STILLWATER, Okla. - The West Virginia University wrestling team is set to compete in the Big 12 Duals on Friday, March 8 and its inaugural Big 12 Championships on Saturday, March 9, with the two events set to take place at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
“Friday’s event is completely separate from Saturday’s Big 12 Championships,” says coach Craig Turnbull. “We will use Friday’s dual meets as an opportunity to allow a few of our guys to gain some experience, but on Saturday, we will have our full compliment of starters in the tournament to take a swing at qualifying for the NCAA Championships.”
The Mountaineers, who return four NCAA qualifiers from the 2011-12 season, are looking to qualify at least two wrestlers for the national tournament for 29th consecutive season.
Qualifiers from last season include Shane Young
, Nathan Pennesi
, Lance Bryson
and Michael Morales
Young (125), who is trying to become the 15th grappler in program history to qualify for the NCAA Championships four times, is second on the team with 12 victories this season.
“In order for Shane to qualify, he is going to have to win his weight class,” Turnbull says. “When we look at that weight class, we feel that he is the best wrestler at that class. He wrestled poorly in two matches this season in the Big 12, and because of that, he lost those two matches. He will need to put two very solid matches together to win the tournament.”Nathan Pennesi
(141), who has been sidelined with a broken left third metacarpal suffered nearly three weeks, is looking to qualify for the third time in his career. At last year’s NCAA Championships, Pennesi wrestled at 133 pounds.
“Nathan has probably earned a gold standard,” Turnbull says. “We are hopeful that he will receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. His cast was taken off this week, and he has been working on the mat to stay in wrestling shape. We are looking at this a great opportunity for Nathan. As the season goes along, you can get a bit stale. Hopefully, he will get into the national tournament feeling really fresh.”Lance Bryson
(184) qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career last season. After qualifying at 174 pounds last season, Bryson looks to qualify at 184 pounds this season.
“Lance hasn’t quite found the same groove as he did last season for some reason,” Turnbull says. “This is the time of the year to find that groove, though, and it would be nice to see him put a tournament together and put himself in the finals.”Michael Morales
qualified for the NCAA Championships at 141 pounds during the 2011-12 season. This season, Morales is redshirting after undergoing shoulder surgery in October.
Among those also contending for bid is Bubba Scheffel
(174), who boasts a 10-5 record this season.
“Bubba has shown during the year that he is of the caliber to be wrestling at the NCAA Championships,” Turnbull says. “His first match will be critical, as he will most likely face Iowa State’s Tanner Weatherman. He held a lead against him in their first meeting, but he got caught in a precarious position and gave up five points to his opponent.”
At the NCAA Championships, WVU has produced five individual national champions and 29 All-Americans. The program’s national champion tally currently has them tied for No. 25 in Division I wrestling history, while the Mountaineers are tied for No. 33 in total All-Americans.
The Mountaineers (2-10, 0-3 Big 12) are coming off of an 18-15 win against Clarion on Feb. 24. With the match knotted at 15 heading into the heavyweight contest, senior Phil Mandzik
powered the team to victory, as he defeated the Golden Eagles’ Phil Catrucco, 5-1. The win was Mandzik’s ninth of the season.
Also earning victory’s over Clarion was Young (125), Colin Johnston
(133), Ross Renzi
(165), Scheffel (174) and Bryson (184).
The team victory was WVU’s first since its season-opening shutout of Johns Hopkins on Nov. 4.
Action begins on Friday, with the conclusion of the regular season as Oklahoma State takes on West Virginia and Oklahoma battles Iowa State at 12 p.m. EST. Following the conclusion of the two morning duals, Oklahoma State and Iowa State square off on one mat, with the Sooners and Mountaineers on the other. All four dual matches will be streamed live on Big12Sports.com.
After a break, the action resumes at 7 p.m., highlighted by the Bedlam dual between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. West Virginia and Iowa State will battle on the other mat. The Bedlam matchup will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest, while the OU-WVU match will be streamed on Big12Sports.com. Upon conclusion of the 7 p.m. duals, the Big 12 regular-season championship trophy will be awarded.
The championship action starts with semifinal bouts on two mats beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday. The championship and third-place bouts will take place simultaneously on two mats starting at approximately 7 p.m., with any potential challenge matches to follow.
All Saturday matches will be streamed live on Big12Sports.com at no charge.