Previewing this weekend’s NCAA national-qualifying tournaments

Updated: February 28, 2012

Oregon State captured last weekend’s Pac 12 tournament and saw four Beavers win conference titles. The following are the remaining nine national-qualifying events which will send wrestlers to the national tournament, March 15-17, in St. Louis, Mo.


Atlantic Coast Conference

March 3, 2012 • Chapel Hill, N.C.

2011 Review: Led by OW Mike Letts, Maryland captured its 23rd all-time ACC title and third championship in the past four seasons; scoring 94.5 points to Virginia Tech’s 82.5 in Charlottesville, Va. The Terps featured five champions, compared to three by Tech.

2012 Preview: Maryland, coached by Kerry McCoy, should be considered the favorite considering the Terps return 2011 ACC champs Josh Asper (ranked No. 2 at 165) and heavyweight Spencer Myers (No. 14). Tech, led by 2011 Midlands champ Devin Carter (and ranked No. 5 at 133), should once again challenge for No. 1.

Most Notable Match-up: NC State’s Darrius Little (No. 7-ranked) vs. Virginia’s Nick Nelson (No. 9) at 141 pounds.


Big Ten Conference

March 3-4, 2012 • West Lafayette, Ind.

2011 Review: Penn State earned five championships but it may have been a third-place finish by heavyweight Cam Wade that helped the Nittany Lions edge Iowa, 139-138, for the school’s first-ever conference championship as the tournament was held in Evanston, Ill.

There was just one head-to-head match-up in the finals between PSU and Iowa as Nittany Lion freshman David Taylor defeated Derek St. John for the 157-pound title. Coach Cael Sanderson’s most surprising championship came from 184-pound Quentin Wright, who was the No. 8 seed, but upset top-seed Travis Rutt of Wisconsin and later Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus to also claim O.W. honors.

2012 Preview — Penn State, ranked No. 1 in WIN’s TPI, should defend the 2011 title based on the fact that four of five champs from last year return, including two top-ranked Lions — Frank Molinaro (149) and Taylor — as well as Ed Ruth (No. 2 at 174) and Wright (No. 3 at 184).

What is more unpredictable is what other school will emerge: No. 3 Minnesota with six Top-8 ranked wrestlers, including 125-pound senior Zach Sanders and true freshman Logan Storley (174); No. 5 Iowa, which also has 2011 All-Americans Derek St. John (157) and Grant Gambrall (184) back from injuries; and No. 6 Michigan, where Kellen Russell (141) hopes to become his school’s first four-time conference champ.

This will also be the first Big Ten tourney for Nebraska, which has plenty of power  from the likes of talented freshmen like Jake Sueflohn (141) and James Green (157).

Also don’t forget Illinois and Ohio State. The Illini upset Cornell to reach the recent NWCA National Duals Final Four with guys like freshman Jesse Delgado, who beat Iowa’s Big Ten champ Matt McDonough this season, while the Buckeyes won the Las Vegas Invite in December with seven freshmen.

Most Notable Match-ups: at 125 – Iowa No. 1 McDonough vs. Minnesota’s No. 2 Sanders; at 133 – Ohio State’s No. 2 Logan Stieber vs. Iowa’s No. 3 Tony Ramos or No. 4 B.J. Futrell; at 141 – Michigan’s No. 1 Russell vs. Iowa’s No. 4 Montell Marion  or Ohio State’s No. 6 Hunter Stieber (who beat Russell in Vegas); at 174 – Penn State’s No. 2 Ruth vs. Minnesota’s No. 4 Storley.


Big 12 Conference

March 3, 2012 • Columbia, Mo.

2011 Review: Five Oklahoma State wrestlers won individual titles to lead the Cowboys to their 10th conference championship in 15 years and out-distanced second-place Missouri by a 77-60 margin, in Ames, Iowa.

Competing in its final Big 12, Nebraska had two champs: one expected in Jordan Burroughs at 165 and one unexpected in 125-pound David Klingsheim, who became the second No. 4 seed to win a Big 12 championship.

2012 Preview: With only four teams competing, many expect this to be the final Big 12 tournament … and Oklahoma State (the No. 1-ranked dual team and rated No. 2 in WIN’s TPI) should add another team title. That’s because three 2011 champs return: 133-pound Jordan Oliver (the defending national champ is seeking a third Big 12 crown), 149-pound Jamal Parks (ranked No. 2 nationally) and No. 3 Chris Perry, who is down one weight after winning the 184-pound title in 2011.

Missouri, the host school which is led by 125-pound Alan Waters (No. 3), should enjoy the home-mat advantage. Oklahoma — led by former American U. mentor Mark Cody — has several strong lighter weights, including Jarrod Patterson (125) and Midlands champ Kendric Maple (141).

Most Notable Match-ups: at 125 – Missouri’s No. 3 Waters vs. Oklahoma’s No. 7 Patterson; at 197 – Missouri’s No. 7 Brent Haynes vs. Oklahoma State’s No. 10 Cayle Byers or Blake Rosholt.


Colonial Athletic Association

March 3, 2012 • Binghamton, N.Y.

2011 Review: Hofstra had four champs, including 133-pound senior Lou Ruggirello’s fourth CAA title, and regained the top team spot over second-place Binghamton. The Bearcats had ended the Pride’s run of nine straight team titles but settled for second with three champs in Lawrenceville, N.J.

There were only two head-to-head finals meetings between the top two schools as Binghamton’s Justin Lister defeated Hofstra’s Paul Gillespie at 165 pounds, while Hofstra’s Ben Clymer edged the Bearcats Nathan Schiedel at 184.

