(Seed) National Rank, Team
(1) #1 Lindenwood vs. #11 Morningside
As standard with the tournament draws, only the top eight teams are seeded and the rest are drawn into the bracket, this is why the nation’s 11th-ranked team, Morningside, will face top-seeded Lindenwood. Despite only having two ranked wrestlers -- #2 Jared Pickett at 141 and #1 Jake Stevenson at 184 pounds – Morningside has done well since picking the program back up several years ago. The Mustangs will be outgunned at seven weights, where the Lions hold nationally ranked wrestlers. For those of you that don’t pay much attention to the NAIA, there are plenty of good kids to watch. Lindenwood brings the top-ranked wrestlers at 125 (Ray Stephens), 141 (Ryan Moyer), and 285 (Lance Shunia). Also a name to watch is 174-pounder Matt Cauley from Lindenwood. Cauley pinned Navy’s Matt Stolpinski to win the Eastern Michigan Open earlier this year.
(8) #8 Southern Oregon vs. #18 Notre Dame College
The only match between ranked wrestlers will come at heavyweight as Southern Oregon’s Marcus Moore is ranked sixth, while Notre Dame’s Nick Terify is ranked third. A name of note for Notre Dame is former Cleveland State wrestler Victer Crenshaw at 157. Southern Oregon brings in five ranked wrestlers, including the top 125-pounder Trevor Lofstedt. While ranked at the weight, Lofstedt wrestled the last two dates up at 133 pounds. Southern Oregon’s dual strength is solidified by ranked wrestlers Barry Johnson, #3 at 141, Jimmy Ulrey, #7 at 157, Ricky Farrell, #8 at 174 and Moore.
(5) #5 Dickinson State vs. #10 Missouri Valley
Dickinson State and Missouri Valley both bring in four ranked wrestlers apiece. The first two weights are the only two in which the teams have ranked wrestlers squaring off. It should be festive with third-ranked Corey Johnston leading off for Dickinson State against California native Billy Exline from MoVal. At 133, #6 John Gerhold will take on returning All-American Eli Zuniga. Dickinson also brings 197-pound returning national champion Justin Schlect. A name to watch for MoVal is 165-pounder Chris Jones. He placed at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
(4) #4 Dana College vs. #9 Oklahoma City
Dana College won the National Duals in 2006 and brings a solid squad under first-year coach Beau Vest. The Vikings have six nationally ranked wrestlers and four returning All-Americans led by returning NAIA runner-up Burke Barnes. Second-year program Oklahoma City has a formidable dual lineup and goes for the fall, evident by the program’s win over Division II powerhouse Central Oklahoma this year. The Stars, coached by well-respected former El Reno High School coach Archie Randall, bring five ranked wrestlers into the tournament and three returning All-Americans. Matchups to keep an eye on in the opening round include: 157: #3 Dan Pray, a returning All-American for Dana meeting up with another All-American, Brandon Benson of OCU, ranked #5. A pair of ranked heavies will square off with Jeremy Johnson, ranked #8 for OCU and #4 Wade Jordan.
(3) #3 Great Falls vs. #15 University of the Cumberlands
First-year Great Falls coach Caleb Schaeffer brings his Argos in ranked third and have six ranked wrestlers and four All-Americans led by returning national third-place finishers Wayne French (157) and Mike Kummer (184). French might ring a bell for folks of Division I, as he started his career wrestling for Terry Brands at UT-Chattanooga before transferring closer to home – he is, after all, a Montana native. Only one match pits ranked wrestlers against one another and that’s at 197 pounds with #6 Alex Calvi of Great Falls taking on #7 Bobby Jablonski. And if you’re wondering, the University of the Cumberlands used to be known as Cumberland College and is in Williamsburg, Ky. Other All-Americans to watch for are Great Falls’ Ryan Smith (174) and heavy Brad Fraser. Dustin Center is a returning All-American for Cumberlands and is ranked #1 at 149 pounds.
(6) #6t Campbellsville vs. #17 Montana State-Northern
In just three short years, former UT-Chattanooga and VMI assistant Franky James has built a winner at Campbellsville. On the other side is one of the most respected NAIA programs, the Lights of Montana State-Northern. Northern isn’t as strong as it’s been in its past, but returning national runner-up Brian Fritchman leads the way at 197 pounds and former NCAA Division I national qualifier and last year’s NAIA runner-up Corey Borges is also a proven winner. Fritchman will face Glen Jackson in a battle of ranked returning All-Americans at 197 pounds. The Tigers also bring to the mat the nation’s second-ranked 149-pounder, returning national champion Zach Flake. Another name for folks to watch is the explosive true freshman George Sheppard at 157 pounds. This kid is fun to watch.
(7) #6t Embry-Riddle vs. #15t Cumberland University
After stalking the mats in Division I at Ohio State, Embry-Riddle coach Ken Ramsey has the #7-seed, despite his team being ranked tied for sixth with Campbellsville. Returning national champion Hayden Harrison is one of three Harrison brothers wrestling around the country – Hadley’s wrestling at Clarion while Hudson is wrestling with Mercyhurst at the National Duals. Harrison’s wrestled well with Division I All-Americans, but did take a loss last week. Along with Harrison, Embry-Riddle has returning All-Americans Trace Billett (149) and Calvin DeVault (174). They’ll match up with Jarad Swint’s Cumberland University program. Cumberland brings returning All-American Corey Bleaken to the mat at 157 and ranked wrestlers Jordan Powers (184) and Josh Chappa (125). Chappa has a fall this season over Ohio State’s Nikko Triggas.
(2) #2 McKendree vs. #12 Northwestern College
With five weights ranked with six wrestlers (the NAIA can have more than one wrestler ranked at a weight), McKendree’s the second-ranked and second-seeded team will draw John Petty-coached Northwestern College. Of the five wrestlers in the starting line-up, all of them are ranked in the top five. Despite only placing sixth last year, Kyle Jahn is the top-ranked 141-pounder in the nation. The only match with ranked wrestlers comes at 197 pounds with returning All-American Andrew Lundgren of Northwestern taking on Adam Hicks, the fifth-ranked wrestler at the weight.
Looking ahead ...
Should all the top eight seeds advance, which is really uncertain based on the fact the NAIA individual matches can be just as wild as this year’s college football season ... or for that matter, this year’s Division I wrestling season.
Some possible quarterfinal matches that could take place are:
Lindenwood’s Ricky Zuniga, ranked second at 125, could face Trevor Lofstedt, the top-ranked wrestler at the weight, but as mentioned above, Lofstedt’s been wrestling up recently. ... Dana and Dickinson State match up at non-ranked weights in eight of the 10; with 125 and 133 the only pairing of ranked wrestlers should the two teams advance. ... If Great Falls meets Campbellsville, look for a 157-pound bout with Wayne French (UGF) and George Sheppard (Camp). Johnny Sinchock of Campbellsville could meet up with Ryan Smith at 174. ... If Northwestern College pulls the upset, John Petty will coach against his former team at Embry-Riddle, but when/if McKendree moves on, #4 Tanner Wolk (McK) could square off with #5 Travis DeGroat of ERAU.