Previewing the 2013 NCAA Qualifying tournaments

Updated: March 7, 2013

The following is quick look at the ten NCAA Division I qualifying tournaments that will take place this weekend.

The lone exemption is the Pac-12 Championships, which were held last Saturday at Tempe, Ariz., where Oregon State defended its team title.

Every champion of every weight class will automatically advance to the March 21-23 Nationals. There’s also a guaranteed number of wrestlers per weight class per conference — based on results from this season — that the NCAA announced last week and will make up 290 of the 330 total wrestlers — 33 per weight class — that will compete in Des Moines.

The remaining at-large wrestlers will be determined by March 13 by the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee using the following selection criteria without priority order: head-to-head competition, qualifying event placement, quality wins, results against common opponents, winning percentage, rating percentage index, coaches ranking and number of matches contested at that weight class.

The number of ranked wrestlers listed per conference below was taken from WIN’s March 4 national rankings.


Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

March 9 • College Park, Md.

Automatic qualifiers: 30

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 28/3

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 19

Looking Back: Maryland won its second straight team title and 24th overall in Chapel Hill, N.C., where four Terps won titles. Finishing second was Virginia, three points ahead of Virginia Tech

            2013 Storylines:

• Virginia Tech, which competed in the EWL before joining the ACC in 2005, has yet to win a team title, their highest finish coming in 2005 and ‘11 (2nd). That should change this year as Tech is the class of the conference, considering the Hokies under coach Kevin Dresser feature seven ranked wrestlers who were part of a Midlands runner-up team, won the Virginia Duals and qualified for the final eight teams in last week’s NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals.

The highest ranked Hokie is 165-pound senior Peter Yates (No. 4), the native of Conyers, Ga., who earned both an ACC title and OW honors last spring. Another returning ACC champ for Tech is 149-pound sophomore Nick Brascetta.

• The most competitive of the weight classes will be 125 pounds where four ranked men are competing, including a pair of probable All-Americans in Tech senior Jarrod Garrett, who has yet to place in the top eight and took an Olympic redshirt last season, and eighth-ranked freshman Nathan Kraisser of North Carolina. But don’t forget last year’s ACC champ at 125: ninth-ranked senior Matt Snyder of Virginia.

• Maryland returns two 2012 conference champs in Jimmy Sheptock (up one weight to 184) and 197-pound Christian Boley … as well as two-time All-American Josh Asper, who is rated No. 5 nationally at 174 pounds after finish second in the ACC last season at 165.


Big Ten Conference

March 9-10 • Champaign, Ill.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 74

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 80/34

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 64

Looking Back: Defending champion Penn State actually trailed both Minnesota and Iowa after the semifinal round in West Lafayette, Ind., before a trio of Lions — Frank Molinaro (149), David Taylor (165) and Ed Ruth (174) — helped coach Cael Sanderson repeat as the trio won Big Ten titles and two weeks later also garnered NCAA gold.

2013 Storylines:

• Not only do the 12 teams in this conference dominate the national rankings, but 30 of the 64 ranked wrestlers are predicted to finish among the top eight in their weight classes to earn All-American status. That includes five weights where a Big Ten wrestler is rated No. 1: Ohio State’s defending national champ in Logan Stieber (133), Iowa’s national runner-up Derek St. John (157), Minnesota’s Logan Storley (174) and heavyweight Anthony Nelson (who won the NCAA last spring March) and Penn State’s 184-pound Ed Ruth (who topped the NCAA field at 174 last season).

• Of these highly-ranked wrestlers, many believe the greatest battle will come at 133 pounds where Stieber must get past the likes for Iowa’s No. 2-ranked Tony Ramos. The two rivals, who met in both the Big Ten finals and NCAA quarters, did not face each other this season after an injury forced the Buckeye sophomore to miss the teams’ dual in January.

And don’t forget Wisconsin All-American Tyler Graff, who took an Olympic redshirt last winter. He started his senior season at 141 pounds this year before dropping down to 133 after Christmas. The Badger is ranked No. 3.

• The 125-pound battle should also be a classic between three wrestlers: Iowa’s defending national champion Matt McDonough, whose only Big Ten loss this year was to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado, who lost to Penn State’s national runner-up Nico Megaludis, who lost to the Hawkeye senior on Feb. 1.

• Another weight class where a trio of stars will be battling for the top spot is at 157. Iowa’s Derek St. John hopes to defend his conference title against last year’s conference runner-up Jason Welch of Northwestern and Penn State’s Dylan Alton, who defeated Welch this year. If any falter, watch out for Nebraska sophomore James Green, who defeated Welch this winter.

