After two sessions of wrestling, four West Virginia University grapplers are alive in the consolation bracket of the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships held at the Enterprise Center, in St. Louis, Missouri, March 18-20.
Redshirt juniors Killian Cardinale (125) and Noah Adams (197), redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan (133) and freshman Peyton Hall (165) each picked up a first-round win in their respective brackets to advance to the championship second round.
However, the Mountaineer quartet all had immensely difficult matchups in the evening session on Thursday. All four competitors dropped their round of 16 matches to move into Friday morning’s consolation brackets.
“They wrestled pretty well in the first round,” third-year coach Tim Flynn said. “I thought Killian wrestled pretty well in the last two periods of his second match. Ryan and Noah had short second-round matches, where they got caught on their backs, and Peyton was a little tentative. So our second round wasn’t nearly as good, but we had a much higher level of competition.”
The Undefeated Opening Round
Seeded No. 17 at 125 pounds, Cardinale captured a narrow, 7-6 decision over No. 16-seed Codi Russell of Appalachian State in the first round. With Cardinale taking a one-point lead into the final period, Russell chose bottom, earning an escape to tie the match at 4-4. The Bristow, Virginia, native scored another takedown, but Russell matched with a a reversal to tie the bout at 6-6. Cardinale escaped with 37 seconds left on clock, cementing the 7-6 victory.
At 133 pounds, Sullivan, seeded No. 20 in his weight bracket, upset No. 13 Zach Redding of Iowa State in the first round of competition. This was the first time the pair met in their careers, since the WVU versus Iowa State dual meet was cancelled back in February. The pair of Big 12 foes entered sudden victory with the match knotted at 1-1, before Sullivan scored a late reversal thanks to an official review, which eventually led to a 4-3 win over Redding in the first tiebreaker.
Hall, seeded No. 21 at 165 pounds, put on a takedown clinic in his first match of the day, posting five takedowns in seven minutes to capture a 14-4 major decision in his first-ever match at NCAAs over No. 12 Jake Keating of Virginia to advance to the championship second round.
Seeded No. 9, Adams went head-to-head with No. 24-seed Benjamin Smith of Cleveland State in the first round of the 197-pound division for the second time this season. The Coal City, West Virginia, native took a 5-0 lead into the final frame before riding out the CSU upper-weight for the entire third and winning 6-0. Adams is now 2-0 on the year against Smith.
The Round Two Gauntlet
Cardinale later dropped his second match of the day, suffering a 15-5 setback to No. 1-seed Spencer Lee of Iowa in the round of 16, to move into the 125-pound consolation bracket. In doing so though, Cardinale is the only wrestler that has managed to wrestle a full seven-minute match with the reigning two-time national champ.
“He got a couple takedowns,” Flynn said of the matchup against Lee. “[Cardinale] is wrestling pretty well. We just can’t fall that far behind. I think he knows that, but he gained some confidence. It’s always good to get a couple takedowns against the best in the country.”
Cardinale will meet No. 18-seed Noah Surtin of Missouri for the first time this season on Friday morning.
Sullivan lost via fall to No. 4-seed Austin DeSanto of Iowa in the round of 16 in a match that wasn’t particularly close at any point. Sullivan will face No. 19-seed Chance Rich of CSU Bakersfield in his first wrestle-back bout on Friday morning.
Hall suffered a 6-0 setback to No. 5-seed Zach Hartman of Bucknell his second match of the day. The WVU 165-pounder also lost to Hartman during the dual meet season as well, 5-2. The Chester, West Virginia, native will meet No. 22-seed Kennedy Monday of North Carolina for the first time in his career on Friday morning.
Adams faced No. 8-seed Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming for the fourth time this season during session number two. Adams fell to Buchanan in 1:59 and is now 0-4 against the Wyoming Cowboy in 2021.
“Any loss is hard to put behind you when your goal is to be a national champion,” Flynn said of the Buchanan defeat. “But the goal is always the same when you’re a competitor. When you step out on the mat, you are trying to win. I don’t care if it is in the consolations, championship final or in the parking lot. When someone is standing across from you, your goal is to whip him.”
He will square off with No. 7-seed Rocky Elam of Missouri for the first time in his career.
It’s worth mentioning, wrestlers in the consolation brackets remain in contention for third place and All-America honors.
Day One Results
Championship Round 1
125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Codi Russell (Appalachian State), 7-6
133: Ryan Sullivan (WVU) dec. Zach Redding (Iowa State), 4-3 [TB-1]
165: Peyton Hall (WVU) major dec. Jake Keating (Virginia), 14-4
197: Noah Adams (WVU) dec. Benjamin Smith (Cleveland State), 6-0
Championship Round 2
125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) major dec. Killian Cardinale (WVU), 15-5
133: Austin DeSanto (Iowa) wins by fall Ryan Sullivan (WVU), F 1:36
165: Zach Hartman (Bucknell) dec. Peyton Hall (WVU), 6-0
197: Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming) wins by fall Noah Adams (WVU), F 1:59
The 2021 NCAA Championships will be feature coverage of every mat on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app, with general coverage of Friday’s quarterfinals session to air on ESPNU at 11 a.m. ET. Consolation matches will be shown on ESPNU at 3 p.m. before the semifinals air on ESPN at 8 p.m.
An updated bracket can be found here.