Field Set for 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championship, Four Mids to Compete
March 12, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy juniors Colton Rasche (Plano, Ill.) and Peyton Walsh (Glen Allen, Va.) were among the 45 wrestlers who on Wednesday received at-large selections to compete in the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championship slated for March 20-22 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. Rasche and Walsh will join Navy teammates Mathew Miller (Edgewood, Md.), a two-time NCAA qualifier and 2014 EIWA Champion, and junior Paul Rands (Cary, Ill.), who received automatic berths into the tournament by way of their placement at the EIWA Championship this past weekend, in their quest to win a national championship.
“I’m really excited for Colton and Peyton and I’m happy the committee felt both of them deserved this opportunity,” said Navy interim head coach Brian Antonelli. “They both had success throughout the season, but it was a tough couple of days waiting for the at-large berths to be announced. I’m really happy they will have the chance to not only represent themselves, but the school as well.”
Seeded third at 133 pounds at the EIWA Championship, Rasche suffered a first-round loss against American’s Esteban Gomez-Rivera who was unseeded and had lost to Rasche in a dual match a month earlier. Rasche fought his way back through the tournament, but a 6-0 loss to Angelo Amenta of Columbia in the consolation sealed Rasche’s fate in terms of receiving an automatic berth to compete in the NCAA Championship.
Rasche, who will make his first appearance in the NCAA Championship, heads into the tournament with a 24-11 record this season and a 46-24 mark over his three years at the Academy. He will face the No. 2 seed A.J. Schopp of Edinboro in the opening round. Schopp pinned Rasche at the 4:26 mark in the championship bout of the Michigan State Open on Nov. 9. Schopp, meanwhile, is ranked No. 2 in the country and boasts a 31-1 record.
Walsh, meanwhile, received an at-large bid resting upon his season-long laurels at 165 pounds. The two-time NCAA qualifier’s appearance was brief at the EIWA Championship after suffering an injury against Army despite winning the match against Cole Gracey, 5-1. Walsh put together a spectacular season that feature a flawless 6-0 mark in dual action en route to his 25-11 overall mark.
Having dropped back-to-back matches in last year’s NCAA Championship to Indiana’s Ryan Leblanc and Ohio State’s Mark Martin, Walsh is looking for redemption. Among his teammates, Walsh received perhaps the best draw. Like Rasche, he too, will face an opponent who he has already battled this season. Walsh will wrestle sixth-seeded Corey Mock, who has put together a 30-3 record at Chattanooga. Mock narrowly defeated Walsh, 3-2, in the finals at the Navy Classic in November.
On paper, Navy’s most promising candidate for All-America honors is Miller, who pinned three of his four opponents en route to winning the 174-pound weight class at last weekend’s EIWA Championship. Miller punched his ticket a year ago to the NCAA Championship by way of a second-place showing before dropping a pair of matches in his first appearance at the NCAA Championship. A year more experienced, Miller will make his second appearance at the NCAA Championship as the No. 16 seed and will face Illinois’ Tony Dallago in the opening round. Miller, who 22 career pins including 12 this season, enters the tournament with an impressive 21-4 record. Meanwhile, Dallago owns a 20-11 record.
Miller, though, will be faced with the ultimate challenge should he defeat Dallago in the first match. Miller would earn a second-round matchup against the winner of the Chris Perry-Scott Liegel match. Perry is the No. 1 seed and has lost just once in the 26 matches he has wrestled this season.
Finally, making he debut at the NCAA Championship is Rands, a 197-pound junior whose journey over the last several years has been a memorable one. Rands began his wrestling career at Northwestern in the fall of 2008 and posted a 5-12 record before leaving school and serving a Mormon Mission in the Spanish-speaking communities in Arizona. Rands came to the Academy in the summer of 2011 starting his academic standing over, while he had three remaining years of eligibility. He posted a 13-22 record in his first year at Navy before stepping away from team competition a year ago to preserve his remaining two seasons with the team.
Rands has been sensational in recent months, posting an 11-2 record over his last 13 bouts, including a fourth-place showing at the EIWA Championship after coming into the tournament seeded seventh. He makes his first NCAA appearance with an 18-9 record and will be paired up against top-seeded Nick Heflin of Ohio State, who boasts a 24-1 record.
“There’s only about 10 percent of high school wrestlers who go on to wrestle at the Division I level. And now you are talking about scaling that down to a little over 300 wrestlers who will compete for a National Championship in another week. There are no easy draws,” added Antonelli.
“This opportunity is what we’ve been training for all year long. It’s why we travel around the country and compete in the elite tournaments. It’s so we will be prepared mentally and physically. Ideally our wrestlers take the mindset that ‘they’ are the tough draw, not the other way around.”
Last year, the Midshipmen placed 49th out of 72 teams with six wrestlers competing at the national championship. Navy’s last All-American was Bryce Saddoris who graduated as the Mids’ all-time winningest wrestler in 2011. He placed seventh at 157 pounds in 2011.
### Go Navy ###