Liberty begins NCWA National Championship defense in Fla.
March 9, 2016 | Kissimmee, Fla.
The defending NCWA national champion Liberty University wrestling team is ranked fifth as a team with five individuals ranked in the top 10 in their respective weight classes going into this week's NCWA Grand National Championships, set for Thursday through Saturday at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla.
The Flames qualified 17 wrestlers to nationals for the second consecutive year based on their top-five finishes at the Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament, Feb. 27 at Middle Tennessee State University.
But Liberty will have challenging draws individually and a tough road as a team to secure its fifth consecutive top-five national finish after capturing their first national tournament crown last season in Allen, Texas. Though Liberty placed third at the NCWA National Duals on Jan. 23 in Dalton, Ga., it is ranked fifth behind Central Florida, Emmanuel College, Grand Valley State, and Penn State DuBois.
Flames junior Josh Ferenczy (33-10), ranked No. 2 at 174 pounds, is their highest-ranked wrestler. He will face the winner between Temple's Aram Soukiasian and Florida Gulf Coast's Deyrel Diaz in his first match on Thursday.
Liberty freshman 125-pounder Dell Nonga (21-12), who's ranked eighth and seeded 10th for the national tournament, will meet Grays Harbor College's Fabian Wickham in his opening match. MAC champion Michael Bryant (12-4), a sophomore ranked eighth nationally and seeded eighth at 165 pounds, will face the winner between Wisconsin's Jake Yatso and Sacramento State's Anthony Delgado.
Junior 235-pounder Charles Hancock (15-12) is seeded sixth and will face the winner between Winona State's Will Rusch and Michigan State's Alexander James in his first match. Senior heavyweight Josh Travers (15-7) is seeded seventh and will face Texas A&M's Cody Carpenter.
Junior 149-pounder Ike Podell, an NCWA All-American last season, and freshman 141-pounder Brandon Robinson (3-0), who both won MAC Tournament titles last week, are ranked 11th nationally and seeded 10th in their respective weight classes. Podell (22-7) will meet the winner between Akron's Isaac Hammonds and Central Florida's C.J. Cook in his first match while Robinson awaits the winner between Penn State Dubois' Devin Joiner and Jack Clark.
Brackets for all 11 weight classes are available online.
Weigh-ins are set for 8 a.m. on Thursday with preliminary action due to begin at 10 a.m. followed by Round of 16 championship bracket competition at 5 p.m. The tournament resumes Friday at 9 a.m. with consolation bracket matchups before championship quarterfinals are waged at 4 p.m. followed by semifinal action at 7 p.m. Saturday's consolation bracket matches begin at 9 a.m. before the championship finals begin at 6 p.m.