A year removed from the most “gut-wrenching” loss of his career, Austin Dewey has turned devastation into motivation.
The Boise State senior finished second at the Pac-12 wrestling tournament last month to earn his first trip to the NCAA Championships after falling one victory short of advancing to nationals last season.
Dewey (24-13) opens against No. 11 Alex Meyer (24-7) of Iowa at 174 pounds Thursday morning at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
“They do a wrestle-off for true second, and I blew it. It was the worst experience of my life,” Dewey said of last season. “It’s kind of hard to explain to a lot people, but this has been my life since I was 9 years old.
“My biggest dream was to go to the national tournament and try and do some damage. To let it slip through my hands because I got a little over zealous in one of the matches, it was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking and kind of all the sadness you could put in the world into one moment.”
Dewey didn’t let the heartbreaking loss set the tone for his final college season. Although he says it took more than a month to get over the loss, the moment he let go, he felt re-energized.
“As soon as the semester was done, I was like, ‘Alright, we’re going to kick it into another gear,’ ” Dewey said. “I started lifting (weights) like I had never lifted in my entire life, and I started wrestling all the time.”
An offseason coaching change didn’t derail Dewey’s focus, either.
“I’m really proud of the way he’s worked. From day one of me getting here, he’s been very committed, very dedicated. He’s a guy that always shows up. He might be late. He usually is late, but he always shows up and he’s here to work,” Boise State coach Mike Mendoza said.
“Even the optional stuff and the extra stuff. He’s one of those guys that does the extra and stays after and just does more. He’s got goals, and he knew this was his last year and he wanted to have the best year he could. He’s earned this.”
In high school, Dewey considered himself an underdog. The 2012 Centennial High graduate didn’t win a state title until his senior year.
“At least in my eyes, people would really underestimate me,” Dewey said. “It would always give me a good drive.”
In college, little has changed.
In the final coaches rankings of the season — released March 5 — Dewey was 30th in his weight class and No. 3 in the Pac-12, essentially labeling him as an outsider to make nationals.
He’s a guy that’s solid on defense and his offense, he knows exactly what it is and how to get to it, and then he’s good on the mat. He’s a well-rounded wrestler, and that’s why he’s at the NCAA Tournament.
Mike Mendoza, Boise State wrestling coach on 174-pounder Austin Dewey
But Dewey upset No. 22 Peter Galli of Stanford in the semifinals before losing to top-ranked and unbeaten Zahid Valencia of Arizona State by pin in the championship.
Dewey is again unseeded at the NCAAs, which doesn’t bother him.
“When everyone shows up at that NCAA tournament, it doesn’t matter what you’re ranked. It doesn’t matter what you’re seeded. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past,” Dewey said. “I plan to show up and take something away from someone. That’s kind of my mentality.”
MERIDIAN GRAD EARNS NO. 7 SEED
Arizona State sophomore Tanner Hall, a 2011 Meridian High graduate, won his first Pac-12 championship with a 3-1 overtime victory against Oregon State’s Cody Crawford at 285 pounds.
Hall’s victory helped the Sun Devils win their first Pac-12 team title since 2006.
Hall (29-5), a three-time individual state champion, is seeded seventh and opens the NCAA Championships on Thursday against Utah Valley’s Dustin Dennison (22-8).
How to watch
- ESPNU will air the first round (10 a.m. Thursday), quarterfinals (9 a.m. Friday) and medal round (9 a.m. Saturday)
- ESPN will televise the second round (5 p.m. Thursday), semifinals (6 p.m. Friday) and finals (6 p.m. Saturday)
- ESPN3 will stream all mats and every match during all six sessions