Release: March 22, 2010
VESTAL, N.Y. -- Binghamton sophomore 157-pound Justin Lister made his mark at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship in Omaha, Neb. and in the process, brought more attention to the rapid rise of BU's entire program.
The unseeded Lister's two pins over top-4 opponents, fourth place finish and All-America honors caught the attention of wrestling competitors and spectators alike. His advancement plus six wins from BU's five other qualifiers gave the Bearcats 26.0 team points, good for a share of 21st place in the final standings.
The showing on the sport's highest stage capped a remarkable 2009-10 season for head coach Pat Popolizio and his team. The accomplishments included:
Lister's four wins - especially his pins over fourth-seeded Cyler Sanderson of Penn State and third-seeded Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech - generated substantial buzz throughout the venue. His shocking pin of Dong - in just 1:18 - was one of only two pins earned in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of all the weight classes (70 matches). That fall clinched All-America honors for Lister, who later dropped Sanderson, a former All-American, three-time NCAA qualifier and Big 12 champion for Iowa State, in the consolation semifinals. Lister finished his second collegiate season with a 32-10 record, including 10 pins.
"This is the big show. This is where it all happens," Lister said of competing in the NCAA Championship for the first time. "I just had to start believing I belong with the best 157-pounders in the nation. Hopefully I put a big dent in the rankings for next year."
The team's emergence at the national level just five years after the program was reinstated drew praise throughout the Qwest Center and from the announcers on the ESPN networks that broadcast most of the three-day event. Popolizio had support and votes for national coach of the year and appears to be an obvious choice for CAA Coach of the Year when that award is announced later in the week.
"It was obviously a great job by Justin," Popolizio said of Lister's achievement. "His wins were unbelievable - the way he dominated two ranked guys - he was one of the cinderella stories of the tournament. His accomplishment has been phenominal for our program. Our other qualifiers also gained valuable experience that will only make them better wrestlers. With five of those six guys back next year we will be shooting for more All-Americans and an even higher team finish."
Despite finishing out of the medal round at the NCAA Championship, senior Josh Patterson concluded his standout collegiate career as a four-time NCAA qualifier, the school's first Division I All-American (7th in 2009) and the program's all-time wins leader (123). Patterson compiled a 70-9 career dual match record and was the face of BU wrestling and the program's revival.
"Josh paved the way for the future of our program ... for guys like Justin," Popolizio said. "Josh will always be remembered as our first All-American. What he's done is special and we need to continue the momentum he gave us on the national level."
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