FOR Division 1: 2008 NCAA Wrestling Championships: Tournament Brackets/Results/Seedings/Discussion
FOR Division 2: 2008 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships: Tournament Brackets/Discussion
2008 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships Preview
Joshua Schroeder Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The 35th Annual NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships are set for this Friday and Saturday, March 7-8, at the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The two-day event, which features 160 wrestlers from 59 schools, is being hosted by Coe College, Cornell College, and the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Last year, Augsburg rode nine All-Americans, including three champions, to its Division III-record 10th crown. The Auggies posted 135.5 points to outdistance Wartburg (99.5), UW-La Crosse (92.5), and Luther (86).
This year’s field of 160 sports three returning national champions – David Morgan of King’s (Pa.) at 133 pounds, Josh Chelf of UW-La Crosse at 174, and Wartburg’s T.J. Miller at 197. There are a total of 34 former All-Americans in the draw, including three – Chelf, Buena Vista’s Jestin Hulegaard (133), and SUNY Brockport’s Shaheim Bradshaw (165) – who are looking to become four-time All-Americans.
No. 1-ranked Wartburg captured the title at January’s National Duals and has to be considered a favorite to capture its sixth NCAA title since 1996. The Knights qualified a Championship-best nine wrestlers, including four who are top-ranked in the most recent NWCA/Brute-Adidas individual rankings – Jacob Naig (149), Aaron Wernimont (157), Romeo Djoumessi (184), and Miller (197). Jacob Naig tops the most recent NWCA/Brute-Adidas individual rankings at 149, while Aaron Wernimont heads the list at 157, Romeo Djoumessi is No. 1 at 184 and Miller is first at 197. Of their other qualifiers, Robert Struthers (4th at 125), Jacob Helvey (4th at 133), Matt Kelly (3rd at 141), and Brian Borchers (3rd at 285) are all seeded.
No. 2 Delaware Valley and No. 3 Wisconsin-La Crosse each bring eight wrestlers to the Championships, while No. 4 Augsburg has seven wrestlers in the draw.
Delaware Valley has three wrestlers – Dan Hall (141), Michael Wilcox (184), and Kyle Bilquist (285) – seeded second entering the Championships and two others in the top eight. UW-La Crosse has five seeded wrestlers, led by No. 1 seeds Tim Palmer (165) and Chelf. Willy Holst (2nd at 149), Travis Lang (3rd at 133), Seth Flodeen (6th at 125), and Robert Gotreau (7th at 184) are all seeded for the Auggies.
Each of No. 5 Elmhurst’s four national qualifiers is seeded. All-American Jake Oster (125) and Kyle Katz (157) are third, while Jeff Kastel (149) is fifth and Mark Corsello (285) is sixth.
Championship co-hosts No. 6 Coe and No. 8 Cornell each have five qualifiers, three that are seeded. Two-time All-American Chris Heilman, the top-seed and No. 1-ranked wrestler at 125, leads the Ram contingent. 2007 All-American Pat McAuley (157) is seeded seventh, while Nick Nothern (133) is sixth. For the Kohawks, Clayton Rush (125) and Tyler Burkle (165) are each seeded second, while Tyler Jentz (174) is seeded seventh.
No. 7 Wisconsin-Stevens Point has pointed six individuals toward Eastern Iowa, three of whom are seeded. Eric Bath, a returning All-American at 174, is seeded second, while Craig Bollig (4th at 197) and Ben Engelland (5th at 184) also received seeds.
No. 9 North Central has only three qualifiers, but all are seeded. Two-time All-American Adam Johnson (133) is seeded first, while brothers Ben (165) and Gabe (184) Youel are seeded sixth and third, respectively. Heidelberg, rated 10th nationally, brings five wrestlers to Cedar Rapids, including the seeded Nicholas Sanchez (6th at 141), Ryan Fogliano (5th at 197), and Ryan Bowers (5th at 285).
Adding to the local flavor, No. 14 Luther has six qualifiers, including four who are seeded. The Norse are led by Alec Bonander (2nd at 197), John Miller (7th at 285), and Travis Grawin (8th at 141), all former All-Americans. Erik Hanson (5th at 157) was also awarded a seed.
125 – Heilman (Cornell) and Rush (Coe) are the top seeds, but Eracleo Vallejo (Manchester) and Flodeen (Augsburg) have each held the top spot during the season. Heilman, Flodeen, Vallejo, Oster (Elmhurst), and Kyle Flickinger (York) are all returning All-Americans from a year ago. Vallejo is unseeded and could face No. 3-seed Oster in the second round.
