BLOOMINGTON — Call it Nate's wait.
For at least 10 minutes, Nate Volk was forced to bide his time after reporting to the mat Saturday for his third and most important match of the day.
Before the Champaign Central senior and his opponent could decide the 152-pound championship, some business needed to be attended to at the halfway point of the 73rd and final Big 12 Conference wrestling meet.
Eager to get on with it, Volk could only wait as names were announced and medals presented to wrestlers in the first seven weight classes. Varsity and junior varsity.
"At that point you're getting a little antsy," said Volk, who passed the time mostly by pacing on and around the mat. "You just want to get on with the match. ... The more you're able to think about it, the more nervous you get."
If anything showed that Volk is capable of nerves of steel, it was the match itself. Tied 1-1 with Bloomington's Alex Alvis as the final seconds of the third period ticked off, Central's two-time defending champ knew it was now or never if he wanted to avoid the risk of overtime against a foe he'd previously beaten twice this season.
"He's pretty defensive on his feet, doesn't do a whole lot, so I knew I really had to push the pace," Volk said. "Toward the end there, I'd already gotten in a couple good shots. Didn't finish them, but I knew that if I could get in again, I could definitely finish it."
He did. With six seconds left, Volk took one more shot and this time took down Alvis for a beat-the-buzzer 3-1 win.
And although Volk (33-2) was forced to wait some more to receive his third Big 12 first-place medal — the medals ceremony for the final seven weight classes took place at the conclusion of the meet — Volk didn't mind.
"Proving that you're the best in your conference is a great feeling," he said.
"The pressure of winning three in a row, it's a big deal," Volk said. "We're in a quality conference with a lot of good kids. After you win the first one, the second one, everybody's just after you more and more."
Cameron Mammen also was a marked man after winning two previous Big 12 crowns. But the undefeated Urbana junior dominated his only two matches at 170. After receiving a bye into the semifinals, Mammen recorded a 20-second pin. Then he ended the title bout with 8.1 seconds left in the first period by rolling to a 16-0 technical fall.
In Mammen's 20 matches this season, three have lasted the entire regulation time.
"Sometimes I wish I could get a little more mat time in to get my conditioning ready for the state series," he said.
Conditioning has been on Mammen's mind since he suffered a high ankle sprain in Urbana's football season finale. He then re-sprained the ankle during an early wrestling practice. Although his record doesn't reflect it, Mammen said: "I started off a little slow because I was a little out of shape. The ankle's doing fine (now). It's almost 100 percent."
A third area defending champion added to his Big 12 title resume, too. Centennial senior Archie Williams, who earned his first conference title a year ago, won another at 195 pounds.
Williams (32-0) was never challenged, recording pins in 25 and 46 seconds before his title-bout opponent defaulted due to an injury.
"I was pretty upset," he said. "I just wanted to wrestle because that's what we're here for. You want to make sure everybody knows that you're the best. You don't really want to win by default or anything."
Williams was one of three champions and five finalists for the runner-up Chargers. Austen Schott (120) and Deonte Adams (182) also won titles.
Schott, who had lost to Bloomington's Charlie Magouirk in the Big 12 finals each of the previous two years, again faced his nemesis for the title and prevailed 2-1.
"When I found out he was in my bracket, he was the only one I was looking forward to wrestling," Schott said. "So when I won, it felt good."
Bloomington won its 14th Big 12 title in 15 years.
"It was nice to try to give them a challenge today, but they were just too much," Centennial coach Ed Mears said.
The Chargers senior has routinely advanced to tournament finals this season, only to fall one win short of a title. Not this time. Adams twice won by major decision at 182 pounds en route to earning the top spot on the medals podium.
The Maroons junior entered the tournament unseeded and with a modest 17-13 record. He exited with a second-place medal after knocking off the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds to advance to the 160-pound final.
Circumstances often have limited the senior’s opportunities to compete, but there was no stopping his march Saturday to the 138-pound finals, where he lost for only the second time in 15 matches this season.