• No weight class has more top eight-ranked wrestlers than 174 pounds where six Big Ten foes are listed there. In addition to Minnesota’s Storley, who pinned Oklahoma State’s No. 2 Chris Perry in the National Duals, there are: No. 3 Mike Evans from Iowa (up from 165 in 2012);  Nebraska sophomore Robert Kokesh at No. 4; Ohio State junior Nick Heflin at No. 6, Penn State sophomore Matt Brown at No. 7 and No. 8 Jordan Blanton of Illinois.

• Of course when fans speak of Penn State, they must include 2012 national champions David Taylor at 165 and Quentin Wright at 197, both rated No. 2 nationally. Both are favored to win the Big Ten as Illinois’ Conrad Polz is ranked No. 7 at 165 and Minnesota sophomore Scott Schiller is rated No. 9 at 197.


Big 12 Conference

March 9 • Stillwater, Okla.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 19

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 33/5

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 20

Looking Back: The University of Missouri, which is now competing in the Mid-American Conference, said goodbye to the Big 12 by winning its first-ever championship last March on its home mat. The Tigers held off Oklahoma State — which had won 11 of the 16 previous Big 12s — by a 77-73 margin. The final outcome was not determined until Iowa State heavyweight Matt Gibson defeated OSU’s Austin Marsden in the final match.

2013 Storylines:

• With still only four teams competing, Oklahoma State should once against dominate this event as eight Cowboys are ranked by WIN. This includes top-ranked Jordan Oliver at 149 (after placing first and second the past two years at 133) and three others rated in the top three of their weight class: No. 3 Tyler Caldwell at 165, No. 2 Chris Perry at 174 and No. 3 Alan Gelogaev at heavyweight.

• The tightest competition should come at 165, where Caldwell — who finished second nationally in 2011 for Oklahoma before taking an Olympic redshirt and transferring to OSU — will most likely face current Sooner and No. 5-ranked Patrick “Buddy” Graham, who followed current OU coach Mark Cody from American University to Oklahoma a year ago.

• Speaking of the Sooners, several of Cody’s wrestlers are redshirting, including 125-pound Jarrod Patterson and Wisconsin transfers Andrew Howe and Travis Rutt, leaving OU without much postseason potential. The big exception is at 141 pounds where junior Kendric Maple is rated No. 1 nationally.

• Iowa State, which will host the Division I Nationals, got off to a slow start this year, losing three of the first four duals. But since Jan. 11, the Cyclones have won 8 of 9 duals and are ranked in the top 20. But when it comes to the traditional post-season tournaments, it appears that 197-pound Kyven Gadson, ranked 7th, gives the Cyclones the best chance for an All-American in their “back-yard” Nationals.

But coach Kevin Jackson does return a Big 12 champion in Matt Gibson, who is ranked No. 18 this year at heavyweight.

• West Virginia, formerly of the Eastern Wrestling League, has replaced Missouri, but appears to lack some of the top-end tournament point potential. One Mountaineer, 141-pound junior Nathan Pennesi, is ranked (15th).


Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)

March 9 • Boston, Mass.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 19

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 27/4

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 8

Looking Back: Hofstra won its 10th CAA championship in 11 years in Binghamton, N.Y., where the Pride held off the home team by a 80.5-78.5 point margin. Four Pride wrestlers also netted individual crowns, including two who return in 2013: 125-pound Steve Bonanno and 141-pound Luke Vaith.

2013 Storylines:

• This will be the last year that Old Dominion will compete in the Colonial; joining the Mid-American Conference in 2013-14. Coach Steve Martin returns a CAA champion in Scott Festejo (133) and features two other national contenders: 125-pound sophomore Jerome Robinson (ranked 20th) and freshman Chris Mecate, rated No. 16 at 141.

• The CAA wrestler with the most impressive national resume is Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson, who won a conference championship last year and was seeded fourth at the Nationals. The 149-pounder is ranked third this season and finished third at last year’s NCAAs but not until the Bearcat won seven wrestlebacks after getting upset in the first round.

This has been a challenging final year for the native of Marathon, N.Y., especially after his former coach Frank Popolizio left for NC State, where he was followed by heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski, who won a CAA title as a freshman last year.

But Vinson should also be joined in Des Moines by fellow senior teammate Nathan Schiedel, ranked No. 5 at 197.

• The toughest CAA weight has to be 141 pounds where Hofstra’s Luke Vaith returns with a No. 14 national ranking. But he will get plenty of competition from Old Dominion’s Chris Mecate and Drexel senior Frank Cimato, rated No. 17 by WIN.

