West Virginia Wrestlers Set for Start of NCAA Tournament
Four months of strong competition has prepared six West Virginia wrestlers for a chance to compete for a national championship over the next three days.
The group of Mountaineers will attempt to reach All-American status when the NCAA Tournament kicks off at noon on Thursday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Jordan Titus (141 pounds), Peyton Hall (165) and Michael Wolfgram (heavyweight) each earned automatic bids into the event after their respective performances at the Big 12 Tournament last week, while Killian Cardinale (125), Anthony Carman (184) and Austin Cooley (197) were all entered via an at-large selection by the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee.
“The work is done,” West Virginia head coach Tim Flynn said in a release. “These guys put a lot of time and effort in this past year, and I really want them to just go out and compete to the best of their abilities.”
West Virginia’s six entrants is the most for the team since 2012, and is the fourth time that four-or-more wrestlers will compete in Flynn’s five-year tenure.
Hall leads the Mountaineers with his third consecutive tournament appearance. The junior reached All-American status in last year’s event, marking the 34th West Virginia wrestler to do so, and is looking to become the first Mountaineer to be a back-to-back All-American since Brandon Radar in 2006-07.
Hall, the No. 14 seed, will face No. 19 Dan Braunagel of Illinois in the opening round in a rematch of a quarterfinal bout at the 2022 Midlands Championships, where Braunagel defeated Hall 7-6.
The other five Mountaineers are facing a much tougher road in the tournament.
Cardinale, a 2021 All-American, enters as the No. 28 seed and will take on Appalachian State’s Caleb Smith, the No. 5 seed, in his first match. Cardinale hasn’t competed in over a month after being sidelined due to injury, resulting in him missing the Big 12 Tournament. He last secured an 11-7 decision win over Kyle Gollhofer in a dual meet against Northern Iowa on Feb. 5.
No. 25 seed Wolfgram is making his second consecutive appearance, where he will have his second straight matchup against Iowa State’s Sam Schuyler, who checks in as the No. 8 seed. Wolfgram fell to Schuyler 4-2 in West Virginia’s dual meet loss to the Cyclones on Feb. 3.
Titus (No. 29) faces No. 4 Brock Hardy of Nebraska, the reigning Big Ten champion. Cooley matches up with No. 2 Bernie Truax to open his bracket, with Truax being a two-time All-American and a Pac-12 champion in two separate weight classes.
Carman is the lone Mountaineer to have what is considered a “pigtail match.” The No. 33 seed Carman will square off with No. 32 Jha’Quan Anderson of Gardner-Webb, with the winner meeting No. 1 seed Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa. Keckeisen, the 2023 Big 12 champion, beat Carman by a 14-4 major decision in the Mountaineers’ match with the Panthers on Feb. 5.
With the 2022-23 Mountaineers squad already putting its name into the program’s record books, Hall and Cardinale will have the opportunity to add an individual accolade this weekend.
If both reach the podium, the pair would be the sixth and seventh Mountaineers all-time to be crowned All-American multiple times. West Virginia has not had two wrestlers place since 2005.
Carman is also the first Mountaineer wrestler since 2016 to compete in the tournament at 184 pounds.
All tournament matches can be viewed on ESPN.com. All three morning sessions will be televised on ESPNU, with the evening sessions then being showed on ESPN.