Liberty leads NCWA Championships after Day 1

ALLEN, Texas -- Liberty University leads the NCWA Championships after the first day, advancing seven wrestlers into the quarterfinals but using its depth with nine other alive in the consolation rounds for a 74-point total and a moderate cushion over the field. The Apprentice School is comfortably in second place for the moment with 66.5 points, while Central Florida is 14 points back in third with 60 points.

Two-time defending champion Emmanuel College is fourth with 56 points, with BYU just behind in fifth at 55.5. Grays Harbor College and Washington State are tied for sixth at 50 points.

We have broken down our first-day coverage into separate stories on each weight class on our site. Full coverage of the NCWA Championships is available to watch and follow along at

Wrestling begins again at 9 a.m. Friday with the championship quarterfinals and the two rounds of 16 consolation matches. The championship semifinals are at 7 p.m.

The top 20 after Thursday's action is:
1. Liberty 74
2. Apprentice 66.5
3. Central Florida 60
4. Emmanuel College 56
5. BYU 55.5
6t. Grays Harbor College 50
6t. Washington State 50
8t. Middle Tennessee 49
8t. Springfield Tech CC 49
10. Grand Valley State 46
11. Md.-Baltimore County 45.5
12. Queens Univ. of Charlotte 42
13. Colorado State 33
14. Toledo 32
15. Alfred State 31
16. Akron 29
17. Maine 28
18. Florida 27
19. Penn State WC 25.5
20. Iowa State WC 25

Seven of the top eights seeds are still alive into the quarterfinals, paced by top-seeded Byron Smith of Middle Tennessee. Smith won three matches Thursday by tech fall, with combined scores of 48-2. The senior from Memphis is a two-time All-American who placed third last year. He will face eight-seed Brandn Felan of Texas A&M in the quarterfinals. Felan is perhaps the Southwest Conference's top wrestler this season, and edged Florida's Raymon Troncoso 12-10 in sudden victory to reach the quarters.

UCF has two keys to its championship run in the 125 bracket. Two of the Knights' 10 wrestlers still alive heading into Friday are at 125, with four-seed Timothy Sakow one win away from a fourth consecutive All-American season and third-seeded Jacob Toledo in opposite sides of the quarterfinal brackets. Sakow got a key win over Liberty's Jason Smith in the round of 16 to close Thursday's action, while Toledo won both his matches by tech fall.

Colton Messick, the second seed from Apprentice, scored a pin and a decision to reach the quarters at the bottom of the bracket. He'll face Emmanuel's Albert Perez, who as the 10-seed beat West Chester's 7-seed Manuel Canfin in the bracket's only upset of the day. Queen's University of Charlotte has 6-seed Melvin Rubio in the quarters following three pins in Thursday's action, two of them in under a minute and the other in 1:28. Rubio faces Toledo in the quarters. Deonte Carter, the 5-seed, is the other quarterfinalist and won his only match Thursday by fall following a first-round forfeit.

Two of the tournament's biggest upsets on the first day came in the 133 weight class. BYU's Colton Tracy helped the Cougars' charge into the top five of the standings with a 6-1 decision over fourth-seeded Emery Cline of Emmanuel. He'll face fifth-seeded and returning All-American Justus Griffith of UCF in the quarters in another key match for the Knights. The bracket's other notable upset based on seeding came in the bottom of the bracket as Kolin Johnson of Apprentice pinned two-time All-American and 3-seed Brendan Hazleton of Grand Valley State in the round of 16. Johnson faces returning All-American Deonte Evans of Toledo in the quarters. Evans topped Liberty's 11-seed Blake Justus in the round of 16, 4-3.

Top-seed Arthur Payne of Mott Community College won two tech falls by a 33-2 count to reach the quarters at the top of the bracket, where he'll face 8-seed Demetri Koures of Montana Tech. Koures won three matches Thursday by pin, a tech fall, and a 5-2 decision over Tyler Petrochko of Yale in the round of 16. At the bottom of the bracket are second-seeded Noah Gilbert of Queens, and returning All-American Michael Perdomo of Penn State-Fayette. Perdomo beat Junior Francois of UCF in the round of 16 13-11 by sudden victory.

