WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team heads to Cornell University this Sunday for the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals. This year marks the first time in the event's 24-year history that it will include 24 teams split into four regional events for the national team-dual championship, as the Boilermakers are scheduled to face No. 25 Central Michigan Sunday at 10 a.m.
Along with the Boilermakers, the host Big Red and the Chippewas, the Ithaca Regional includes No. 7 Illinois, 12th-ranked Oklahoma and American. Cornell and Illinois are the top-two seeds, while Oklahoma is seeded third, Central Michigan fourth, Purdue fifth and American sixth.
"We're excited at the opportunity to go compete in a national championship-type event," said Purdue head coach Scott Hinkel. "We need to make dual meets more important in our sport, and this is a great way to do it. There should be some intense dual competition at all four regionals and a great opportunity for wrestling fans to see some awesome matches."
Receiving the No. 5 seed in the Ithaca Region by way of head-to-head victory over American University, the Boilermakers drew fourth-seeded Central Michigan in the opening round. Purdue and Central Michigan have met nine times in the all-time series, with the Boilermakers holding a 5-4 edge despite losing the last three encounters. The Chippewas took a narrow 21-19 victory over Purdue at last season's NWCA National Duals at the University of Northern Iowa, and hold a 2-1 advantage in the series at a neutral site. Central Michigan has a trio of ranked individuals in its lineup, led by fourth-ranked 184-pound junior Ben Bennett, who is an impressive 24-3 on the season. Sophomore Joe Roth and senior Peter Sturgeon are the other two ranked individuals for the Chippewas, tabbed 17th, respectively, at 125 and 285 pounds.
The winner of the Purdue vs. Central Michigan dual will advance to face top-seeded and third-ranked host Cornell at noon, while the loser will face the defeated squad from the Oklahoma vs. American dual at 2 p.m. The Boilermakers are 1-2 all-time against the Big Red, topping Cornell at the Virginia Duals in 1998, while Purdue is 0-1 in their only meeting with the Sooners and topped American this season at the Northeast Duals, 24-22, in the first-ever meeting.
The Boilermakers continue to be led by their ranked trio of sophomore Cashé Quiroga, junior Ivan Lopouchanski and freshman Braden Atwood. Quiroga is ninth in the country at 133 pounds and has won his last seven straight matches en route to a 14-4 mark on the season, including nine victories via bonus points. Lopouchanski moved up to 11th in the nation at 149 pounds this week after knocking off Indiana freshman Taylor Walsh in last weekend's dual, and is 12-3 on the year. Atwood has hit the ground running in his rookie campaign, posting a 19-8 record on his way to a No. 19 national ranking at 184 pounds, and is just shy of the Purdue single-season record board with eight falls this season.
The return of sophomore Camden Eppert and senior A.J. Kissel has helped the Boilermakers recently as Eppert has won three of his last four at 125 pounds, while Kissel notched key victories against Wisconsin's Jackson Hein and Northwestern's John Schoen, and remains one pin shy of the Purdue career record. However now that some have returned to the Purdue lineup, others are now out as senior Roger Vukobratovich was injured in the Boilermakers' dual at Indiana and will miss this weekend's competition. Replacing Vukobratovich is sophomore Alex White, who has compiled an 11-6 mark this year in a backup role.
Thursday marked the second release of the NCAA Coaches' Poll and the first edition of the 2012 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which serve as two of the three qualification standards for NCAA Championship bids. Atwood, Vukobratovich and junior Tommy Churchard were the only three Boilermakers to earn spots in both polls, while Quiroga, Lopouchanski and Kissel earned spots in the coaches' rankings.
Sunday's action will stream live courtesy of Live Sports Video, while live updates will be available at TrackWrestling.com and the @PurdueWrestling Twitter page.