Hawkeyes Prepare for NCAA Championships

The last time Iowa won a National Championship in wrestling was in 2000. The location? The Scottrade Center in St. Louis, site of this year's national tournament. Nine Hawkeyes will be heading south this week and the tournament gets underway on Thursday. Here is a weight by weight preview of what awaits the Hawkeyes, plus some notes and statistics...

The seeds for the 2008 National Wrestling Championships were released on Monday, three days in advance of the tournament getting under way in St. Louis.


125:  Charlie Falck received the #5 seed and will face unseeded Fernando Martinez of Army.  Both wrestlers received first round byes.  Martinez put together a record of 34-5 this season, while Falck was 30-4.  Should Falck win the first match he may face 12th seeded Tyler Shinn of Oklahoma State.  The two did not meet during the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual meet earlier this year.  Falck may have a match up against 4th seed Tanner Gardner on Friday if everyone wrestles to seed.  Falck is on the same side of the bracket as Indiana's Angel Escobedo, who won the Big Ten title two weeks ago and is the top seed in the tournament.  Falck beat Escobedo 4-2 earlier this year in a dual meet.  Minnesota's Jayson Ness is the #2 seed; he was previously unbeaten before Escobedo upset him in the Big Ten finals.


133:  Joey Slaton received the #4 seed and if he wrestles to seed, he would not face a seeded wrestler until the quarterfinals on Friday morning.  That's when he may go up against 5th seeded Nick Fanthorpe of Iowa State, who is fresh off of his Big 12 championship and has really had strong second half of the season.  Slaton defeated Fanthorpe 6-5 in Ames earlier this year.  If Slaton wrestles to his seed, he may get another shot at #1 seed Franklin Gomez of Michigan State.  Gomez beat Slaton at the Big Ten's, but Slaton got the best of Gomez at the Midlands back in late December.  So chances are that Slaton will go up against wrestlers that he has had some success against.


141:  Dan Leclere has had an up and down season for Iowa and enters the tournament as the 8th seed.  Leclere has the ability to earn All American honors and a high finish, but he will need to put together a solid run.  Leclere draws unseeded Zach Bailey of Oklahoma in his first match and should he win that, Nick Gallick of Iowa State would be his likely opponent in the second round.  Gallick is the 9 seed and Leclere beat him 3-1 earlier this year.  If everything goes to seed, Leclere would face top seeded and undefeated Chad Mendez of Cal-Poly in the quarterfinals.


149:  Brent Metcalf is the #1 seed, which should come as no surprise.  Metcalf is coming off a Big Ten championship performance that earned him the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the event.  He will face William Rowe of Oklahoma in his first match.  A possible quarterfinal against Jake Patascil from Purdue could be looming; Metcalf beat Patascil 8-0 at the Midlands, but that match was very close until the tail end of the second period.  Metcalf's lone loss of the year came early against Darrion Caldwell of N.C. State; Caldwell is the 7th seed and is on the opposite side of the bracket.  Metcalf is on a 27-match winning streak heading into nationals.


157:  Ryan Morningstar is the lone Hawkeye to be unseeded in this event, and he will face 6th seeded Matt Kocher of Pittsburgh out of the gate.  Should Morningstar pull the upset, which is capable of, he would likely face 11th seed Tyler Sherfey of Boise State in the next round; Morningstar beat Sherfey last month by a score of 3-1 in sudden victory.  But it's going to be an uphill battle, because if Morningstar wins his first two matches, he would likely face Dan Vallimont of Penn State in his third match.  Vallimont is the 3rd seed and has beaten Morningstar twice this year; 6-2 earlier in the year and 2-1 at the Big Tens.  As if that wasn't challenging enough, Mike Poetta of Illinois would await Morningstar on the championship side.  Poetta, the #2 seed at 157 pounds, beat Morningstar 6-2 in Iowa's final dual meet of the year.


165:  Mark Perry received the 2 seed in this year's tournament and is the defending national champion. He lost to Eric Tannenbaum in the Big Ten championships, and Tannenbaum is seeded #1.  Perry beat Tannenbaum at the National Duals in mid January, the final regular season match that Perry wrestled before having surgery to repair his meniscus.  Perry didn't return to action until the Big Ten championships.  If Perry wrestles to seed, he would not face a seeded wrestler until the Friday morning quarterfinals in a possible rematch against Oklahoma State's Jake Diffenbach, who upset Perry in the dual meet at Carver Hawkeye back in early January.  Perry had to be disappointed with how he wrestled against Tannenbaum, and not getting the #1 seed might be just the tonic to motivate Perry, who either lacked motivation or conditioning two weeks ago. 


