March 7, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue will make its 31st consecutive appearance at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, set for March 15, 16 and 17 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, advancing six Boilermakers to the national tournament. Purdue's six bids to the national championships is one more than its 2011 total and the second time in the last three years the Boilermakers have had at least six.
"We're excited about the potential of this year's group advancing to NCAA's," said Boilermaker head coach Scott Hinkel. "These are guys who can score points in a variety of ways and should be able to rack up an impressive total when the dust settles."
Senior A.J. Kissel, junior Ivan Lopouchanski, sophomores Camden Eppert and Cashé Quiroga and freshman Braden Atwood all secured automatic bids to the NCAA Championships, placing inside the respective allotment at last weekend's Big Ten Championships, hosted by the Boilermakers in Mackey Arena. Junior Tommy Churchard joined them today, earning an at-large bid at 157 pounds and marking the fourth straight year that Purdue has received at least one at-large bid. The Boilermakers also received a national seed for the second straight year and third time in the last four years as Quiroga was pegged as the No. 9 seed at 133 pounds and Lopouchanski was seeded 12th at 149. This is the first time since 2006 that the Boilermakers have two nationally seeded individuals.
Now a four-time national qualifier, Kissel makes his first trip to the NCAA Championships at 197 pounds after advancing at 184 in his three previous seasons. Limited by injuries in his final season, Kissel is just 6-5 on the year, but has impressive wins over Missouri's Brent Haynes, the No. 6 seed in the national field, and Minnesota's Sonny Yohn, the No. 10 seed. Kissel will face Campbell's John Weakley in the first round, who finished the season 29-10 overall and placed second in the Southern Conference Championship to earn an automatic qualifier.
Lopouchanski is making his third career trip to NCAA's, but his first-ever for the Old Gold and Black. He qualified at 141 and 149 pounds for UNC Greensboro in 2010 and 2011, transferring to Purdue after the Spartans folded their program last summer. At 16-6 this season, Lopouchanski meets Hofstra's Justin Accordino in the opening round of competition. Accordino is 23-11 this season and qualified for the national field with a second-place effort in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships.
For the second straight season Eppert was not projected to advance to the national championships, but proved doubters wrong by securing a top-six finish and an automatic bid at the Big Ten Championships. After losing more than a month of his sophomore season to mononucleosis, Eppert rallied late and knocked off 17th-ranked Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State in the consolation quarterfinals at the conference tournament to secure his spot in the national field. Eppert draws a rematch with Joe Roth of Central Michigan in the opening round. Eppert and Roth went to sudden victory in the first meeting, with Roth earning a 4-2 decision. Roth is 34-7 on the year and won the Mid-American Conference Championship to earn his automatic bid into the field.
Quiroga is anxious to return to the NCAA Championships after redshirting the 2010-11 season, and aims for a similar performance to his last trip to the national tournament. A 2010 All-American, he was just the fifth freshman in Purdue history to earn national-placing honors, taking sixth place at 125 pounds. Bumping up to 133 pounds this season, Quiroga has put together a 20-6 season, including a fifth-place effort at the Big Ten Championships. He'll take on Arizona State's Shane McGough in the opening round, who at 17-14 needed an at-large qualifier after finishing fourth at the Pac-12 Championships.
The Boilermakers have qualified a freshman wrestler in each of the past three seasons as Atwood earned an automatic bid with his seventh-place finish at the conference championships. At 22-13 this year, he is the highest-ranked freshman in the country at his weight (one of four in the national field) and has battled 14 ranked opponents this season. He'll rematch fourth-seeded Steve Bosak of Cornell in the opening round, looking to avenge a 10-0 major decision at the National Duals in Ithaca, N.Y. this season. Bosak is 28-4 this season and earned an automatic bid to NCAA's with a first-place effort at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships.
Churchard joins the group heading to St. Louis with an 18-18 mark this season, his first at 157 pounds. The Boilermaker junior finished a disappointing eighth at the Big Ten Championships last weekend, but has several quality wins on a brutal schedule, and will look to bounce back at his first career national championship tournament. Churchard will open NCAA's against North Carolina State's Colton Palmer, who finished the season 18-14 and qualified for the tournament with a third-place effort at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships.
Missouri was the only school to have all 10 members of its lineup advance to the national championships, while Cornell, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Penn State all qualified nine. The Boilermakers were one of just 28 schools to have six or more wrestlers in the field. Thirty-seven schools benefitted from at-large bids on Wednesday, paced by Arizona State, which earned three at-large bids. Old Dominion, Nebraska, Iowa State and Navy each received a pair of at-large bids as well. The Big Ten Conference received 80 bids to the NCAA Championships, setting a conference record.
Purdue looks to put a wrestler back on the top of the podium for the third time in four years as Jake Patacsil was fifth at 149 pounds in 2009, while Quiroga was sixth at 125 pounds in 2010. Purdue is in search of its first top-20 finish since 2006 (20th), its first top-15 finish since 2003 (14th) and its first top-10 finish since 1991 (seventh).
The Boilermakers depart for St. Louis on Tuesday, while the championships will start Thursday, March 15. For more information on tickets, visit Ticketmaster. ESPN will broadcast every round of the championships for the second straight year. For more information on television and webcast coverage, visit here.