Ten things to watch for this weekend at DII and DIII regionals:
1. New formats
Division III includes six regional sites which will produce 180 qualifiers for the NCAA championships. The top three finishers at each weight punch their ticket to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 14-15. That means there are no "at-large" selections. Finish in the top three or stay home. The brackets at the NCAA Division II Championships still include 16 wrestlers per weight class, but the format has been tweaked. The top four finishers at each of four super regionals previously punched their tickets to the big show. This season, the Midwest and Central regionals qualify the top five at each weight, with the East and West sending the top three at each weight for a total of 160 in Cleveland.
|1||Notre Dame (Ohio)||158||1|
|3||St. Cloud State||146||3|
|15||Fort Hays State||60||12|
|20||San Francisco State||15||NR|
2. No margin for error
With the new qualifying format, there is no margin for error. Case in point: 133 pounds at the DIII Central Regional at Loras College in Iowa. Reigning NCAA champion Kenny Anderson of Wartburg, who brought a 61-1 record into his senior season, is ranked third behind Luther's Evan Obert and Coe's Jimmy Gotto. All three are at Loras. Obert, eighth at the 2013 NCAA championships, ended Anderson's 51-match win streak in January. Gotto lost in the 125-pound NCAA finals last March and pinned Anderson at the IIAC championships. Eight other 133-pounders will have a tough time breaking up that trio. Or how about 149 pounds at the DII Central Regional in Edmond, Okla.? The top five in the rankings, led by Central Missouri's Frank Cagnina and Upper Iowa's Edwin Cooper, will be in the 17-man bracket where the top five will advance.
3. Battle in Edmond
Division II frontrunner Notre Dame (Ohio) is at Johnstown, Pa., for its super regional. Mercyhurst is the only other member of the top 10 in the field. Defending champion Nebraska-Kearney is at Edmond, Okla., with No. 3 St. Cloud State, No. 4 Central Oklahoma, No. 6 Upper Iowa and No. 8 Lindenwood. Newberry and McKendree are the only members of the top 10 at the Midwest Regional, while California Baptist, at No. 10, is the top-rated squad at the West Regional at Colorado Mesa. Do the math and five of the top-10 squads in DII are in one location. DIII top dog Wartburg is at Loras College along with No. 10 Coe and No. 15 Loras. Second-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater and No. 4 Olivet will compete at Crawfordsville, Ind. Third-ranked Messiah is at the Mideast Regional at York, Pa.
Wisconsin-Oshkosh's Nazar Kulchytskyy and Notre Dame (Ohio's) Joey Davis: Impressive is an understatement when describing these two. Kulchytskyy, a senior from the Ukraine, is 133-5 with 63 pins for his career. That includes a 32-2 mark with 17 pins in 2013-14. The 157-pounder enters the postseason in search of a third consecutive national title. Davis is 31-0 this season after a 30-0 freshman season that culminated in a DII national title at 165 pounds. Davis, a native of Compton, Calif., competes with the Falcons at Johnstown, Pa., this weekend. Kulchytskyy is at the West Regional in Minneapolis.
5. Speaking of dominance
Entering the weekend, Kulchytskyy leads Wabash College's Riley Lefever and Wartburg's Landon Williams in the DIII standings for the NCAA Most Dominant Award. Upper Iowa's Edwin Cooper, Mercyhurst's Dylan D'Urso and Indianapolis' Alex Johns lead the pack in DII.
6. Dominance, Part III
Wartburg enters this weekend again as the hunted. Head coach Eric Keller's squad boasts seven wrestlers ranked inside the top five, including Gilberto Camacho (11-1) and Landon Williams (33-3), ranked No. 1 at 125 and 174, respectively. Heavyweight Ryan Fank is 30-2 and ranked second, Cole Welter is 26-1 and third at 165 pounds, while Puna Soriano is 29-6 and fourth at 197 pounds. Two-time NCAA champion Kenny Anderson has wrestled just nine matches in 2013-14, but expect the senior to be in the mix again.
|16||Johnson & Wales (R.I.)||12-2||15|
|21||St. John's (Minn.)||7-8||22|
|27||Rhode Island College||11-3||29|
7. Band of brothers
The odds of a Lefever qualifying for the DIII championships are pretty high. Brothers Riley, Reece and Conner from Fort Wayne, Ind., will suit up for the Little Giants on their home mats for the Midwest Regional. Reece, a junior, was an All-American at 157 pounds in 2013 and brings a 30-1 record into the postseason. Conner is 26-3 at 174 pounds with baby brother Riley, a freshman 184-pounder, 32-0 and ranked No. 1. Riley is part of a tough bracket with three of the top six in the country plus an All-American from last March also scheduled to compete.
8. Welcome times three
California Baptist, champions of the NCWA in 2013, is making its first appearance in the DII postseason. The Lancers, coached by former Iowa star and UC Davis head coach Lennie Zalesky, are ranked 11th in the final regular season poll and have a number of potential NCAA qualifiers. Graduate student Bryden Lazaro is 24-6 and ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds, Brady Bersano is 29-4 and ranked second at 157 pounds, and Jacob Mitchell is 11-0 with seven pins and ranked eighth at 285 pounds. CBU and Western State, ranked 10th, highlight the field at the super regional hosted by Colorado-Mesa.
Another first-time DII participant is Lindenwood. The Lions, winners of five NAIA championships during a seven-year span from 2002-09, finished the regular season ranked seventh and will be a part of the rugged Central Regional at Central Oklahoma. Head coach Chad Smith's squad is led by 184-pounder John McArdle, a New Jersey native who won a NJCAA title in 2012.
Another program quickly moving up the DII ranks is McKendree. The Bearcats, coached by James Kisgen, were second at the 2013 NCWA championships and sit at No. 13 entering their first postseason in DII.
9. Freshman jitters
Plenty of rookies have built solid resumes during the past few months. Can they back it up when it really counts? In DIII, Messiah 125-pounder Lucas Malmberg is an impressive 40-3 and ranked fourth. Four freshmen are ranked inside the top five in DII: Destin McCauley of Nebraska-Kearney, Seton Hill 157-pounder Zach Voytek, Mercyhurst 157-pounder Francis Mizia, and St. Cloud State heavyweight Austin Goergen, who is 25-4 and ranked third.
10. Down the stretch
Augsburg senior heavyweight Chad Johnson should certainly be listed as one of Division III's best big men ever. The Ferryville, Wis., product has compiled a 132-14 career record with 11 of those losses coming during his freshman season. During the past three seasons, Johnson, already a two-time NCAA champion, has gone 96-3. His lone defeat in 28 matches in 2013-14 came to a DI opponent. Johnson and the Auggies compete on home mats this weekend, hosting the West Regional. There are no sure things in wrestling, but expect Johnson to be one of the 180 in Cedar Rapids.