Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached the penultimate wrestling action of the year: Conference championship weekend. Army and Navy took on the EIWA field and headed to Lehigh while Air Force headed to Tulsa for the Big 12 tilt. As has been the case for much of the season, Army and Navy put on strong displays while Air Force showed great promise for the future.
Not only did Army place third in Lehigh, but they also lead the way with six NCAA qualifiers who will head to Minneapolis in two weeks. Navy followed right on the Black Knights’ heels, placing fourth and sending four to the big show. The Falcons placed 12th in the Big 12 with four individuals placing in the top eight but no automatic qualifiers. Here’s how it all went down:
Big 12 Championship
First, the less good news. Air Force did not have its best showing in Tulsa over the weekend, racking up 25.5 total team points. While they were unable to challenge as a team, four Falcons were able to secure podium spots with Cody Phippen placing 5th at 125 to lead the team.
Phippen, a freshman, was an absolute monster throughout the bracket, topping no. 2 seed Jay Schwarm of UNI and no. 7 seed Christian Moody of Oklahoma. Phippen fell in the semis to No. 3 Alex Mackall of ISU and Schwarm got his revenge in the consolation semis, but Phippen didn’t let defeat get him down. He took out no. 4 seed McGwire Midkiff of North Dakota State to secure his 5th place finish.
No. 8 seed Lenny Petersen joined Phippen on the podium at 141 despite going 1-3 on the weekend. He did not wrestle until the quarterfinals, where he fell to the top-seeded Dom Demas. Petersen won his first consolation match but lost the second as well as his 7th place match against West Virginia’s Caleb Rea. Although, I suppose it means that he was seeded exactly right.
The biggest shock of the weekend came at 165, where no. 3 seeded Randy Meneweather went 0-2 to crash out of the tournament altogether. The top ten pin leader in the country couldn’t put it together against Jordan Robison of UNC or Austin Yant of UNI.
Air Force did pick up a pair of podium finishers at 174 and 184 with no. 8 seed Cody Surratt and no. 8 seed Jake Thompson. Surratt had a boom-or-bust tournament, notching pins in his wins over unranked wrestlers but falling in his bouts against the top seed and 4th seed. Thompson also faced the no. 1 and no. 4 seeds, falling to both but winning his first consolation match to reach the 7th place bout where he fell to the no. 6 seed Darrien Roberts.
Our 4️⃣ podium finishers at the 2020 Big 12 Championships!— Air Force Wrestling (@AF_Wrestle) March 9, 2020
125: Cody Phippen - 5th Place
141: Lenny Petersen - 8th Place
174: Cody Surratt - 7th Place
184: Jake Thompson - 8th Place#LetsFly #Big12WR pic.twitter.com/CtQcscd64v
Now, for the better news: Army and Navy placed third and fourth respectively to comprise one-fourth of EIWA’s NCAA tournament qualifiers. Army battled its way to the Black Knights’ second highest point total ever with 112 and Navy racked up 104.5 points.
Army placed in the top-three for the first time since the 2007-08 season, but with no individual champions, we’ll start with them first. The Black Knights had an excellent first day, sending seven wrestlers to the semifinals with three already qualified to compete in Minneapolis. The semifinals were Army’s Achilles heel, losing all seven bouts, but they showed resilience by bouncing back for five straight wins afterwards to pick up nine podium finishes.
No. 4 seed Trey Chalifoux lost his first two matches at 125 against each of the top two seeds before beating Dom Lajoie of Cornell to place 5th. Andrew Wert added another 5th place finish at 133. He had a strong day but he could not make lightning strike twice as Navy’s Casey Cobb took him down in the consolation semifinals.
No. 9 seed Corey Shie battled his way to a 7th place finish in a high-scoring 17-13 match against Franklin and Marshall’s Wilfredo Gil. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a 30-point match? PJ Ogunsanya kept the winning ways rolling despite his consolation semifinal loss, as he picked up a 3-2 decision over Lehigh’s Jimmy Hoffman to snag 5th place.
174 | BOOM! MAKE THAT THREE IN A ROW!— Army Wrestling (@ArmyWP_Wres) March 7, 2020
Harvey joins Hartman and McCormick in the consolation finals competing for third place after an 11-0 major decision over Bucknell.#GoArmy | #KeepRising | #ChasingGreatness pic.twitter.com/fF6g2RWmZT
The next five classes are where the Black Knights found their groove and placed in the top four. Markus Hartman and Ben Harvey each came third at 157 and 174 respectively, bouncing back from semifinal defeats with a pair of major decisions and a pair of decisions. Cael McCormick, Noah Stewart, and JT Brown each finished in 4th place, each falling in the third place bout.
Stewart fell 9-3, but it was actually a sudden victory defeat that got out of hand quickly. Cael McCormick had his chance for payback against Navy’s Tanner Skidgel, but the two battled to the exact-same 1-0 scoreline from the match in Annapolis a few weeks ago. The Black Knights could likely have caught second place Cornell had a few of these matches fallen the other way.
Quick look back at an awesome weekend on the mat...— Army Wrestling (@ArmyWP_Wres) March 9, 2020
We're ready for the next challenge
✌️weeks to prep for Minneapolis, let's keep #ChasingGreatness pic.twitter.com/Cy2F3Zt9eY
Now, to the Navy results: The Midshipmen managed to battle their way to a pair of individual crowns for Tanner Skidgel and Cody Trybus. Trybus rolled to victory at 141 with four straight wins over top 15 seeded opponents. His highest ranked wins came over no. 5 Noah Baughman of Cornell and no. 3 Matt Kazimir of Columbia.
Tanner Skidgel, the top seed at 165, also cruised to victory with a first round fall and three decisions. Spencer Carey and Jared Prince followed Trybus and Skidgel with Carey finishing second and Prince placing third at 174 and 149 respectively. Prince lost just once, in the quarterfinals, and notched two falls and a tech fall en route to his third place match against Kizhan Clarke of American University.
WR | 133 | Casey Cobb— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) March 6, 2020
Cobb advances to the Saturday’s semifinals following a 2-1 TB decision over Bucknell’s Darren Miller.@NavyWrestling pic.twitter.com/QD3dOuPRRo
Spencer Carey notched a tech fall and a major decision on his way to the championship matchup with Lehigh’s Jared Kutler, where he lost 5-0. Casey Cobb placed fourth following a loss in the semifinals, Jack Stanton-Taddeo placed 7th with a 3-2 record, and Jacob Koser rounded out the weekend for the Mids with an 8th place finish highlighted by wins over the no. 13 and no. 15 wrestlers.
Who’s heading to Minneapolis?
The 2020 NCAA wrestling championships are just a few weeks away, taking place March 19 to 21, and we finally know at least part of the field. The EIWA conference has 41 automatic bids and the Big 12 has 54 automatic bids, so how many of those spots will be filled by service academy wrestlers?
Army will be sending six: Trey Chalifoux, 125; Markus Hartman, 157; Cael McCormick, 165; Ben Harvey, 174; Noah Stewart, 184; and JT Brown, 197. Navy is not far behind with four qualifiers: Cody Trybus, 141; Jared Prince, 149; Tanner Skidgel, 165; and Spencer Carey, 174.
Air Force did not have any automatic qualifiers, however it does not mean that they are out of the tournament altogether. Randy Meneweather did not place at 165, so his best hope is that his record of pins on the season propels him into the tournament. Cody Phippen could also be in line for an at-large berth at 125.
The selection show will take place on March 11 at 6 p.m. ET.