Three of Cal Poly’s four wrestlers at this week’s NCAA Championships will be counting on past experience to help them through in the three-day tournament at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Boris Novachkov, a 2010 All-American and Ryan Des Roches wrestled for the Mustangs at last year’s NCAA Championships. Barrett Abel, who wrestled for UC Davis last season before that school dropped its program, is also returning to the NCAA meet. The only Cal Poly wrestler who is making their NCAA debut this week is 197-pounder Ryan Smith.
Novachkov, who finished seventh at last year’s NCAA meet at 133 pounds, is the No. 3 seed at 141 and the Mustangs’ best hope of winning an NCAA title.
Novachkov, a junior and two-time Pac-10 champion, is 27-1 this season. He won the Pac-10 title at 141 this season and his only loss on the season came to Michigan’s Kellen Russell, seeded No.1. Novachkov lost 3-2 to Russell at the Las Vegas Invitational in December.
Novachkov will open the tournament Thursday against Andrew Shutt of Buffalo. Novachkov went 4-2 at last year’s NCAA event en route to his seventh-place finish, and both of his losses were in overtime.
Abel will be competing at 157 pounds after the senior wrestled at 149 last year for UC Davis’ now-defunct program. Abel, unseeded at the NCAA Championships, finished third at the Pac-10 Championships and is 30-9 on the season. He is ranked as high as 19th nationally by WIN Magazine.
Abel will open the NCAA meet against Edinboro’s Johnny Greisheimer of Edinboro. Greisheimer is also unseeded. If Abel wins that match, he would likely face Michigan’s Steve Fittery in the next round. Fittery is seeded second and is 32-1 this season and 62-4.
DesRoches, at 165 pounds, and Smith, at 197, were at-large selection for the NCAA Championships, while Novachkov and Abel were automatic qualifiers based on their Pac-10 performances.
Both DesRoches and Smith have tough first-round opponents ahead of them.
DesRoches, a junior, will face second-seeded Andrew Howe of Wisconsin in the first round. Howe is 22-2 this season and 89-7 for his career. He finished second in the NCAA meet as a freshman and was an NCAA champ last year. He is also a three-time Big Ten champ.
DesRoches is 33-6 this year and was third at the Pac-10 meet. He qualified for the NCAA meet last year and has a 83-29 career record with 36 pins.
Smith, a junior, was fifth in the Pac-10 meet and will open the NCAA Championships against top-seeded Cam Simaz of Cornell. Simaz, a junior, is 31-3 this year with 15 pins, was 10-0 in dual meets and is a two-time All-American, placing eighth at the NCAA meet in 2009 and third last season.
Perhaps no Cal Poly wrestler is happier to make the NCAA Championships than Smith, who finished second at last year’s Pac-10 meet but was left out of the NCAA event.
Two championship rounds will be contested Thursday and one round in the wrestlebacks. Quarterfinal and semifinal matches, along with four wrestleback rounds, are scheduled for Friday. The consolation semifinals and finals will be Saturday morning with the championship finals Saturday night.