One of the featured quarterfinal matches will come at 141, where at the bottom of the bracket Liberty's 2-seed Reid Stewart will face Apprentice's 10-seed Shalek Colon. Stewart is the front end of the bulk of Liberty's middleweight prowess, and continued his fine season with two major decisions and a first-period pin in the round of 16 for key bonus points for Liberty, while Colon edged 7-seed and returning All-American Nick Reddy of Grand Valley State 10-7 in the round of 16. The winner there could play a big part of the championship picture.

The 141-pound bracket provided the day's first upset when Liberty's Ashton Robinson, unseeded outside the top 24 in the bracket, beat 4-seed Michael Harris of Emmanuel in sudden victory, 9-7. Robinson reached the round of 16 before losing to 13-seed Danny Buteau of Husson University. Buteau faces East Carolina's 5-seeded Wesley Hollingsworth in the quarters. Hollingsworth had an efficient Thursday winning 7-2 and 12-4.

Deviniare Hayes of Queens blasted into the quarterfinals with a 12-0 major decision over two-time All-American and 14-seed Carlos Garcia of Middle Tennessee to close Thursday's action. Hayes will face Nick Pipes of another first-year NCWA program at Macomb Community College. Pipes, the 6-seed, beat BYU's Tanner Williams 7-6 to reach the quarters, a big loss for BYU.

Top-seeded Tyler Sage of Florida reached the quarters with an 8-4 win over Middle Tennessee's Daniel Clark in the round of 16, plus a first-period pin earlier in the day. Sage can help the Gators stay in the top 20 in the standings with a win over Grays Harbor's 8-seed Damon Thomas in the quarters. Thompson gritted out three decisions Thursday.

Top-seeded Jay Sheppard of Emmanuel dominated the upper part of the bracket, scoring two pins to reach the quarters to set up a key match between returning All-Americans facing 8-seed Ty Boyd of Apprentice. Emmanuel is a two-time All-American who placed third at 157 pounds last year, while Boyd is a two-time All-American who took fifth at 133 last year.

The only unseeded wrestler to reach the quarterfinals came at 149 when Ty'Rae Carter of Texas A&M beat Utah State's Mitchel Egbert 15-3 by major decision in the round of 16. Carter started the day with a 21-7 major decision, then upset Liberty's 4-seeded Chad Cantrell 12-9. Carter takes on Temple's Nick Puliti in the quarters. Puliti, the 5-seed, won by fall and then had two decisions on the first day.

Carter is one of two Southwest Conference upstarts in the bracket along with North Texas' Scott Akers, the 6-seed who posted an 11-0 major decision over 11-seed Tyshane Young of Grays Harbor to reach the quarters. Akers will face third-seeded Martin Mitchell of Maryland-Baltimore County on Friday morning. Mitchell posted three pins in his first-day action.

Zach Blevins of Toledo is the 2-seed who scored two pins to reach the quarters, and he'll face 10-seed Tyler Weiss of BYU in a key match for the Cougars. Weiss won by fall to open his tournament, then won in sudden victory over UNLV's 7-seed Jared Brathor, 7-5.

The top seeds help for the most part in this class, setting up one key match toward the team title race. Chad Simmons, Apprentice's top-seed who cruised to two wins Thursday, faces UCF's Matthew Seymour in the quarters. Both Simmons and Seymour, the 8 seed, are returning All-Americans who look to place in the top four for the first time. Simmons was fifth at 165 last year, while Seymour took fifth at 141 in 2016. Seymour advanced by injury default over another returning All-American, Penn State-Fayette's Ethan Kenney, in the round of 16.

At the bottom of the bracket, Hunter Quinn of Emmanuel had a dominating day as the 2 seed, winning by major decision 16-3 followed by a 17-0 tech fall and then a first-period pin in the round of 16. He'll face 10-seed Josh Pine of Grays Harbor, who scored two first-period pins sandwiched around a 6-4 decision to reach the quarters. Pine won in the round of 16 with a 27-second pin.

Liberty's 3-seed, Andrew Burgette, faces a tough quarterfinal against 6-seed and returning All-American Dan Ritz of the Penn State Wrestling Club. Ritz won his three Thursday matches by fall while Burgette edged out a 6-5 win over Josh Feuerbacher to reach the quarters. The other quarterfinal pairs 5-seed Azamat Akhmedov of UMBC against 4-seed Dan Vossbein of West Chester. Vossbein scored a tech fall in the round of 32, and Akhmedov had a major decision to open the tournament.