2012 Preview: Binghamton should capture its second CAA title in the past three years and not just because the Bearcats are hosting the event. Coach Pat Popolizio returns two CAA champs in Lister and Matt Kaylor (174) as well as Don Vinson (ranked No. 6 at 149) and true freshman heavyweight Nick Gwiadowski (last year’s Junior Schalles winner as the top high school pinner).

Hofstra, led by rookie coach Rob Anspach, could get a challenge for second from Boston U., which has three ranked wrestlers, including 197-pound John Hall.

Most Notable Match-ups: Hofstra’s No. 10 Paul Gillespie vs. Drexel’s No. 17 Joe Booth at 165.


Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association

March 3-4, 2012 • Princeton, N.J.

2011 Review: Even with eventual NCAA champ Kyle Dake losing to Bucknell’s Kevin LeValley at 149 pounds, Cornell captured its fifth straight EIWA with four champs — Frank Perrelli (125), Mike Grey (133), Mack Lewnes (174) and Cam Simaz (197) — to dominate second-place Lehigh, 173.5-119, in Lawrenceburg, Pa.

American U. made big noise by collecting a school-record three titles, including Ryan Flores’ upset of Lehigh’s Zach Rey at heavyweight.

2012 Preview: This should be a battle between Cornell and Lehigh. The Big Red have Perrelli, Dake, 2011 runner-up Steve Bozak (184) and Simaz returning. Lehigh features three Top-8 ranked wrestlers, including Rey who came back to win the NCAA title over Flores and defending EIWA champ Robert Hamlin, who claimed second at the NCAAs.

Most Notable Match-ups: at 157 – Cornel’s No. 1 Dake vs. American’s No. 3 Ganbayar Sanjaa; at 184 – Lehigh’s No. 2 Hamlin vs. Cornell’s No. 5 Bosak; at 197 – Cornell’s No. 1 Simaz vs. Penn’s No. 3 Micah Burak; at heavyweight – American’s No. 1 Flores vs. Lehigh’s No. 3 Rey.


Eastern Wrestling League

March 4, 2012 • Clarion, Pa.

2011 Review: Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer has 30 years under his belt as a coach. And last March his Panthers, part of the EWL since 1977, left the conference tournament No. 1 for the first time as six Panthers captured individual championships in Bloomsburg, Pa.

Clarion’s 157-pound James Fleming became his school’s first EWL champ since 2005 and shared OW honors.

2012 Preview: Edinboro, which had won eight straight EWLs before finishing fifth last year, is back … with three Top 8-ranked wrestlers, including No. 2 Chris Honeycutt, who has had no trouble moving up to 197 after earning AA honors at 184, and freshman A.J. Schopp, No. 6 at 133.

Meanwhile, the host school is Clarion — with Fleming returning with a No. 4 ranking — will make it a three-team race with Pitt that features 2011 EWL champ Anthony Zanetta (125).

Most Notable Match-ups: at 157 – Clarion’s No. 4 Fleming vs. Bloomsburg’s No. 12 Frank Hickman; at 197 – Edinboro’s No. 2 Honeycutt vs. Pitt’s No. 5 Wilps.


Mid American Conference

March 4, 2012 • Athens, Ohio

2011 Review: Three champions — Scott Sentes, Ben Bennett and Jarod Trice — led Central Michigan to a tenth-straight MAC title; holding off up-and-coming Kent State, 79-73.5, in DeKalb, Ill. Buffalo, which finished third with 69.5 points, actually had the most individual champs: four.

2012 Preview: Kent State may indeed end CMU’s MAC run, especially considering two of the Chippewa champs, Sentes and Trice, are redshirting this year. Meanwhile KSU, ranked 14th in WIN’s TPI, features two wrestlers in the Top 8: senior Nic Bedelyon, who won the 125-pound MAC crown last year, and freshman Ian Miller (No. 4 at 149 pounds).

Most Notable Match-up: Ohio’s No. 7 Jeremy Johnson vs. CMU’s No. 12 Peter Sturgeon at heavyweight.


Southern Conference

March 3, 2012 • Chattanooga, Tenn.

2011 Review: Four of eight UTC SoCon finalists left Boone, N.C., with championships and led Chattanooga to its 25th  title; out-dueling UNC Greensboro 98-87.5, just before UNCG dropped its program.

2012 Preview: Even though the Mocs are hosting the event, look for Appalachian State to come out on top by returning both of its 2011 champs Kyle Blevins (165) and Austin Trotman (184).

Most Notable Match-up: Appalachian State’s Kyle Blevins vs. Chattanooga’s Brandon Wright at 165 pounds.


Western Wrestling Conference

NCAA West Regional

March 4, 2012 • Cedar Falls, Iowa

2011 Review: Wyoming won five individual titles, including three against UNI wrestlers, to defend its conference title in Colorado Springs, Colo.

2012 Preview: The Cowboys are having the school’s best season in 50 years as All-Americans Shane Onufer (No. 3 at 165) and Joe LeBlanc (No. 1 at 184) are setting the tone for fourth-year coach Mark Branch.

UNI coach Doug Schwab wants to regain the throne the program held for 25 years. The Panthers hope the home mat brings out the best in David Bonin (157) and Ryan Loder (184).

Most Notable Match-up: Wyoming’s No. 1 Joe LeBlanc vs. Northern Iowa’s No. 6 Ryan Loder at 184 pounds.