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TheMat.com moving to USOC website platform with new look and functionality

This week, TheMat.com will move to the USOC platform, with a new look, new functionality, but with the same favorite features....

Terry Shockley named Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Shockley will succeed long-time chairman Jim Keen. Sr. as Chairman of the Board....

Iowa's Tony Ramos determined to finish career with NCAA title

The Hawkeye senior will battle Virginia Tech's Devin Carter in the NWCA All-Star Classic on Saturday....

NCAA announces finalist cities for its championships for 2014-18, including wrestling at all levels

Cleveland, Kansas City, Louisville, New York City, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia & St. Louis are Div. I finalists. Div. II and III finalists also announced....



NCAA Div. I Team Preview - A three horse race that could open up even more



The arena is sold out for three days, and tickets are impossible to find. Nobody knows who will be the winner, and the battle is expected to be fierce starting with the first session. The defending champion has dominated the sport for the past 30 years, but had a challenging season. The field will be stocked with potential future Olympians and perhaps the greatest college competitor of all time. This can't-miss event is the 2001 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, scheduled for the Univ. of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa on March 15-17. After a dramatic regular season full of many twists and turns, a team champion and 10 individual gold medalists will be crowned. Wrestling fans expect one of the best NCAA Tournaments in history, in a location where wrestling is very popular and important. One of the key questions for this tournament is whether the team race will be determined through the championship bracket, based upon putting athletes in the gold-medal finals, or through the consolation rounds, based upon athletes battling back after a loss for a medal. Depending upon which scenario plays out, a different team could emerge. Three teams stand out as favorites entering the tournament, but as many as five or six have a legitimate chance to challenge for top positions at the tournament. The defending champion Univ. of Iowa Hawkeyes qualified eight wrestlers for the tournament, including four individual Big Ten champions. Iowa placed just third at the Big Ten Championships, but is expected to receive many points from their Fearsome Foursome: Jody Strittmatter at 125, Eric Juergens at 133, Doug Schwab at 141 and T.J. Williams at 157. All of them, except Strittmatter, are past NCAA Div. I champions and all are projected to be NCAA finalists. Strittmatter won two NCAA Div. II titles before transfering to Iowa. "We have four guys seeded pretty high, and four guys who are not," said Hawkeye coach Jim Zalesky. "It will be up to the other four guys how our team will do. It could all come down to the finals and the consolations. It should be exciting for the fans, and will be a great week." The four guys who need to do the extra damage include Mike Zadick at 149, Ben Shirk at 165, Gabe McMahon at 174 and Jessman Smith at 184. These athletes did not win the close bouts at the Big Tens, and the Hawkeyes dropped to third. The NCAAs offer these athletes another chance to step up. The Hawks will receive the benefit of the home field advantage, with thousands of supporters expected to fill Carver Hawkeye Arena and provide boisterous support for the team. "Anytime you have been home, it's an advantage," Zalesky said. "You don't have to travel and you know the environment. If you look at the seeds, we are a favorite. There is no big favorite. Anyone who wrestles a big tournament will win." The Oklahoma State Cowboys won the team title at the Big 12 Championships, and qualified all 10 wrestlers for the tournament. Oklahoma State has a few individuals who could be NCAA finalists, and also a strong lineup of potential All-Americans. Seniors Reggie Wright (149) and Mark Munoz (197) are top-ranked in the nation, after championship performances at the Big 12 Tournament. Johnny Thompson is No. 2 in the Amateur Wrestling News rankings, claiming the Big 12 title at 133 pounds, and Daniel Cormier is ranked No. 3 nationally at 184 pounds. However, it could be athletes like Matt Brown at 118 pounds, Charles Walker at 141 pounds and Tyrone Lewis at 174 pounds, athletes who are "on the bubble" in regards to claiming All-American honors, who could win the