National Duals set to begin
Four regional winners to join four automatics in finals
Sixteen teams. Four spots.
The opening weekend of the 2013 Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duals includes four regionals -- Corvallis, Ithaca, Columbia and Kent. By late afternoon Sunday, four regional winners will be crowned and round out the field for the finals in Minneapolis on Feb. 22-23. Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State were given automatic berths to the final eight. The Gophers claimed top honors in 2012, beating Oklahoma State in the championship match of a new format known as Mat Mayhem.
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For regional schedules and other information, including times, tickets and brackets, click here.
At Kent, Ohio (Oklahoma State, Kent State, Wisconsin, Northern Iowa)
Top-ranked Oklahoma State opens against host Kent State, with No. 18 Wisconsin facing off against No. 24 Northern Iowa. The Cowboys, unbeaten this season, have four wrestlers ranked inside the top three, led by 2011 NCAA champion Jordan Oliver (23-0, 149 pounds). All-American Chris Perry (22-1, 174) suffered his first loss of the season in a dual against Missouri two weekends ago.
Kent State is led by 2011 NCAA champion Dustin Kilgore, who is 34-0 and ranked No. 1 at 197 pounds, and senior Casey Newburg, who is 31-5 and ranked 15th at 184 pounds. Newburg could square off with No. 12 Chris Chionuma (19-6).
Despite losing a pair of starters to transfer, the Badgers have managed a 7-6 dual campaign. All-American Tyler Graff (21-3, 133) is ranked sixth, while freshman heavyweight Connor Medbery is a solid 18-4. Northern Iowa (8-4) has Ryan Loder (26-3, 184), Joey Lazor (27-7, 141), and Levi Wolfensperger (21-6, 133), plus senior David Bonin (21-6, 157).
The Badgers beat Northern Iowa 24-13 earlier this season. The winner this time around most likely gets the Cowboys in the regional final.
At Ithaca, N.Y. (Cornell, Virginia, Nebraska, Hofstra)
A very competitive region with No. 10 Cornell opening against Hofstra and No. 11 Virginia and No. 13 Nebraska squaring off in the opening session. The Big Red are 12-3 and led by a pair of national champions -- Kyle Dake (25-0, 165) and Steve Bozak (14-2, 184). Freshman 125-pounder Nahshon Garrett is an outstanding 31-3 and ranked fifth. Hofstra is 6-13 including a loss to Cornell. Veteran 125-pounder Steve Bonanno (14-8) and Luke Vaith (18-10, 141) lead the Pride.
Virginia (15-3) and Nebraska (10-5) might be the best first-round match of the 2013 bracket. The Cavaliers, making their first appearance in the National Duals, have a solid squad with six among the Amateur Wrestling News Top 20. The Huskers have All-Americans James Green (15-3, 157) and Josh Ihnen (20-3, 184), plus Robert Kokesh (26-2, 174).
Virginia might have a small edge, but if there is a tossup in the bracket this is it. Cornell, Virginia or Nebraska could come out of this region.
At Corvallis, Ore. (Oregon State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Michigan)
You think Ithaca is tough? The bracket’s western-most region is almost impossible to call. The Beavers are ranked ninth in the country; they are seeded second. No. 7 Virginia Tech (14-2) is the top seed, facing No. 25 Oklahoma (6-7). Oregon State (10-3) takes on the 19th-ranked Wolverines (9-6) in the other match.
The Hokies have a strong group led by Jarrod Garnett (22-2, 125), Nick Brascetta (25-2, 149), Jesse Dong (19-2, 157) and Peter Yates (25-1, 165). The Sooners have struggled by their standards, but can still throw out top-ranked 141-pounder Kendric Maple (20-0) and Patrick Graham (18-3, 165). Yates and Graham are both ranked inside the top five.
Oregon State’s Michael Mangrum is 31-4 and an All-American at 141; Scott Sakaguchi (21-4, 149), RJ Pena (28-3, 157), Taylor Meeks (27-5, 197), and Chad Hanke (29-3, 285) are also very talented. The Wolverines have rookie Taylor Massa (22-5, 165) and veterans Eric Grajales (17-4, 149) and Dan Yates (18-5, 174). Michigan beat beat Oregon State 21-18 this past November.
Like Ithaca, three teams have a chance to come out of this region. Virginia Tech is the favorite, but do not count out Oregon State or Michigan.
At Columbia, Mo. (Missouri, Maryland, Purdue, Wyoming)
No. 6 Missouri (11-2) is a solid favorite on its home mat this weekend. The Tigers have top-ranked heavyweight Dom Bradley (27-0) and six others ranked inside the top 15. Alan Waters (20-0, 125) and Nathan McCormick (27-2, 133) give the Tigers a big one-two punch early in the lineup. A good unranked Maryland (12-7) is led by senior All-American Josh Asper (14-1, 174), Jimmy Sheptock (32-3, 184) and Christian Boley (19-6, 197). They are no pushover.
The other match in the region has No. 16 Purdue (14-5) against No. 20 Wyoming (8-4). The Cowboys include All-American Alfonso Hernandez (27-1, 197) and Andy McCulley (24-6, 157), while the Boilermakers have veterans Ivan Lopouchanski (21-1, 149), Cashe Quiroga (7-1, 133) and Camden Eppert (20-8, 125). Whoever survives the Purdue-Wyoming match will have a difficult time getting past the host squad.
Who joins Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State for the finals in Minneapolis? Expect Oklahoma State and Missouri to be there. The remaining two? Good luck in your predictions.