Four days after the NCAA announced the 2011 qualifier allocations for Division I, the Pac-10 kicks off the final push to Philadelphia. The other 10 qualifiers will be March 5-6.
In 2010, 284 allocations were given to the 11 qualifiers. In 2011, the NCAA committee allocated 282 spots. Each of the 10 weight-class brackets in Philadelphia will include 33 student-athletes – an additional 48 at-large berths will be announced on March 9.
The Big Ten Conference, with three squads among the Top 10 – Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota – saw the biggest increase in allocations, going from 56 in 2010 to 64 in 2011.
The Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association went from 41 to 45.
Five conferences saw a decrease in allocations, the Pac-10 going from 34 to 26. The Big 12 and Mid-American each lost four allocations.
Oregon State will host the 49th Pac-10 Championships on Sunday inside Gil Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. The Beavers kept Boise State from winning a third consecutive league title a year ago. In 2009 the Broncos shattered the conference record for points in a tournament with 172½.
Cal Poly, Bakersfield, CS-Fullerton, Stanford and Arizona State are also in the field. Washington State won the first Pac-10 tournament in 1963.
Leading the pack in Corvallis will be Arizona State senior 125-pounder Anthony Robles, who is 28-0 with a phenomenal 27 bonus-point victories. Robels, a two-time All-American, has won the last two Pac-10 titles at 125.
A few other seniors to watch include: Boise State’s Andrew Hochstrasser (22-1 at 133), Adam Hall (23-0 at 157), and Kirk Smith (8-1 at 184); plus Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov (24-1 at 141). Oregon State junior 174-pounder Colby Covington (16-1) is one of seven returning conference champions.
Smith, an NCAA runner-up in 2010, has battled injuries all season and injury defaulted his last regular season match on Feb. 11 at Oklahoma State.
Need to Know
• Division III No. 1 Wartburg will hit the mats Friday in search of an 18th consecutive IIAC title. The Knights brought back six All-Americans from the 2010 squad and have been dominant all season with the one hiccup coming due to a disqualification of top-ranked heavyweight John Helgerson at the Vegas Duals in early January.
• All nine DIII conference tournaments and all four DII Regionals are set for this weekend. Three of the four D-II Regionals are two-day events with the Super Region 3 meet in Augustana, S.D., on Sunday. Eight of the nine DIII meets are one-day with the New England Wrestling Association Championships a two-day meet. Seven of the 11 DI qualifiers are one-day tournaments.
• With March Madness here, most in the Carolinas think of basketball. However, three of the nation’s top-ranked individuals in Division II wrestle for schools in North or South Carolina. 125-pounder Russell Weakley (NC-Pembroke), 165-pounder Mike Williams (NC-Pembroke) and 184-pounder Bryant Blanton (Newberry in S. Carolina) are a combined 70-6. Blanton, whose father was a wrestling coach but passed away when Bryant was 10-years-old, won a D-II title in 2010 and his school’s all-time wins leader with 131.
• One of many student-athletes within a two-hour drive of Philadelphia is Michigan junior Kellen Russell. A native of High Bridge, N.J, the top-ranked 141-pounder is 30-0 this season after redshirting in 2009-10 and an All-America sophomore campaign. He is one of six from either Pennsylvania or New Jersey ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes – Jordan Oliver (Easton, Pa.); Darrion Caldwell (Rahway, N.J.), Steve Fittery (Denver, Pa.), Jordan Burroughs (Sicklerville, N.J.) and Zach Rey (Hopatcong, N.J.) are all ranked No. 1.
“I think part of the reason there are so many good wrestlers from that area is because we start maybe a little earlier,” said Russell. “There are so many good coaches and good programs … the competition is probably better than a lot of places.”
• Third-ranked Oklahoma State has been without junior heavyweight Alan Gelogaev since Nov. 11. The 2010 All-American at 197 pounds who as 30-9 a year ago was injured in the finals of the OCU Open but is expected to suit up at the Big 12 Championships in Ames, Iowa on March 5. The league was given four allocations at 285 pounds. Three of the nation’s top 10 will be in the five-man bracket, meaning Gelogaev will need to win one match to qualify for Philadelphia.
• Zack McKendree of DII Gannon, earned his 29th win of the season with a pin against Seton Hall on Feb. 18. Entering this weekend’s Regionals, hosted by Gannon in Erie, Pa., McKendree, a 165-pounder, needs two wins to tie Gannon’s all-time win record of 107 set by Todd Proper (1998-01).
• Veteran Minnesota head coach J Robinson was given a public reprimand by the Big Ten Conference on Feb. 22 for his comments after the Gophers’ 18-18 tie with Penn State on Feb. 13. Robinson accused Penn State’s Frank Molinaro of faking an injury to get a timeout in a 6-5 win at 149 pounds during a Feb. 13 dual match.