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Photo Credit: Lawrence Slater

By JARED BELL
Illinois Matmen

Nathan Jackson had his own special cheering section at this weekend’s NCAA Championships.

A Marian Catholic graduate and a 184-pound redshirt senior at Indiana, the Crete native is also the father of three young children, all of whom cheered on their dad along with their mother/Jackson’s wife at the three-day tournament at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

“It’s just more people motivating me and more reason to be driven,” Jackson said. “I haven’t seen them as much as I would like to, but it is a unique experience. I know at the end of the day that I have a wife, kids and family that I love. They’re proud of me and they’re here to support me.”

Over the weekend, Jackson made his family proud.

After he lost in Thursday night’s second round, the No. 9-seeded Jackson – who strained his MCL in last weekend’s Big Ten Conference Tournament – battled back as he won three matches in the blood round to achieve All-American status and finished eighth overall to earn his second career medal in his third NCAA Championships.

“This is a tough tournament and is definitely a mental and physical wear,” Jackson said. “To be able to get my hand raised in that (All-American) match was big. I obviously didn’t end the tournament like I would’ve liked to, but I have so many people supporting me and in my corner.”

After Jackson won hist first match Friday night to become an All-American, he lost his second match Friday night by a 4-0 decision to Nebraska’s T.J. Dudley. He then fell in Saturday afternoon’s seventh-place match by a hard-fought 11-7 decision to Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster to end his collegiate career.

“There are so many talented guys at this tournament, so to have the nation recognize you as one of them is great,” Jackson said.

ZANE RICHARDS

The Carbondale graduate and 133-pound redshirt senior at Illinois finished his career with a win as Richards defeated Lehigh’s Scotty Parker by a 14-4 major decision in the seventh-place match.

It was the second time Richards beat Parker in the tournament as Richards won by a 7-6 sudden victory in Thursday’s second round.

“I’m not satisfied at all with seventh, but it’s what I have to live with,” Richards said. “I’m happy with my college career, but I’m not satisfied. I am proud of the things I’ve done, but I think there’s a lot more in me that I can give.”

In his fourth trip to the NCAA Championships, Richards finished with his second medal after he placed fourth last season.

Now that his collegiate career is done, Richards says his wrestling career is not as he will attempt to wrestle freestyle.

“If you noticed, I didn’t leave my shoes on the mat and there’s a reason for that,” Richards said with a smile. “I’m always going to be involved with this for the rest of my life. Even when I’m 60 and my knees don’t work – or maybe that’ll even be when I’m 30 – I’ll still be doing this. I’m looking forward to the next step. I’m ready for it.”

JAKE RESIDORI

The Minooka native and the 174-pound redshirt senior at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville finished his collegiate career with an eighth-place medal after he fell in Saturday’s seventh-place match.

“This feels great,” Residori said. “This is a fun tournament, and it’s a great way to end my career, but I’m pretty tired right now, can’t lie. Three days with little sleep and having to cut a little weight in between was tough. I’m looking forward to relaxing.”

In the seventh-place match, Residori had a rematch of his first-round match against Oklahoma State’s Kyle Crutchmer. After Residori won the first meeting, Crutchmer prevailed the second time with a 9-4 decision.

“It was cool to have a rematch,” Residori said. “Unfortunately, I got in a headlock and the six-point swing made it hard to come back, but I think I still wrestled well and as hard as I could.”

It was the first career medal for Residori, who was looking forward to his post-tournament meal.

“I’m going to eat whatever’s in sight,” he joked. “I’m craving something sweet right now, so I’ll probably get some dessert and then dinner.”

SAMMY BROOKS

After losing in Friday night’s semifinals, Brooks went 1-1 on Saturday to finish fourth.

The Oak Park-River Forest graduate won his semifinal wrestleback by a 6-2 decision against Ohio State’s Myles Martin – a returning NCAA champion – but Brooks fell by fall at 2:38 to Nebraska’s T.J. Dudley in the third-place match.

The fourth-place finish was his best showing and his second career medal in his third NCAA Championships.

ZAC BRUNSON

The Illinois redshirt senior and Eugene, Ore., native suffered a pair of tough losses Saturday to finish sixth and earn his first career medal.

In his semifinal wrestleback, Brunson lost by fall at 1:36 to the No. 1 seed Zahid Valencia from Arizona State and then lost by fall at 1:15 to No. 2 seed Brian Realbuto from Cornell.

Jared Bell can be reached at (815) 220-6938. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.

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