KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (National Qualifier Schedule/Results) Automatic berths to the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by USA Wrestling-Kansas are up for grabs Saturday in the 2016 NAIA National Qualifiers. The top three finishers in each of the area's 10 weight classes claim one of the 180 automatic spots to the national championships, which take place at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan., on March 4 – 5.
The remainder of the expanded 240-man field will be filled with at-large individuals. Each of the six qualifying groups receives five wildcards, which are chosen by the coaches at the post-qualifier meeting, while the remaining 30 are determined by a national selection committee. Up to 15 nominations from each area will be considered by the national committee.
For more information on the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.
Note – All records and statistics below are from Trackwrestling as of Feb. 18.
Central National Qualifier
9 a.m. CST | Missouri Valley | Marshall, Mo.
Live Scoring | Brackets
Four-time defending national champion and top-ranked Grand View (Iowa) enters Saturday as the favorite to win its sixth-straight Central team title. The Vikings, who have been ranked atop the NAIA Wrestling Coaches' Top 20 Poll 29-straight times, had 12 ranked individuals in the most recent edition of the Top 20.
None of Grand View's wrestlers are ranked lower than No. 6 in their respective weight class, including top-ranked Godwin Cutler (133 pounds), Andrew Long (149 pounds), Grand Henderson (157 pounds) and Michael Pixley (184 pounds). Since Dec. 29, the quartet is a combined 29-2, including an 11-0 record by Long.
Missouri Valley is the most likely team out of the group to challenge Grand View. The Vikings are ranked No. 2 and that's due in large part to three top-ranked grapplers – Jake Ekster (141 pounds), Riley Boomer (174 pounds) and Gabi Musallam (285 pounds).
Musallam is the defending national champion at 285 pounds. The San Diego, Calif., native is 13-2 on the year, including seven pins. Musallam has not lost since Dec. 6 against Collin Jensen of NCAA Division I Nebraska. His 2015 national title was the first for the Vikings at heavyweight since Wes Walker claimed the crown in 2001.
No. 15 Dickinson State (N.D.) and No. 19 Baker (Kan.) are the other ranked teams in the group.
For the most recent Central Group individual rating, click here.
By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information