WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The 16th-ranked Purdue wrestling team is set to take on some of the nation's best this weekend, heading to Columbia, Mo. for the 2013 NWCA National Duals Missouri Regional. The Boilermakers are 14-5 in dual competition this season and earned the No. 2 seed in Sunday's four-team bracket, set to open with 20th-ranked Wyoming at 10 a.m. (CT).
Purdue hit some major program milestones in its last contest, topping archrival Indiana University, 28-13, in Holloway Gymnasium to finish 5-3 in the Big Ten and tie for fourth in the final conference standings. It marked the Boilermakers' first winning conference record since 1998, and their most dual victories in a season under sixth-year head coach Scott Hinkel.
"We've had a great season so far, but we have another challenge in front of us this weekend," said Hinkel. "We're focused on beating a very good Wyoming team and advancing to the next round."
The Boilermakers have six individuals with at least 20 wins this season, just one shy of their 2010 total, most recently achieved by sophomore Brandon Nelsen. His 12-2 major decision over Indiana's Alex Gregory marked his second straight 20-win campaign, and gave him 13 bonus-point victories (six falls, one technical fall, six major decisions) on the year, the most of any Boilermaker. Nelsen joins senior Ivan Lopouchanski, junior Camden Eppert and fellow sophomores Pat Robinson, Patrick Kissel and Braden Atwood in the 20-win club this season. Eppert is second on the team with 10 bonus-point wins, including a team-high eight major decisions, while Lopouchanski and Kissel have eight bonus-point victories apiece.
With four duals left in the season, senior Tommy Churchard and freshman Chad Welch are three wins shy of the 20-win plateau. Churchard is looking to close in on his second straight NCAA Championship bid, qualifying at 157 pounds in 2012, while Welch looks to follow in the footsteps of Atwood, Eppert and junior Cashé Quiroga and become the fourth freshman in as many years to qualify for nationals. At 17-9, Welch has battled through a brutal 174-pound division in the Big Ten and looks to finish strong over the next two weeks.
"Tommy and Chad have dealt with some adversity this season, but I know they have what it takes to get the job done the rest of the way," said Hinkel. "We're going to Champaign for Big Tens and then on to Des Moines for NCAAs, and I know they can be a big part of both of those things. It starts this weekend."
The Cowboys offer up a solid test to start this weekend's regional, heading to Missouri with an 8-4 dual record and a tough lineup of wrestlers. Wyoming is headlined by senior Alfonso Hernandez, who enters the weekend with a sterling 27-1 record and a No. 4 national ranking at 197 pounds. Other Cowboy standouts include sophomores Andy McCulley and Tyler Cox as McCulley is ranked 12th nationally with a 24-6 record at 157 pounds, while Cox is 25-7 at 125 pounds.
Sixth-ranked Missouri and Maryland round out the Boilermakers' regional, both owning wins over the Old Gold and Black this season. The Tigers boast a stacked lineup with ranked individuals in nine of the 10 weight classes, while Maryland is led by senior Josh Asper and junior Jimmy Sheptock, who are ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, at 174 and 184 pounds.
The winner of the Missouri Regional advances to an eight-team national final, scheduled for Feb. 22-23 at the University of Minnesota. The host Golden Gophers, Iowa, Ohio State and Illinois each received automatic bids to the finals, while the other three entries will come from regionals at Oregon State, Kent State and Cornell. The NWCA National Duals event is undergoing its third different format in as many years, as the Boilermakers competed in a single 16-team event in 2011 at Northern Iowa, while they competed in one of four, six-team regionals in 2012 at Cornell.
Live video of Sunday's action will be available via a subscription service on Flowrestling (http://live.flowrestling.org/midwestregional-250457/), while live results will be provided by the NWCA and TrackWrestling, in addition to the @PurdueWrestling Twitter Page.
We take off tomorrow for Missouri & the National Duals! To tide you over, check highlights from the IU win: youtu.be/9ZbJAKvnxOc