MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After two sessions of wrestling, four West Virginia University grapplers are alive in the consolation bracket of the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships held at the Enterprise Center, in St. Louis, Missouri, on Thursday.
Redshirt juniors Killian Cardinale (125) and Noah Adams (197), redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan (133) and freshman Peyton Hall (165) each picked up a first-round win in their respective brackets to advance to the championship second round. However, the Mountaineer quartet later dropped their round of 16 matches to move into Friday morning’s consolation brackets.
“They wrestled pretty well in the first round,” third-year coach Tim Flynn said. “I thought Killian wrestled pretty well in the last two periods of his second match. Ryan and Noah had short second-round matches, where they got caught on their backs, and Peyton was a little tentative. So our second round wasn’t nearly as good, but we had a much higher level of competition.”
The second and third round of wrestle-backs (Session III) will begin at 11 a.m. ET on Friday, followed by fourth round wrestle-backs (Session IV) at 8 p.m. ET that evening. Medal rounds (Session V) will take place at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, with the championship finals (Session VI) set for 7 p.m. ET Saturday night.
Early sessions will be broadcasted on ESPNU, while the medal round will be shown live on ESPN2. Friday night’s semifinals and 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.
Seeded No. 17 at 125 pounds, Cardinale captured a hard-fought, 7-6 decision over No. 16-seed Codi Russell of Appalachian State in the first round. With Cardinale taking a one-point lead into the final frame, Russell elected to start in the defensive position, earning an escape to tie the match at 4-4. The Bristow, Virginia, native scored another two-point takedown, but Russell used a reversal to tie the bout once again at 6-6. Cardinale escaped with 37 seconds left on clock, which put him on top for good, as he walked away with the 7-6 victory.
Cardinale later dropped his second match of the day, suffering a 15-5 setback to No. 1-seed Spencer Lee of Iowa in the round of 16, to move into the 125-pound consolation bracket. Cardinale will meet No. 18-seed Noah Surtin of Missouri for the first time this season on Friday morning.
At 133 pounds, Sullivan, seeded No. 20 in his weight bracket, upset No. 13 Zach Redding of Iowa State in the first round of competition. The two grapplers entered sudden victory with the overall match knotted at 1-1, before Sullivan scored a late reversal thanks to an official review, which eventually led to a 4-3 win over Redding in the first tiebreaker.
The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native later squared off against No. 4-seed Austin DeSanto of Iowa in the round of 16. DeSanto pinned Sullivan in 1:36, as he fell into the consolations of his respective bracket. Sullivan will face No. 19-seed Chance Rich of CSU Bakersfield in his first wrestle-back bout on Friday morning.
Hall, seeded No. 21 at 165 pounds, put on a takedown clinic in his first match of the day, posting five takedowns in seven minutes to capture a 14-4 major decision over No. 12 Jake Keating of Virginia and advancing to the championship second round.
The Chester, West Virginia, native then dropped his evening match, suffering a 6-0 setback to No. 5-seed Zach Hartman of Bucknell, to move into the consolation bracket. Hall will meet No. 22-seed Kennedy Monday of North Carolina for the first time in his career on Friday morning.
Seeded No. 9, Adams went head-to-head with No. 24-seed Benjamin Smith of Cleveland State in the first round of the 197-pound pool for the second time this season. The Coal City, West Virginia, native took a 5-0 lead into the final two minutes of action, as Smith began the third on bottom. Adams used his strength and rode him through the period, adding on the riding time point at the end of regulation for the 6-0 decision.
He later faced No. 8-seed Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming for the fourth time this season. With Buchanan claiming a win in their first three matches, Adams hoped to avenge his early season losses for a spot in the quarterfinals. However, Adams fell to Buchanan in 1:59, as he moved into Friday’s consolation bracket. He will square off with No. 7-seed Rocky Elam of Missouri for the first time in his career.
“Any loss is hard to put behind you when your goal is to be a national champion,” Flynn said. “But the goal is always the same when you’re a competitor. When you step out on the mat, you are trying to win. I don’t care if it is in the consolations, championship final or in the parking lot. When someone is standing across from you, your goal is to whip him.”
Of note, wrestlers in the consolation brackets remain in contention for third place and All-America honors.
Championship Round 1
125: Killian Cardinale (WVU) dec. Codi Russell (Appalachian State), 7-6
133: Ryan Sullivan (WVU) dec. Zach Redding (Iowa State), 4-3 [TB-1]
165: Peyton Hall (WVU) major dec. Jake Keating (Virginia), 14-4
197: Noah Adams (WVU) dec. Benjamin Smith (Cleveland State), 6-0
Championship Round 2
125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) major dec. Killian Cardinale (WVU), 15-5
133: Austin DeSanto (Iowa) wins by fall Ryan Sullivan (WVU), F 1:36
165: Zach Hartman (Bucknell) dec. Peyton Hall (WVU), 6-0
197: Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming) wins by fall Noah Adams (WVU), F 1:59