By Gary R. Blockus
Manheim, Pa. – No. 1 Penn State, which finished the dual meet season 15-0 and 9-0 in the Big Ten to share the conference title with No. 2 Iowa, will host the championship match in the 2016 NWCA Division I National Championship Duals Series presented by the United States Marine Corps and Titan Mercury Wrestling Club.
The top-ranked Nittany Lions, with four wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the country, will host Big 12 champion and No. 3 Oklahoma State on Sunday, Feb. 21 to highlight eight bowl-style dual meets in a new national duals format that features eight Big Ten teams as the hosts for six conference winners plus two wild card teams.
The pairings were announced live on Flo Wrestling’s website on Monday.
No. 2 Iowa will host ACC runner-up and No. 4 North Carolina State at 7 p.m. CST, on Monday, Feb 22.
The bowl series format kicks off 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19 when Minnesota hosts Iowa State at Williams Arena.
It continues 8 p.m. Saturday with Rutgers hosting EIWA champion Lehigh at the RAC.
No. 3 Oklahoma State visits No. 1 Penn State 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21 at Rec Hall in the championship match featuring the highest ranked Big Ten team against the highest ranked non-Big Ten team.
Appalachian State, which picked up the Southern Conference’s national championship bid from a three-way tie with Chattanooga and Gardner-Webb based on head-to-head results, visits Indiana 1 p.m. Sunday.
Virginia Tech, the ACC champion, visits Michigan’s Cliff Keen Arena 2 p.m. Sunday, and Missouri travels to Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center at 2 p.m. CST Sunday to renew what had been a rivalry in the old Big 12.
Edinboro, the EWL champion, heads to Ohio State for a 7 p.m. EST match at St. John Arena on Monday, Feb. 22, and No. 4 North Carolina State visits No. 1 Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena 7 p.m., CST the same evening.
The NWCA’s initial plan called for a one-day, eight dual format at the eight sites, but site availability and other factors forces the host teams to juggle the dates.
The Pac-12 champion was originally slated to appear, but the conference tournament is a week earlier than other conference’s tournaments. The timetable did not work, so the conference withdrew, opening the door for a second highly-ranked wild card team, which turned out to be Iowa State thanks to a win over Virginia Tech. The tournament committee also sought to avoid rematches while trying to incorporate regional opportunities for the fan bases of the participating teams.
Friday – February 19
Iowa State at Minnesota – 7:30 p.m. Williams Arena
Saturday – February 20
Lehigh at Rutgers – 8 p.m. EST – RAC
Sunday – February 21
Oklahoma State at Penn State – 5 p.m. – Rec Hall
Virginia Tech at Michigan – 2 p.m. – Cliff Keen Arena
Appalachian State at Indiana – 1 p.m. EST – University Gym
Missouri at Nebraska – 2 p.m. CST – Bob Devaney Sports Center
Monday – February 22
Edinboro at Ohio State – 7 p.m. – St. John Arena
North Carolina State at Iowa – 7 p.m. CST – Carver Hawkeye Arena
Friday, Feb. 19:
MINNESOTA (9-8, 5-4)
Head coach: J Robinson
Minnesota finished a disappointing Big Ten season on Feb. 12 with a loss to Illinois, but still had one match remaining at Iowa State on Feb. 19 before hosting its national duals meet.
The Golden Gophers top wrestlers include No. 3 Brett Pfarr (197), No. 6 Tommy Thorn (141) and No. 9 Michael Kroells (285).
Saturday, Feb. 20:
RUTGERS (15-5, 5-4)
Head coach: Scott Goodale
The much-improved Scarlet Knights finished the regular season on Sunday with a 24-15 win over No. 23 Purdue.
Rutgers is led by No. 5 Anthony Ashnault (141), who finished eighth at the NCAA championships last season, and No. 8 Anthony Perrotti (165).
“To finish 5-4 in the conference, it was important to us,” Goodale said. “We went from 2-7 [in 2014-15] to 5-4 and I still think we let two slip away. It was a good conference run and we’ll be ready for the Big Ten Tournament.”
Sunday, Feb. 21:
No. 1 PENN STATE (15-0, 9-0)
Head coach: Cael Sanderson
The Nittany Lions finished the season as the top-ranked team in the country (15-0, 9-0 Big Ten) and shared the Big Ten title with the also unbeaten Iowa Hawkeyes (16-0, 9-0).
Penn State’s lineup features a powerhouse lineup that includes four No. 1 wrestlers: Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174) and Morgan McIntosh (197), along with No. 4 Nico Megaludis (125), No. 5 Jordan Conaway (133) and No. 6 Matt McCutcheon.
INDIANA (6-6, 3-6)
Head coach: Duane Goldman
This marks the Hoosiers’ first-ever selection into the National Duals. Indiana’s lineup includes 11th-ranked Nate Jackson (174) and 19th-ranked Elijah Oliver (125).
“It’s nice that we got selected to take part in this series,” Goldman said. “I hope that we can get out there and compete a littler harder, regardless of what happens, and get back to what got us here in the first place. For us, that was being feisty and competitive, and we just need to get back on track.”
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MICHIGAN (13-2, 8-1)
Head coach: Joe McFarland
Michigan closed out the season on Feb. 12 with a big win over Purdue. The Wolverine lineup includes No. 2 Dominic Abounader (184), No. 4 Adam Coon (285), and a pair of sixth-ranked wrestlers in Alec Pantaleo (149) and Max Huntley (197).
Michigan has won three straight, including victories over ranked opponents in Rutgers and Purdue, since a tough loss to Big Ten co-champion Penn State
NEBRASKA (10-5, 5-4)
Head coach: Mark Manning
The Cornhuskers also boast a strong lineup with nine of their wrestlers ranked in the Top 20, led by No. 9 T.J. Dudley (184) and No. 10 Tim Lambert (125).
