Senior Kevin Tao closed out his career in heartbreaking fashion on Friday night in Des Moines, Iowa, dropping his wrestleback match for All-America honors, 5-3, to eighth-seeded Nick Brascetta of Virginia Tech.
In his final match of the tournament, Brascetta scored two takedowns but Tao was able to get away both times to cut the lead to 4-2 at the end of the first period. Brascetta's escape was the only point in the second as he took a 5-2 lead into the third. Tao picked up the escape point in the final period, but was unable to get a takedown in the final minute and make his third straight comeback of the championships.
Tao would have achieved All-American status with a win in his final appearance at the NCAA Championships. He was the last at-large selection into the tournament, receiving a bid after a medical forfeit.
Tao quickly became the Cinderella story of the tournament, upsetting the third-seed Donald Vinson of Binghamton in his first match and advancing to the quarterfinals with a 9-3 decision over Raymond Borja of Navy in a rematch of the EIWA consolation semifinals.
The senior faced fellow unseeded grappler Drake Houdashelt of Missouri, who posted two upsets to advance to the quarterfinal, and was edged in a 3-2 decision in the first tiebreaker period.
Tao completes his career with a record 63-46, going 26-15 this season, with two NCAA Championship appearances.