NEW YORK – The college wrestling season will come to a head this weekend with the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships commencing on March 20 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The three-day event will culminate on the evening of March 22 when the finals are shown live on ESPN.
ESPN will show every match live on one of its platforms. The first four sessions will be available on WatchESPN/ESPN3, while the medal rounds Saturday morning will be live on ESPNU.
Thursday, March 20
Session 1 – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Pig-tails and first-round)
Session 2 – 6 – 10 p.m. (Prelim wrestle-back first round, championship second round and consolations)
Friday, March 21
Session 3 – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Quarterfinals, wrestle-back second and third rounds)
Session 4 – 7 – 10:30 p.m. (Semifinals, wrestle-back fourth, fifth and six rounds)
Saturday, March 22
Session 5 – 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (Wrestle-back semifinals, medal rounds)
Session 6 – 7 – 10 p.m. (Championship finals)
Columbia will be represented on the national stage by a quartet of grapplers. Senior Josh Houldsworth leads the charge into Oklahoma City, making his second straight appearance at the NCAA Championships. Joining him and competing in their first national championship are first-year Markus Scheidel, junior Shane Hughes and sophomore Zack Hernandez.
JOSH HOULDSWORTH – 165 POUNDS (25-11)
The senior co-captain is making his second straight appearance in the 165-pound weight class. He punched his bid with a third-place finish at the EIWA Championships. Against EIWA opponents this season, Houldsworth tallied a 15-5 record and a 25-11 mark overall. His 25 wins was second on the team, one shy of Scheidel’s 26.
The All-Ivy League honorable mention recipient will begin the tournament Thursday against the 16th-seeded Jim Wilson from Stanford. Wilson racked up a 33-6 record overall and an 18-2 mark in duals. The winner will take on the top seed in the second round, David Taylor from Penn State.
MARKUS SCHEIDEL – 157 POUNDS (26-10)
Columbia’s top finisher at the EIWA Championships as the runner-up at 157 pounds, Scheidel’s rookie campaign will conclude on the national stage. The team-leader with 26 wins and 10 major decisions, Scheidel has earned his spot to compete with the nation’s best. At the EIWA Championships, Scheidel topped Cornell’s Brian Realbuto and Lehigh’s Joey Napoli, both ranked in the top-20 nationally.
Oregon State’s Roger Pena, the eighth-seed, (33-4) will be Scheidel’s first test in Oklahoma City. Pena is coming off his second straight Pac-12 title.
ZACK HERNANDEZ – 184 POUNDS (23-11)
Columbia’s third automatic qualifier, Hernandez captured fourth at the EIWA Championships. Hernandez’s 23 victories are the third most on the team. Hernandez won the 184 pound title at the Michigan State Open in the freshman/sophomore decision to begin the season and went on to post a 10-6 mark against EIWA competition.
A familiar opponent will step onto the mat with Hernandez in Thursday’s opening round. Brown’s Ophir Bernstein, who Hernandez has faced three times this year, makes up the other half of an all-Ivy League first round match. Bernstein is the 12th seed.
SHANE HUGHES – 174 POUNDS – (20-8)
Hughes, who suffered a lower body injury at EIWAs, had to wait until the at-large bids were announced before finding out he would be headed to Oklahoma City. Hughes, a first-team All-Ivy League selection, won 18 of 19 matches from December 28 – March 8. That stretch included a runner-up showing at Midlands, seven falls and four major decisions.
Hughes will go up against Old Dominion’s Billy Curling (17-8) in the opening round. Curling enters the championships as the 15th-seed after taking runner-up honors at the MAC Championships.