An all-star event is meant to present the top performers in a given sport.
College wrestling is making an effort to subscribe to that logic again.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association has one of its strongest lineups for the annual NWCA All-Star Classic on Saturday hosted by George Mason University at Fairfax, Va., beginning at 6:15 p.m. (Iowa time).
The University of Iowa and Iowa State University will be represented for the first time since 2009. The Hawkeyes’ top-ranked 133-pounder Tony Ramos will wrestle Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter, who is ranked third at a higher weight, at 141 pounds. The Cyclones’ Michael Moreno will face Penn State’s NCAA champion and three-time national finalist David Taylor at 165.
Iowa Coach Tom Brands said the lineup that originally included seven former NCAA Division I champions and unique out-of-class matchups during the season garner a lot of attention and build excitement for the upcoming year.
“It’s a big deal,” Brands said. “They give us a reason to go. It’s not main stream. It’s good.”
The final field consists of five NCAA champions, including two in the 149 match between Ohio State’s Logan Stieber and Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple. National champions Derek St. John, of Iowa, and Ed Ruth, of Penn State, withdrew after originally accepting matches at 157 and 184, respectively. St. John’s decision was affected by illness.
The meet resembles its billing more than the past few years. Each weight features some of the top competitors from across the country. In recent years, the dual contained some lackluster pairings and even matches that would be occur over the ensuing months.
“It’s not an all-star meet unless you have all-star wrestlers and all-star matchups,” Brands said. “It was a preview meet. That’s not attractive.”
The Maple and Stieber contest is billed as the other co-main event. The heavyweight match between Minnesota’s NCAA champion Tony Nelson and Northwestern’s Mike McMullan is a repeat of the 2013 national championship match at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Brands said the event no longer just fills a date. It could be held at a better time, but the format is strong. He said Wade Schalles and George Mason head coach Joe Russell were key to the changes and thinking outside the box.
“To me, it makes sense,” Brands said. “Let’s see if it works. It shows me more imagination.”
NWCA ALL-STAR CLASSIC
At Fairfax, Va.
(George Mason University)
125: Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma) vs. Nashon Garrett (Cornell)
133: A.J. Schopp, Jr. (Edinboro) vs. Mason Beckman, So. (Lehigh)
141: Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) vs. Tony Ramos (Iowa)
149: Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) vs. Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
157: Joey Napoli (Lehigh) vs. Nestor Taffur, Sr. (Boston U.)
165: David Taylor (Penn State) vs. Michael Moreno (Iowa State)
174: Andrew Howe (Oklahoma) vs. Matt Brown (Penn State)
184: Jimmy Sheptock, Sr. (Maryland) vs. Jake Swartz (Boise State)
197: Taylor Meeks (Oregon State) vs. Scott Schiller (Minnesota)
HWT: Mike McMullan (Northwestern) vs. Tony Nelson (Minnesota)
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