133 – Adam Johnson (North Central) may be the top seed, but David Morgan (King’s) is still the defending national champion. They are among five returning All-Americans at this weight. Jestin Hulegaard (Buena Vista) is a three-time All-American, but has a potential match-up with Johnson in the quarterfinals. All-Americans Jacob Helvey (Wartburg) and Jordan Kolinski (UW-La Crosse) are also in Johnson’s half of the bracket.
141 – Top-seed Mike Bonora (Rhode Island College) is the highest returning placewinner (6th) and has not dropped from the top spot in the rankings all year. He has not lost to a D3 opponent this year. A three-time qualifier, No. 2-seed Dan Hall (Delaware Valley) has posted wins over No. 5 David Manoogian (Case Western Reserve), No. 8 Travis Grawin (Luther), and Jason Adams (Augsburg). Matt Kelly (Wartburg) came on strong at the end of the season, posting an 18-1 record to take the spot away from 2006 and 2007 NCAA qualifier Zach McKray. Grawin is seeded eighth, but knows how to battle, finishing seventh last season after dropping his first match.
149 – No. 1-seed Jacob Naig (Wartburg) has been the top ranked wrestler at this weight most of the season. Willy Holst (Augsburg) makes a strong case as a No. 2 seed, winning the Great Lakes Regional and posting a 26-2 record. No. 3 seed Elliott Spence (Mt. St. Joseph) has moved down a weight after earning All-America honors each of the past two years at 157. No. 4 Paul LeBlanc (SUNY Cortland) is also a returning All-American after taking fourth at 141 in 2006. Unseeded Ryan Higgins (UW-Platteville) placed eighth at this weight a year ago, but it will not be easy to repeat the feat as he faces Naig right off the bat in a second round match.
157 – Wernimont (Wartburg) has been at or near the top of the rankings all season. The top seed, Wernimont is 36-1 with just a loss to Iowa State’s Cyler Sanderson and has posted wins over No. 2 Jason Brew (Olivet), No. 3 Kyle Katz (Elmhurst), No. 5 Erik Hanson (Loras), and No. 7 Pat McAuley (Cornell). McAuley is the only other All-American at this weight.
165 – With 18 qualifiers, 165 ties 125 as the largest weight class at this year’s Championships. No. 1-seed Tim Palmer (UW-La Crosse), who took third at last year’s meet, has been the top-ranked wrestler in the weight class all year long. Tyler Burkle (Coe) is undefeated and seeded second with wins over four wrestlers in the draw. No. 5-seed Shaheim Bradshaw (SUNY Brockport), a three-time All-American, has wrestled well at the NCAA Championships. Gino Russo (Baldwin-Wallace), who took sixth last season, is seeded third.
174 – The top three finishers at last year’s meet are all back for another chance at a title. Defending national champion and three-time All-American Josh Chelf (UW-La Crosse) is the No. 1 seed, followed by last year’s third-place finisher Eric Bath (UW-Stevens Point) and 2007 runner-up Kyle Vanderhyde (Olivet).
184 – Djoumessi (Wartburg) is undefeated and has been the top-ranked wrestler at the weight all season. He owns wins over each of the other top-4 seeds and is the highest returning placewinner from last season (fourth). No. 6 Nick Coleman (NYU) and No. 8 Jay Figgins (Loras) are also returning All-Americans at 184. The trio are joined by No. 7 Robert Gotreau (Augsburg) and unseeded Treavor LeBlanc (SUNY Cortland), who were both All-Americans at 174 in 2007.
197 – T.J. Miller (Wartburg) is the defending national champion, but has been taken to overtime twice by No. 2-seed Alec Bonander (Luther). No. 3 Paul Hartt (Lakeland) and No. 4 Craig Bollig (UW-Stevens Point), have each spent most of the season in the top four of the national rankings.
285 – No. 1-seed Trevor Hiffa (Oneonta St.), a returning All-American, is undefeated against Division III competition this season. Kyle Bilquist (Delaware Valley) is seeded second, with Brian Borchers (Wartburg) third. Borchers has emerged from the shadow of four-time finalist Blake Gillis, steadily climbing the national rankings during the season. No. 4 Jaran Rutledge (Knox) is the highest returning placewinner, taking third for the Prairie Fire last season. No. 7 John Miller (Luther) is a two-time qualifier that earned All-America honors in 2006.