Redshirt junior Killian Cardinale of the West Virginia University wrestling team earned All-America honors to lead the Mountaineers on day two at the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships held at the Enterprise Center, in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday.
With the 125-pound grappler still fighting in his respective consolation bracket, he is guaranteed a spot on the podium in Saturday morning’s medal round. As an All-American, Cardinale became the first wrestler in the Tim Flynn era to achieve All-America accolades at the NCAA Championships.
Zeke Moisey was the last Mountaineer to earn All-America distinction at the national tournament, placing eighth in the 125-pound weight bracket in 2018. Also, Cardinale’s teammate, 197-pounder Noah Adams, received NWCA All-America First Team honors last season after the nation tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, we are still a growing program,” third-year coach Tim Flynn said of how the program has progressed since his arrival in Morgantown. “We have a guy placed and had another guy in the All-America round, but we are no where near where we want to be. It’s getting there. I think we are slowly improving. We have four qualifiers coming back next season, and we finished in the top 25 of the dual-meet season. If you would’ve told me that three years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Cardinale, a No. 17 seed, took down a pair of top-eight seeded wrestlers on Friday, as he carries a 4-1 record into the final day of the tournament. Cardinale will meet No. 19-seed Eric Barnett of Wisconsin in the seventh-place match on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning, Cardinale capped off his impressive run to the podium with an assertive 12-7 decision over Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett. With the win, Cardinale takes seventh nationally. The 125-pounder finishes his season 17-6 overall.
Redshirt junior Killian Cardinale caps his run at the 2021 NCAA Championships with a seventh-place finish!
— WVU Wrestling (@WVUWrestling) March 20, 2021
“It’s always exciting when you get a kid to place at nationals,” Flynn said. “Their goal is to be a national champion first and then an All-American, but we are stoked. We had another kid in the round of 12, and we know how good Noah is, so the future looks good.”
Cardinale started his day off with a strong performance over No. 18 Noah Surtin of Missouri, scoring a 9-4 decision to advance to the third round of wrestle-backs. He then topped No. 8-seed RayVon Foley of Michigan State in a 5-1 decision, which placed him in the 125-pound blood rounds against No. 6-seed Jakob Camacho of NC State.
“He [Cardinale] refuses to lose. He has a tough mindset,” Flynn said of his All-American lightweight. “The NC State match went into several overtimes, and he had to hold him down, so sometimes, it is just a matter of will.”
The two grapplers entered sudden victory tied at 4-4, with All-America status up for the taking. Following a scoreless overtime period, each wrestler notched an escape in their first tiebreaker to even the match once again at 5-5. In the second tiebreaker, Cardinale recorded an additional escape for the 6-5 advantage. Then, Cardinale rode him hard through the following 30 second period, preserving both he win and All-America accolades.
— WVU Wrestling (@WVUWrestling) March 20, 2021
At 165 pounds, Peyton Hall capped his freshman campaign with a 13-4 loss to No. 2-seed Anthony Valencia of Arizona State in the blood round, just one victory short of earning All-America status.
His path to the round of 12 included a 10-5 decision over No. 22-seed, redshirt senior Kennedy Monday of North Carolina in his first match of the day before earning a hard-fought, 3-1 win in sudden victory over No. 19-seed Gerrit Nijenhuis of Purdue thanks to the OT takedown.
🚨 TAKEDOWN AND ADVANCE 🚨
— WVU Wrestling (@WVUWrestling) March 19, 2021
The Chester, West Virginia, native posted a 3-2 tournament record and totaled 16 victories in his inaugural season as a Mountaineer. According to his coach, the future is bright for rookie middle-weight.
“Peyton wrestled really well for a freshman,” Flynn said. “I think he has so much he can improve upon, so we are super excited for his future.”
Additionally, redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan (133) and Adams (197) finished their tournament runs with a pair of losses in the second round of wrestle-backs on Friday. Sullivan capped his first season in a Mountaineer singlet with an 8-5 overall mark, while Adams finished with a 14-5 record. Four of those losses came to Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming) while the other loss on the year was to Missouri’s Rocky Elam of Missouri.
While Adams’ showing may seem a bit underwhelming for what was expected of a guy who entered the 2020 NCAAs as the No. 2-seed and spent considerable time as the top-rated wrestler at his weight this season, his coach isn’t concerned.
“We have been saying it for a little while now, but he is not too far off,” Flynn said of his veteran 197-pounder, Adams. “He just has to watch the tape and get better just like everyone else. He beat the one guy in the final two months ago, so he certainly can do it, we just have to get better, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
West Virginia sits in a tie for 33rd place with 10.5 points heading into the final day of action.
Day Three Results
125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), 12-7
Day Two Results
125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Noah Surtin (Missouri), 9-4
125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. RayVon Foley (Michigan State), 5-1
125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Jakob Camacho (NC State), 6-5 [TB-2]
133: Chance Rich (CSU Bakersfield) dec. Ryan Sullivan (WVU), 4-3
165: Peyton Hall (WVU) dec. Kennedy Monday (North Carolina), 10-5
165: Peyton Hall (WVU) dec. Gerrit Nijenhuis (Purdue), 3-1 [SV-1]
165: Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) major dec. Peyton Hall (WVU), 13-4
197: Rocky Elam (Missouri) dec. Noah Adams (WVU), 4-3
Day One Recap can be found here.
Updated Brackets can be found here.