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WVU Wrestling Wraps Up Big 12 Championships with Three NCAA Qualifiers

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The West Virginia University wrestling team closed out its Big 12 Championships weekend with three NCAA tournament qualifiers and six Mountaineers claiming podium places.

Redshirt juniors Killian Cardinale (125 pounds) and Noah Adams (197 pounds) each took third-place in their weight classes to qualify for the national tournament. Freshman Peyton Hall placed fourth in the 165-pound bracket to also qualify for NCAAs.

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Redshirt sophomore Alex Hornfeck finished sixth in the 157-pound pool. Redshirt freshman Michael Wolfgram also placed seventh in the heavyweight division, while redshirt freshman Anthony Carman finished eighth in the 184-pound bracket.

“We are happy,” third-year coach Tim Flynn said. “We have three automatic qualifiers, and there is chance we can get an at-large. We also had six guys place, and they all wrestled pretty well today. Again, I think the team did notably better than last year, especially without 133 and 149 competing.”

During Day One, redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan also was pulled from the 133-pound pool due to injury in his first match of the day. He was in a scoreless bout against Utah Valley’s Ty Smith. The extent of what looked to be a hamstring pull will be evaluated when the squad returns to Morgantown.

“The doctor will evaluate him when we get back, so we just don’t know yet,” Flynn said of Sullivan’s injury.

There is a possibility that, health permitting, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native can be awarded an at-large bid to the big dance when those discussions are had next week.

Arguably the most impressive WVU tournament performance has to go to lightweight 125-pounder Killian Cardinale. After taking a loss in his second match of the tournament against No. 5-seed Danny Vega (South Dakota State), Cardinale strung together a series of wins to battle back to a third-place finish. The former Old Dominion wrestler utterly dominated No. 3-seed Trevor Mastrogiovanni of Oklahoma State, winning 7-1. He then faced No. 4-seed Danny Vega of South Dakota State in the consolation finals, with the winner earning a third-place finish in their respective weight class. Cardinale avenge his earlier loss to Vega, winning 9-6, to finish the event.

“He told me today that he always gains strength as the tournament goes on, and it showed,” Flynn said of Cardinale. “He wrestled well. From the first day he competed until now, he just keeps getting better, and I think he is at a good place heading into NCAAs.”

At 197, No. 3-seeded Noah Adams showed the ability to shake off a tough, tightly-contested defeat in a  battle with Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan, who advanced to the Big 12 finals later Sunday evening. Adams too, like Cardinale battled back to a third-place finish.

Overall, Adams registered a 3-1 mark at the two-day event to earn a spot on the podium for the third time in his career. He took down No. 5-seed Jake Woodley of Oklahoma in a 6-2 decision before scoring a 6-3 decision over No. 6-seed Marcus Coleman of Iowa State in the consolation finals for a third-place finish. The Coal City, West Virginia, native looks to make his second appearance on the national stage. Last year, Adams earned the No. 2 seed at his respective weight before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also looks to find an answer to Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan. The Cowboy has gotten the better of Adams the last three times they have met, all extremely close matches.

At 165 pounds, No. 2-seed Hall posted a 13-7 win over Oklahoma’s Troy Mantanona. Hall then competed against No. 1-seed Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State for the second time this season in the consolation finals, with Wittlake earning the 9-3 decision. Despite the loss, the Chester, West Virginia, native placed fourth and punched his first ticket to the national tournament. While Hall wasn’t able to rectify his loss from the Cowboy Challenge earlier this season, he showed clear improvement and lessen the gap between him and Wittlake.

“Peyton looked more like himself today,” Flynn said. “When his mind is on wrestling, he can be a handful, but when his mind is on the score, time and everything else, he is not the same guy. He looked good today, and we are happy with where he is at.”

Fellow freshman, heavyweight Michael Wolfgram also delivered a performance to be proud of during his first trip to the conference tournament as a competitor. The redshirt freshman big man took seventh thanks to a strong second-day showing. Wolfgram won an offensively-charged shootout, 10-8, against Northern Colorado’s  Dalton Robertson.

“I told him today that his last two matches looked like the guy we recruited,” Flynn said of his young heavyweight. “He looks much improved. I think that is the best we have seen him in his two years at WVU. Hopefully, he builds on this, and we have a big-time winner in the future.”

Hornfeck dropped his matches to No. 4-seed Cade DeVos of South Dakota State and No. 5-seed Jacob Wright of Wyoming to finish sixth overall in the 157-pound division. The Mars, Pennsylvania, native has earned a spot on the podium twice in his career, as he placed eighth at last year’s conference championship.

Lastly, Carman fell to South Dakota State’s Jacob Schoon in 3:31 to finish eighth.

Tonight’s championship matches will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

As a team, West Virginia sits in ninth place after three sessions with 57 points. Oklahoma leads the team race with 120 points, followed by Oklahoma State in second with 112 points. Iowa State is currently in third with 109.5 points.

Looking ahead, WVU will have more than a week off before traveling to St. Louis, Missouri for the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship, March 18-20. During that time, the squad will work to stay healthy as well as some fine-tuning prior to the pinnacle event in college wrestling.

The Division I Wrestling Committee will meet to select the remaining at-large qualifiers to fill out the 33-man bracket in each weight class, which will be announced March 10, via NCAA livestream while brackets and seeding will be announced on NCAA.com at 4 p.m. March 11.

Day Two Results

Consolations:

125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State), 7-1

125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Danny Vega (South Dakota State), 9-6 – 3rd place

157: Cade DeVos (South Dakota State) dec. Alex Hornfeck (WVU), 11-5

157: Jacob Wright (Wyoming) dec. Alex Hornfeck (WVU), 4-2 – 6th place

165: Peyton Hall (WVU) dec. Troy Mantanona (Oklahoma), 13-7

165: Travis Wittlake (Oklahoma State) dec. Peyton Hall (WVU), 9-3 – 4th place

184: Jacob Schoon (South Dakota State) wins by fall Anthony Carman (WVU), F 3:31 – 8th place

197: Noah Adams (WVU) dec. Jake Woodley (Oklahoma), 6-2

197: Noah Adams (WVU) dec. Marcus Coleman (Iowa State), 6-3 – 3rd place

HWT: Michael Wolfgram (WVU) dec. Dalton Robertson (Northern Colorado), 10-8 – 7th place

Refer to either The Big 12 or FloWrestling for full brackets and results as the both become available.

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