WVU Prepares for NCAA Championships

By Ira Green
WVU Sports Information Office

OMAHA, Neb. (March 17, 2010) – After nearly a two-and-a-half week layoff, three West Virginia University wrestlers will compete at the 2010 NCAA Wrestling Championships at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday, March 18-20. Session one on the first day of competition will begin at noon ET.

Redshirt senior Donnie Jones (165) earned his third bid to the national tournament, becoming the 12th Mountaineer to earn a bid at least three times to the NCAA Championships. Freshman Shane Young (125) and junior college transfer Brandon Williamson (HWT) each punched their first tickets to the championships.

Collectively, the Mountaineers faced six ranked teams throughout the season, including programs with numerous ranked wrestlers. Coach Craig Turnbull says that although the team record was not where he wanted it, the challenges faced along the way become valuable entering the national tournament.

“Part of the reason for the schedule to be as tough as it was, we want these people to come through seasoned, with a good understanding of where they are compared to their best competition in the country,” Turnbull says. “I believe the schedule has prepared all three very well. They have seen the best people in the country throughout the year, and they have a good understanding that when they get their best wrestling out, they can beat everyone.”

A Slickville, Pa., native, Jones will be slated against a familiar face in No. 7 seed Ryan Morningstar of Iowa. The two squared off last season when Morningstar was a No. 3 seed, with the bout going into sudden victory and the Iowa wrestler earning a takedown for the 3-1 decision. This season, Morningstar owns a 26-6 overall record and took fourth place at the Big Ten Tournament.

“Donnie, having been there two other times and competed well in this tournament, is ready to take that step up and stand on the podium,” Turnbull comments. “With an outstanding tournament, he can put himself anywhere from being in the finals to placing. A lot of it will be Donnie having his focus where it needs to be and putting his best wrestling forth. He's capable of beating anyone in the country when he's competing at his best.”

Entering the tournament with a 20-10 overall mark, Jones has won six of his last seven matches. He took runner-up at the 2010 EWL Championships at 165 pounds after medically forfeiting the title bout to Edinboro’s Jarrod King. Jones defeated Clarion’s Nick Milano, 11-5, and then upset the No. 2 seed and 11th-ranked Rick Schmelyun of Bloomsburg, 2-1. The 20 victories is a career high for Jones.

Young, who has had an impressive true freshman campaign, will head to Omaha sporting a 16-8 overall mark. His first opponent is Cal-State Bakersfield’s Frank Lomas, a redshirt sophomore who earned one of the four 125-pound at-large bids. Lomas placed fifth at the Pac-10 Championships and is 22-15 this season.

“Shane's biggest challenge probably is that this is his first time to the NCAA Tournament,” Turnbull says. “He's shown throughout the season that he has continued to get better, continued to wrestle with the poise to compete at the national level, and I do believe that when he gets his best match out, he's capable of wrestling in that top eight area. The question mark is dealing with the unknown. Using history as a guide, the high school state tournament was always very important to him, and he won three state tournament titles. I would think he'll go out when it's time to wrestle and compete hard. If he puts an outstanding tournament together, I think he'll have an opportunity to place at the national tournament.”

A Jeannette, Pa., native, Young took second at the league championships, falling to top-seeded and 20th-ranked Anthony Zanetta of Pitt, 4-2. Young reached the title bout after posting a 17-2 technical fall over Cleveland State’s Ronald Butler and defeating eighth-ranked Eric Morrill of Edinboro, 3-2.

Williamson, who already has competed in two national tournaments at the junior college level, will make his first appearance facing Division I competition. The Riverside, Conn., native is pitted against Central Michigan’s Jarod Trice, a No. 7 seed. Trice, who finished third at the MAC Championships, owns a 23-2 overall record.

“Brandon, I think, went through the middle of the year where he learned a tremendous amount,” Turnbull states. “He took a few losses in a row and started to question himself. The level of competition this year was so much higher than what he was used to at the junior college level. Once he found the right answers, he's wrestled at a Top 10 level for the second half of the year, and I think he's entering the tournament with a good amount of confidence.”

The 2008 junior college heavyweight national champion, Williamson placed second at the EWL Championships. Before the title match, he rolled past Bloomsburg’s Zac Walsh and Clarion’s Quintas McCorkle. Williamson has won nine of his last 10 matches, improving his overall record to 18-7 mark. Nine of his victories this season have come by bonus decision.

For those unable to attend the event, the first two sessions will be streamed on NCAA.com. Sessions three through five will be shown live on ESPNU, and session six, the championship matches, will be broadcast on ESPN, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Also, continue to check MSNsportsNET.com for updates and additional details to see how the Mountaineers fare in Omaha.

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