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Nation­al Duals Pre­view: Top-Ranked Wrestlers Set to Face One Another

DALLAS – The

National Duals brings most of the NCWA’s top teams together for the first time

this season, and with seven of the top eight ranked teams competing in

Mesquite, Nevada, it’s a great time to measure where each wrestler stands in

their respective weight classes.



The

tournament has teams from seven of its eight conferences in attendance at the

Casablanca Resort Event Center, making this the first time for most of the

wrestlers to face NCWA opponents from outside their own conference or geographic

region. This tournament will be especially important for teams from the West

Coast and Northwest Conferences, who have an all-time high of seven teams in

the 16-team field. It’s a chance for the Division I programs at Grays Harbor

College, Colorado State, UNLV, Washington State, Dixie State, Cal State

Northridge along with Richland College from the Southwest Conference to make

their mark against opponents they would not usually see until the NCWA

Championships in March.



The

National Duals is being hosted out west for the first time under the NCWA’s

guideline to alternate its duals championship tournament between east and west

hosts. The West Coast Conference is the official host of the tournament that begins

Friday at 10 a.m. (PST) (Noon EST) with round-robin duals within the four-team

pools, then contests its championship and consolation bracket competition at

10:45 a.m. (PST) Saturday. The brackets will play out all the way from its

championship to 15th-place matches.



The top

four seeds based on competition criteria thus far in the season are No. 1 seed

and defending champion Liberty, No. 2 Apprentice, No. 3 Grand Valley State and No.

4 Springfield Tech CC. Liberty edged Apprentice, 26-24, in a dual match at the

Virginia Duals two weeks ago.



Among those

top-seeded teams, there are a host of anticipated individual matchups that

could occur. The top three ranked wrestlers at 125 pounds are in attendance,

including defending national champion Colton Messick (26-8) of Apprentice. He

could see second-ranked David Campbell of Grays Harbor in Saturday’s matches. Campbell

has yet to compete in the NCWA but was the NJCAA runner-up at 125 in 2017.

Springfield Tech’s Chris Vega is the ranked third at 125.



Two

two-time All-Americans are at the top of the rankings at 133. Brenda Hazelton

(17-1) of Grand Valley State took fourth last year at 125 and is ranked just

ahead of Toledo’s De’Ante Evans (11-1), last year’s runner-up at 133.

Apprentice’s Kolin Johnson (21-9) and STCC’s David Ortiz (14-4) are third and

fourth in the latest rankings.



Central

Florida is seeded fifth in the tournament and features one of the tournament’s

top wrestlers in three-time All-American Jesse Gaudin (2-1). Gaudin has placed

in the top four in the last three national tournaments but has seen limited

action this season. Heavyweight will be one of the featured classes at the

National Duals with six of the top nine ranked wrestlers competing. Liberty’s

Dominick Johnson (14-5) is ranked second and is a two-time All-American. Apprentice

and Springfield Tech have two outstanding freshmen in the field with Peter

Cortapasso (19-8) and Chaasadyah St. Phard (15-2), who are ranked fifth and

sixth, respectively. Grays Harbor, seeded sixth and a darkhorse in the field,

has Octavio Alejandre (8-4) in the field ranked eighth and Dixie State, seeded

12th, has its highest-ranked wrestler at heavyweight in Nathaniel

Connelly (5-2).



The

top-ranked wrestler at 149, Zach Blevins of Toledo (16-0) remains undefeated

and will get perhaps the biggest test among Friday’s round-robin matches when

he faces third-ranked Chad Cantrell (12-6) of Liberty in the final pool match.

One of Apprentice’s top freshmen, Tyler Johnson (8-3) is ranked fifth at 149.



Grand

Valley State, which has placed among the top six teams in all 13 previous

National Duals, has undefeated Brandon Turner at 9-0 wrestling at 157 pounds

and ranked fifth. He is slated to get another of Friday’s big bouts when GVSU

takes on Central Florida in pool play. Matthew Seymour (8-4) is a two-time

All-American at UCF and is ranked third at 157. Andrew Burgette (20-4) of

Liberty is one of Liberty’s 20-match winners already and is ranked fourth.



The 174

class is loaded with five of the top eight ranked wrestlers in attendance.

STCC’s Jacob Berry (10-1) leads the field with the top ranking in the class,

with Liberty’s Samuel Karel (8-8) ranked second. UCF’s Ethan Ahrens (7-4) is

ranked fourth with Grand Valley’s Joseph Posiedni (18-4) ranked sixth.

Apprentice checks in with eighth-ranked Daniel Henson (3-8).



Five of

the top eight wrestlers in the current 184 rankings are in Mesquite as well.

UCF’s Jarrod Smiley (6-1), a two-time All-American, leads the National Duals

field ranked third, followed by Apprentice’s William Sorey (19-10) and

Liberty’s Josh McIlhenny (18-9). Grand Valley’s Ahmad Khatib (4-3) and Toledo’s

Major Moore (3-0) are ranked seventh and eighth, respectively.  



Ty Boyd,

a three-time NCWA All-American at Apprentice, is ranked second at 141 after

spending most of the season wrestling at 149. STCC’s Marcos Mercado is ranked

fourth at 141.



Apprentice

has another top-ranked wrestler to 165 in Chad Simmons (24-7), a two-time

All-American coming into his senior year. Liberty’s Luke Ely is 6-8 having

wrestled at 174 most of the season. He is currently ranked fourth at 165.

Simmons took a 2-1 win over Ely at 165 at the Virginia Duals.



Liberty

and Apprentice are at the top of the 197 rankings as well, and the class

features two defending national champions. Austin Amos (23-2) of Liberty

headlines the group as the top-ranked wrestler coming off a national title at

235. Apprentice’s Ross Graham (3-3) won the 197 national title last year.

Graham bumped up a weight at the Virginia Duals and missed wrestling Amos but

lost in that match to Liberty’s top-ranked 235-pounder, Jeff Allen, 6-1.



Allen

(19-6) is one of Liberty’s outstanding freshmen. He’s is top-ranked at 235

followed by Grand Valley’s Harun Bogdanic (0-0), a two-time All-American who

has yet to wrestle this season. It is not known whether Bogdanic will wrestle

at the National Duals.