EWL Championships This Weekend
March 4, 2004
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The 17th-ranked West Virginia University (9-5, 6-1) wrestling team travels to Bloomsburg, Pa., to take part in the 29th annual Eastern Wrestling League championships on March 6-7 at Bloomsburg’s Nelson Field House.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” says head coach Craig Turnbull. “We have really tapered off some of the practices to make them shorter and more intense. I think our guys are going into this weekend feeling pretty good about their year and plan on giving the EWL their best shot one more time.”
The EWL Championships are an NCAA Division I qualifying tournament where 37 wrestlers will go on to compete at the NCAA Division I national championships. The top three finishers in each weight class, plus seven wild cards, earn bids to the NCAAs in St. Louis.
“This is almost like a second season for us,” adds Turnbull. “We finished the dual meet portion and now enter the tournament season. All ten of our guys have a goal of winning their weight class. If a loss does come, then they are in a second tournament where third place qualifies them for nationals.”
West Virginia has finished first or second in the EWL Tournament in six of the last eight years with tournament titles coming in 1996 and 2002. The Mountaineers have produced 18 individual EWL champions, including two last season: Billy Smith (149) and Greg Jones (174).
“Throughout the season our schedule has served us well as we attended events where we could face the top competition in the country,” says Turnbull. “We made quality trips to Las Vegas, Midlands, the Sun Devil Duals and then were one of sixteen teams invited to the National Duals in Cleveland. Our guys have seen the best wrestlers in the country. Now it’s up to us to use that experience to our advantage as we enter the qualifying tournament and then onto the national tournament.”
Following this weekend’s championships, qualifying wrestlers have a week off before competing at the 2004 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in downtown St. Louis on March 18-20.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The 17th-ranked West Virginia University wrestling team travel to Bloomsburg, Pa., to take part in the 29th annual Eastern Wrestling League championships this weekend.
West Virginia's Matt Lebe hopes to have a strong showing at this week's EWL championships held at Bloomsburg. (All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks)
Bloomsburg University will serve as host of the 2004 Championships to be held March 6-7 at Nelson Field House.
This will be Bloomsburg’s fifth time hosting the championships. The last time the EWL Championships were at Bloomsburg was 1996 when the Mountaineers won to claim its first EWL tournament title.
Thirty seven wrestlers are vying for automatic and at-large berths for the NCAA tournament. The top three finishers in each weight class, plus seven wild cards, earn bids to the NCAAs in St. Louis.
West Virginia has finished first or second in the EWL tournament in six of the last eight years with titles coming in 1996 and 2002. The Mountaineers have produced 18 individual EWL champions, including two last season: Billy Smith (149) and Greg Jones (174).
A year ago the Mountaineers posted a school-record 123.5 points en route to a runner-up finish to Edinboro at the 2003 EWL championships in Morgantown. The nine WVU grapplers that qualified for NCAAs were also a school record.
Three of those NCAA qualifiers return in Seth Lisa (133), Matt Lebe (157) and Greg Jones (184) this year.
The Mountaineers enter postseason action with a second-place finish in EWL dual-meet competition. WVU won 19 straight regular season contests until its lone loss of the season came on Feb. 20 at No. 24 Edinboro. The Mountaineers finished with a 6-1 mark in conference action behind league dual meet champion Edinboro with an undefeated 7-0 record. The Fighting Scots have established themselves as the team to beat in the 2004 EWL tournament with West Virginia and Pitt challenging for the conference title.
Senior Casey Brewster assumes the 125-pound slot for WVU with a 3-1 conference mark. Pitt’s true freshman Drew Headlee enters with an undefeated EWL record and is the favorite at 125. Clarion’s Peter Derstine and Cleveland State’s DeAngelo Penn will challenge for the lightweight title as well.
Sophomore Seth Lisa will not have to face last year's 133-pound EWL champ and outstanding wrestler Shawn Bunch of Edinboro because Bunch is taking a redshirt season. Lisa will face competition from nationally ranked David Hoffman of Virginia Tech and Pitt’s Mike Ciotti. Lisa has battled injuries this season moving up to 133-pounds, but did qualify for nationals with a third-place finish at 125 last year.
Senior Joe Clarke enters a loaded 141-pound weight class with six wrestlers having held national rankings this season –Clarke, Pitt’s Ron Tarquinio, Clarion’s Frank Edgar, Cleveland State’s Anthony Coleman, Edinboro’s Ron Doppelheuer and Bloomsburg’s Scott Heckman. Clarke has EWL losses to Edgar and Tarquinio. He will need a strong performance on both days to earn his first trip to the NCAA tournament.
Senior Mike Torriero enters the 149-pound bracket as somewhat of a dark horse. Two-time NCAA All-American Mike Maney of Lock Haven is the favorite. However, Torriero has a major decision dual-meet win over Maney earlier this season. Cleveland State’s Matt Kocher and Edinboro’s Deonte Penn have also received plenty of attention. Torriero owns a 5-2 EWL ledger and could make a run at a Top 3 finish.
Sophomore Matt Lebe, who leads the team in wins with a 26-6 mark, aims for his first EWL title at 157 pounds. Lebe finished the EWL dual season unbeaten in 2004 and was as runner-up a year ago. He will receive ample competition from Lock Haven’s Charlie Brenneman, Cleveland State’s Jason Effner and Edinboro's Eric Ring.
True freshman Zac Fryling secures the 165-pound position for West Virginia. Edinboro’s All-American Matt King is the hands-down favorite. Last season King won the EWL title and placed fourth at NCAAs. Virginia Tech's Chris Stith has traded wins with King this season with a potential showdown possible. Don’t count out Lock Haven’s Jason Gilligan to make a run.
Sophomore Eric Mullen fills in at a crowded 174-pound weight class. Edinboro's Nate Yetzer, who holds a Top 10 national ranking, looks to be the frontrunner. Several grapplers will challenge to place including Pitt’s Fran Iorfido, Cleveland State’s Matt Kallai and Virginia Tech’s Steve Borja.
NCAA champion Greg Jones looks for his third straight conference crown after winning two titles at 174 pounds. Jones, the nation’s No. 1 ranked wrestler, has a perfect 7-0 mark in EWL matches this year. Nationally ranked Alex Clemsen of Edinboro will be Jones’ toughest opponent. Others who could contend for a placing spot are Lock Haven’s Mike Greenberg and Shaun Guttridge of Virginia Tech.
Junior Matt Daddino enters the 197-pound class with some extra motivation. Daddino posted a 5-1 record with his lone loss coming to Edinboro’s Mike LaBella in the final weekend of the regular season. Pitt’s Josh Birt and Cleveland State’s Joe Phillips have the potential to make a run at a conference crown. This weight class is one of the toughest in the EWL.
Sophomore Lanfer Simpson enters the heavyweight bracket with little experience. The Mountaineer sophomore has just eight career matches under his belt. The top two heavyweights are both nationally ranked in Cleveland State's Russ Davie and Edinboro's Joe Hennis. Simpson owns a 4-1 EWL record and will battle Pitt’s Travis Shirley, Lock Haven's Steve Itterly and Clarion's Matt Wilcox for placing honors.
Every wrestler who steps foot on a mat has dreams of winning a league title and competing at the NCAA Tournament. The effort and commitment to being the best will be put to the test this weekend for 10 Mountaineer wrestlers.
The step toward winning an EWL title starts Saturday.
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