubt me. Because then when I do it it makes it just so much better,” he said.

Five Nittany Lions, like Schopp, finished earlier Saturday, short of the raised platform of the finals, but placewinners and All-Americans just the same.

Nico Megaludis (125) finished third, Zain Retherford (141) and Matt Brown (174) placed fifth, and James English (149) and Morgan McIntosh (197) finished seventh.

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 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.

“I think the difference was he went out and scored again,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “Instead of, ‘I got my takedown, I’m good to go,’ he scored another takedown, and that changes the whole mentality.”

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.

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 win and seventh-place finish.

After English had his hand raised, he ran to Sanderson, who picked him and 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.

McIntosh decisioned Iowa’s Nathan Burak, 3-1, to take seventh.