The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Preview of NWCA National Duals – Regional Previews
Now in its 25th year, the National Wrestling Coaches Association/Cliff Keen National Duals tournament is being promoted as Mat Mayhem by the two groups.
This year’s edition, which will be determined on two consecutive weekends — Feb. 17 and 23 — is the latest version of a format of an event which originally began as the Virginia Duals in 1989.
Since then, the event has been held at nine different locations, including last year’s Final Four, which was held in Stillwater, Okla., where Minnesota defeated the host school Oklahoma State, 18-13, for the Gophers’ sixth National Duals championship.
This year, Minnesota will be the host school and the Gophers are one of four schools — joining Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State — which earned a bye into the final eight-team field that will compete in Williams Arena, Feb. 22-23, in Minneapolis. The other four schools will earn trips to the Twin Cities by qualifying at four regional tournaments that will be held on Feb. 17.
That includes top-ranked Oklahoma State, which must first defeat the likes of Northern Iowa, Wisconsin and the host school Kent State in Kent, Ohio.
“(Selecting bye teams) was determined last spring and it was based on the number of returning wrestlers,” said NWCA executive director Mike Moyer. “It wasn’t until after it was decided that Oklahoma State added some pretty good guys on its team. That’s the downfall of picking teams in the spring for the following year. I showed (Oklahoma State coach) John (Smith) how the points added up and he said that was perfectly fair.”
The other three regionals will be at Ithaca, N.Y., where host school Cornell entertains Hofstra, Nebraska and Virginia; at Columbia, Mo., where Missouri hosts Maryland, Purdue and Wyoming; and at Corvallis, Ore., where Oregon State also brings in Michigan, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.
The following is a closer look at all four regional sites. The first-round matches at three of the regions begin at 1 p.m. (local time) with the winners advancing to a 3 p.m. championship. The lone exception is at Columbia, Mo., where the matches will be held at 10 a.m. and noon.
Kent State Regional • Kent, Ohio
On paper, Oklahoma State — the nation’s only undefeated dual team (13-0) — should have no trouble advancing the Minneapolis, considering the Cowboys feature eight wrestlers ranked by WIN: 133-pound Jon Morrison (6th), 149-pound Jordan Oliver (1st), 157-pound Alex Dieringer (8th), 165-pound Tyler Caldwell (3rd), 174-pound Chris Perry (2nd), 184-pound Chris Chionuma (10th), 197-pound Blake Rosholt (11th) and heavyweight Alan Gelogaev (3rd).
The Cowboys’ first-round opponent, Kent State, stands 9-5 on the season and has just two wrestlers ranked. That includes 197-pound Dustin Kilgore, who is ranked No. 1 this season after the senior redshirted last winter, after the Golden Flash captured his school’s first individual NCAA championship in 2011 (when Kilgore pinned former Oklahoma State All-American Clayton Foster). The other ranked KSU wrestler is 184-pound Casey Newberg, ranked 15th.
In the other first-round match-up, Wisconsin (7-6) and Northern Iowa (8-4) meet for the second time this season. The first meeting, held Nov. 24 in Madison, was won by the Badgers. In that match-up, the Badgers won three of the first four bouts — including a forfeit at 125 — to lead 15-3, before the Panthers battled back with three straight wins to cut the margin to 15-13. But in the end, coach Barry Davis’ final three wrestlers all won their bouts.
The most exciting bout of upcoming dual may come at 133 pounds, where UW senior All-American Tyler Graf — who dropped down from 141 when the teams met in November — is ranked No. 4 by WIN and will take on No. 12 Levi Wolfensperger.
Graff is just one of three ranked wrestlers from Wisconsin. The others are 197-pound Jackson Hein (20th) and heavyweight Connor Medbury (9th), who also defeated UNI foes in November.
The Panthers of head coach Doug Schwab include four other ranked wrestlers: 141-pond Joey Lazor (8th), 157-pound David Bonin, 174-pound Cody Caldwell (19th) and 184-pound Ryan Loder (6th). Of these wrestlers, Loder did not compete in the earlier dual.
Cornell University Regional • Ithaca, N.Y.
This is the second straight year the Big Red of coach Rob Koll will host a regional. Unfortunately, the home mat did not help Cornell in last year’s Duals, when Illinois upset the Big Red in the regional final.
In this year’s regional, Cornell (12-3) will open against Hofstra (6-13), a team that Cornell defeated 30-15, Feb. 2, in Hempstead, N.Y. In that meeting, Cornell clinched an 11th straight Ivy League crown, despite falling behind 15-3 after the first five bouts. After that, NCAA champions Kyle Dake (1st at 165 this year) and Steve Bosak (4th at 184) scored falls to help Cornell win the final five bouts.
This team dual should also create a second match-up between ranked wrestlers for both schools.
At 125 pounds, Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett (6th) defeated Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno (16th) by a 3-1 margin.
At 141 pounds, Hofstra’s Luke Vaith (17th) surprised Cornell’s 2012 All-American Mike Nevinger (14th), 5-0. Nevinger entered that match coming off a championship at the Southern Scuffle.
In the opposite dual match-up, Virginia (15-3) and Nebraska (10-5) will meet and the most notable meeting should come at 157 pounds where Cavalier senior Jedd Moore (ranked 10th), who won the Southern Scuffle in December, will take on Cornhusker sophomore James Green, who is ranked sixth by WIN.
