The collegiate wrestling season culminates with a championship tournament that begins on Thursday and goes until Sunday. In a field of over 300 wrestlers from across the country, West Virginia will have just four competitors.
In head coach Tim Flynn’s first year with the Mountaineers, the long-time Edinboro wrestling coach had four wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Of the four wrestlers that competed for West Virginia in the NCAA Championships, only Noah Adams is still on the team.
This year the Mountaineers have found success with youth as redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan (7-3) and true freshman Peyton Hall (13-4) have both contributed a lot to the team’s success this season.
Hall earned an automatic bid after placing fourth in the 165-pound weight class at the Big 12 Championships. In his first year with the team, Hall has put together an impressive resume with 13 wins and a national ranking in the top-33 for the majority of the year. Hall will have the No. 21 seed in his weight class.
Sullivan did not wrestle in the Big 12 Championships, but the redshirt freshman placed second in the Cowboy Challenge on Feb. 14. Since he did not wrestle at the Big 12 Championships he was unable to earn an automatic bid, but he was selected as an at-large participant and will be the No. 20 seed in the 133-pound weight class.
“He looks good today, he said, ‘I feel really good,’ so I’m going to take him at his word,” Flynn said regarding the health of Sullivan. “The first day or two after he was kind of sore but he looks good so fingers are crossed but I think he is fine.”
Both Hall and Sullivan have winning records this season and have been ranked in the top-33 of their respective weight classes, but neither has had a chance to compete in the NCAA Championships.
West Virginia has also found success with the addition of Killian Cardinale. Cardinale transferred to West Virginia after a strong season with Old Dominion University. With ODU last season, Cardinale posted a 25-9 record and qualified for the NCAA Championships. With the event being canceled last season, Cardinale has yet to compete in the tournament.
Cardinale (12-4) finished in third-place at the Big 12 Championships and earned an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. The redshirt junior holds the No. 17 seed in the 125-pound weight class.
Adams (13-3) has been the best wrestler for West Virginia over the last two seasons and as a redshirt sophomore, Adams posted a 32-0 record and was the No. 2 seed in last year’s NCAA Championships. This season, Adams has three losses with all three coming against Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan. Buchanan checks in with the No. 8 seed while Adams holds the No. 9 seed. The two would have to wrestle in the second round if both win their first matchup.
“You have to win five matchups to be national champions,” Flynn said. “I know Noah beat his kid before, we have seen Killian’s guy, I actually coached his brother at Edinboro, and Matt Schmitt wrestled him when he was at WVU. I don’t know a ton about Peyton’s kid and Ryan’s kid we recruited so we know him pretty well.”
This season all wrestlers have to be tested daily for COVID-19 including a test as soon as they get there.
“In wrestling, you have to make weight in the morning, so tomorrow morning our upper weights got to weigh in grab a quick drink and go get tested,” Flynn said. “It adds another element you got to make sure the kids know when they have to be there, we do not want anyone disqualified for not showing up to a COVID test.”