The NCAA announced qualifier allocations for the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Friday. The first of four coaches’ panel rankings also were released for the 2021 wrestling season.
The Big 12 Conference was awarded 45 automatic qualifying spots, tied for second most with the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA), while the Big Ten Conference was allocated a conference-high 76 qualifying spots. Six weight classes (125, 133, 149, 165, 197 and HWT) will qualify the top-five finishers at the 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championship – the most of any weight classes. The 141-, 174- and 184-pound weight brackets earned four allocations, while 157 collected three.
In recent years, pre-allocations have been determined by a formula measuring Division I winning percentage, ratings percentage index and coaches’ rankings. A decrease in overall matches, and in particular non-conference matches, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, led the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee to transition to using the five-year historical average to determine pre-allocations for 2021.
For any adjustments in conference alignment over the last five years, historical pre-allocations stayed with the conference where they were earned. The competition status of schools for 2021 also did not impact the calculation of pre-allocations.
Following the conference tournaments, the Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining at-large qualifiers to fill out the 33-man bracket in each weight class, which will be announced on March 9, followed by brackets and seeding on March 10.
Four Mountaineers rank in the top 33 of their respective weights in the first NCAA coaches’ panel rankings. The rankings are compiled by a vote of coaches representing each conference. For ranking purposes, coaches may only consider a wrestler that has been designated as a starter at a respective weight class. To be eligible for the rankings, wrestlers must have participated in at least two matches against Division I opponents in the weight class and have wrestled within the last 30 days.
Redshirt junior Noah Adams, a native of Coal City, West Virginia, comes in at No. 4 at 197 pounds, as he looks to qualify for his third consecutive NCAA Championships this season. Adams, who was a No. 2-seed in his respective weight class at the 2020 NCAA Tournament, most recently saw his 39-match win streak snapped with an 8-7 loss to No. 14 Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming on Feb. 6. Despite the loss, he is tied for the team lead in wins with nine and is 2-1 against ranked opponents. Adams also paces the team with 38 match points, outscoring his opponents, 85-24.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Sullivan (133) and freshman Peyton Hall (165) each enter the coaches’ panel rankings for the first time in their careers, checking in at No. 19 and No. 21, respectively.
Sullivan, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is 4-0 on the year at 133 pounds, with three of his wins coming against ranked foes, as he earned himself a spot in the Mountaineers’ starting lineup on Jan. 31. Sullivan topped his highest ranked opponent last weekend, defeating No. 16 Job Greenwood of Wyoming in a 4-1 battle.
Hall, a native of Chester, West Virginia, is tied with Adams for the team lead in wins with nine. His only loss this season came against No. 9 Zach Hartman of Bucknell on Jan. 17. He is 3-1 against ranked foes.
Additionally, Cardinale sits at No. 24 in his respective pool of 125 pounds. The Bristow, Virginia, native is 7-3 on the year and is currently on a five-match win streak. He will look to qualify for his second straight NCAA Championships this March. Of note, Cardinale qualified for his first NCAA Tournament as a member of the Old Dominion wrestling program last season.
Looking ahead, the Mountaineers (7-3, 3-2) trek to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the Cowboy Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 14, inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. Competition is set to begin at 12 p.m. ET, with finals beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
Sunday’s finals will be carried live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, the conference’s digital platform. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month (or $59.99 per year) at ESPNplus.com, ESPN.com or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices). It also is available as part of The Disney Bundle offer that gives subscribers access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu (ad-supported) — all for just $12.99/month.