174:  Jay Borschell earned the 4th seed and he will faced unseeded Lloyd Rogers of Chattanooga in the opening round.  He may face John Dergo of Illinois, who he majored in late February.  If things go to seed, he would face 5 seed Brandon Sinnot of Central Michigan in the quarterfinals, who Jay beat 8-5 at the Midlands.  That might set up a rematch against #1 seed Keith Gavin of Pitt, who had his way with Borschell at the Midlands, winning 13-4.


184:  Phil Keddy drew the 7 seed and will face Charles Pienaar of Eastern Michigan in his first match.  He will likely face 10th seeded Kirk Smith of Boise State after that, and Keddy beat Smith 3-2 in February.  After that it would likely be a rematch against Mike Pucillo of Ohio State, the #2 seed.  Pucillo beat Keddy 3-2 in a dual meet earlier this year.  Keddy has been the second best wrestler for Iowa over the second half of the season and he went 11-2 after losing to Pucillo, including reeling off seven straight wins that included two pins and a tech fall.


197:  Iowa did not qualify a wrestler at this weight class.


HWT:  Matt Fields received the 4th seed and drew a favorable draw.  He'll face Reece Hopkin in his first match and likely won't face a seeded wrestler until the quarterfinals.  That might be a rematch against Jared Rosholt of Oklahoma State, the 5 seed.  Fields beat Rosholt 4-3 in Iowa City in early January.  If Fields can get by that match, he would likely get another crack at #1 seed Dustin Fox of Northwestern; Fox beat Fields 2-1 in Iowa City this year and had an impressive ride in that match. 


NOTES:  Making it to the semifinals guarantees a wrestler no worse than 6th place.  The Top 8 finishers in each weight class earn ‘All American' distinction…

Iowa is one of five schools to qualify nine wrestlers for the national tournament. It is the sixth time in school history that the Hawkeyes have qualified nine competitors. The other years were 1977, 1980, 1984, 1999 and 2000. Iowa has qualified its entire 10-man lineup 17 times, the last being in 2004.

    Boise State, Central Michigan, Minnesota and Northern Iowa also qualified nine competitors. Edinboro and Iowa State are the only schools in the nation to qualify all 10 wrestlers. Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Pennsylvania, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Wisconsin each qualified eight.


Iowa holds five NCAA Championship records. The Hawkeyes hold records for most team points scored (170 in 1997), largest margin of victory (73.25 points in 1986), number of consecutive team titles (nine from 1978-86), most finalists (six in 1986 and 1997) and most individual champions (five in 1986 and 1997).  


Iowa's overall dual meet record is 828-215-30 (.786) in 96 seasons. The Hawkeyes have won 20 national titles and 32 Big Ten titles. Iowa's 48 NCAA champions have won a total of 74 NCAA individual titles, crowning six three-time and 13 two-time champions. The Hawkeyes' 101 Big Ten champions have won a total of 182 conference titles. There have been seven four-time, 18 three-time and 24 two-time Iowa winners. Iowa's 130 all-Americans have earned all-America status 266 times, including 16 four-time, 28 three-time and 32 two-time honorees.  


Five of Iowa's nine qualifiers have competed at the NCAA Championships at least once. Junior Mark Perry is a three-time all-American and the defending NCAA champion at 165 pounds. He placed second at 165 in 2005 and third at 174 in 2006. Junior Charlie Falck (125) is Iowa's other returning all-American, placing eighth last season. Senior Matt Fields (Hwt.) is a three-time NCAA qualifer, and sophomores Ryan Morningstar (157) and Phillip Keddy (184) each qualified for the tournament last season. Sophomores Joe Slaton (133), Dan LeClere (141), Brent Metcalf (149) and Jay Borschel (174) are making their first NCAA tournament appearance.


Six of Iowa's nine NCAA qualifiers are sophomores, and four of them made their Hawkeye debut this season. Joe Slaton (133), Dan LeClere (141), Brent Metcalf (149) and Jay Borschel (174) are in their first season of competition with the Hawkeyes, while sophomores Ryan Morningstar (157) and Phillip Keddy (184) were starters in 2006-07.

    Inexperience in the collegiate arena hasn't hindered this group, as they have been a driving force behind Iowa's success. As a starting unit, the six sophomores have posted a 150-36 mark in collegiate matches, going 103-27 in duals and 35-13 in Big Ten duals. The group accounted for 384 of the 636 team points scored in dual competition, and 84 of Iowa's 127 points at the 2008 Big Ten Championships. They have also accounted for 21 pins, 13 technical falls and 42 major decisions scored this season.

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