DETROIT, Mich. (March 16, 2022) – It is time for the main event, as four members of the West Virginia University wrestling team head to Detroit, Michigan, to outlast 33 other grapplers in their respective weight classes at the 2022 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, in front of 18,000 people packed inside the Little Caesars Arena, on March 17-19.
“It’s awesome that there are going to be fans,” fourth-year coach Tim Flynn said. “A lot of these kids haven’t really wrestled in front of 15, 17, 18,000 people, so I want them to compete hard and enjoy it.”
The three-day event kicks off at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 17. Fans can catch every match from start to finish at ESPN.com or live on ESPNU during the morning session, before switching over to ESPN for the evening sessions. Live stats will also be available on Trackwrestling for the duration of the tournament.
Below are the dates, times, and broadcast networks for each championship round:
|Thursday morning||March 17||Session I – First Round||12 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Thursday evening||March 17||Session II – Consolations||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|Friday morning||March 18||Session III – Quarterfinals||11 a.m.||ESPNU|
|Friday evening||March 18||Session IV – Semifinals||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday morning||March 19||Session V – Medal||11 a.m.||ESPNU|
|Saturday evening||March 19||Session VI – Finals||7 p.m.||ESPN|
The Mountaineers send four wrestlers to compete on the national stage for the second straight year and third year in which four or more wrestlers have qualified for the NCAA Championships since the Flynn era began in 2019.
Redshirt senior Killian Cardinale (125) and sophomores Peyton Hall (165) and Dennis Robin (174) earned automatic bids based on their performances at the Big 12 Championship, while redshirt sophomore Michael Wolfgram (HWT) was awarded one of the final five at-large slots in the heavyweight division. This will also mark Robin and Wolfgram’s first appearance at the national tournament.
“With the rankings, the three kids (Cardinale, Hall, and Wolfgram) were ranked all year, so we suspected that they would go,” coach Flynn explained. “Dennis, we knew that he had a chance. He beat a couple decent kids and we figured that he could probably get into the tournament by wrestling well at Big 12s.”
“Obviously we want to qualify all 10 (starters). Still, four is better than three and we’re looking forward to watching them wrestle on Thursday.”
Cardinale enters his third straight NCAA tournament at 125 pounds after winning the 2022 Big 12 Championship and reaching seventh place in last year’s event to become WVU’s first All-American since Noah Adams was named a NWCA All-American in 2020.
As the No. 5 seed, Cardinale squares off against former two-time Southern Conference Champion and No. 28-seed Korbin Meink (11-5) of Campbell University for the second time in his college career. The Bristow, Virginia, native escaped with a two-point win (5-3) over Meink in the duo’s first meeting at the Navy Classic in 2019 as a sophomore.
Of note, Cardinale can become the first grappler in program history to claim a Big 12 championship and a top-8 finish on the mat at nationals in the same season.
No. 9-seed Hall returns to the national stage for the second consecutive year behind a 25-3 overall record. Hall fell one spot short of All-America status last season (2021) and looks to move forward towards a place on the podium, beginning with a battle against a familiar adversary in No. 24 Riley Smucker (21-4) of Cleveland State at 165 pounds.
In their two previous meetings, the Chester, West Virginia, native has outscored Smucker by a combined 15 points. The duo most recently went head-to-head at a tri-meet in Morgantown on Dec. 20, where Hall recorded five takedowns on his way to a 12-3 major decision over the CSU Viking.
No. 27-seed Wolfgram (20-9) and No. 31-seed Robin (13-15) brace for their championship debuts versus two former All-Americans in No. 2 Mekhi Lewis (20-1) of ACC runner-up Virginia Tech and No. 6 Jordan Wood (22-2) of Lehigh.
With the addition of four qualifiers in this year’s tournament, West Virginia has accumulated 193 qualifiers since 1979, when the NCAA implemented the current qualification system. The Mountaineers have also tallied 33 All-America honors and 16 top-25 finishes at the event since 1929. Furthermore, the program has witnessed five individual national championships, including Scott Collins in 1991, Dean Morrison in 1994, and three-time champion Greg Jones in 2002, 2004, and 2005.
“It’s a really long tournament, so the old adage of taking one at a time is so important,” Flynn said. “It’s hard not to look ahead and envision yourself wrestling on Saturday but you can’t wrestle on Saturday if you don’t win on Thursday.”
In the polls, three WVU contenders earned a spot in the latest NCAA coaches’ poll heading into the opening round of the NCAA Championships. Cardinale and Hall remained in the top 10 at No. 6 and No. 8, respectively, while Wolfgram checks in at No. 28 of the heavyweight division. Cardinale (No. 2), Hall (No. 4), and Wolfgram (No. 30) landed in the top-33 ratings percentage index (RPI) of their respective weight classes as well.
What’s more, Detroit hosts the 2022 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships for the first time in history. Last time that the NCAA tournament was held in the state of Michigan, Mountaineer standout Brandon Rader completed back-to-back sixth-place finishes on his way to earning a second consecutive All-America honor at 141 pounds to end the 2006-07 season in Michigan.
Press Release Courtesy of West Virginia University Athletics Communications