MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After a two-week break, the West Virginia University wrestling team is set for back-to-back Big 12 road duals against No. 23 South Dakota State on Friday, Jan. 28, at 8 p.m. ET, followed by a battle with North Dakota State on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m.
“Two really big tests this weekend; both teams have a lot of ranked guys, so some of our guys have opportunities to make a name for themselves and see where there at,” fourth-year coach Tim Flynn said. “We missed the Oklahoma State weekend and then the weekend before we had a mini tournament with Virginia Tech, so we are excited to get back into that dual-meet atmosphere.”
The Mountaineers see their first dual action of the new year after battling in a round robin tournament with wrestlers from Binghamton and No. 8 Virginia Tech on Jan. 9, in Blacksburg, Virginia, prior to canceling its final tri-meet of the season against No. 3 Oklahoma State and Columbia at home. This will also mark the squad’s first dual since Dec. 20, where it swept the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Cleveland State in Morgantown.
WVU (5-3, 0-1 Big 12) starts the weekend at No. 23 SDSU (9-2, 2-0 Big 12) in search of its first win over the host. The Jackrabbits enter the contest 5-0 in the all-time series going back to the inaugural dual in 2016. Senior Caleb Rea (141) and junior Scott Joll (174) are the only returners to win their matches against SDSU in the previous 29-15 loss at home on Feb. 7, 2020.
SDSU had its eight-dual win streak snapped in a 21-17 loss at No. 25 Central Michigan last Sunday. CMU jumped out to a 15-4 lead upon winning four of the first five bouts, including a pin in the opening match at 125 pounds.
After competing against the Jackrabbits in Brookings, South Dakota, West Virginia travels to Fargo, North Dakota, in attempt to extended its win streak over North Dakota State. In the only two prior meetings, WVU defeated a top-25 Bison team twice by single digits. The first encounter between the two squads took place during the 2017-18 season.
NDSU (6-3, 1-3 Big 12) enters Saturday’s contest on a two-dual losing streak with losses to Northern Iowa (29-13) and No. 10 Iowa State (26-9) on the road, while WVU makes the same trip to Iowa next weekend.
In addition, WVU sophomore Peyton Hall and NDSU’s Luke Weber are on a collision course for a rematch at 165 pounds from their earlier duel in the semifinals of the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 2, where Hall secured the 13-5 major decision over Weber.
“The biggest thing that we have been talking about for two months has been consistency and having our guys compete hard in the same way every time, and if we can get them to do that then we will be okay,” coach Flynn concluded.
In the polls, three members of the WVU wrestling squad found themselves among the top 33 of their respective weight classes in the first coaches’ ranking that came out on Friday, Jan. 21, by the NCAA.
Redshirt senior Killian Cardinale led the way at No. 6 in the 125-pound weight class, while Hall also solidified a spot in the top 10 at No. 9. It marked the first time that two Mountaineers ranked in the top 10 of the initial NCAA coaches’ polls since 2017 when then-redshirt junior Jacob Smith (No. 6) at 197 pounds and senior Dylan Cottrell (No. 9) at 165 pounds represented WVU heading towards the championships in St. Louis. Redshirt sophomore Michael Wolfgram rounded out the trio at No. 21 in the heavyweight rankings.
SDSU (five) and NDSU (seven) combined for 12 wrestlers in the coaches’ ranking, which sets up for many intriguing bouts to close out the month of January.