Previewing the 2009 EWL Tournament
By Ira Green
WVU Sports Information Office
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (March 5, 2009) – Looking to continue its momentum from a strong close to the regular season, the West Virginia University wrestling team will compete at the 2009 Eastern Wrestling League Tournament (EWL) on Saturday, March 7, at Lock Haven’s Thomas Fieldhouse in Lock Haven, Pa. Action is scheduled to begin promptly at 10 a.m. and carry on throughout the entire day.
WVU (8-4-2, 4-0-2 EWL) had two wrestlers, Kurt Brenner (184) and Jared Villers (197), win EWL crowns last year, while David Jauregui (149), Donnie Jones (165) and Chance Litton (174) all finished in second place. The Mountaineers took third place at the league championship, which was held at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House, with 103.5 points.
With the new qualifying allocation system in place for 2009, the EWL is guaranteed 22 automatic qualifiers as opposed to its 32 last year. The weight-by-weight breakdown of the automatic qualifiers are as follows: three at 125 pounds, two at 133, one at 141, three at 149, three at 157, three at 165, one at 174, one at 184, one at 197 and four at heavyweight. Following the tournament, there will be 52 at-large selections made by the NCAA on March 11.
Heading into postseason action, the Mountaineers have three wrestlers ranked in the Top 20: fifth-year senior Brenner is ranked No. 11 at 174 pounds; Rogers, also a fifth-year senior, is ranked No. 11 at the heavyweight position; redshirt junior, Jones, is ranked No. 20 at 165 pounds.
Sporting a 16-4 overall record, including a 6-0 mark in EWL action, Brenner has been tabbed as the man to beat at 174 pounds. The Freedom, Pa., native has compiled a 25-2 mark against EWL opponents through his career and holds an 8-1 record at the EWL Tournament. Brenner’s only close call in league play this season came against Bloomsburg’s Nate Graham on Jan. 23, which Brenner prevailed 2-1 in a tiebreaker.
Brenner will not only be searching for his third league title, but also his fourth NCAA appearance. Standing with a career 92-30 mark, he needs four victories to crack WVU’s all-time wins list.
WVU’s Jones, who also compiled a 6-0 mark in league action, will be in search of his first EWL crown and second NCAA appearance.
Despite missing the first half of the season, Jones has progressed into one of the team’s most dangerous wrestlers as of late, putting together a nine-match winning streak to finish the season. During that stretch, he recorded two upset victories (then-No. 17 ranked Ricky Schmelyun of Bloomsburg, 9-1, and then-11th ranked Jarrod King of Edinboro, 5-3) and five bonus decisions. An aggressive and quick grappler, the Slickville, Pa., native has totaled 41 takedowns through 11 matches, good enough for second on the team.
Completing the trio of wrestlers who have put together perfect records in EWL action is Rogers. A two-time NCAA qualifier, Rogers won his last 10 regular-season matches, including an upset victory over Pitt’s Zach Sheaffer (ranked 8th at the time) and a win against Cleveland State’s Rashard Goff (ranked No. 20 at the time).
"Dustin has made very good improvements,” Coach Craig Turnbull said. “He's become much more confident, which is always an element that he needed to improve. He’s confident to go out there and execute rather than hoping the wins came to him. That weight class is so competitive that one moment in a match not wrestled well can be the difference of being first or fourth. I think he's going in with good confidence and good preparation."
Looking to grab his first league title, Rogers’ field of competition will be the toughest out of all the other weight classes. A total of four EWL wrestlers rank in the Top 20 in the latest InterMat poll, which is tied for second-most in the nation (behind the Big 12’s five and tied with the Big Ten’s four).
Fifth-year senior Jauregui also is in search for his first league title. The Santa Ana, Calif., native took runner-up last year after falling to Edinboro’s Darryl Cocozzo, 4-2.
Since Cocozzo graduated, the field is expected to be more open this year. Jauregui enters the tournament with an 11-3 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in EWL action. His two losses came against Lock Haven’s Matt Fittery and recently, Edinboro’s Torsten Gillespie.
Although the top three finishers in the 149-pound division qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Jauregui stressed how important winning the title this year is to him.
"I really want it badly,” Jauregui, a three-time NCAA qualifier, said. “It's been on my mind to become an All-American since I got here. In order to become an All-American, I need to go to the conference tournament, and for my confidence, I need to take first so it lets me know that I'm on the right path and that everything that I have been working hard for is coming into play. I need to win out so it helps me and my confidence and just proves to me that everything is paying off."
Earlier this season, Jauregui rode a six-match winning streak into league play, along the way defeating then-11th ranked Trevor Chinn of Lehigh, 6-4 in sudden victory and notching a tech fall and major decision as well. He finished the season winning three of his final four matches.
Labeled a “dark horse” for the league tournament, redshirt freshman Matt Ryan is expected to heavily compete for the 197-pound title. Ryan, who came to the Mountaineers mid-season from Virginia Tech, wrestled in four dual meets this season, posting a 3-1 record. He pinned Ohio’s Chris Iammarino in a team-best 1:34 and then posted an impressive victory by defeating Edinboro’s Pat Bradshaw, 5-4, in WVU’s final dual meet of the season on Feb. 22.
"I think Matt’s one of the people who have the opportunity to do that [win a title],” Turnbull added. “That's the fun of any tournament. He, like a few of the guys on the team, is not guaranteed anything with the new qualifier system. I think Bradshaw will probably be the number one seed and Matt's win is a clear statement that he's capable of finishing anywhere from first to wherever. I think it should give him confidence going into the tournament that if he gets his best matches out, that he can compete to get to the national tournament."
The 2009 EWL Tournament, which will be televised, will broadcast at a later date.
MASN ||| DC; MD; VA; NC; PA; DE ||| 3/13 @ 11am; 3/15 @ 2pm
SportsTime Ohio ||| OH ||| 3/12 @ 7pm; 3/15 @ 5am
FSN Pittsburgh ||| PA; OH; WV ||| 3/12 @ 1pm; 3/15 @ 12:30pm
Comcast SportsNet, Philadelphia ||| PA; DE; NJ ||| Monday, March 16 @ 2:30pm
Fox College Sports ||| National ||| Thursday, March 12 @ 1pm
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