Five WVU Wrestlers Prepare For NCAA Championships
For the first time since 2014, five members of the West Virginia wrestling team compete at the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, set for March 21-23, at PPG Paints Arena, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Redshirt senior Christian Monserrat (149), junior Brandon Ngati (HWT), redshirt sophomore Matthew Schmitt (133) and redshirt freshman Noah Adams (197) each earned automatic bids based on their performances at the 2019 Big 12 Wrestling Championship earlier this month, while sophomore Nick Kiussis (165) received an at-large selection to punch his ticket to the national tournament. Schmitt will compete on the national stage for the second time in his career, while Kiussis, Monserrat, Ngati and Adams are making their first-ever appearance at nationals.
The three-day event will start Thursday at Noon with pigtails and the first round of championship competition (Session I). Wrestle-backs and the championship second round (Session II) will take place at 7 p.m. Quarterfinals and the second and third round of wrestle-backs (Session III) will begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, followed by semifinals and fourth round wrestle-backs (Session IV) at 8 p.m. that evening. Medal rounds (Session V) will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, with the championship finals (Session VI) set for 7 p.m. Saturday night.
Early sessions will be broadcasted on ESPNU, while second-round and semifinal matches will be shown live on ESPN. Saturday’s championship finals also will be broadcasted on ESPN. Live stats for all matches are available on TrackWrestling. Additionally, all matches will be shown on ESPN3 via the WatchESPN app. Direct links to the video stream and live stats can be found on the wrestling schedule page on WVUsports.com
“It’s a big tournament,” said West Virginia’s first-year coach Tim Flynn. “There’s a lot going on. It’s a giant production, but these kids have wrestled their whole lives. They have been in state finals and have been in big tournaments. They know what to expect, and we are wrestling the same kids we have been wrestling all year. We are fortunate enough to be in a really good conference. We are not going to see someone and say, ‘Wow, look at him.’ We have already seen all these guys, so I think that helps a little bit.”
As the No. 16 seed at 133 pounds, Schmitt (17-6) is slated to meet No. 17 Sean Nickell (25-8) of CSU Bakersfield in the first round. The two wrestlers went head-to-head on Jan. 25, with Nickell earning a 2-1 decision over Schmitt in a neutral-site matchup. The Platte City, Missouri, native most recently placed fourth at the Big 12 Championship. Schmitt ranks fourth on the team with 17 wins, collecting six major decisions and four technical-fall victories on the year.
No. 17 Monserrat (23-7) will face No. 16 Davion Jeffries (23-10) of Oklahoma in the first round of the 149-pound pool for the third time this season. The Methuen, Massachusetts, native most recently dropped a 4-2 decision to Jeffries in the third-place match of the Big 12 Tournament. The two grapplers also met back on Jan. 4, with Monserrat winning by fall in the second period. Monserrat leads the team with 23 wins on the season, including an upset victory over then-No. 4 Justin Oliver of NC State for his first-ever win over a top-five opponent on Jan. 13.
At 165 pounds, No. 29 Kiussis (18-10) will take on No. 4 Evan Wick (28-4) of Wisconsin in the first round. Kiussis and Wick have not met this season, though the two have a pair of common opponents, with both wrestlers defeating Jacob Thalin of CSU Bakersfield earlier this year. Wick also topped Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert twice this season, while Kiussis dropped a 9-6 decision to Steiert in November. The Brunswick, Ohio, native has notched 18 wins on the season, tying for third on the team.
No. 20 Adams (18-13) will square off against No. 13 Malik McDonald (18-13) of NC State in the first round of the 197-pound pool for the second time this season. The two wrestlers went head-to-head on Jan. 13, with McDonald earning a 12-6 decision over Adams. The Coal City, West Virginia, native most recently placed fifth at the Big 12 Championship. Adams is tied for third on the team with 18 wins, claiming six major decisions and two wins by fall on the year.
No. 33 Ngati (14-14) drew a first-round pigtail match against No. 32 Antonio Pelusi (25-9) of Franklin & Marshall, with the winner wrestling No. 1 Derek White of Oklahoma State in the first round of the heavyweight division. Ngati finished sixth at this year’s conference tournament to lock up an automatic bid to nationals for the first time in his career. The Gaithersburg, Maryland, native has collected 14 wins on the season, more than doubling his win total from last season.
“It’s an eating contest,” Flynn said. “You have to sit down, and if you don’t start eating, you are not going to win. You have to get after it. You have to score points. That’s really important.”
With five Mountaineers competing at this year’s event, West Virginia boasts 184 national qualifiers since 1979 when the NCAA implemented the current qualification system. The Mountaineers have earned All-America accolades 31 times at the NCAA Championships and have posted 16 top-25 finishes at the event since 1929. The squad also boasts five individual national titles, including three-time national champion Greg Jones.
The 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will run as double-elimination, and the top eight finishers in each weight class will earn All-America honors.