Kyle Shoop’s technical-falls are key to his success

(LHU SPORTS) Lock Haven University’s Kyle Shoop wrestles in an NCAA wrestling match earlier this season.

By MITCH RUPERT

For The Express

LOCK HAVEN – The numbers next to Kyle Shoop’s name are quite impressive.

Thirty-one wins.

Seven major decisions.

Fifteen technical falls.

But there’s a curious zero on his line of the Lock Haven wrestling stats sheet. It resides under the category of falls. Despite the 22 bonus-point victories Shoop has put together this season for the Bald Eagles, none of them have been falls.

In fact, of the 62 bonus-point wins he’s recorded in three years in the Lock Haven starting lineup, he has just one fall. Shoop hears those numbers and smiles a missing-tooth smile of which hockey players would be envious. Then he shrugs his shoulders.

“I’m really not much of a pinner,” said Shoop, who will compete in his third NCAA tournament beginning Thursday in Pittsburgh.

The bottom line is Shoop has been a bonus-point machine since he earned his spot in Scott Moore’s lineup. His 40 career technical falls are already 12 more than Brad Lloyd’s previous school record, and Shoop still has another year to compete. His 15 technical falls this season are the most in Division I wrestling.

He’s wracked up all of those numbers because of his strength wrestling on top. His strength lies in his tilts. He produces more points from a variety of tilts and Hershey’s produces chocolate.

And while that’s conducive to scoring points in a hurry, it’s not exactly conducive to getting falls.

“I’m not going to call out any referees, but I have had had kids flat in a tilt and no referee is looking for a pin in a tilt,” Shoop joked. “I think getting bonus in college is huge, and if you look across the board, there aren’t many guys putting up the number of points I am.”

Shoop’s prowess on top is both a blessing and a curse to the redshirt junior 141-pounder. It’s a spot he likes to get to, but his opponents know it as well. His opponents have taken to avoiding choosing bottom against Shoop. In turn, Shoop spent the offseason making sure he was getting better on his feet so he could get to that advantageous position on top.

It’s an area Shoop feels like he’s definitely improved, and his 31 victories and 15 technical falls this year seem to point to an overall improvement in his wrestling. His work during the freestyle season, where the majority of wrestling is done on your feet, has been a big part in his improvement this season.

“It’s a passion for him to get those back points and win from those positions,” Moore said. “He has gotten a lot better on his feet this year. We’re excited to see him use the stuff he’s learned out at nationals. But obviously, we’re looking forward to the tech falls, too.”

When he does get on top, Shoop locks on like a vice. He hunts for loose arms or tight-waists like a cheetah chasing a gazelle. He stalks and pounces. And then when his opponent is locked up, it’s game over.

All that’s left for Shoop is to put those skills to work at the NCAA tournament. As a two-time qualifier previously, he went 0-2 in 2017 losing his two bouts by a combined 26-2. Last year, he went 1-2 giving up 22 points in the two bouts he lost.

“Knowing these kids choose neutral and top on me, it’s a challenge,” Shoop said. “I have to embrace it to be an All-American. So I’ve been preparing on my feet and on bottom a lot. So I definitely feel way more prepared this year.”

“He’s been more aggressive from the first whistle,” Moore said. “On his feet he’s trying to get takedowns instead of sitting back. If you’ve wrestled him before, it can be frustrating to try to get out on him. The harder you try to get out, the more likely you’re going to get turned.”

Since the change to the four-point near-fall in college wrestling, the points Shoop is capable of scoring on top are all the more valuable. He’s been the ring-leader for a lineup which has taken on the persona of being a tough-on-top team.

The four-point near-fall means Shoop is never out of a match. It’s part of the reason he comes in as the 13th seed at 141 pounds, but is confident he can get to the Top 8.

“I believe in myself so much and I have such a mindset that this year I’m in a way better spot mentally and physically,” Shoop said. “Seeds don’t mean anything to me and anything can happen at this tournament. But knowing I’m in a way better spot than I was last year, I can let it fly.”

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