OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Junior All-Ivy wrestler Ophir Bernstein (Allen, Texas) opened his third NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships appearance with a pair of victories as the 12th seed in the 184-pound weight class at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday, advancing to Friday's quarterfinal round at 11 a.m. Bernstein will return to action tomorrow when he faces 13th-seeded Jack Dechow of Old Dominion, who upset fourth-seeded Max Thomusseit of Pittsburgh in the second round.
Bernstein started the day with a 4-1 win over unseeded Zack Hernandez of Columbia and then prevailed over unseeded Victor Avery of Edinboro, 5-3. The two victories are the most in NCAA Championships competition for Bernstein, who went 0-2 as a freshman and won a consolation match as a sophomore. Bernstein now has 35 wins on the season, leaving him two shy of tying the Brown program record set by All-Ivy and EIWA Outstanding Wrestler Steve Thoma in 1991-92.
Bernstein improved his season record to 4-0 against Hernandez, biding his time for a 4-1 first round victory. The opponents spent much of the first period sizing each other up until Bernstein shot low for two points and narrowly missed turning Hernandez for a near fall position.
Bernstein doubled his lead in the second with a re-shot takedown that pushed Hernandez out of bounds. Both wrestlers remained on their feet for most of the round with Columbia's representative owning a 14 second advantage in riding time. A reset put Hernandez on bottom and he hustled for a potential late escape, but Bernstein hung tight to one foot as time expired.
With a 4-0 lead, Bernstein started down in the third period and forced Hernandez to make a move. A near-reversal for Bernstein led to a stalemate with 50 seconds left, but Hernandez could only secure riding time in the 4-1 decision.
Bernstein then faced Avery, who emerged to the second round with a 5-3 upset win over fifth-seeded Ethen Lofthouse of Iowa. Avery stormed out of the gate looking like a wrestler still riding high after defying the odds, using a quick takedown to go up 2-0 in the early going. Bernstein got on the board with an escape immediately after taking the down position on a reset, but could not take the lead after missing a cross ankle pick late in the first period.
Avery used a hip heist to escape Bernstein's hold and go up 3-1 in the second period, scrambling madly to avoid the Brown wrestler's shots. Bernstein worked furiously to create angles on the ground as the final seconds of the period ticked away but secured no points to trail 3-1.
Bernstein started down and immediately escaped to cut Avery's lead to 3-2 to open the third. A down block to re-attack established Bernstein's underhook and set him up to finally get a takedown, shifting the lead in his favor, 4-3. Closing in on the final 30 seconds, Bernstein was on pace to get the riding time point and proved unmovable on top with both boots in position. Avery rolled frantically in search of a reversal, but Bernstein hung on to run out the clock and win 5-3.
Bernstein makes his NCAA Wrestling Championships quarterfinal debut tomorrow when the round begins at 10 a.m. Follow the action with Trackwrestling Live Results and watch live video on ESPN3.
#12 Ophir Bernstein (Brown) dec. Zack Hernandez (Columbia), 4-1
#12 Ophir Bernstein (Brown) dec. Victor Avery (Edinboro), 5-3