INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA Division II wrestling committee has announced the brackets for the 2021 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships set for March 12-13 at America’s Convention Center in St. Louis.
SMSU has a pair of individuals competing with sophomore Caden Steffen at 184 pounds and senior Jackson Ryan at 197 pounds.
Session I is set to begin at 12 p.m. on Friday which includes the first round matches along with championship quarterfinals and two rounds of consolation action. Session II will be on Saturday starting at 12 p.m. with the championships semifinals, third round consolation, consolation semis, and third, fifth and seventh place matches. The championships finals will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Steffen, making his first NCAA Championship appearance, is 8-3 overall and earned a trip to nationals following a third place finish at the NCAA Super Region V Tournament in Aberdeen, S.D., on Feb. 28. Steffen finished 5-1 at the regional, including winning the true second-place match, but per NCAA rules, the true second-place match was for NCAA Championship qualification purposes only.
Steffen, unseeded at the NCAA Championship, will face No. 1 seed Heath Gray (9-0) from the University of Central Oklahoma. Gray, a two-time All-American and three-time region champion, is ranked No. 1 in the country at 184 pounds and was named the 2019-20 National Wrestling Coaches Association Wrestler of the Year. Gray enters this year’s NCAA Championship on a 37-match winning streak.
Ryan, ranked No. 10 nationally at 197 pounds, earned third place at the region tournament with a 3-1 record and enters the national tournament with an 8-1 record. Ryan, who has amassed 81 career victories ranking 14th in team history, qualified for last season’s NCAA Championships before the event was canceled.
Ryan, unseeded at this year’s NCAA Championship, will face No. 2 seed Nick Mason (7-1) from Tiffin University (Ohio) in the first round. Mason, ranked No. 2 in the country and a two-time All-American, won the 197-pound national title at the 2019 NCAA Championships.
The top eight finishers at the NCAA Championship earn All-American honors.
SMSU has had 49 individuals now qualify for the NCAA Championships, with 12 All-Americans and one national champion, since moving to Division II in 1996. Cole Wilson, at 285 pounds, was the program’s last All-American earning seventh place in 2016. Link Steffen, Caden’s father, is SMSU’s lone NCAA national champion capturing the 190 pound title in 1998.