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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 Championships feature - Qualifying full 10-man teams for the NCAA Championships



With the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships fast approaching, most head coaches can be found healing aching bodies, planning techniques, and mentally boosting their athletes into believing they are capable of becoming All-Americans. Even for the most talented teams, there will be some starters who will not be moving on the NCAA Championships and whose season has already ended at the qualifying tournaments. There are three teams that bring a full slate of wrestlers to the tournament, qualifying all 10 weight classes: Minnesota, Oklahoma State and Ohio State. What does the number 10 mean to these three teams? For each team, bringing 10 athletes means something very different, and in the same breath, something very similar. Over the past decade, J. Robinson has developed his Minnesota Golden Gopher squad into a very powerful force in college wrestling. Year in and year out, his team has become a national title contender as well as a recruiting super power. Robinson is truly a coach with vision. At last week's Big Ten meet, not only did Minnesota qualify all 10 of its wrestlers to the NCAA's, but all of their athletes placed in the top five in the conference, certainly not an easy task in the brutal Big Ten. "Having 10 qualifiers to us means something different, it means balance," said Robinson. "We knew Iowa was coming back with four or five horses. Our plan was to win the Big 10 Tournament with not having that kind of horse power, but having more overall balance. We were hoping to get a few to the finals, and place all 10 in hopes of negating Iowa's bottom five." Robinson points out that this team is a tighter group than he's had in years past. "We are a really close knit team. It's been a logical step from the beginning of the year. Look at our schedule and you will find that it is based on forming that team environment. Everything from the National Duals to the Midlands prepares us to perform as a whole team in hopes of peaking for the NCAA's. " Any coach would be excited to have an Olympic bronze medalist in the room, but to have him for four years is definitely a good problem to have. Minnesota freshman heavyweight Garrett Lowney, who claimed a Greco-Roman medal in Sydney, has already made an impact on the team. Lowney won the Big 10 crown and has seemed to be the sparkplug the gophers have needed. They won 13 straight dual matches to close the season, all with Lowney in the lineup."Lowney brings a huge impact to the team while also offering a consistency at heavyweight that we need" said Robinson. While outstanding individuals contributed to Minnesota's performance at the Big Tens, one not must forget about the other placewinners who scored valuable points in the consolation rounds. "Volkman, Elzen, Brett Lawrence - those guys are the ones that are making everything possible," said Robinson. "The guys in the consolations still kept it together to score on the second day to win the tournament. Everyone of the 10 is contributing right now, and that's what makes this team so different." The Cowboys of Oklahoma State, one of the most successful teams in all of college sports, is used to qualifying all 10 of their wrestlers to the national tournament. But this year was different, as the Cowboys have answered several questions since the opening meets of the season. "When you look at our preseason, it is kind of a surprise, " said head coach John Smith. "We had four in the top eight nationally, one is out for the year, and another changed weights. So, yeah it does feel good to take 10." One surprise for the Cowboys (not to mention the rest of the country) is the emergence of 133 pound- freshman Johnny Thompson. Thompson holds a No. 2 national Amateur Wrestling News ranking and is being counted on to do score some big points, a tough task for a freshman. "Johnny has won a lot of one-point matches, and he has battled all year," said Smith. "Some of his close wins were against highly ranked opponents, some were not. He is like any typical freshman, except for he finds away to win most of them. The thing about Johnny is that he is a confident wrestler with an aggressive style. He doesn't need to change anything and he has to take it up a notch at the national tournament." If the Cowboys are to fare well in Iowa City, they will certainly depend on the senior group of Charles Walker, Reggie Wright, Daniel Cormier, and Mark Munoz. All four have potential to be in the finals. If these seniors don't make it to the finals, perhaps valuable placement points in the consolation rounds could put the Cowboys over the top. "We don't have one guy that you can guarantee is going to be in the finals," said Smith. "We have five or six guys who have an opportunity to do very positive if we wrestle smart and capable. Seven weight classes are up for grabs, and we will have to scratch and fight to make it happen. Iowa has a huge advantage in having the tourney in their back yard, but the bottom line always is we have had all year to prepare and it would be a great victory to win a title at Iowa. It certainly would go down in history." When you think back to last year's season at Ohio State, you will see how far this young but talented team has come. Head coach Russ Hellickson has put his team back in the top tier of college wrestling, after only qualifying five wrestlers to last year's NCAA Tournament. "We wrestled well at the Big Tens," said Hellickson. "It's an indication of where we are and where we hope to go. We wanted to be in the top five of the conference and get all ten of our wrestlers to the NCAA's. That was our goal, and for this VERY young team, it's a tremendous accomplishment. It means we are back, not that we will challenge for the title, but who knows what can happen if these guys are fired up." However, the climb back to the top 10 to college wrestling was not an easy one for the Buckeyes. Ohio State put all of their eggs in one basket two years ago with a recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 at that time. The Buckeyes signed six wrestlers in 1999: Tommy Rowlands (#1 ranked recruit at 215), Jeff Ratliff (#1 ranked recruit at 130), Anton Talamantes (JUCO National Champ), Jesse Leng (2x Ohio state champ, national high school runner up), Johnny Clark (2x New York State Champ, brother of OSU assistant & NCAA Champ Mitch Clark) and Ryan Hieber (Ohio State Champ). This recruiting class has played a huge role in the Buckeyes turning the corner this year, as five of the six started all year long , while one is redshirting. The Buckeyes are led by freshman heavyweight sensation Tommy Rowlands, who was ranked No. 1 most of the year until a setback in the semifinals of the Big Tens. If the Buckeyes are to look to continue to improve in the future, the future is now. In the words of Hellickson, "All 10 guys can win matches at the NCAA's. If you win enough, you will be an All-American." Three programs at three different levels of development will share a common fact in Iowa City. All three teams will have an athlete at every weight class in the 2001 NCAA Championships. It will be fun to see how these full teams are able to perform when it counts the most.
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