National powerhouse programs looking to repeat as NWCA’s Mat Mayhem returns to Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne, Indiana – A look at history will show the five team champions at the NWCA’s Multi-Divisional National Duals presented by the United States Marine Corps and Theraworx have combined to win 20 team dual titles since 2011. A look at the future might show 80 more opinions on how to stop the flood of hardware that’s headed to schools like Notre Dame College, Wartburg, Grand View, Clackamas and King University.
Eighty-five total teams will take to the mats on Thursday at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, as the National Wrestling Coaches Association will kick off the NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals presented by the United States Marines Corps and Theraworx hosted by NUWAY. Simply put, it’s Mat Mayhem.
“This is a collection and celebration of college wrestling and the growth we’ve seen throughout the non-Division I ranks,” said NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer. “We have 85 different teams, but if you look at the foundations of those 85, we’ll see 51 percent of them have started since 2001. On the women’s side, 12 of the 15 teams were started in the last 10 years. In the NAIA, 12 of the 16 teams are newer programs. Half of our Division II teams are also new. This event is just as much about the growth of wrestling as it is the actual competition.”
Teams still come for the competition, because while returning champions Wartburg, Grand View and King are still ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions, the field of 85 contains 69 nationally ranked teams.
“We’re also pleased to see great wrestling companies with a vested interest not only in the health of our sport but the safety of our athletes coming together to support this tremendous and massive event,” said Moyer. “We’re welcoming Bats-Toi with its revolutionary headgear, Sterilaser, a new UV Light technology to disinfect mats and Spartan Races, which can challenge even the toughest athletes. We again welcome longtime supporters Wrestlers in Business Network, Pittsburgh Trophy, Resilite, Rice Lake and EZ Flex Mats to one of college wrestling’s largest events.”
In Division II, Notre Dame College is the returning champions, but the Falcons missed out on doubling up with an NCAA team championship last March. That NCAA championship went to St. Cloud State, which won its second title in a row. Notre Dame College and coach Frank Romano saw his team defeat two-time champion St. Cloud State 21-15 in the finals in 2016. For the Falcons to repeat, they’ll have to go through St. Cloud State again. Coach Steve Costanzo and his Huskies come in as the top seed and looks to win the school’s third NWCA National Duals title. The Huskies claimed back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 as part of a Division II record win streak of 54 dual wins in a row. That streak ended at the 2014 National Duals at the hands of Notre Dame College, which won its first Division II crown that same season.
St. Cloud State opens with San Francisco State, While Notre Dame College faces Indianapolis. Third-seeded Maryville, the 2015 champions, open up with Newberry, while fourth-seeded Nebraska-Kearney gets rolling with Tiffin. Other first-round bouts are: Pitt-Johnstown vs. McKendree, Wisconsin-Parkside vs. Upper Iowa, Wheeling Jesuit vs. Findlay and Mercyhurst vs. CSU-Pueblo.
In Division III, Wartburg has remained the dominant force at the National Duals. The Knights have won 10 titles all-time and are seeking a seventh straight dual championship. Last season, coach Eric Keller’s squad knocked off Wabash 28-12 in the finals. Division III, the largest section of college wrestling with over 100 programs also has the largest field. With 22 teams in the mix, there are six first-round duals to determine a full field of 16.
Ithaca and coach Marty Nichols is the second seed, followed by third-seeded Augsburg and fourth-seeded Johnson & Wales.
The top four seeds as well as No. 5 Wabash and No. 6 Concordia-Moorhead will receive first-round byes. Millikin will face Wheaton in an opening round dual with the winner facing Wartburg. Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Olivet will wrestle an opening round dual with the winner facing Wabash, while The College of New Jersey and Concordia (Wis.) will square off to see who faces Johnson & Wales on the top side of the bracket. On the bottom half, the North Central-Springfield winner will face Augsburg, the Ferrum-Alma winner will face Concordia-Moorhead, while the Augustana (Ill.)-Mount Union winner will face Ithaca. The Baldwin Wallace-NYU dual and the Coe-Wisconsin-Whitewater duals are already set for the round of 16.
In the NAIA, Grand View has bullied its way to the last five NAIA National Duals championships and the last five NAIA National Championships. Coach Nick Mitchell’s squad shows no signs of stopping as the Vikings will bring six top-ranked wrestlers into Fort Wayne, including national champions Jacob Colon (133), Michael Pixley (184) and Dean Broghammer (285). Second-seeded Indiana Tech fell to Grand View 33-15 in the championship final last season. One team to watch for is third-seeded Williams Baptist. The Walnut Ridge, Arkansas school is seeded third and has rapidly ascended the NAIA rankings and coach Kerry Regner’s squad could be poised for a breakout team performance.
Grand View will open with Doane with the winner facing the winner of the Missouri-Valley Campbellsville dual. Southern Oregon and Cumberland University face off with the winner facing either fourth-seeded Oklahoma City or Baker. On the bottom half, Indiana Tech opens with Lindenwood-Belleville, while Williams Baptist faces Northwestern College of Iowa. Life will face Midland and Wayland Baptist faces Concordia (Neb.) in the final opening-round dual.
Always entertaining, the NJCAA field is headed up by Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. The Golden Norsemen have won two NJCAA national championships in the program’s first three seasons, but the National Duals title has eluded coach Joe Renfro. The squad was second last season to returning champion Clackamas and third in 2014. NEO will open with Northwest Kansas Tech in the first round. A powerful quartet of Iowa schools enter the tournament seeded second through fifth. Iowa Central, which last won the National Duals title in 2012, will come in as the second seed and face Colby in the first round. Third-seeded Iowa Western kicks off its tournament with Lincoln College of Illinois, while Ellsworth starts off with Muskegon. Fifth-seeded Iowa Lakes opens with Harper.
Clackamas is the sixth seed and will face Barton, a first-year program out of Kansas, while No. 7. Northwest (Wyo.) will face Nassau in the opening round. No. 8 Niagara will produce another New York vs. Wyoming matchup as Thunderwolves will face Western Wyoming.
King University will look to win its fourth straight WCWA National Duals championship. The Tornado lead the 15-team field and coach Jason Moorman’s squad comes in No. 1. They’ll have to wait until Thursday night before seeing any action as they have a bye prior to facing the winner of the Missouri Valley-Life dual. King also boasts four top-ranked wrestlers, including 2016 Olympian Haley Augello.
Oklahoma City, a traditional power now under the guise of first-year head coach Matt Stevens, is seeded second. The Stars open with Adrian in the first round with the winner facing the winner of the Missouri Baptist-Jamestown dual. McKendree, seeded third, opens up with Lindenwood-Belleville and the winner of that dual facing either No. 6 Wayland Baptist or Emmanuel.
Up top, No. 4 Campbellsville will open up with Ferrum College, while No. 5 University of the Cumberlands will entertain Southern Oregon.