The West Virginia University wrestling team embarks on its postseason this weekend, as the Mountaineers travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championship. The two-day tournament will take place on March 6-7 at the BOK Center.
Pre-seeds and brackets were released earlier this week. The seeds, as voted on by an independent five-person panel, will compete for 45 automatic qualifying bids to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, as well as the 2021 Big 12 Championship team title.
Action starts Saturday with preliminary and quarterfinal rounds set for a noon ET start. The semifinals and consolation quarterfinals will take place at 6 p.m. ET that evening. The consolation semifinals, as well as the third- and fifth-place matches will start at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, with the championship matches set for 6 p.m. ET.
The first three sessions of the championship will be distributed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, the conference’s digital platform, while the championship matches will be televised live on ESPN2. All matches from the championship also will be available on the ESPN App.
Additionally, tickets are available online at BOKcenter.com. All fans will be in POD seating, which increases distancing and minimizes fan crossover when entering and exiting their seats. Fans must purchase all tickets in a selected POD group, available in select section groupings of two, three, four, five, six and eight seats.
“We have stepped up as a team, but this tournament will let each individual know where they stand,” third-year coach Tim Flynn said. “It’s a team sport, but they can go out and win an individual conference title, so I think it gives them a good gage as to where they are, not only in the Big 12, but nationally.
“The first two weight classes are nationally ranked, and then obviously, Peyton (Hall) and Noah (Adams) are nationally ranked. The other guys aren’t, but all of our guys have shown some promise. They all have shown signs that they can compete at a high level. If we can get them to do that this weekend, we will have more than that four number qualify for NCAAs.”
The Mountaineers head to the conference tournament for the ninth time since joining the league in 2012. Last season, WVU maneuvered its way through a 12-team field for a 10th-place finish, as redshirt junior Noah Adams scored a 5-1 decision over South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan in the 197-pound championship match to capture WVU’s first individual conference title since 2017.
Redshirt sophomore Alex Hornfeck and sophomore Scott Joll also competed at last year’s tournament, with Hornfeck earning an eighth-place finish in the 157-pound weight bracket.
WVU has five grapplers pre-seeded inside the top six of their respective weight classes.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan, a transfer from Pitt, enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed at 133 pounds. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native holds a 7-2 mark on the year and is 5-1 against Big 12 opponents, with his only conference loss coming against No. 1-seed Daton Fix of Oklahoma State at the Cowboy Challenge on Feb. 14. Sullivan earned himself a spot in the Mountaineers’ starting lineup on Jan. 31 and has topped a trio of ranked opponents since then. Ranked at No. 16 in the most recent NCAA Coaches’ Panel Rankings released on Feb. 25, he is scheduled to square off with Jack Skudlarzyk of Northern Iowa in the first round.
Freshman Peyton Hall was announced as the No. 2 seed at 165 pounds. Ranked No. 20 in his weight class, the Chester, West Virginia, native has won seven of his last eight matches. He is tied for the team lead in wins with a 10-2 mark and is 5-1 against Big 12 foes. Hall looks to qualify for his first-ever NCAA Tournament, as he drew a first-round match against Utah Valley’s Koy Wilkinson.
Adams is the No. 3 seed at 197 pounds after posting a 10-2 overall mark and a 5-2 record in Big 12 action. The Coal City, West Virginia, native has topped three opponents ranked inside various wrestling publications this season and comes in at No. 6 in the most recent NCAA Coaches’ Panel Rankings. Adams, the 2020 Big 12 Wrestler of the Year, received a first-round bye and will take on the winner of No. 6-seed Marcus Coleman of Iowa State and Nick Villarreal of Fresno State in the quarterfinals.
Redshirt junior Killian Cardinale enters the tournament as the No. 4 seed at 125 pounds. Ranked No. 22 in his weight class, the Bristow, Virginia, native finished the regular season with a 7-3 mark, winning six of his last seven matches. He also is 4-1 against Big 12 opponents, with his only conference loss coming against No. 8-seed Mason Naifeh of Oklahoma on Jan. 17. Cardinale, a transfer from Old Dominion, looks to make his second trip to nationals, as he is slated to meet North Dakota State’s McGwire Midkiff in the first round.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Carman captured the No. 6 seed in the 184-pound division. The Glen Dale, West Virginia, native posted six wins on the year and is 4-1 in Big 12 action. Carman, who has battled for the starting role at 184 pounds all season, looks to make his first appearance at this year’s conference championship. He also received a first-round bye and will go head-to-head with the winner of No. 3-seed Dakota Geer of Oklahoma State and Michael Nelson of North Dakota State
Additionally, redshirt freshmen Jeffrey Boyd (141) and Michael Wolfgram (HWT), Hornfeck and Joll will compete unseeded in their respective weight classes at the 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championship.
Wrestlers can earn a bid to the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships by finishing within their weight’s allocated spots at the Big 12 Championship. Following the conference tournaments, the Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining at-large qualifiers to fill out the 33-man bracket in each weight class, which will be announced on March 9, followed by brackets and seeding on March 10.