For many wrestling fans in the Pacific Northwest, this weekend’s Pac-10 Conference Wrestling Championships are hopefully not the last time the wrestling mats will be rolled out at historic McArthur Court at the University of Oregon.
With hasty decisions surrounding the elimination of the program, Oregon will have one last chance to showcase the sport it feels belongs on the Eugene campus.
Cal State-Fullerton still has a good chance at taking the conference title, but the loss of returning All-American Wade Sauer prior to the Pac-10 tournament strikes a serious blow to the Titans chances at winning the tournament. Kurt Klimek will see action in Sauer’s place and actually comes in as the fourth-seed at heavyweight.
Stanford will have strong tournament points, as will probable favorite Boise State.
Individually, the conference will qualify 38 wrestlers to St. Louis
Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for at Mac Court on Sunday and Monday.
125 pounds Two-time All-American Tanner Gardner of Stanford is looking for his third medal at the NCAA Championships and should be more or less a shoe-in to take home the championship at 125. Gardner’s coming into the tournament with a 35-1 record and hasn’t been challenged within the conference. Arizona State freshman Anthony Robles has made a solid transition to Division I wrestling and has filled into a very solid wrestler at the weight after winning the NHSCA Senior Nationals two years ago as a high school senior. Despite not having one of his legs, Robles has continued improving on his mat skills and that makes him a contender … next year. Gardner’s got too much. Brandon Zoetewey of Cal State-Bakersfield is the third seed and will draw sixth-seeded Joey Lucas of Oregon in the quarters.
133 pounds Fullerton’s T.J. Dillashaw rose in the rankings after a solid finish earlier this year in Vegas and will be the tournament’s top seed. He’ll be challenged when he reaches the semifinals by either fourth-seeded Ryan Dunn of Oregon of fifth-seeded Boris Novachkov of Cal Poly. Dunn recently handed three-time All-American Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State a loss in a dual at Mac Court, while Novachkov was ranked at 125 for much of the year before moving up a weight and filling the void left by his injured brother, Filip, at 133. California native Todd Schavrien has had a very quiet season at 133 pounds and has gone relatively unnoticed, but he’s 13-6 and drew the #3 seed, likely on the strength of his victory over Dunn back in late January. Cory Fish of Boise is the second seed and comes in with a 20-6 record. Fish’s most impressive wins this season have been victories over Dunn, Maryland’s Steve Bell, and Virginia’s Eric Albright.
141 pounds Unbeaten and top-ranked Chad Mendes is the top seed for obvious reasons. The senior has made a successful jump up to 141 from 125, where he was an All-American two years ago for the Mustangs. After Mendes, it’s a very wide open weight. On the bottom side, third-seeded Elijah Nacita of Cal State-Bakersfield and second-seeded Teddy Astorga of Fullerton will battle it out down low. Astorga can’t look past seventh-seeded Nexi Delgado of UC Davis. Delgado beat Astorga in early February in the dual between the two teams. Nacita lost to Astorga earlier in the season and he might be the guy to come out of the bottom and challenge Mendes in the finals. Nacita, a redshirt freshman, has won 13 of 14 going in. One to keep an eye on when he comes back through the consolation is scrappy Heinrich Barnes, the NJCAA champion last year and a member of the South African world team which competed in Azerbaijan at the World Championships last September.
149 pounds One of the better weights in terms of depth in the conference is here at 149 pounds. Fullerton’s Morgan Atkinson came into last year’s NCAA championships with a Top 12 seed and didn’t wrestle up to it. Now, as the top seed in the Pac-10 and an impressive 30-5 mark with all of his losses coming to nationally-ranked wrestlers. Atkinson’s the favorite, but redshirt freshman Adam Hall of Boise State is a fiery wrestler coming off a long layoff. Oregon State’s Kyle Larson, an NCAA qualifier as a sophomore, will come in with the #3 seed, followed by Bakersfield’s Jeremy Doyle at #4, Cal Poly’s Eric Maldonado at #5 and Stanford’s Lucas Espericueta at #6. Maldonado and Doyle met on February 10 with Doyle picking up a 13-4 major decision. Hall’s 20-5 and hasn’t wrestled since a January 13 dual with Cal Poly. Two of his losses this season are to Nebraska’s Jordan Burroughs, another to Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota and two more coming from Atkinson. The conference could take the top five here, depending on how upsets fall at other weights.
