The West Virginia wrestling team placed six finishers on the podium at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the weekend.
Redshirt juniors Killian Cardinale and Noah Adams came away with third-place finishes in their respective weight classes.
Freshman Peyton Hall placed fourth in the 165-pound weight class, redshirt sophomore Alex Hornfeck in the 157-pound weight class, placed sixth. Redshirt freshmen Michael Wolfgram in the 285-pound weight class, finished seventh. Anthony Carman in the 184-pound weight class, finished eighth.
Adams, Cardinale and Hall all finished inside the top-five in their weight classes to earn an automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Tournament Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 18-20.
"We have three automatic qualifiers, and there is a chance we can get an at-large. We also had six guys place, and they all wrestled pretty well today,” head coach Tim Flynn said. “Again, I think the team did notably better than last year, especially without 133 and 149 competing."
Entering the tournament with the No. 3 seed in the 197-pound weight class, Adams set a 3-1 mark during the two-day competition. Adams made quick work of the competition in the early rounds of the tournament, swiftly defeating No. 5 seed Jake Woodley of Oklahoma in a 6-2 majority decision. Adams then took down No. 6 seed Marcus Coleman from Iowa State in a huge win via pin to earn the third-place finish.
Cardinale was involved in multiple competitive matches, including an impressive win over No. 3 seed Trevor Mastrogiovanni of Oklahoma State, 7-1, and No. 4 seed Danny Vega of South Dakota State in the consolation finals, a win that secured him the third-place finish. Vega defeated Cardinale on Saturday 9-6, but Cardinale was able to avenge the loss with a win on Sunday.
"He (Cardinale) told me today that he always gains strength as the tournament goes on, and it showed," Flynn said. "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."
Both Adams and Cardinale qualified for nationals in 2020 — Adams for WVU and Cardinale for Old Dominion University — but were unable to compete due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hall was the No. 2 seed for the 165-pound weight class, where he recorded an impressive victory over Oklahoma’s Troy Mantanona 13-7, before losing to the No. 1 seed Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State in the consolation finals. Hall finished in fourth-place in his weight class which was enough to earn the true freshman his first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Both Hornfeck and Wolfgram struggled over the weekend, dropping multiple matches in their respective weight classes. Hornfeck was able to come away with his second career podium at the tournament with his sixth-place finish.
The NCAA National Championships will begin on March 18 and go through March 20. The event will take place in St. Louis, Missouri.