It took some time, but Ryan Blees seems to have found his place in NCAA Division I college wrestling. The 4X state championship from Bismarck went 2-1 against a strong field at the ACC tournament to bring homed second place at 149 pounds. Blees’s efforts also helped to propel the Hokies to a team championship over #4 ranked North Carolina State.
Seeded third in a field of six wrestlers, Blees started strong with a 16-4 victory over Duke’s Brandon Leynaud. The win propelled Blees to the semifinals, where he avenged his only ACC dual loss of the regular season 6-4 over NC State’s Beau Donahue. In that bout, Blees gave up the first takedown and trailed 2-1 after the first period. After an escape to knot the match at two, Blees found a takedown with twenty seconds left in the second and rode out the period for a 4-2 lead entering the third. Donahue got a quick escape to cut Blees’s lead to 4-3, but again he North Dakotan found the left side of the body for a beautiful shot and finish. Donahue was able to escape, but Blees successfully defended the last thirty seconds for a 6-4 victory. The ACC was allotted four qualification spots to the NCAA championships at 149 pounds, so the semifinal win guaranteed Blees a spot at nationals regardless of his result with North Carolina’s Troy Heilmann. It is the first time qualifying for Blees.
In the finals, Blees and Heilmann exchanged chances through two periods, but the score remained knotted until late in the third when Heilmann was able to secure a single leg for two points and a 3-1 victory.
The NCAA Championships are set for March 15-17 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH.