I do not have a stance on the issue, which is probably dead now, of whether of whether or not a NCAA Division I national championship should be determined by a national dual meet tournament. Frankly, I'm torn on the matter. The current NCAA tournament format is perfection; it is the single greatest annual sporting event held annually on American soil. Integral to the drama and intrigue of the NCAA individual tournament is the fact that it determines the official NCAA team champion. If March's tournament were to lose its role as the determiner or a team champion, the perfection would be lost and the exquisitely cut and polished gym that is the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament would lose quite a bit of luster.
This being said, imagine if the National Duals became an NCAA dual meet championship. Every top team would be in attendance with every weapon at their disposal brought to bear. We would have dual meets with everything riding on the line. The first wrestling competition I ever experienced was a dual meet, and it hooked me for life. With the right teams, the right atmosphere, and the right kind of crowd, a dual meet can be American folkstyle wrestling's most exciting incarnation. Pairing this excitement with the significance of a NCAA championship would potentially create the greatest viewing experience hardcore wrestling fans could ever hopeful, as well as something compelling enough to entice a casual, channel flipping audience.
Would it have been worth having a dual meet national championship at the expense of some of the prestige of the NCAA individual tournament? I don't have a good answer for that question. I can just enjoy the wrestling as it appears before me, and that which appeared before me this weekend were the National Duals four regional competitions.
As an aside, I'd like to add that a current problem with National Duals, or a potential NCAA dual meet championship, is its proximity to high school state championships, and by problem, I mean a problem for high school coaches. For some, their season may still be going as these championships take place. For others, their wives believe they just got them back, and now as they return home, they have to break the news that there is quite a bit more wrestling to watch. This is potentially hazardous.
As it stands right now, the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals is the toughest dual meet tournament in the nation. Congratulations to Cornell, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Missouri for winning their regions.
Missouri wins the National Duals Missouri region
Mizzou is a tough tournament team bookended by two potential national champions and a slew of top 20 caliber wrestlers in between. It should surprise no one that they won their region.
One result that sticks out is in Missouri's regional final dual with Maryland, Maryland's Christian Boley pinned Mizzou's Brent Haynes at 197 pounds. Boley, a third seed at last year's NCAAs, has struggled this year. Maybe this win is a signal that he has returned to form.
Cornell (Photo/Cornell Sports Information)Cornell wins the National Duals Cornell region
In the close 19-17 finals dual with Nebraska, the Big Red win their region with the help of a huge pin by the one and only Kyle Dake. Dake has been nothing short of amazing this year and if he manages to beat David Taylor again to win NCAAs this year, it would take an IOC executive board level of injustice to take the Hodge away from him.
Virginia Tech wins the National Duals Oregon State region
Two old Hawkeyes tilting at each other from opposite ends of the country, Kevin Dresser and Jim Zalesky lead their teams, Virginia Tech and Oregon State respectively, against each other in this regional final. Virginia Tech is the winner of the dual, but wrestling wins from the vision of both of these coaches who have done incredible things for their wrestling programs.
At 157 pounds, Jesse Dong edges R.J. Pena. Keep an eye on Dong, my early dark horse pick to make a crazy run at NCAAs.
Also, don't look now, but Michigan's 149-pounder, Eric Grajales, once the bluest of blue chippers, is starting to really roll at this point in the season. Against Oregon State he notches a 6-4 victory over Scott Sakaguchi.
Oklahoma State wins the National Duals Kent State region
No surprise here that OSU takes this region with a finals win over Kent State. However, at 133, the Cowboys' sixth-ranked Jon Morrison suffers a shocking upset to Kent State's Mackenzie McGuire.
Utah Valley beats Air Force 23-9
I've been nothing but impressed with the Air Force wrestling team this year so this result comes as a bit of a surprise to me. UVU's win was spurred by a big upset at 125 with Jade Rauser upending eighth-ranked Falcon Josh Martinez. These are two programs that not enough people are talking about, but they have bright futures with both enjoying some impressive recruit commitments for next year.
North Carolina Dominates Carolina Duals
In the featured match of the Carolina Duals, UNC's sixth-ranked 141-pounder Evan Henderson earns a 3-1 win over The Citadel's seventh-ranked K. Undrakhbayar, known as Ugi. This was Henderson's second win over Ugi this year and UNC has a couple of lightweights who might really make noise in March.