157 pounds The best weight in terms of overall star power, with Cal Poly’s Chase Pami, Stanford’s returning All-American Josh Zupancic and Boise State’s Tyler Sherfey. All three had beaten each other in terms of the round-robin, with Pami beating Zupancic and losing to Sherfey, while Sherfey lost to Zupancic. Pami ends up with the #1 seed and a 21-4 record, while Sherfey’s the three at 26-7. Zupancic and Sherfey will be a high-quality semifinal. Zupancic comes in 33-5. After those three, Oregon’s Kyle Bounds draws the #4 seed and will face the winner of the Tim Patrick (Oregon State) and Devan Velasquez (Fullerton) bout in the opening round. Pami should reach the finals and give Cal Poly some solid tournament points.
165 pounds It would appear that two consecutive Round of 12 finishes at the NCAA Tournament were good enough to give Arizona State’s Pat Pitsch the top seed. There’s no question Pitsch rises to the occasion in the post-season, but coming in 15-8 and with four losses to wrestlers within the Pac-10, a top seed does indeed seem questionable. Pitsch will be tested right off the bat with the eighth seed, Dustin Noack of UC Davis. Noack’s only wrestled one match this season, a Nov. 9 dual against Arizona State. Boise State’s Kurt Swartz is the second seed and will draw Fullerton’s Teddy Bristol in the opening round. The third seed down low with Swartz is Cal Poly’s Ryan Williams. The redshirt junior is 16-10 coming in and does have a win over top-seeded Pitsch this season. Bakerfield’s Daniel Atondo is the fourth seed and will first see Kyle Barrett of Stanford in the opening round and should he move on, will face fifth seeded Zack Frazier of Oregon.
174 pounds Not a weight that has any notable superstars, but the top five seeds have all had solid seasons. Lee reeled off five straight wins through January and early February over the five seeded wrestlers behind him and is the easy favorite. Stanford’s Luke Feist will face seventh-seeded Todd Noel of Fullerton in the quarters. UC Davis’ Tyler Bernacchi will draw the third seed and will take on the winner of the opening round bout between Ricky Renzi of Arizona State and Ronnie Lee of Oregon. One of Portland State’s best shots at getting their first qualifier since heavyweight Alex Kennett qualified in 2005. Seley’s only 9-6 but has considerable talent. He’ll be seeded fifth and will draw Bakersfield’s Daniel Alejandro in the first round with the winner facing Oregon State’s Chris Platt.
184 pounds Two solid All-American candidates are seeded 1-2 at 184 pounds, with true freshman Kirk Smith of Boise State earning the #1 seed and Cal State-Fullerton’s Ian Murphy the #2. Smith is 20-2 on the season, with both losses coming to Iowa’s Phil Keddy. Smith beat Murphy 3-2 in a dual on Jan. 11. Murphy’s looking to make the tournament after his season was cut short last year after being declared academically ineligible. Murphy’s 23-6 on the year and hasn’t lost since his match with Smith. Arizona State redshirt freshman Brent Chriswell is a dangerous wrestler capable of getting the fall. He’s seeded third. Stanford’s Zack Giesen, an Oregon native, will be the fourth seed. One seed that could leave you scratching your head is Portland State’s Jacob Antoine drawing the #5 with an 11-22 record.
197 pounds A weight devoid of any serious All-American contenders, but it should be a very balanced weight, but Arizona State’s Jason Trulson’s a returning NCAA qualifier who started the season ranked. After Trulson, the top seed, John Drake of Fullerton is the #2 and Oregon State’s Kyle Bressler is the #3. Boise State’s Matt Casperson has been a pleasant surprise for the Broncos since moving up from 184. Just 9-7 at 184, Casperson moved up in January and lost his initial bout at the weight to Drake, and since, has reeled off 10 straight wins. Bressler moved up in February after wrestling the entire season at 184.
285 pounds Boise State’s Nick Smith is the second Smith brother to draw the #1 seed in the Pac-10 tournament, joining younger brother Kirk. Nick, a transfer from Virginia, is 14-8 this year. Travis Gardner from Oregon State is the second seed, while the third seed goes to Oregon’s Charlie Alexander. Wade Sauer, as mentioned previously, would have been the top-seed at the weight, but a neck injury sustained in a dual against Northern Colorado ended his season. Sauer’s replacement, Kurt Klimek, will get the fourth seed. Fifth-seeded Mitch Monteiro entered the Bakersfield lineup and only has one match under his belt this year, a win over seventh-seeded Jim Powers of Cal Poly. As typical with heavyweights, this is a weight that’s open for the taking.