MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The West Virginia University wrestling team will compete in the 37th annual Eastern Wrestling League Championships this Sunday, when it travels Clarion’s Waldo S. Tippin Gymnasium.
Session one of the tournament will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature quarterfinal action, followed by semi-finals and Round 1 consolations. Session two starts at 5 p.m. and will have the consolation semis, followed at 7pm by the championship finals and matches for third and fifth places.
A total of 24 wrestlers will qualify for the NCAA Championships from the EWL Championships via the new selection system. Following the tournament, the new national qualifying system will then identify the next best wrestlers at each weight class who did not qualify across the country to fill out the national bracket of 33 per weight class.
“Now that the dual meet season is done, I feel comfortable looking back and determining how prepared we are for this tournament,” says coach Craig Turnbull. “Our guys are feeling pretty good about the way they are wrestling. They are entering the weekend with a good amount of confidence. Our wrestlers should display a lot of intensity because they have the ability to pursue their dreams and their goals this weekend.”
In last year’s EWL tournament, the Mountaineers finished second after they had five grapplers place second, which earned them five NCAA qualifiers. The Mountaineers last took the EWL team title in 2004 and have won it a total of three times (1996, 2002, 2004). In regards to individuals, WVU has had wrestlers capture their EWL weight class title 39 times.
The Mountaineers will head into the weekend with six wrestlers that are ranked in various polls and have realistic goals of qualifying seven wrestlers in the NCAA Championships.
“We are looking at qualifying anywhere from three to seven wrestlers,” Turnbull says. “There are five weight classes that are qualifying three wrestlers, so there is a lot of motivation for our guys even if they were to lose one match. You can fight your way back through the brackets and still qualify for the national tournament.”
Even with his expectations of national qualifiers, Turnbull says that he knows to expect the unexpected when it comes down to this time of the year.
“There have been guys in the past that have come in with a record at or below .500, and they have gotten hot,” Turnbull says “If you can step it up, you can qualify for the national tournament, so we never rule anything out when we head to the EWL Championships.”
Sophomore Michael Morales (141) and redshirt seniors Matt Ryan (184) and Brandon Williamson (HWT) each are the top seeds in their brackets and have used late season runs to propel themselves toward into the No. 1 spot.
Morales won three of his last four matches by way of fall along with compiling a 15-2 record, Ryan won nine of his last 10 matches and Williamson closed out the season on a 10-match winning streak.
“Michael is feeling very good about himself currently, and he is positioning himself to make a run this weekend,” Turnbull says. “Matt had a bit of a letdown with his loss at Edinboro, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it tightened up his focus. Brandon is the clear cut No. 1 seed for his weight class, and if he is able to win his weight class, he can build momentum and potentially garner a seed at the national tournament.”
Due to the fact that there is no live stream for the event, fans can follow live updates from each session on the WVU Wrestling Facebook page, the WVUSportsBuzz Twittter page and the WVUSportsScores Twitter page.
A full recap of Sunday’s EWL Championships action will be available on MSNsportsNET.com after the completion of competition.WVU’s EWL Lineup (National Ranking/EWL Seed)
125: No. 22/3 Shane Young (21-5)
133: No. 25/3 Nathan Pennesi (26-7)
141: No. 20/1 Michael Morales (15-2)
149: Brutus Scheffel (17-13)
157: Dominic Prezzia (15-16)
165: Kyle Eason (15-16)
174: No. 20/3 Lance Bryson (22-11)
184: No. 25/1 Matt Ryan (16-4)
197: Mac Mancuso (16-7)
HWT: No. 16/1 Brandon Williamson (23-6)