Wrestling for the hometown Cleveland State Vikings inside Quicken Loans Arena, Cheek nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent tournament history in the 141-pound weight class.
A 2015 Edison graduate and a Division III state champion for the Chargers, Cheek was tasked with facing former Lakewood St. Edward standout Dean Heill of Oklahoma State University in the first round.
Heill, the two-time defending NCAA champion, saw his seed drop to No. 6 in the weight after five losses this season. He had lost just one match over the past two seasons prior to this year.
Cheek — who on March 3 was the Eastern Wrestling League Outstanding Performer — drew first by nearly putting Heill on his back off a deep single-leg attempt.
The 2-0 lead didn’t hold too long, however, as Heill earned an escape point to make it a 2-1 deficit. He then got his lone takedown of the match to take a 3-2 lead.
The two Ohio products — wrestling in front of a paid crowd of 18,666, spent most of the second period locking up on their feet, neither wrestler able to get in any offense.
Cheek had choice and chose neutral to begin the third and final period, but Heill blocked all his attempts and earned an escape point out of it to go ahead 4-2.
The two reset at the center of the mat with just 10 seconds left. With Cheek forced to go on the offensive, he was able to spin around Heill and lock him up from his back, but he couldn’t turn or bring him in as time expired in the 4-2 setback.
Forced to come back through the consolations, Cheek drew South Dakota State's Henry Pohlmeyer late Thursday night. It was another back-and-forth match with Cheek leading, but Pohlmeyer was able to hit a big move for back points and scored the pin as time was winding down in the third period at the 5:49 mark.
After finishing third at the EWL as a freshman and sophomore, Cheek beat three wrestlers who previously had wins over him to claim the 141 title and earn the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Meanwhile, the hotly-contested team race between Ohio State and Penn State could not have gotten off to a better start for the Buckeyes — who won the 2015 title behind the strength of 2010 Monroeville graduate Logan Stieber.
With wrestlers at all 10 weight classes, the Buckeyes combined to go 19-1 on Day 1. They have nine of their 10 in the quarterfinals today, while there were five major decisions, four technical falls and two pins to give Ohio State 36 team points.
That put OSU ahead of the Nittany Lions — who have won seven of the past eight NCAA team titles — by 7.5 points as the consolations wrapped.