• Last year, Rider finished last in the CAAs, but sent two wrestlers to the NCAAs, including James Brundage who was 17-11 this year prior to the conference meet. But the one Bronco who could make a big impact this postseason is 165-pound Ramon Santiago, a junior who is 27-7 and ranked No. 20 … after finishing third in the 2012 CAAs.


Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA)

March 8-9 • Piscataway, N.J.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 45

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 54/14

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 20

Looking Back: Cornell won its sixth straight EIWA title and saw three Big Red wrestlers — Frank Perrelli, Kyle Dake and Cam Simaz — win individual titles in Princeton, N.J., last year. But coach Rob Koll’s squad needed help at heavyweight, where former American wrestler Ryan Flores defeated 2011 NCAA champion Zach Rey of Lehigh, to provide Cornell a slight winning margin — 151.5-149 — over the Mountain Hawks.

2013 Storylines:

• This Cornell team is not as strong as last year’s squad, which sent nine wrestlers to the Nationals and finished fourth with five All-Americans and three national champions. But it should be good enough to capture another EIWA team title with the return of national champions in three-timer Kyle Dake (competing at 165, his fourth weight in four straight years) and Steve Bosak (184) and All-American Mike Nevinger (141) … while 125-pound freshman Nahshon Garrett is ranked sixth nationally.

But it should also be noted that the EIWAs have not always been great for those three: Nevinger lost in the 2012 finals to American’s Matt Mariacher; Dake lost to Bucknell’s Kevin LeValley in 2011 and Bosak lost to Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin in last year’s conference championship.

• Hamlin, a 2011 national runner-up and ranked No. 3 before the EIWAs, is the team leader for this Lehigh squad. But Mountain Hawk coach Pat Santoro also returns an EIWA champion in 149-pound Shane Welsh, who won last year’s Easterns as a  No. 6 seed. The native of Lower Burrell, Pa., is 17-5 this season and 68-28 in his career.

• The deepest and most talented weight class in the EIWAs this year is at 141 pounds, where four wrestlers are ranked. In addition to Cornell’s Mike Nevinger (9th), there are Harvard senior Steve Keith (11th and up this year from 133, where he finished eighth nationally in 2012), Penn freshman Charles Cobb (13th) and Franklin & Marshall sophomore Richard Durso (18th).

Durso, a native of Broomall, Pa., qualified for last year’s Nationals and hopes to become just the 15th all-time All-American for the school from Lancaster, Pa., and first since 1981.

Eastern Wrestling League (EWL)

March 9 • Edinboro, Pa.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 23

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 28/5

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 16

Looking Back: Pittsburgh has competed in the EWLs for a long time, but it wasn’t until last season that the Panthers finally won a league crown by a 135.5-116.5 margin over second-place Edinboro at Clarion, Pa. Pitt coach Rande Stottlemyer saw four of his Panthers win individual titles, including Matt Wilps who knocked off the nation’s top-ranked Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro in the 197-pound final.

            2013 Storylines:

• What will the future hold for the Eastern Wrestling League, which began in 1978? That’s the question on many people’s minds considering Pitt will be leaving for the ACC next year and former EWL power West Virginia is now competing in the Big 12.

• The Panthers appear to have plenty of punch to repeat as champions, especially from a pair of nationally-ranked brothers: Tyler and Matt Wilps, rated 14th and 3rd, respectively at 165 and 197 pounds, and the Thomusseit siblings Max and Zac, who are ranked No. 12 and No. 5, at 184 pounds and heavyweight.

• Pitt finished second in the EWL dual rankings to Bloomsburg, which finished 5-0 against league foes. Coach John Stutzman’s squad features five ranked wrestlers: 125-pound junior Nick Wilcox, 157-pound senior Frank Hickman, 165-pound junior Josh Veltre, 197-pound junior Richard Perry and junior heavyweight Justin Grant.

• Edinboro, a long-time EWL power, is strongest at the lightest weights, especially at 133 pounds where A.J. Schopp is ranked fourth nationally after claiming his first EWL title last March. Meanwhile, fellow sophomores Mitchell Port and David Habat are ranked No. 4 at 141 and No. 18 at 149 pounds, respectively.

• Former Lehigh national champion Troy Letters is in his first year as coach at Clarion. He’s the third coach at this school in the past three years after Teague Moore left for American and Matt Dernlan is now at Binghamton. Letters features one of the most dangerous collegians in the country in All-American James Fleming, who also won a second EWL title in 2012.


Mid-American Conference (MAC)

March 10 • Buffalo, N.Y.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 30

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 25/3

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 24

Looking Back: Central Michigan captured an 11th straight MAC title last March in Athens, Ohio, as five Chippewas won titles, including returning wrestlers Joe Roth (125), Donnie Corby (157), Mike Ottinger (165) and Ben Bennett (184).

