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|NCWA Nationals set for Allen, Texas, with 450 entries from 90 teams expected|
By Scott Farrell NCWA
OVERVIEW OF NCWA NATIONALS
The NCWA is back home in Texas for its 16th annual National Championships, and already has its biggest tournament field in its history with more than 450 men and women from 90 teams and 27 states ready to compete for national titles.
The venue for the three-day tournament is the Allen Event Center, one of the most dynamic arenas in North Texas. The 6,275-seat arena hosts professional minor league hockey, arena football and indoor soccer teams, and attracts top-flight entertainment acts year-round.
This is the eighth time for the Dallas area to host the NCWA Championships. Eight different programs have won national titles in the NCWA’s 15 previous seasons, and no team has repeated since Grand Valley State won three straight titles from 2006-2008.
PREVIOUS NCWA CHAMPIONS
1998 – Yale
1999 – Pensacola Christian
2000 – Pensacola Christian
2001 – Grand Valley State
2002 – Grand Valley State
2003 – Nevada
2004 – Central Florida
2005 – Central Florida
2006 – Grand Valley State
2007 – Grand Valley State
2008 – Grand Valley State
2009 – The Apprentice School
2010 – Central Florida
2011 – Div. I – California Baptist; Div. II – Northwest Missouri State
2012 -- Div. I – Notre Dame College; Div. II – Wichita State
NCWA CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
125 lb. Preview
Returning All-Americans: Sam Shames (MIT; 2nd in 2012, 3rd in 2011), Ty Ford (Apprentice; 6th in 2012).
The Favorites: Shames earned the top seed as one of only six undefeated wrestlers (26-0) in the tournament. The junior already has one of the NCWA’s most impressive careers, but still seeks his first national title. . . . Ben Smith of MMI is the second seed following a 39-3 regular-season mark, one of the best seasons ever for an NCWA freshman. . . . Don’t let the 15-5 record of third-seeded Ty Ford of Apprentice fool you. He has 84 career wins and plenty of experience from three previous national bids. He’s one of only three seniors in this weight class, and took sixth last year. . . . Taylor Hall of California Baptist is another outstanding freshman, and his 25-8 record came against a stronger overall schedule than the top three seeds.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: You never count the academies out in the NCWA. Brenden Campbell of the U.S. Naval Academy Prep School is seeded 10th with a 17-9 record. He lost to Shames in the Northeast Conference final, but has winnable pairings in the first two rounds, which could set up a quarterfinal match against MMI’s Smith. . . . Middle Tennessee’s Anthony Patnode went 24-7 in a deep Mid-Atlantic Conference field, and faces a tough first-round foe in Jeffrey Hernandez of Slippery Rock. A win there, while not a given, could sent Patnode to a match against arch-rival Mercer’s Nicholas Wright, a key part of Mercer’s program-record 14 qualifiers.
Also of note: This bracket offers a big match in the first round when Blayne Shockley of Lindenwood-St. Charles takes on Liberty’s Jeremy Beale. Both teams are among the title favorites, and someone will be sent to consolations early on here. . . . Andrew Vulliet will compete in new NCWA member Central Washington’s debut match at the Championships.
Returning All-Americans: Brendan Murphy (McKendree; 1st in 2012, 3rd in 2010), Michael Caldwell (Lindenwood-St. Charles; 4th in 2012).
The Favorites: Murphy leads this field as the top seed and defending champion, a title he won while competing at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville the past three seasons. He took third at 133 in 2010 as well. He has one of the highest win totals among the qualifiers at 32-6. . . . Chris Caton of the U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School is the second seed, sporting a 28-4 record. Caton could play a part in the team title by himself, as the top wrestlers from title contenders Lindenwood-St. Charles, UMBC, California Baptist and Central Florida are all in his half of the bracket. . . . Michael Caldwell of Lindenwood-St. Charles is the third seed, and lost to Caton in the finals of the Great Plains Conference. . . . Christopher Murdock of Mercer is an upstart freshman at 21-5. After beating South Florida’s Ryan Hall in the Southeast Conference final two weeks ago, Murdock might have to do it again in the second round if the seeds hold.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Dwayne Roes (24-15) is seeded fifth, and based on records, appears to have a good chance to reach the quarterfinals. The strong schedule the sophomore’s faced this season might yield an edge there in a potential matchup there against Mercer freshman Murdock with a bid to the semifinals on the line. . . . Ryan Hart of Penn College (17-2) is seeded eighth, and is seeded toward a potential quarterfinal match against Murphy. . . . Eric Feuerbacher of Middle Tennessee (22-7) has already amassed a 57-19 career record in two seasons. His two losses at last year’s nationals, one of which was to Caldwell, came against eventual All-Americans.
Also of note: It’s an all-freshman sub-bracket for Antonio Martinez (Texas), Shane Smith (Apprentice), Jordan Dukes (Bowling Green) and Ryan Hart (Penn College). Whoever advances from that four-man set likely faces Murphy in the quarterfinals. . . . The Northeast and Northwest Conferences combined to qualify five seniors to the Championships. None of the other seven conferences qualified a senior into the 133 bracket. . . . Proof the NCWA stretches from sea to shining sea? Two first-round matches in this bracket have Nick Anthony of Central Florida taking on Kyle Moore of Central Washington, and in a pigtail match, Jake Crawford of Western Washington faces Mark Torrey of New Hampshire. They’re not exactly neighbors. Crawford’s match is Western Washington’s debut at the Championships.
Returning All-Americans: Craig Chiles (Lindenwood-St. Charles; 2nd in 2012); Jacob Janes (Lindenwood-St. Charles; 3rd in 2012); Bradford Gerl (California Baptist; 6th in 2012); Luke Bilyeu (West Chester; 3rd in 2011); Kekura Musa (UMBC; 4th in 2011); Brandon Paige (New Hampshire; 8th in 2011).
The Favorites: This is one of the most balanced brackets with six returning All-Americans in it. Craig Chiles (11-4) earned the top seed based on his runner-up finish a year ago. Chiles pinned his way into the semifinal last year, then topped teammate Janes to reach the final. . . . Brandon Paige is the second seed with one of the tournament’s six undefeated records. He hopes to become New Hampshire’s first national champion since 2008. UNH, one of the NCWA’s legacy programs, has had an All-American the past two seasons, including Paige in 2011. . . . Bilyeu (20-3) has a 43-7 record the past two seasons. He was the top seed at 141 last year, but lost on the second tiebreaker in the second round last year and didn’t place. He’s back for his third nationals as the Mid-East Conference champ and the third seed. . . . Michael Fleming of Central Florida (26-6) came through a tough bracket to win the Southeast Conference title. He is one of the keys to his team’s title hopes.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Janes is the sixth seed and a strong bet to reach the quarterfinals. . . . If Janes makes it, he could face Gerl, an All-American last year who is unseeded despite a 25-8 record. He earned a wildcard qualification from the West Coast Conference staff, and might offer one of the tournament’s top early matches if he faces Bilyeu in the round of 16. . . . Kyle Horr of Grand Valley State is 20-1, and the 12th seed’s only loss came in the Great Lakes Conference final against 7th-seeded Bradley Wisdom of Lindenwood-Belleville.
Also of note: This is largest bracket with 42 entries and 10 pigtail matches, but it is not very diverse as nine schools – Lindenwood-St. Charles, New Hampshire, Lindenwood-Belleville, Grand Valley State, UMBC, Liberty, Apprentice, Mercer, California Baptist –
each have two wrestlers entered. . . . Hampton Roese of Texas could earn some key team points early on if the junior can get past low-seeded freshman opponents in the first two rounds. Texas’ nine qualifiers set it up as one of the early favorites for the Division II crown. . . . Montana Western will debut at the Championships with Jimmy Zhen in the 141 class, one of four qualifiers for the Bulldogs. . . . San Jose State returns to the Championships with Jobel Cabigting at 141 and Tyler Pederson at 165. The Spartans have not had an All-American since 2008.
Returning All-Americans: Daniel Carr (Md.-Baltimore County; 8th in 2012, 2nd in 2011)
The Favorites: This bracket begins with the two-time All-American Carr as the top seed. It also appears to be top heavy. Carr (28-10) is one of four returning All-Americans for the Retrievers. . . . Nathrelle Demison of the U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School is seeded second with a 27-4 record. He could get an early test in the second round from Central Florida’s Matt Vaughn, who has the most wins in the bracket at 31-6. Air Force wrestlers have had tremendous historic success in the lower weights. . . . Jesse Freise of Lindenwood-Belleville is the third seed, and the freshman enters the tournament with a 12-3 record but as champion of the Great Lakes Conference. . . . Max Becks of Central Florida parlayed a Southeast Conference title into the fourth seed. Within the bracket, he trails only teammate Vaughn and Carr in wins on the season (27).
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Ninth-seeded Derrick Weller of Lindenwood-St. Charles placed second to Demison in the Great Plains Conference. Weller could face 8th-seed Paul Miller of California Baptist in the second round in a match that could help determine the first-day frontrunner. . . . Two 20-match winners, Mercer’s Evan Burchette (21-9) and Air Force’s Gerald McGinty (20-13), meet in the first round. . . . William Hodges of Texas State (7-0) earned the seven seed based on his undefeated record, but will get tested early in his sub-bracket.
Also of note: UMBC has had at least two All-Americans in five of the last six seasons. The exception was 2008, when Alex Broadwater won the NCWA title at 149 lbs. as the Retrievers’ lone All-American. Broadwater’s brother Luke is now head coach at UMBC. . . . USC qualifiers Nick Cegelski and Armand Farrokh (at 165 lbs.) have put the Trojans on the NCWA map for the first time. Cegelski (6-1) will make the Trojans’ Championships debut here at 149 against Eastern Washington’s Mason Macfarlane. Cegelski’s only loss came to Miller in the West Coast Conference final.
Returning All-Americans: Ryan Madson (MIT; 3rd in 2012, 2nd in 2011, 4th in 2010); Santiago Martinez (Central Florida; 2nd in 2012); Masen Ridenhour (6th in 2012).
The Favorites: In perhaps the closest call of the tournament, Santiago Martinez of Central Florida nudged Ryan Madson of MIT for the top seed. Martinez (35-2) has a second 35-plus-win season in as many seasons heading into nationals. Martinez edged Madson, 6-5, on tiebreakers in last year’s semifinals. There are few NCWA wrestlers with more accolades than MIT’s Ryan Madson, a three-time All-American with 140 career win entering the Championships, tied for third all-time. Fans can only hope for a rematch with Martinez in the finals as both seek their first national title. . . . Eric Albers of
the U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School is a talented freshman with a 23-14 record as the third seed. He could face an early test from Marion Military’s William Burns, who has one of the bracket’s top records at 28-3. . . . The fourth seed goes to Martin Mitchell of UMBC, whose 43 wins on the season leads the tournament field and is one of the top regular-season marks in NCWA history. The Mid-East Conference champion is already familiar with Madson and Martinez from earlier tournaments, and could face regional rival Mike Hooker (27-8) of U.S. Naval Academy Prep in the second round.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Hooker’s record and strong schedule makes him a tough foe, especially for Chase Boontjer of Liberty (12-8), a sophomore who qualified for nationals for a second time. . . . Fifth-seeded Nick Bendon could give new program Central Washington an early push. . . . Tyler Myers of Penn College is an underdog pick as a 24-year-old senior with a 29-3 record. . . . Jack Carlson of Texas (16-8) could give the Longhorns a big push with early wins in his four-man sub-bracket.
Also of note: There are 12 wrestlers in this class who have won more than 20 matches on the season. . . . The entire eight-man Great Lakes Conference contingent in this class is freshmen except for Toledo’s Frank Sutton, a sophomore wildcard entry. . . . Josstyn Richter (4-3) opens North Dakota’s initial bid to the Championships with a pigtail match against Francisco Ruiz of McKendree, whose two wins on the season both came at the Great Lakes Conference Championships. North Dakota also has Jamison Jangula entered in the 197-lb. bracket.
Returning All-Americans: Mark Busse (Liberty; 8th in 2012); Mike Ahearn (South Carolina; 5th in 2011); Austen Brower (William and Mary; 7th in 2011).
The Favorites: Mike Ahearn takes the top seed here with a 20-3 record and the championship of the Mid-Atlantic Conference. Ahearn has a 60-15 career record, and a manageable road to the semifinals. . . . Austin Geerlings of Grand Valley State is the two seed, a top freshman at 30-7 with the Great Lakes Conference title in tow. But a tough opening match awaits as Mark Busse, the only All-American from last year to return to the bracket. Busse (18-13) took fifth in the Mid-Atlantic Championships. . . . Bobby Clymer of Liberty (13-6) was the national runner-up last year, and can’t be counted out as the third seed. Based on records, Clymer’s road back to the semifinals is arguably easier than Geerling’s as the second seed. . . . Luke Roth of Lindenwood-St. Charles begins the Lions’ big punch in the heavier weights here as the four seed. He could make an immediate impact on the standings, as he could face a UMBC, Central Florida or California Baptist wrestler in the first two rounds.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Never take a former All-American lightly, so Mark Busse has a chance to pull the tournament’s first surprise taking on second-seeded Austin Geerlings in the first round. . . . The bracket’s other returning All-American, Austen Brower of William and Mary, is seeded 11th but has a manageable road to the quarterfinals. . . . If Tony Risaliti (9-4) of U.S. Military Academy Prep can get past Brower, he might have a highlight match against Clymer. . . . Georgia has had an All-American in each of the last four years. Sergio Ardilla (14-3), the Southeast Conference champion, may be the Bulldogs’ best bet to extend the streak wrestling in this bracket. He’s got a balanced sub-bracket to get past into the quarterfinals.
Also of note: Nine pigtail matches make this the second-largest bracket at 41 entries. . . . Liberty teammates Clymer and Busse are on the same side of the bracket and could face each other in the semifinals. . . . USC’s second qualifier, Armand Farrokh (5-2), will open against Texas-Pan American’s Moises Lopez in a pigtail match. . . . Frankie McKeown (7-2) is one of Alabama’s four qualifiers that hopes to seal the Crimson Tide’s first NCWA All-American this season. He placed third in the Southeast Conference, as did Jacob Dolifka at 157 lbs. . . . Once again the Great Lakes Conference will send seven freshmen into the bracket among their eight qualifiers.
Returning All-Americans: Larry Lanier (Lindenwood-Belleville; 7th in 2012); Kenneth Tribble (California Baptist; 6th in 2011); Marvin Lawrence (Marion Military; 7th in 2011); Jason Dack (Northeastern; 8th in 2011).
The Favorites: This bracket has four returning All-Americans in it, but McKendree’s Isaiah Gonzalez (18-9) earned the top seed after winning the Great Lakes Conference. The freshman beat last year’s All-American, Larry Lanier of McKendree, to do it. . . . Kenneth Tribble of California Baptist is the two seed, but faces a tough quarter of the bracket with Lanier and UMBC’s 30-match-winner Mikey Munno as possible opponents in the first three rounds. . . . Keyshaun Ward of Liberty checks in as the third seed as Mid-Atlantic Conference Champion. Ward (23-10) reached the quarterfinals last year but fell one win short of All-American status. . . . Matthew Greene of Lindenwood-St. Charles (27-14) is another brick in the Lions’ wall of favorites in the heavier weights. A quarterfinal match between Greene, the fourth seed and one of the NCWA’s top freshmen, and fifth-seeded Scott Schretzennaier of Pittsburgh (8-2), rumored to be one of its most aggressive, could be one of the tournament’s most dynamic.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Pre-tournament talk has Schretzennaier as the tournament’s top underdog. The junior’s aggressive style helped him win the Mid-East Conference and caught the attention of coaches along the eastern seaboard. Schretzennaier may lead the tournament in takedowns and typos. Copy editors beware: Schretzennaier and Forrest Pryzbysz (13-6) of U.S. Naval Academy Prep are on the same half of the bracket. . . . Kevin Finn of Marion Military (18-6), the sixth seed, beat teammate and former All-American Marvin Lawrence (16-6) for the Southeast Conference title.
Also of note: Samson Imonode of U.S. Military Academy Prep is tops among Army’s three qualifiers. He won the Northeast Conference Championship and has a modest 7-3 record. He could Lanier, an All-American from last year, in the second round. . . . Sam Houston State’s lone entry, Keith Williams (8-1), has a manageable four-man sub-bracket that could advance him to the quarterfinals and a match against Gonzalez, the top seed. . . . Munno of UMBC has 62 career wins (62-24) entering the tournament.
Returning All-Americans: Royal Brettrager (Liberty; 2nd in 2012); Luis Alba (McKendree; 5th at 174 lbs. in 2012); Ben Brummel (South Carolina; 7th in 2012, 7th in 2011, 2nd in 2010); Alec Pence (Md.-Baltimore County; 7th at 197 lbs. in 2012); Brian Stapleton (Massachusetts; 8th in 2011).
The Favorites: Three-time All-American Ben Brummel anchors this very competitive weight as the top seed. Brummel (14-2) is part of South Carolina’s three-headed beast in the tournament, as each of the Gamecock’s entries – Mike Ahearn at 165 and Ike Okoli at 285) – is a returning All-American. A quarterfinal match against Mercer’s Jeffery Holmes, the eighth-seed with a 26-6 record, would be interesting. . . . Royal Brettrager of Liberty (15-5) placed second to Brummel in the Mid-Atlantic Conference final, as fine a tune-up for nationals as you can get. Could a rematch await in the national final? Brettrager could meet fellow All-American Brian Stapleton (15-3 as the seven seed) in the quarterfinals. . . . Myles Tornetta of West Chester earned the third seed at 11-3 after unseating Alec Pence of UMBC in the Mid-East Conference final. Tornetta’s finish is one of the keys to West Chester’s push into the top 10 teams with only five qualifiers. Tornetta and Brummel are two of the seven seniors in the bracket. . . . Ryan Harman of U.S. Naval Academy Prep is 20-8 with the Northeast Conference title in hand. He is a darkhorse in the bracket despite being seeded fourth, and has the Navy’s strong historical background (see related note) on his side.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Tornetta is the third seed, but has a tough quarter-bracket that could have him face two matches against Jonathan Roberts of Middle Tennessee (25-6), U.S. Naval Academy Prep’s David Borden (15-6), and sixth-seeded returning All-American Luis Alba (21-12) within the first three rounds. Roberts, Borden or Alba could make a run into the quarterfinals. . . . Mercer’s Holmes is familiar with Brummel from multiple matches the past two seasons. An upset of the bracket’s top seed would not be a shock. . . . Don’t be fooled by the 12-18 record of Lindenwood-St. Charles’ Jake Landals. He won the Great Plains Conference title, and could knock off Holmes in the second round. . . . If UMBC’s Alec Pence (27-10), a returning All-American at 197 lbs., can get past a tricky matchup with Rensselaer Polytechnic’s Stuart Curtis (22-9) in a pigtail match, he could make a run into the quarterfinals.
Also of note: Texas has ambitions of a Division II title, and has one of its stalwarts, Jordan Bridgers (14-8), in this bracket. He will get tested immediately facing Matthew DeGarmo of Wayne State (14-12) in the first round. . . . Douglas College (B.C.) returned this year after a one-year hiatus, as has Northwest Conference champion Jasmit Phulka (11-3) in this field.
Returning All-Americans: Aaron Thompson (Liberty; Defending champion); Carl Worthy (Grand Valley State; 7th at 235 lbs. in 2012, 6th at 235 in 2011, 8th at 235 in 2010); Charlie Farr (Mercer; 5th in 2012, 7th at 285 lbs. in 2011); Blake Schoeninger (Northwest Missouri State; 8th in 2011).
Favorites: Aaron Thompson of Liberty headlines this bracket that is small in comparison to others with only 33 entries. The defending champion is a very strong top seed at 19-5 after winning the Mid-Atlantic Conference title. Thompson wasn’t tested until the semifinals last year. . . . Charlie Farr of Mercer, a returning All-American, is 22-1 and the second seed with a manageable road to the quarterfinals. He reached the quarters last year before settling for fifth. . . . Julian Smith of McKendree (26-6) is another top freshman and the Great Lakes Conference champion. . . . David Reck of U.S. Air Force Academy Prep (16-3) has favorable matchups until the quarterfinals, where one of the youngest wrestlers meets one of the oldest in Carl Worthy from Grand Valley State. Don’t count out Worthy (17-5), the fifth seed, who is a three-time All-American that took seventh at 235 lbs. last year, and seeks to add his name to the list of 20 four-time All-Americans in NCWA history. Worthy lost the Great Lakes Conference final to McKendree’s Smith.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Alex Giampapa of Massachusetts (9-0) is one of six undefeated wrestlers in the tournament, but a large chunk of his wins came at the Northeast Conference Championships. He’ll be tested immediately with an opening match against Blake Schoeninger (12-17), a returning All-American from 2011. . . . Chris Urps (28-14) of UMBC got past Cliff Hill (11-3) of Penn State-DuBois in a small two-man Mid-East Conferene bracket. Neither should be overlooked at nationals.
Also of note: Jamison Jangula (4-2) is part of North Dakota’s premier showing at the Championships. . . . . Cody Gerhart (11-10) of Florida closes out his career with senior teammate Alec Lippmann (at 174) as part of the Gators’ two-man crew. Florida has had an All-American in six of the last eight seasons. . . . Gregory Humphrey (6-3) led East Carolina with a runner-up finish in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. He’s one of two qualifiers (Takamasa Kanzaki at 141 lbs.) that has put the NCWA back on the ECU campus this season.
