The red-shirt Ohio State University freshman topped returning champ Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State, 4-3, to earn the title in St. Louis last Saturday night.
“I’ve wrestled in so many events, a million events, but nothing compares to that. Nothing compares. It’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life,” said Stieber moments after the heart-stopping win.
Stieber defended a late take-down attempt by Oliver to seal the victory. It was a take-down shot everyone in the sold-out Scottrade Arena knew was coming.
Stieber, the tournament’s second seed, lost to top-seeded Oliver earlier this season, 7-3, at the National Duals. The difference this time boiled down to Stieber’s late take-down defense against one of the most talented offensive wrestlers in the country.
“Well, I didn’t give up a takedown; that was the big thing. Like I said out there (in the live post–match interview), the last time he rode me forever. He rode me for like almost three minutes. And I got away both times really fast. Actually, he did score a takedown, yes. Right away he scored a takedown,” said Stieber. “But I got out and both times real fast, and I just kept wrestling. Last time it was 2‑2 going into the third period, and for some reason I thought it was worse. I felt like I was getting beat bad because he rode me for about two and a half minutes.”
Take down defense, said Stieber, was huge in preparing for the Oliver rematch. “I felt great. I knew I’ve been working, coached on defense so much, and my conditioning has been great. So this is a great feeling.”
Oliver, this year’s Big 12 champ, came into the finals at 28-1. “You know, Jordan’s an awesome wrestler, one of the best wrestlers in the weight class. I knew it was going to be a handful to maintain the score because last time he whipped my butt,” said Stieber. “So I just knew ‑‑ my coaches instilled the fact ‑‑ they trained me to be the best. I work out two or three times a day. I always try to be the best. So, no, it didn’t surprise me. But beating someone of Jordan’s caliber, it’s really amazing. I’m happy.”
“I knew I had to stop his double leg,” said Stieber of Oliver’s late third-period attack. “And I knew last time for some reason I think for a month, two months straight, I started rolling. Like when other people got my leg, I tried to dive under and roll. And I don’t know why I did that. But it wasn’t working, worked with my coaches J (Jaggers) and Lou (Roselli) and Tom (Ryan), and they’re just all working on slide defense. And my final match I had great leg defense and this Finals match had great leg defense. Shows it works, it helps.”
(Stieber defends against Oliver’s final takedown attempt)
Jaggers was jubilant as he met Stieber in the corner to celebrate the win. It was Jaggers who also won an NCAA title four years ago after defending against a brutal leg attack from Cal Poly’s Chad Mendes on these same St. Louis Scottrade Center mats in the 2008 championships.