Mountaineers Prepped for NCAA Championships
ST. LOUIS (March 18, 2015) – Four members of the West Virginia University wrestling team will represent the Mountaineers at the 2015 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis from March 19-21.
Zeke Moisey (125), Michael Morales (141), Bubba Scheffel (184) and Jake A. Smith (197) earned at-large bids to the tournament, which will follow a double-elimination format. The first session will begin Thursday at Noon ET, with the second session starting at 7 p.m. ET. Friday’s morning session will start at 11 a.m. ET, with the semifinals taking place at 8 p.m. ET that evening. The medal round begins at 11 a.m. ET Saturday morning, with the championship finals taking place at 8 p.m. ET. See attached bracket for more information.
ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app will carry live video for every mat and every round. As there is a separate video link for each mat, @WVUWrestling will tweet the particular link before 10 minutes before the start of each competitor’s match. ESPNU will also broadcast the first and second rounds, with ESPN carrying the semifinals and finals live in primetime. Fans can also follow TrackWrestling.com and @WVUWrestling on Twitter for live stats.
“It’s good to be back in St. Louis for the NCAAs with the Mountaineers,” said WVU coach Sammie Henson, who is a native of St. Charles, Missouri. “Our men have had a great week of preparation and were looking sharp and ready to go in yesterday morning’s drill session. Their weight seems to be the best it has been all year and we are ready to battle tomorrow.”
The 2015 participants bring West Virginia’s total to 170 national qualifiers since 1979 when the NCAA implemented the current qualification system. The Mountaineers have earned All-America accolades 29 times at the NCAA Championships and have posted 14 top-25 finishes at the event since 1929. The squad boasts five individual national championships its history, including three-time national champion Greg Jones.
Morales becomes the 28th wrestler in program history to qualify for three or more NCAA Championships, and picked up his first win at the tournament in 2014 when he defeated Davidson’s Kevin Birmingham in an 8-2 decision while wrestling at 149 pounds. Morales dropped his first match, losing a tight 4-3 decision to No. 13 seed Brody Grothus of Iowa before bouncing back to defeat Birmingham in wrestle backs. He then lost a 4-3 decision to Tywan Claxton of Ohio.
As only the top 16 wrestlers earn seeds at the tournament, Morales (28-13) is the first Mountaineer to claim a seeded berth since 2009. The senior will enter as the No. 16 seed overall and take on an unseeded opponent in George Fisher, a redshirt freshman from Michigan with a 24-17 record. The last WVU wrestler to earn a seed was Kurt Brenner, who claimed the No. 10 seed at 174 pounds in the 2009 NCAA Championships.
Scheffel will take part in his second consecutive NCAA tournament. Wrestling at 174 pounds in 2014, he dropped a 10-1 major decision to No. 3 seed Robert Kokesh of Nebraska in the first round. He was then defeated by Ohio State’s Mark Martin in a 5-3 decision in wrestle backs. This season, Scheffel (20-15) will take on No. 2 seed Max Thomusseit (24-1) of Pitt at 184 pounds. The two have not met despite the fact that the Mountaineers faced the Panthers in dual action to close out the season with WVU taking a 24-14 victory over then-No. 18 Pitt in the Backyard Brawl. However, Scheffel is no stranger to ranked foes, having faced 11 this season. He has also seen 12 members of this season’s bracket.
In his first NCAA Championships, freshman Moisey (28-13) will take on No. 15 seed Chasen Tolbert of Utah Valley (18-6) in the 125 pound first round. It marks the second meeting this season between the two, with Moisey earning a 14-10 decision over Tolbert at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas in December. In addition to Tolbert, Moisey has defeated seven members of this year’s 125-pounds bracket. He earned a win over No. 13 seed Ben Willeford of Cleveland State at the Navy Classic and pinned No. 5 seed Sean Boyle of Chattanooga at the Virginia Duals.
Also a first-time national qualifier, Smith will face No.15 seed Aaron Studebaker of Nebraska in his first round matchup at 197. Smith owns a 25-9 mark in his first season with the Mountaineers, while Studebaker enters the tournament 30-10. Hailing from Charleston, Smith became the first West Virginia native to rep the Mountaineers on the Big 12 podium, taking second place at the 2015 Big 12 Championship.
All four have worked their way into the WVU record books this season. A number of wrestlers have entered the WVU record books this season. In his first season with the team, Moisey has moved into a tie with Seth Lisa (2003) for wins by a freshman with 28. He is also tied with Seth Lisa (2003) and Shane Young (2011) for second place in wins at 125 pounds. Morales is in a four-way tie with former teammate Colin Johnston (2014) along with Joe Clarke (2004) and Shane Cunanan (2002) for third place with 28 wins at 141 pounds. With his performance at Big 12s, Smith has moved into third place for wins at 197 with 25. One more win would tie him for 10th place in wins as a sophomore (26).
After setting the school record for pins with 15 as a sophomore in 2014, Bubba Scheffel continues to work his way into the all-time records. Scheffel has pinned four opponents this season for a career-total of 23 wins by fall. That tally ranks him third all-time on the career pins list, tied with Matt Ryan (2009-12).
West Virginia is coming off its best-ever showing at the Big 12 Championship, held March 7 in Ames, Iowa. Though the leaderboard showed a fourth-place finish for the Mountaineers, there was plenty of evidence of improvement. The team eclipsed its previous point total by scoring 35 points at the tournament. The Mountaineers had previously scored 26 points in 2014 and 28 in 2013. For the first time in program history, four wrestlers made it to the Big 12 Championship finals. Moisey took the runner-up spot at 125 pounds, while Roman Perryman took second at 149. Smith was the runner-up at 197 and A.J. Vizcarrondo became the program’s first ever two-time Big 12 finalist with a second-place finish at 285. Scheffel also earned a spot on the podium, grabbing third at 184 pounds.
Henson will look to keep alive a personal streak that dates back to 1997, when he entered the collegiate coaching world. In his 17th year on the bench, Henson has impressively produced an All-American in every single season of his coaching career - totaling 20 on his resume. Five of those All-Americans have been national champions, including J’Den Cox of Missouri in 2014. The Mountaineer have not at an All-American since 2007, when Brandon Rader earned the honors at 141 pounds.
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