The top eight seeds all won in this class to set up a quarterfinal series of matches where all four returning All-Americans in the bracket are still in the championship hunt, plus another match that will have an impact on the team title chase. In the middle of the bracket is a matchup of returning All-Americans as Javiair White of the Rutgers Wrestling Club, the 4-seed, taking on returning All-American JA Jones of Emmanuel. Jones took third in this class last year, while White was third at 174 in 2017.

The White-Jones result will have team title implications, as will the pairing at the bottom of the bracket between Liberty's Joseph Scott, the 2 seed, and Mason Brestle of the Maryland Wrestling Club. Scott reached the quarters with a tech fall and a pin in the round of 16, while Brestle reached with two major decisions. The winner there could face Toledo's Taylor Workman, the 6-seed and a returning All-American who placed fourth at this weight a year ago. Workman takes on the 3-seed, Richard Viruet of Springfield Technical CC, who charged through his first-day matches with two tech falls by a 34-0 combined score plus a second-period pin in his opener.

The other quarterfinal matches the top seed, Bailey Carlson of BYU, who will be the favorite over 8-seed Peter Becher of East Carolina. Carlson had a tech fall in his opener, then won a big match 6-4 over Liberty's David Cox in the round of 16. Becher won his matches by 9-1 and 12-6 counts.

There are two returning All-Americans at 174 and both of them have reached the quarterfinals. But the talk in this class quickly turns to the team race where Liberty, Apprentice, UCF and BYU each have a representative still alive for the title but none of them facing each other in the quarters.

Of keen interest is the pairing of Dan Henson of Apprentice, who as the 21-seed is the lowest-seeded wrestler still alive in any championship bracket. Henson advanced by injury default against fifth-seeded and local rival Brandon Buckingham of UMBC, and now faces 4-seed John Prentice of Penn State-DuBois. Prentice is a returning All-American who took fifth at 165 in 2016. Prentice won by 10-3 and 4-1 counts to reach the quarters.

Opposite that pairing in the top half of the bracket is Noah Curreri of Queens, who had three first-period pins Thursday to cruise into the quarterfinals. He'll face Edward Maisey of BYU, the 9-seed whose second of two major decisions on the day came as a 17-3 win over eighth-seeded Thomas Hatzipavlides of the Penn State Wrestling Club.

At the bottom of the bracket is another feature match between two-time All-American Shane Brown of Akron, the 2 seed, taking on 7 seed Ethan Ahrens of UCF. Brown scored a handful of bonus points Thursday with two pins and a major decision, while Ahrens scored a pin to go with a major decision among his three first-day wins. The other quarterfinal pairs Liberty's 3 seed, Sam Karel, against Springfield Tech's Jacob Berry. Karel had a pin and a tech fall on the first day, while Karel scored a pin and a major decision to reach the quarters.

The team title will take an interesting turn following the results of the quarterfinals here. Three returning All-Americans are still alive in the championship side of the bracket, with two of the eight quarterfinalists from UCF and one from Liberty. And they're all on the same side of the bracket.

The highlight match here comes at the top of the bracket where George VanValen of Alfred State is one win away from a third All-American finish. He's the top seed and cruised into the quarters with a tech fall and a major decision. VanValen, 39-1 on the season, takes on UCF's Brad Kata, the 8-seed. Kate had a first-period pin and a major decision on the first day. It's a key match for UCF, but it comes against one of the tournament's heavy title favorites.

Opposite them is UCF's returning All-American Jarrod Smiley, the 5-seed. Smiley cruised through the first day, but now has one of the tournament's key matches taking on Liberty's Joshua McIlhenny, the 4-seed, in the quarters. At this point in the tournament it's a key match for UCF where it could have both its wrestlers facing off in the semi's.

George Andrews of Connecticut is the other returning All-American in the bracket. Seeded sixth, he's advanced with a pin and a tech fall and will face 3-seed Jerron Thomas of Mott Community College. The bottom of the bracket has second-seeded Vincent Levin of Florida Gulf Coast taking on Brenden DeVries, the 7-seed of Grand Valley State. Levin scored a first-period pin and a major decision on the first day.