Another match-up of ranked wrestlers will come at 174 pounds, where Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh (4th) is expected to have the upper hand against Virginia’s 18th-ranked Jon Fausey.
Coach Steve Garland features four other ranked Cavaliers: 125-pound Matt Snyder (10th), 133-pound George DiCamillo (14th) and 165-pound Nick Sulzer (8th). Coach Mark Manning of Nebraska will send two other ranked wrestlers to Ithaca: 149-pound Jake Sueflohn (12th) and 184-pound Josh Ihnen (7th).
Missouri Regional • Columbia, Mo.
The Tigers (11-2) of coach Brian Smith should enjoy their home-mat advantage. Nine of his Missouri wrestlers are ranked: 125-pound Alan Waters (4th); 133-pound Nathan McCormick (5th); 149-pound Drake Houdashelt (15th); 157-pound Kyle Bradley (18th); 165-pound Zach Toal (16th); 174-pound Todd Porter (11th); 184-pound Mike Larson (11th); 197-pound Brent Haynes (12th) and top-ranked heavyweight Dom Bradley.
Meanwhile, the Terps (12-7) of Maryland coach Kerry McCoy also feature five ranked wrestlers: all weights where Missouri is rated. They include 125-pound Shane Gentry (15th), 133-pound Geoff Alexander (13th), 174-pound Josh Asper (5th), 184-pound Jimmy Sheptock (8th) and 197-pound Christian Boley (13th).
In the other first-round meeting, Purdue (14-5) — which guaranteed its first winning Big Ten record — should also be favored against the Cowboys (8-4) of Wyoming … but there are not probably meetings of individual ranked wrestlers.
Boilermaker coach Scott Hinkel features four rated men: 125-pound Camden Eppert (19th), 133-pound Cashe Quiroga (11th), 149-pound Ivan Lopouchanski (10th) and 197-pound Brandon Atwood (16th).
Wyoming’s line-up is not as impressive as it was a year ago when coach Mark Branch’s team finished 19th at the NCAAs. But he does have a returning All-American in 184-pound Alfonzo Hernandez, who is ranked fourth this winter … as well as 157-pound Andy McCulley, ranked 13th.
If Missouri and Purdue do reach the finals of this regional, it will also mark the second meeting between the schools which feature black and gold in their singlets. On Nov. 11, Missouri defeated Purdue, 23-9, in West Lafayette. In that dual, the Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 before the Boilermakers won three straight matches to pull within 10-9, including at 157 pounds where Purdue’s Tommy Churchard edged Missouri’s Kyle Bradley, 11-9, in sudden victory. Missouri ended any doubt by winning the final four matches, including a major decision by Bradley at heavyweight.
Oregon State Regional • Corvallis, Ore.
The host school will hope the home mat is good for the Beavers of coach Jim Zalesky, who are ranked higher than OSU’s first-round opponent, Michigan. But the Wolverines have already made one other visit to Corvallis this winter and defeated the Beavers, 21-18, in a Nov. 16 dual meet.
In that meet, the biggest victory for Michigan came at 133 pounds where unranked freshman Camryn Jackson upset Oregon State All-American Mike Mangrum, 10-8, to help coach Joe McFarland’s Blue and Maize wrestlers jump out to a 10-0 lead and used a tech fall from 165-pound freshman Taylor Massa and pin by 174-pound Dan Yates to extend that lead to 21-6 before Oregon State won the final three matches.
Coach Jim Zalesky’s team continued their rough start to the season, winning two of their first five duals, including a 19-15 setback to Pac-12 rival Boise State. Since then, OSU has won eight straight duals, including a 23-20 victory over Cornell on an East Coast swing in late January.
Currently, five Oregon State wrestlers are ranked by WIN, all in the top nine. That includes Mangrum, who is No. 3; 149-pound Scott Sakaguchi (8th), 157-pound Roger Pena (9th), 197-pound Taylor Meeks (6th), and heavyweight Chad Hanke (4th).
Michigan, which has lost five of its last seven duals, are led by 125-pound Sean Boyle (16th), 149-pound Eric Grajales (9th), Massa (9th) and Yates (10th). Jackson is unranked, is 9-4 on the season, and was out of the line-up this semester until Feb. 1, when he won against Indiana.
In the other first-round meeting, Virginia Tech (14-2) and Oklahoma (6-7) have also met in an earlier-season dual as the Hokies defeated the Sooners, 22-19, on Jan. 27 in Blacksburg, Va. 197-pound Derrick Borlie, one of seven ranked wrestlers by WIN, clinched that dual with a major decision for Tech’s sixth win in the dual.
Other victories that afternoon by coach Kevin Dresser’s Hokies included Nick Brascetta’s 6-4 sudden victory over Nick Lester … and Jesse Dong’s 2-0 decision against OU’s Matt Lester (the twin brother of Nick) at 157. All four wrestlers are ranked: Brascetta and Dong are rated 5th and 7th, respectively, while the Lester brothers are 16th and 19th, respectively.
But the biggest match-up in this dual could come at 165 pounds, where OU’s No. 4-ranked Patrick Graham should meet No. 5 Peter Yates of Tech. In the Jan. 27 dual, Graham wrestled at 174, while Yates competed at 165.