SIU Edwardsville set to challenge for NCWA top
By Scott Farrell
The NCWA released its preseason coaches’ poll this month with a new program feasting at the favorite’s table.
Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, which placed third at last year’s NCWA Championships, has assumed the top position based on voting from the association’s Division I coaches. The Cougars return five NCWA All-Americans from last year, including defending national champion David Devine at heavyweight.
The NCWA’s Division I programs are those operating under their school’s athletic department banner or have met established criteria within the NCWA’s guidance.
Close behind SIUE are the NCWA’s last two champions.
Defending champion Central Florida has two three-time All-Americans and six overall back in its line-up. The Apprentice School has four All-Americans returning to its line-up.
Devine, a sophomore, tops the line-up at SIUE, which has aim on its first NCWA title. Brendan Murphy, a sophomore, took third at 133 pounds and won more matches (30) than any other Cougar last year. Dillon Pousson, a junior, took fifth nationally at 141 pounds and was the Cougars’ pins leader with 13 last season. Steve Ross, a junior, took fifth at 157 pounds and junior Eric Pretto (165 pounds) was eighth.
SIUE’s schedule this season parallels its ambitions within the NCWA, but extends far, far beyond its own association. NCWA schools always welcome matches against programs in the other divisions. But SIUE owns what is to date the NCWA’s most aggressive schedule, and perhaps its toughest ever, featuring eight teams that competed in last year’s NCAA Division I Championships, and several other elite programs.
The highlight match is a dual against three-time defending NCAA Division I champion Iowa on Jan. 7. That match marks the first time an NCWA school has wrestled against the NCAA’s champion.
“We are continuing to increase the number of Division I teams on the schedule each year to raise our overall level of competition,” said third-year SIUE head coach David Ray. “This allows our guys to evaluate the level we are currently at and to determine what steps need to be taken to become a competitive program.”
SIUE has Big Ten foe Northwestern scheduled as part of its Cougar Duals on Dec. 19, and will also participate in the Indiana Duals on Jan. 9 along with duals against Illinois (Jan. 21) and Missouri from the Big 12 on Jan. 15. In all, there are 11 Division I teams on the Cougars’ schedule. The Cougars will also travel to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational.
“These quality duals give us a chance to evaluate where we are at as a team and the type of recruits we need to add,” said Ray. “Our schedule is a stepping stone for the wrestling program as a whole as we continue to push toward becoming more improved each and every year. The whole year is going to be exciting and everyone is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”
UCF won’t let go of its 2010 title easily. The Knights have a line-up bolstered by two three-time NCWA All-Americans seeking their first individual national championships. Stephen DeAugustino placed fourth at 133 pounds last season and was seventh in 2008 and third in 2009. Richard Rippy placed third last year at 197 pounds and was second in 2009 and fourth in 2008 at 184.
DeAugustino is a anchor at the front of UCF’s line-up, but the Knights also have Alex Chiricosta, a sophomore who placed fourth last season at 125 pounds. Two senior All-Americans who solidify the middle weights, with T.J. Gillin, who placed eighth last year at 149, and Zumarr Archer, who took seventh at 184. Another senior, Daniel Rowe, placed fourth at heavyweight last season and will rival Devine all season long as the national-title favorite.
The Apprentice School took second last year, falling just short of defending their 2009 NCWA championship. The Builders will be back in the hunt again this season behind four returning All-Americans. Two juniors lead that crew with Marcus Chevres coming back after a second-place finish at 133 pounds, and Quentin Bowling returning after an eighth-place finish at 184.
Patrick McIntosh, a sophomore, made a great run through last year’s national championships, eventually placing fourth at 157 pounds. He’s back, along with sophomore Stuart Roes, who took sixth at 197.
The rest of the coaches’ preseason top 10 includes Marion Military Academy (Ala.), Grand Valley State (Mich.), the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy Prep Schools, new member Penn State-Dubois, Weber State from out West, and West Chester (Pa.).
The NCWA Championships will be hosted by Mercer University from March 10-12, 2011, in Macon, Ga.
Those top 10 teams will get a chance to upend UCF and Apprentice at the NCWA National Duals set for Jan. 28-29 in Dalton, Ga. The top 24 NCWA teams will compete there, and the top eight teams from the 2009 NCWA Championships have all received an invitation. The NCWA has also added a high school division that will invite some of the top programs in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina together for a dual tournament in Dalton, which is at a crossroads to the four states.
The early favorite for National Duals champion may come out of Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 19. Apprentice and Marion Military are a part of UCF’s six-team Knights’ Brawls Duals, which is the NCWA’s top early-season tournament.
The NCWA will host its second American Airlines Challenge in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 15, 2011, with UCF as host. The NAIA defeated the NCWA last year, 39-3, in the event held in Dallas. Both organizations are on tap again in 2011, and details are being ironed out on including a team of NCAA Division II wrestlers to make it a three-division event.
“We’re committed toward making this one of the wrestling season’s top events,” said NCWA Executive Director Jim Giunta. “The NCWA and NAIA had a successful event last year, and this season with the help and support of the NAIA officials and UCF we expect to host a series of dual matches that will command national attention.”
The NCWA, based in Dallas, continues to grow in numbers and expand wrestling’s reach within collegiate athletics. As of Sept. 17, the NCWA has expanded by 10 programs with more applications to process. The new NCWA programs for 2010-11, which hail from seven different states, are Rutgers, Texas-San Antonio, North Florida, Penn State-New Kensington, Central Washington, Minnesota-Duluth, Eastern Washington, Washington Univ. (Mo.), and Rowan (N.J.).