This bracket now has UCF and Apprentice wrestlers in the same half of the bracket awaiting a potential semifinal matchup. Second-seeded Ross Graham of Apprentice blew through two tech falls on Thursday to advance to the quarters, and he'll face Grays Harbor's 7-seed Jack Dahlgren, who had two pins on the first day. UCF's 3-seed Randolph Prud'homme takes on an underdog by seeding but an experienced wrestler in 11-seed Costas Hatzipavlides, a returning All-American from the Iowa State Wrestling Club. Hatzipavlides shocked two-time All-American and 6-seed Jesse Slocum of Akron in the round of 16 with a 10-1 major decision.

Top-seeded Robert LaPeter could become Florida State's first NCWA All-American with a quarterfinal win, but it will come in a tough matchup against 8-seed River Robertson of Maine. Robertson is a three-time All-American with top-five finishes at 184 the past three seasons. LaPeter reached the quarters with two first-period pins and a 4-1 decision. Robertson had a pin and a major decision on Thursday.

The other quarterfinal pairs upstart 12-seed Broc Dokos of Springfield Tech against returning All-American Sean Kennedy of Middle Tennessee. Dokos rocked the bracket with an 11-1 major decision over Liberty's Taylor Westlake, the 5-seed who took fourth at 184 last year. Kennedy was third at this weight last season, and reached the quarters with a first-period pin in the round of 16 following a tech fall to open his tournament.

The 235-pound bracket has been loaded from the start with eight returning All-Americans seeded in the bracket. Seven of them reached the quarterfinals representing a total of 10 All-American honors for what should be a great set of matches toward the close of the Friday morning session. The only reason all eight aren't the quarters is one of them lost to another when Luttere Eglaus of UCF edged Clemson's Danny Falconer 6-4 in the round of 16. Eglaus is the lowest-seeded of the quarterfinalists at 11 but still took Falconer's sixth-seeded spot. Falconer was Clemson's first All-American under the NCWA banner after a fourth-place finish at 197 last year. Eglaus takes on third-seeded Harun Bogdanic, an experienced wrestler from Grand Valley State and a two-time All-American.

Just beneath them on the lower half of the bracket are Stevan Webb of Connecticut, a three-time All-American looking for a fourth, and Richie McClendon of Middle Tennessee. Webb, the 2-seed, and McClendon, the 7 seed, each earned two pins on the first day to advance.

Austin Amos of Liberty is the top seed, a returning All-American with a pin and a tech fall already under his belt. Amos placed eight at 197 in 2017 and will face Giovanni Guarnero of Winona State, the 9-seed who took sixth at this weight last year. The Ohio State Wrestling Club earned its first All-American last year when Seth Brennock placed fourth in this weight class. He's back as the 4-seed and has already racked up 41 points in two matches winning by tech fall and a 22-10 major decision. He'll face 5-seed Drew Barrett of Queens, who won a narrow 3-1 opener before winning by tech fall in the round of 16.

The top two seeds in this class could make for a great championship bout between two two-time All-Americans. But there's another prospective matchup that could be even more appealing with two heavyweights battling each other in the tournament's final match with the team title on the line. Jesse Gaudin of UCF is 27-3 on the season with back-to-back national runner-up finishes the past two seasons. He's the top seed this time around and favored to reach the finals match again. On the other side of the bracket sits 2-seed Dylan Stadel of Utah State, still undefeated at 7-0 on the season with two consecutive third-place finishes in this bracket. Their finals match would be one to see. Gaudin takes on 8-seed Ryan Mattison of Alfred State in the quarters. Mattison already has a pin and a major decision in the tournament.

But there's also that possibility that Liberty's 6-seed, Dominic Johnson, could slip into the final as well, perhaps pitting the two heavyweights in position to decide the overall champion between their teams that current sit in first and second place. Johnson has his hands full in the quarterfinals though facing another returning All-American in Donavan Lozada of Springfield Tech. Johnson already toppled another returning All-American in Austin Wells of Middle Tennessee, pinning him following a first-period pin in his opening match. Lozada has two first-period pins, including a 34-second finish in the round of 16.

Stadel scored two first-period pins to start the tournament, and now faces UMBC's Chukwudi Kalu, the 7-seed, in the quarters. The other quarterfinal is between the 4- and 5-seeds, Penn State-Fayette's Nathan Spinetti and Grand Valley State's Miguel Correa. Correa got a pin in the opener and edged out 6-0 and 4-2 decisions in the other rounds Spinetti scored a pin in his opening round followed by an 8-0 major decision over the 13-seed.


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