2013 Storylines:

• Normally, one would assume coach Tom Borrelli’s 21st CMU team would add to its MAC legacy with so many wrestlers returning, including a pair of All-Americans who took Olympic redshirts last winter: 133-pound Scott Sentes (ranked 8th nationally) and heavyweight Jarod Trice (No. 8).

But the MAC has added two more strong programs: Northern Iowa from the WWC and Missouri, formerly of the Big 12.

The Tigers, coming off a third-place finish at the National Duals, feature nine ranked wrestlers, including top-ranked Alan Waters (125) and All-American heavyweight Dom Bradley, who was ranked No. 1 before the Duals.

The addition of Missouri and UNI really added some quality depth at 184 where CMU’s three-time All-American Ben Bennett will be challenged by three other ranked foes: Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder (6th), Missouri’s Mike Larson (11th) and Kent State’s Casey Newburg (15th).

• Kent State does not feature the overall power it did a year ago, but the Golden Flashes  return the school’s only national champion in 197-pound and No. 1-ranked Dustin Kilgore. The 2011 titlist took an Olympic redshirt in 2012 after collecting his second All-American honor and third MAC title two years ago.


Pac 12 Conference

March 2 • Tempe, Ariz.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 21

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 24/7

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 14

2013 Highlights: Oregon State used three individual championships to hold off Pac-12 host Boise State for the Beavers’ third conference championship in four years. Claiming championship for coach Jim Zalesky were Mike Mangrum (141), Taylor Meeks (197) and Chad Hanke (Hwt) as the Beavers scored 158 points, the most by a Pac-12 team since 2009.

Finishing second was Boise State, which claimed three champions: Jason Chamberlain, ranked No. 2 by WIN at 149 pounds, George Ivanov, who won the 157-pound crown and OW honors after avenging a 2012 Pac-12 final to Oregon State’s Roger Pena, and 184-pound Jacob Swartz.

The remaining champions were CSU Bakersfield’s Tyler Iwamura (125) and Bryce Hammond (174), Cal Poly’s Devon Lotito (133), who knocked off Boise State’s No. 1 seed Brian Owen, and Stanford’s Bret Baumbach (165).



Southern Conference

March 9 • Lexington, Va.

Automatic NCAA Qualifers: 13

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 13/2

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 3

Looking Back: Chattanooga used a home-mat advantage to claim six individual championships and the school’s 26th all-time Southern Conference team title. Finishing in a second-place tie were Appalachian State and The Citadel. The military school produced three champs in Turtogtokh Luvandorj (174), Kelby Smith (197) and heavyweight Odie Delaney. ASU’s Austin Trotman claimed the 184-pound championship and joined teammate Kyle Blevins, a SoCon runner-up, as conference wrestlers who also turned it on at Nationals and earned All-American honors in St. Louis.

2013 Storylines:

• On paper, it appears the SoCon has lost much of its postseason punch from last year as only three wrestlers are ranked: Chattanooga’s 125-pound sophomore Nick Soto (18th), The Citadel’s Delaney (17th), and 141-pound freshman Undrakhbayar Khishignyam (6th), who is also from Mongolia like Luvandorj (who is redshirting this year).


Western Wrestling Conference (WWC) / NCAA West Regional

March 9 • Laramie, Wyom.

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers: 16

Qualifiers/All-Americans in 2012: 18/2

Ranked Wrestlers in 2012-13: 10

Looking Back: Wyoming, which ended Northern Iowa’s 24-year run of domination in 2010, defended its WWC title by claiming four individual crowns to out-distance the Panthers, 93.5-76.

            2013 Storylines:

• With long-time West Regional power Northern Iowa in the MAC and with Wyoming not as powerful as the Cowboys were the past two years, the team race for this year’s postseason tournament appears wide open.

Only one of coach Mark Branch’s conference champions returns this postseason: senior All-American Alfonzo Hernandez, who is ranked fourth at 197 pounds.

• In addition to Wyoming, North Dakota State and Air Force could also make a run at the team title considering both the Bison and Falcons each feature three ranked wrestlers.

One of those weight classes is at 125 pounds where last year’s West Regional champion Trent Sprenkle (ranked 10th by WIN) will be challenged by Wyoming sophomore Tyler Cox (who is ranked 13th after taking a redshirt last winter) and Air Force freshman Josh Martinez.

• Air Force and NDSU also feature a wrestler who is ranked among the top eight in their weight classes. 149-pound Falcon Cole VonOhlen missed much of the season with an injury after finishing second at the Southern Scuffle. He has won two WWC titles.

Meanwhile, Bison junior Steven Monk is ranked No. 6 at 165 pounds. He won the conference championship in 2012.