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College wrestling: Heil looks to make good on top seed at NCAA tournament

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Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil took care of business Thursday. Now the business turns to something left unfinished a month ago.

The Brunswick resident and four-time state champion out of St. Edward is in Madison Square Garden this weekend and is looking to make good on his No. 1 seed at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

So far, so good, as Heil (141 pounds) rolled through two rounds to advance to the quarterfinals.

Now it’s a matter of dispatching North Carolina’s Joey Ward. Ward happens to be the lone blemish on Heil’s resume this season after beating him 3-1 in overtime in the regular season finale on Feb. 19.

It’s a match the redshirt sophomore remembers quite well, as the two-time state champion out of Cincinnati Moeller beat him on an inside trip.

That’s why Heil (29-1) headed straight back to his hotel following his first two wins in New York.

“Dean isn’t looking at it as a revenge match so much as he’s going to look back on his season and say, ‘I was on a winning streak and got away from doing the right things,’” said his father Mike Heil, who is an assistant at Brunswick and was on hand at MSG on Thursday.

“He wrestled defensively instead of wrestling to win. He got away from his offense and a guy showed up one night that wanted to wrestle a (different) style than he did and he got him. (Ward) will see a different kid than the one he wrestled a month ago.”

Having finished fourth at nationals last season, Dean Heil is used to the big stage, as he was seeded 14th in 2015 and won his first two matches before losing, then bouncing back to reach the consolation finals.

Fast forward to Thursday and Dean Heil won two matches that were more lopsided than the final score. He opened with a 4-1 decision over Michigan State’s Javier Gasca III and then won in the round of 16 by the same score over No. 16 Randy Cruz of Lehigh.

In both matches, he scored early, working defensively before turning the tide against his foes.

A 2011 Ironman champion with the Eagles, Dean Heil has been in big-time matches and used experience — especially at the D-I national level — to advance.

“Experience from year to year is huge,” Mike Heil said. “If you go back to a year ago, he struggled to get takedowns on people and couldn’t really ride anybody. If you look at the difference from year to year, he’s able to do those things now. The experience and maturity pay off.”

If that wasn’t enough, he saw what can happen if an athlete slips up even for a second. It happened in the match right before his second of the day. Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance, a No. 2 seed and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion, fell 5-3 to No. 15 David Terao of American University.

“That’s why you wrestle the matches,” said Mike Heil of the 125-pound bout. “Anybody can win any time you walk out there. Dean knows what kind of competitor Joey Dance is, so to wait behind that mat and witness that loss it says, ‘Hey, I have to make sure my head is on straight and I wrestle my match, because I can be the next one moving out if I don’t.’”

Dean Heil renews his quest for a championship today at 11 a.m. The quarterfinals air on ESPNU and can also be seen on ESPN3.com.

Contact Brad Bournival at sports@medina-gazette.com.

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