The brackets have been released for the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, the league office announced Wednesday, March 10. The event takes place March 18-20 in St. Louis. Those brackets can be found here. The full NCAA selection show broadcast can be found here.
The West Virginia wrestling team will send four of its 10 starters to nationals later this month. Killian Cardinale (125), Payton Hall (165), and Noah Adams (197) all earned automatic qualifying bids to big dance thanks to their respective performances at the 2021 Big 12 Championships in Tulsa earlier this month.
For redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan, it took being awarded an at-large bid for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native to get the opportunity to compete at his first NCAAs. Of note, WVU sends four or more Mountaineer grapplers to the national tournament for the first time since coach Tim Flynn’s inaugural season in 2019, when the squad sent a total of five to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
Sullivan and Hall set to make their first appearance on the national stage. Additionally, Adams punched his third ticket to nationals after earning the No. 2 seed at his respective weight last season, while Cardinale qualified for the national tournament for the second time in his career.
As the No. 17 seed at 125 pounds, Cardinale (12-4) is slated to meet No. 16 Codi Russell (15-1) of Appalachian State in the first round. Following a quarterfinal loss at the 2021 Big 12 Championship, Cardinale fought his way through consolations to earn a third-place finish in his respective bracket. The Bristow, Virginia, native finished the tournament with a team-best 5-1 record. His first opponent, Russell, who competed at 133 pounds the last two seasons, won the 125-pound title at the 2021 SoCon Wrestling Championship on Feb. 28. The two grapplers have not met this season.
No. 20 Sullivan (7-3) will face No. 13 Zach Redding (10-5) of Iowa State in the first round of the 133-pound pool for the first time this season. Despite suffering a hamstring injury in the first round of the conference championship last weekend, Sullivan will be back in action in St. Louis. He earned himself a spot in the Mountaineers’ starting lineup on Jan. 31 and has registered three wins over opponents ranked inside several wrestling publications this season. His first opponent, Redding, landed on the podium at the Big 12 Championship last weekend, placing third.
At 165 pounds, No. 21 Hall (13-4) will take on No. 12 Jake Keating (10-3) of Virginia in the first round. Hall, a native of Chester, West Virginia, earned his first bid to nationals with a fourth-place finish at the ACC conference tournament last weekend. Keating also looks to compete on the national stage for the first time in his career after posting a runner-up finish in his respective bracket at the ACC Championships on Feb. 28. The two wrestlers have not met this season.
No. 20 Adams (13-3) will square off against No. 24 Benjamin Smith (5-4) of Cleveland State in the first round of the 197-pound pool for the second time this season. The two went head-to-head on Jan. 23, with Adams earning an 8-2 decision over Smith. The Coal City, West Virginia, native most recently placed third at the Big 12 Championship. Smith earned his automatic qualifying spot after finishing second at the MAC Championships on Feb. 27. Should they both advance to the second round, Noah Adams will have a fourth matchup with Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan. The Wyoming Cowboys has a perfect 3-0 record against Adams this year.
Coverage of the 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championships will be broadcast by the ESPN family of networks, with live scenes from every mat available on ESPN3 and via the WatchESPN app. The early sessions on Thursday and Friday will begin at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. Thursday’s second round coverage starts at 6 p.m. on ESPN, while Friday evening’s always anticipated semifinals and round of 12 are set for 8 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Saturday’s NCAA Championships television coverage begins with placement matches at 11 a.m. on ESPN2 before the championship finals of all 10 weight classes air live on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Saturday night in St. Louis.