Boston University wrestling team red-shirt freshman Fred Santaite came only one win away from becoming the school’s fifth All-American and its first since 1997 at the NCAA Championships this weekend, before falling twice in the quarterfinals.
Santaite reached that stage after achieving the biggest upset in the national tournament when he posted a 2-1 victory over No. 2 Troy Nickerson of Cornell University, the defending national champion in the 125-pound division.
“We were all very excited after the win over Nickerson,” said BU coach Carl Adams. “Something like that doesn’t happen very often. He was a four-time All-American and one of the top wrestlers in the entire tournament. He could even go down as one of the all-time greats.
“There were almost 13-14,000 people focused on that one match, and they were all sensing the upset. To come in unseeded and unheard of and beat the national champion was just great for Fred.”
Before scoring the upset, Santaite started his first-ever NCAA Tournament with an 8-7 win over The Ohio State University’s Nikko Triggas.
Those two wins gave Santaite a spot in the tournament’s quarterfinals, meaning that he would only need one more win to achieve All-American status.
But he could not keep his momentum rolling and fell in the next two matches to Cashé Quiroga of Purdue University and No. 6 Zach Sanders of the University of Minnesota 10-2 and 9-4, respectively.
“The match against [Quiroga] was definitely tough,” Adams said. “The kid from Purdue wrestled very well and was just difficult to do anything against. Against [Sanders], Fred had the first takedown, but he looked a little flat. He told me he felt like his legs weren’t totally there, and in these matches, you’re going to have to be on top of your game or you’ll be out. On the whole though, I think he put forward a very strong effort.”
Santaite ends the season with a 20-11 record with four pins and seven major decisions. This was his first full season after sustaining injuries in each of his last two seasons, including a broken ankle in his first year and torn knee ligaments that required reconstruction surgery last year.
Because of those setbacks, he still has three years left of NCAA eligibility.
“I always told him he was a special talent,” Adams said. “If he could just get healthy, he was always capable of being a national champion.”