tournament for the Cowboys in the wrestle-backs. "We are returning 22 points," said Cowboy head coach John Smith. "22 points isn't going to win the Nationals; you need 90 points-plus. In the beginning, we had three or four ranked wrestlers. We have progressed. We have to capitalize on our progress. We have individuals who can put some points on the board. We have to do it in Iowa City. It will be rewarding if we have a great performance in Iowa City." The Univ. of Minnesota has the most intriguing team, perhaps the best Gopher squad since J Robinson has moved this program to wrestling's elite status. The Gophers were the top-ranked dual meet team during the season, and won the Big Ten Championships with a powerful and balanced attack. All 10 Gophers qualified for the NCAA Tournament, with two Big Ten champions: Jared Lawrence at 141 pounds and Olympic Greco-Roman bronze medalist Garrett Lowney at 285 pounds. Lowney may be the only projected finalist, although Lawrence's Big Ten victory was impressive. For Minnesota to win the race, every Gopher wrestler will be expected to add points to the team total and beat their seeds. "We are basically a young team," said coach J Robinson. "We have three freshmen, three sophomores and some juniors. They feel good about who they are and how they are competing. At the national tournament, you throw out what you've done. It all depends on who gets hot. You have to put people into the finals. We've excited, our young guys are excited, and we're looking forward to Iowa City." Gophers who will be asked to be high-placing All-Americans include Leroy Vega (125), Brett Lawrence (133), Chad Erikson (141), Luke Becker (157), Brad Pike (165), Damion Hahn (184) and Owen Elzen (197). A few upset wins and the Gophers could get on a run; a few upset losses and they could set the stage of a multi-team scramble in the wrestle-backs. In most NCAA Championships, the winning team does the best job in the championship bracket, with some key support from the wrestle-back rounds. However, one of the most exciting and intriguing tournaments was held in 1988 when Arizona State won the team title by dominating the consolation bracket. Among the other teams hoping to expand the race into a more wide-open affair are the Univ. of Illinois, Iowa State, Oklahoma and perhaps even Michigan, Ohio State or Nebraska. If it seems that the team power is concentrated in the Midwest, led by the Big Ten and Big 12, that truly is the case this year. "The Big Ten and Big 12 are leaders," said Zalesky. "We have strong individuals on the East and West Coast, guys like Abas from Fresno State. The team strength is in these two conferences." Illinois was a strong second at the Big Ten Championships, with two individual champions: Nate Patrick (184) and Pat Quirk (197). Patrick was expected to win, but Quirk was a pleasant surprise for coach Mark Johnson. The top Illinois wrestler all season, returning NCAA runner-up Adam Tirapelle (149) was beaten by Minnesota's Lawrence in the Big Ten finals. If Illinois can put a few guys in the championship finals, and use their team depth in the consolations, they could have another strong team finish in Iowa City. "We had two Big Ten champions and placed second as a team," said Johnson, of his team's strong conference performance. "You have to take steps to beat Iowa before you can win a national tournament. Every time you do well, you have new confidence. We have a strong nine guys going to the nationals. This is as strong a group of seeds as we've ever had. We have a chance to do well." Iowa State is led by the most heralded college wrestler of his generation, two-time NCAA champion and undefeated Cael Sanderson (184). Sanderson, a junior, has never lost a college match, and many believe he never will. Bobby Douglas' Cyclones, like in-state rival Iowa, will need to do serious damage in the championship bracket. If stars like Sanderson, Joe Heskett (165) and Zach Thompson (197) can make the finals, Iowa State could be among the top few teams. Any points that they pick up from other wrestlers will make a big difference. "I think we are ranked about where our team is right now," said Coach Bobby Douglas. "The National Tournament is based upon points. Hopefully, we will wrestle above our seeds. We have a chance. If it is a five or six team race, then any of six teams could win it all. If it becomes a three-team race, then Iowa, Oklahoma State and Minnesota are the teams to beat." Oklahoma was second in the Big 12, led by a pair o
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