Nebraska last four of its last six matches against killer competition. The Cornhuskers bounced back from losing three straight matches to powerhouses in Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa before putting up a win over No. 12 Illinois on Feb. 5. Following a loss to North Carolina State, Nebraska closed out the regular season with a 29-6 win over Northwestern.
MONDAY, FEB. 22
No. 2 IOWA (16-0, 9-0)
Head coach: Tom Brands
The Hawkeyes, like Penn State, finished the regular season and the Big Ten undefeated, but under the new “bowl” type format of the national duals with the Big Ten acting as host schools, will not wrestle off against the Nittany Lions.
Iowa is an opponent’s nightmare with the team putting up 50 points four times this season. The Hawkeyes are led by a pair of No. 2s in Thomas Gilman (125) and Brandon Sorensen (149), a pair of No. 3s in Cory Clark (133) and Nathan Burak (197), and a pair of No. 7s in Sammy Brooks (184) and Sam Stoll (285).
OHIO STATE (10-3, 7-2)
Head coach: Tom Ryan
The Buckeyes proved to be a solid Top 10 team this season. They are led by No. 2 Bo Jordan (165), who suffered his only loss of the season on Friday to his cousin, Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin. Ohio State also features No. 2 Kyle Snyder (285), No. 4 Micah Jordan (Bo’s younger brother at 141), No. 10 Johnni DiJulius (133) and the always dangerous Hunter Stieber, a two-time All-American.
THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS:
OKLAHOMA STATE (11-2, Big 12, 8-0)
Head coach: John Smith
The Cowboys’ only losses came at the hands of No. 2 Iowa in the season opener, and No. 3 North Carolina State on Dec. 6.
Oklahoma State is led by returning NCAA champion and No. 1 Alex Dieringer (165), as well as All-Americans in No. 1 Dean Heil (141), No. 5 Austin Marsden (285) and No. 6 Eddie Klimara (125).
MISSOURI (13-2, 8-0 Mid American Conference)
Head coach: Brian Smith
Missouri chalked up a baker’s dozen wins with the Tigers only losses coming at the hands of Oklahoma State and North Carolina State, with the latter rebounding from its first loss of the season on Feb 12 for a single-point win on Feb. 14.
Missouri is 6-2 against the Top 25 this season and led by No. 2 J’den Cox (197), No. 3 Lavion Mayes (149), No. 4 Daniel Lewis (165), No. 5 Blaise Butler (174), and No. 6 Matt Manley (141).
LEHIGH (13-2, 8-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association).
Head coach: Pat Santoro
The Mountain Hawks went undefeated in the EIWA, including a win over nine-time conference champion Cornell, to claim their spot in the national duals.
The Mountain Hawks feature returning All-Americans in Darian Cruz (125), Mason Beckman (133), Mitch Minotti (157), and runner-up Nathaniel Brown (184).
EDINBORO (8-8, 6-0 Eastern Wrestling League)
Head coach: Tim Flynn
The Fighting Scots finished unbeaten in a competitive EWL. Edinboro is led by senior Vic Avery (2015 third NCAA at 184), senior Casey Fuller (165), sophomore Austin Matthews (157) and freshman Patricio Lugo (149).
Edinboro ended the regular season going 3-3 in its last six matches, and 0-3 in the last three with losses to Virginia Tech, Central Michigan and Kent State.
VIRGINIA TECH (15-2, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Head coach: Kevin Dresser
The Hokies captured the won the ACC with a stunning 19-14 win over North Carolina State in Raleigh on Feb. 12 that knocked the Wolfpack from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Virginia Tech is led by No. 3 Joey Dance (125), No. 7 Solomon Chishko (141), No. 4 Nick Brascetta (157), No 11 David McFandden (165), No. 6 Zack Zavatsky, No. 7 Jared Haught (197) and No. 3 Ty Walz (285).
APPALACHIAN STATE (11-4, 6-1 Southern Conference)
Head Coach: JohnMark Bentley
The Mountaineers clinched a share of the SoCon title with Chattanooga and Gardner-Webb but advanced to the national duals series by virtue of most votes in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll.
“Obviously, I am tickled to death that we won a Southern Conference Championship,” Bentley said. “It’s a big deal for our program and our school, so we are very proud of that. Hopefully, we can keep building and finish this year strong.”
The Mountaineers are led by No. 5 Denzel Dejournette (285), a 24-2 junior, junior Vito Pasone (125), sophomore Nick Kee (174) and sophomore Forrest Przybysz.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE (22-1, 4-1 ACC)
Head coach: Pat Popolizio
North Carolina State went 21-0 before losing its first match of the season on Feb. 12 in a 19-14 defeat at the hands of ACC foe Virginia Tech to finish second in the conference, but rallied on Feb. 14 for an 18-17 win over Missouri in the final bout of the match when two-time NCAA heavyweight champion Nick Gwiazdowski earned a technical fall over James Romero.
The Wolfpack are led by by the unbeaten and top-ranked Gwiazdowski (285), along with No. 3 Kevin Jack (141), No. 4 Tommy Gantt (157), No. 6 Max Rohskopf (165), No. 17 Pete Renda (184) and No. 15 Mike Boykin.
IOWA STATE (10-5, 2-2)
Head coach: Kevin Jackson
Iowa State ended the season with three straight dual meet wins to earn the second wild card berth in qualifying for the national duals series. The Cyclone lineup includes three ranked wrestlers in senior Earl Hall (133), senior Tanner Weatherman (165) and junior Lelund Weatherman at 174.
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