NAIA Championships Preview

By Amanda Dahl, NAIA

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 2011 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will get underway Thursday at 11 a.m. CST at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The 54th annual event runs through Saturday and features six sessions of action, capped off with the championship finals. Brackets for each weight class will be posted Wednesday by 9 p.m. CST.

Cedar Rapids will welcome 324 individuals representing 39 teams descending upon the U.S. Cellular Center and of those qualifiers, 86 are freshmen, 82 are sophomores, 95 are juniors and 61 are seniors. Thirty-two of the qualifiers have previously earned All-America accolades by placing in the top-six of their respective weight class (a seventh- or eighth-place finisher was named honorable mention). Each weight class will have at least one returning All-American in action, with both 141 and 165 pounds featuring five All-Americans.

Among the returning All-Americans, seven have twice earned the distinction. McKendree’s (Ill.) Andrew Sanchez is the only three-time All-American among the field, earning all of his honors at 197 pounds. Sanchez, who is in his senior campaign, was the 2009 national champion at 197.

Sanchez is one of seven grapplers that have previously taken home top-honors in their respective weight class that will be eyeing a second title in Cedar Rapids. Vying for a repeat performance will be Campbellsville’s (Ky.) Tommy Pretty, Glenn Rhees of Grand View (Iowa) at 174 pounds and the Notre Dame (Ohio) trio of Jeffrey Pelton (149), Thomas Straugh (157) and Derek Foore (197). Pretty captured the 133-pound national championship a season ago, but has bumped up to 141 pounds in his junior season. Grand View’s Matt Burns finished first at 149 pounds as a sophomore in 2009.

Six of 2010’s All-Americans have shifted weight class, including Myles Mazurkiewicz of Great Falls (Mont.) moving from 133 to 141 and Cumberland’s (Tenn.) James Casadaban bumping up from 157 to 165. Both Chris Chionuma of Lindenwood (Mo.) and Hastings’ (Neb.) Jameon Rush climbed to 174 after spending last season at 165.

In the event’s 53 years, 107 programs have had an individual finish on top of the podium. Simon Fraser (B.C.) has had the most wrestlers finish first in their respective weight class, with 40 national champions. Montana State-Northern is a distant second with 29.

Shifting to the team race, reigning team champion Notre Dame has qualified 12 individuals and is looking to become the ninth team to win back-to-back national titles. The Falcons won their first national championship in 2010, denying Lindenwood a record-tying fourth-straight national championship. In the history of the event, a team has won consecutive national titles 15 times.

There have been 18 programs that have previously taken home the team title. Adams State (Colo.) and Central State (Okla.) each took home eight, the most in 53 years. Of the current NAIA programs, Montana State-Northern leads the way with six national championships, with the last coming in 2004.

The largest margin of victory in 53 years came in 1981 with Central State taking top honors with an 85.75 point cushion on runner-up Adams State’s (Colo.) 69.5 points. On the flip side, Lock Haven State (Pa.) edged Bloomsburg State (Pa.) by one point in 1963, 61-60, for the closest team finish. In 1994, Southern Oregon and Western Montana tied for top-honors with 94.5 points. It is the only time the title has been shared.

There have been 14 programs that have finished second, but have not taken home a banner, four of which will take to the mat in Cedar Rapids. These teams include: Embry-Riddle (Ariz.), Jamestown (N.D.), McKendree and Menlo (Calif.).

The 54th annual NAIA Wrestling National Championships is making its first visit to Cedar Rapids, marking the 33rd site to host the event. The NAIA Wrestling National Championships have traveled to 19 states, from coast-to-coast, in its history.

Real-time results from all mats during all six sessions of action will be available through the NWCA Live Scorebook by clicking here.

NeuLion will stream live all 10 individual weight class championship bouts and will be available to view Saturday starting at approximately 7 p.m. A fee of $7.95 is set to view the finals. Click here for more information.

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