College Update for March 1 The post season has arrived
By Jason Bryant
Most wrestling fans are going stir-crazy right now with the downtime between the end of the dual meet season and the upcoming conference tournaments. The Division III and NAIA championships are taking place this weekend as well as every Division I conference qualifier.
However, this week did have one conference tournament to turn to for action - the Pac 10.
Arizona State won the Pac 10 tournament, edging Cal Poly by 2.5 points and winning its 16th conference championship. The Sundevils were led by 165-pound champion Pat Pitsch, 197-pounder Ryan Bader and heavyweight Cain Velasquez.
Brian Stith finished second at 157 pounds after a wild flurry saw unbeaten Ben Cherrington of Boise State pin Stith at the 6:21 mark. Cherrington's been solid since re-entering the lineup. Two weeks ago, Cherrington knocked off Iowa's Joe Johnston 18-12 in a dual in Iowa City.
Six different teams had champions, with Cal Poly's Chad Mendes knocking off host Stanford's Tanner Gardner at 125, Boise State's Scott Jorgenson beat Cal Poly's Darrell Vasquez in the semifinals at 133 and then beat Cal State-Bakersfield's Tommy Vargas to claim the title.
Jeremy Mendoza of Arizona State and Eric Stevenson of Oregon State earned trips to the NCAA championships with Stevenson picking up one of the nine wildcards from the Pac 10.
Qualifying for nationals at 133 will be Jorgenson, Vasquez, Vargas, UC-Davis' Omar Gaitan and Oregon State's Bobby Pfennings.
At 141, UC-Davis' Derek Moore upended upstart Dave Roberts of Cal Poly in the finals. Roberts knocked off top-seeded Kyle Larson of Oregon State to reach the final and claim a berth at the NCAA championships.
Bakersfield's lone champion came at 149 as Anthony Baza knocked off Tyler Sherfey of Boise State. Jeff Owens (third) and Cal State-Fullerton's Morgan Atkinson will head to nationals, as Atkinson picked up a wildcard selection.
After Cherrington and Stith, Oregon State's Tony Hook finished third. The Pac 10 is only bringing three 157-pounders.
Top-seeded Joey Bracamonte of Oregon was upset by Cal Poly's Robb Maxwell in the quarterfinals and knocked into the fifth-place match by second-seeded Rob Blake of Stanford. For Blake, it was his second win over Bracamonte in the last three weeks. Bracamonte finished fifth, but then beat Johnny Nunez of Boise State for the "true fourth" place finish and a wildcard. Bracamonte won the Reno Tournament of Champions and was the Outstanding Wrestler of the December tournament after pinning Oklahoma State's Johny Hendricks in the final. Makes sense to bring him to nationals; however, the fourth/fifth place finish wasn't very impressive.
Second-seeded Ken Cook of UC-Davis scored a major decision over Jeremy Larson in the finals at 174 pounds. Cook had recently been out of the Aggies lineup, but was ready for the Pac 10 tournament. Cook scored two majors and a fall en route to the championship. Christian Arellano of Bakersfield and Nick Hernandez of Cal Poly will head to Oklahoma City.
At 184 pounds, Shane Webster continued his strong season, majoring C.B. Dollaway of Arizona State in the final. Webster's been a takedown machine this season and his 24-11 major followed a 15-3 major decision over Fullerton's Jesse Taylor in the semis. Webster's one wrestler that will prove challenging for wrestlers at the weight nationally. It's a deep weight and while many have been talking about Illinois' Pete Friedl, Purdue's Ben Wissell and American's Josh Glenn, Webster's a legit challenger for the national championship. Joining Webster and Dollaway are Taylor, Tyler Bernacchi of Fullerton and Cal Poly's Ryan Halsey.
Bader won his championship at 197 without incident, beating Cal Poly's Matt Montiero in the final. Casey Phelps of Boise State and Oregon State's Dan Pitsch also qualified for the nationals.
At heavyweight, Velasquez scored two falls and a major decision before beating Oregon State's Ty Watterson 5-1 in the final. Boise State's Andy Patrick gets the nod to nationals, finishing third.
Iowa Central, Harper take JUCO titles
Iowa Central captured the Division I Junior College championship at the NJCAA Nationals this past weekend in Rochester, Minn., while William Rainey Harper took the Division III (non-scholarship) portion of the tournament.
Iowa Central was paced by Eric Hoffman's national title at 125, Matt Collum's crown at 157, and Jon Jones' championship at 197 pounds. Harper had eight placers but won the Division III title with their depth. David Benner was the top Harper finisher, taking second at heavyweight.
North Idaho's Jake Kallestad will likely be one of the most sought-after JUCO recruits next season. The champion at heavyweight had wrestled much of the year at 197 pounds.
National qualifiers sporadic
This year's Division I conference tournaments are seeing one of the most diverse geographical locations in recent memory. While Bloomington, Ind., isn't exactly "in the sticks," it might be one of the busiest metros that a conference tournament sees this coming weekend.
The East Region tournament's in Boiling Springs, N.C., at Gardner-Webb, while the West Region is out in Laramie, Wyo. Not the most fan friendly trips for fans of the 11 programs competing in the two regionals.
The EWL's are at Edinboro, up near Lake Erie, brrrrr. The CAA and EIWA are in Eastern Pennsylvania, with Drexel hosting the Colonial at its Philadelphia campus and Lehigh hosting the EIWA's. Iowa State hosts the Big 12's in the bustling media Mecca that is Ames, Iowa, while the Mid-American Conference is in DeKalb, Ill., at Northern Illinois.
We foresee the threads now on themat.com's message boards. "Any places near (insert tournament site here)" ….
Division III and NAIA Championships set
The Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa hosts the NAIA championships and it's going to be a dog-fight between Lindenwood, Dana, Dickinson State, and the University of the Cumberlands all have realistic shots at the team championship. Dana College won the National Duals, but with the qualifying format different from the NCAA, the NAIA can sometimes have a pair of wrestlers place in a weight class. …
Expect a close race at the Division III championships as Augsburg, Wartburg and UW-La Crosse are expected to be in a tight race at The College of New Jersey, the host of the D-3 championships. La Crosse qualified all 10 of its wrestlers, followed by Wartburg's nine and Augsburg's eight.
Of note in the Division III tournament is the W/L records of the heavyweights. With seven returning All-Americans, the heavyweight qualifiers have a combined record of 440-84, good enough for an 84 percent winning percentage.