NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
Jones Seeks Third NCAA Title
By Tim Goodenow
WVU Sports Information Office
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (March 16, 2005) * Five West Virginia University wrestlers make the journey to St. Louis this week for the 75th NCAA Wrestling Championships at the Savvis Center on March 17-19.
Six Mountaineers qualified for the national tournament but just five will travel as freshman Jared Villers will stay home because of an injured knee suffered at the 2005 Eastern Wrestling League Championships nearly two weeks ago.
Two Mountaineers earned seeds late Monday night as Greg Jones (184) assumes the No. 1 seed for the third time in his career while Matt Lebe (157) was awarded the No. 7 slot.
Jones can become the first three-time NCAA champion from the EWL and just the 39th wrestler in NCAA history to win three national titles. WVU's senior carries the nation's second longest win streak into the national tournament with 46 consecutive victories. That mark ties the school record he previously set from 2001-03.
Challenging Jones for his third title will be the top four seeds behind him including Kurt Backes of Iowa State, Travis Pascoe of Nebraska, Eric Bradley of Penn State and Brian Glynn of Illinois. Pascoe collected a take down on Jones earlier this season; one of just 10 times Jones has been taken down in 125 career matches.
Junior Lebe assumes the No. 7 seed in perhaps the nation's toughest weight class. Each 157-pounder has at least one loss as the top eight will battle it out for the national championship. The top seed is Big Ten champion Alex Tirapelle of Illinois while the defending national champion Matt Gentry is the No. 3 seed. Michigan's Ryan Bertin earned the No. 2 seed as the top seven seeds have already earned All-America honors. Lebe reached the round of 12 a year ago * one win shy of AA status * and has won his last 10 matches heading into Thursday.
Two Mountaineers make return trips to the NCAAs in junior Seth Lisa (133) and sophomore Zac Fryling (165).
Lisa, who qualified as a freshman in 2003, is coming off a runner-up performance at the EWL Championships where he battled No. 1 ranked Shawn Bunch of Edinboro to a 4-3 decision. Lisa will face No. 5 seed Tom Clum of Wisconsin in the opening round. 2003 NCAA champion Travis Lee of Cornell was seeded No. 1 as Bunch drew the No. 2 seed with Minnesota's Mark Reiter and Illinois' Mark Jayne taking No. 3 and 4.
Fryling makes his second consecutive trip to St. Louis after posting his first 20-win season in 2005. He will see 12th-seeded Mike Patrovich of Hofstra in the opening round. Defending champion Troy Letters of Lehigh is the favorite with Michigan's Ryan Churella the No. 2 seed. Fryling, who took third at the 2005 EWL Championships, will need a strong effort early on to advance towards placing rounds.
True freshman Shawn Cordell (125) makes his first national tournament appearance this week. Cordell, like teammate Lisa, is coming off a runner-up finish at the league tournament. He hopes the third time is the charm on Thursday, as he will face Penn State's Adam Smith who has two wins over Cordell this season. The top four seeds have fought all season for the No. 1 spot as Oklahoma's Same Hazewinkel earned the No. 1 seed. Michigan State's Nick Simmons, Illinois' Kyle Ott and Cal Poly's Vic Moreno received the two-four seeds.
WVU's 197-pounder Villers gave his spot to Bloomsburg heavyweight Mike Spaid, the EWL's first alternate.
The Mountaineers qualified seven grapplers to St. Louis a year ago as they finished 16th overall. WVU has finished in the Top 25 in six of the last seven years at the NCAA Championships.
This is the third time this decade that the tournament has been held in the Gateway City. In 2000, St. Louis set the event's all-time total attendance record. More than 87,000 fans passed through the turnstiles during the 2004 tournament. This year, local organizers are expecting more than 90,000 fans to attend the six sessions at Savvis Center. St. Louis is the first city to host back-to-back Championships in the 75-year history of the event.
No West Virginia wrestler received pigtail bouts to open competition on Thursday with Session I at 11 a.m. CST. ESPNU will carry the quarterfinals live on Friday morning at 10 a.m. CST. Later that night, ESPN will syndicate live coverage of the semifinals at 6 p.m. CST. ESPN will air the championship finals on Saturday at 4 p.m. CST.
A major celebration is scheduled for Friday, March 18, at St. Louis Union Station to commemorate the Championships' 75th anniversary. For Jones, Lebe, Lisa, Fryling and Cordell * the road to the national championship begins Thursday!
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