|Junior Mike Morales (149) is one of five Mountaineers that will be competing at the 2014 NCAA DI Wrestling Championships from March 20-22 in Oklahoma City. This bill be Morales' second appearance at the tournament.
|Julius Wiggins photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Five members of the West Virginia University wrestling team have qualified for the 2014 NCAA DI Wrestling Championships from March 20-22 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
“I feel very good about this year and the direction of the program,” says coach Craig Turnbull. “Five wrestlers in the tournament is a very good number. We would have really liked to have that sixth one in with (senior) Nathan Pennesi
, but it was a challenging year for him and he was on the bubble. The five that will be wrestling earned it, and we are excited to take them and battle.”
Four Mountaineers earned automatic bids with their performances at the Big 12 Championships in Norman, Okla., on March 8. Freshman Cory Stainbrook
(125) and junior Mike Morales (149) finished the tournament in third place, while sophomore Bubba Scheffel
(174) took fourth and sophomore A.J. Vizcarrondo
(HWT) earned second-place honors.
Senior Colin Johnston
(141) was awarded an at-large bid to the tournament. Johnston brought a gold standard to the Big 12 Championships.
Stainbrook’s 24 wins this season is the third-best mark on the team, and ties him at No. 8 in program history for wins by a freshman, a mark originally set by Pennesi in 2011. With one more win this season, Stainbrook will break into the top five in the WVU record books for wins by a 125 pounder. Along with Pennesi and Johnston, Stainbrook led the Mountaineers with five major decisions this season, and earned three falls. He is 2-3 against the RPI Top 33.
Johnston led WVU in takedowns (43), dual wins (16) and wins against ranked opponents (4) throughout the season. He was the first Mountaineer to ever be named the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week, garnering the honor on Jan. 20 after defeating then-No. 12 Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State, 8-4. Johnston had team-high win streaks of 10 and seven throughout the season. His only dual losses came on Nov. 2 to then No. 19 Joe Spisak of Virginia and No. 1 Mitchell Port of Edinboro on Feb. 22, which snapped a 14 dual-match win streak. Johnston’s nine falls this year ranks him second on the team and No. 6 in program history for single season pins, while his 27 wins ranks him No. 5 for wins by a 141 pounder. This will be Johnston’s first trip to the NCAA Championships.
After redshirting last season, Morales missed the first few weeks of competition this year, but came back to record 19 wins and a 13-3 mark in dual matches. He is tied at second on the team with 29 takedowns, and second with four major decisions. Morales was ranked as high as No. 20 by Intermat this season. He was named the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week on Feb. 3 after defeating then-No. 17 Mikey Racciato of Pitt, 11-9 in sudden victory. Morales is 2-4 against ranked opponents entering his second appearance at the NCAA Championships.
Scheffel led WVU and the Big 12 Conference this season with 29 wins, which places him in a tie for fifth in the program record book with Pennesi’s mark in 2012. On Dec. 8, Scheffel tallied his 14th pin to break Scott Collins’ WVU record of 13 falls in a single season. Scheffel finished the regular season with 15, which brings his career total to 19. With three more pins, he will break into the top five in program history for career falls. Scheffel won the Mercyhurst Laker Open on Nov. 9, took second at the Navy classic on Nov. 23 and sixth at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 22. This will be Scheffel’s first trip to the NCAA Championships.
After wrestling at 197 pounds as a freshman, Vizcarrondo moved up to heavyweight this season. Vizcarrondo tallied 19 wins, two coming against ranked opponents. He was fourth on the team with four falls this season, one coming in 12 seconds in the opening round of the Big 12 Championships against Quean Smith of Iowa State. Vizcarrondo was the third Mountaineer to be named the Big 12 Wrestler of the Week, earning the award after defeating then-No. 17 Ross Larson of Oklahoma on Feb. 6. He took fourth at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 22 and sixth at the Navy Classic on Nov. 23. This is Vizcarrondo’s first trip to the NCAA Championships.
“When someone as valuable as Nathan, who has made such a great contribution to your program does not have the opportunity to finish out his career at the NCAA’s, it is painful to all of us on the team,” Turnbull says. “This doesn’t take away from his outstanding career here. It was a struggle at 133 pounds for him this season, and he gave it his best shot. My respect for Nathan is enormous and we are a much better program because of him. He will go down as one of our finest lightweights.”
Pennesi brought a silver standard to the Big 12 Championships and was eligible for an at-large bid. He had qualified for three NCAA Championships coming into this season, and finishes his career at WVU with 92 victories.
Tickets for the 2014 Wresting DI Championships may be purchased on NCAA.com.