Returning All-Americans: Dustin Fullerton (Lindenwood-Belleville; Defending champion); Andrew Wilson (Liberty; 2nd at 285 lbs. in 2012); Josh Woods (Central Florida; 2nd in 2012, 1st in 2011); Travis Dickenson (Amherst; 4th in 2011, 3rd in 2010); Ryan Kreppel (West Chester; 7th in 2011).
The Favorites: In a bracket with the last two champions still competing, defending champion Dustin Fullerton of Lindenwood-Belleville gets the top seed in a weight class packed with power. Fullerton rushed to the national final last year and earned a dramatic pin over Woods, the 2011 champion, to secure the title and hasn’t missed a step since. The junior is 9-0 this season. Woods (34-5), a senior, would love to take back the crown at the end of an NCWA career that has him 79-10 coming into the tournament and among the NCWA’s best in career win percentage (.888). . . . Andrew Wilson of Liberty is the third seed, and the 20-2 senior would love to crash the title party again after a runner-up finish at 285 lbs. a year ago. Should Wilson and West Chester’s Ryan Kreppel (12-4, seeded eighth) each reach the quarterfinals as seeded, it would be a matchup of former All-Americans. . . . Someone’s undefeated record must fall in this bracket, as fourth-seeded Travis Dickenson also enters the tournament with a 9-0 mark. A quirk in the bracket could have the two-time All-American face teammate Theo Agbi (11-10) in the second round. Dickenson is one of three All-Americans Amherst has produced.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Braeden Luciano of Slippery Rock should be interesting to watch. Luciano (5-2) doesn’t have a shiny record, but he passed Kreppel (the sixth seed) and a unheralded Mike Massarelli (18-14) of UMBC for the Mid-East Conference title. . . . Gaylen Edmo was not seeded in the top 10, but his 25-9 record for U.S. Naval Academy Prep cannot be overlooked. He was second to Dickenson in the Northeast Conference. . . . Watch what Spencer Daniels does here. The senior is one of Lindenwood-St. Charles’ most experienced wrestlers and could be the last one standing for the Lions in the finals rounds during their title pursuit.
Also of note: Texas hasn’t had an All-American since 2009, but has high hopes for John DeMis (15-10). He could face a quarterfinal against Fullerton, however. . . . DeMis might find a match against Texas A&M’s Nicholas Barz somewhere in this bracket. The home crowd would enjoy a match between the state’s two flagship universities.
Returning All-Americans: Zach Merrill (California Baptist; Defending champion); Ike Okoli (South Carolina; 5th in 2012); Ian Jones (Apprentice; 7th in 2012).
The Favorites: Defending champion Zach Merrill of California Baptist enters this bracket as the top seed with a 32-7 record. Merrill was the top seed last year as well and cruised to the final, where he edged Liberty’s Andrew Wilson, who is now in the 235 class. There are few roadblocks keeping him from another finals appearance. . . . Ross Janney of McKendree took fifth last year, but a 30-win season (30-10) has him seeded second this year and ready to take on Merrill. Janney and Merrill were in opposite semifinals last year and did not meet. . . . Ian Jones of Apprentice is another returning All-American and has the most wins (36-3) over anyone in the bracket. Jones, a sophomore, fell to Merrill by tech fall in the quarters last year. . . . Randy Keehn of The Williamson School of Mechanical Trades has had an All-American in five of the last six seasons. Keehn (9-1), the senior Mid-East Conference champion, is their best bet to extend the string with another shot after not earning a win at last year’s Championships.
Unseeded wrestlers to watch: Ike Okoli of South Carolina could produce a high finish. He’s one of the anchors that helped South Carolina to tie for third in Division II last year. . . . Rickey Carter (5-2) of Tallahassee Community College and Marlen Morgan (25-12) of Marion Military come to nationals from opposite ends of the experience spectrum as the top two wrestlers from the Southeast Confernece. . . . Ivan Loya (10-5) may be Texas-Arlington’s best shot at its first All-American finish since 2010. . . . Rashied Rayford (23-6) of Middle Tennessee and Raul Leyva (26-8) of East Tennessee State have two of the strongest records in the field, but placed second and fourth, respective, in the Southeast Conference behind Jones and Okoli.
Also of note: William Lamping is the lone Michigan wrestler attending and could surprise following a 10-5 regular season as the runner-up in the Great Lakes Conference. Michigan is one of a handful of NCWA Division II clubs on campuses that also have NCAA Division I programs. It’s an effort by the NCWA to allow wrestlers to continue the sport they love on the campus they choose. The NCWA also has Division II clubs established at Ohio State, Iowa State, Penn State, Lehigh and Rutgers, among others.