Beavers eager for NCAA wrestling tournament

2010-03-08T23:45:00Z Beavers eager for NCAA wrestling tournamentBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

It didn't take long for the Oregon State wrestling team to step away from the afterglow of the Pacific-10 Conference championship it won a week ago.

The Beavers started working out in the middle of last week preparing for the NCAA tournament March 18-20 in Omaha, Neb.

Colby Covington, Clayton Jack, Kelly Kubec, Jason Lara and Michael Mangrum qualified for the meet from their performances at the conference tournament. Covington has a good chance to be seeded high as the Pac-10 champion at 174 pounds.

"We were expecting that many qualifiers," coach Jim Zalesky said. "We would have liked to get them all through, but we had a couple slipups here. Maybe we could get a few in as at-large picks."

Keegan Davis has a good chance to be named an at-large entrant. Chad Hanke, RJ Pena and Dan Brascetta are long shots.

A seeding committee fills out 33-man brackets for the 10 weight classes. The tournament brackets will be released Wednesday.

"Keegan should get in because he was up there ranked, but you never know," Zalesky said. "Dan could be, but not being in there all year could have an impact on him. But he wrestled well at the end, which is what they like. So that could help him."

This will be a return trip to the national tournament for Kubec, Jack and Davis, if he qualifies. Jack went in with a knee injury last year and didn't do well. Kubec wasn't mentally ready for that grand stage.

"Experience is important," Zalesky said. "Kubec wasn't as confident as he should be going back there. When you go back there, you need to expect to do something."

Those who were there before are prepping the rookies. They stress eating right, sleeping enough and believing in their training.

"I'm anxious, the good kind," said Mangrum, who's a first-timer. "I'm ready to wrestle and show those guys what I can do."

Eight wrestlers have won 12 national titles for the Beavers. The last time was in 1996 by Les Gutches.

After a short break after the Pac-10 tournament Feb. 26-27, the Beavers reviewed the leftover weaknesses for the remaining wrestlers so they are better prepared for this final tournament.

Zalesky didn't let up on them at this point. Workouts were just as intense.

"When we got beat, we got beat on the mat," Zalesky said. "We can get better on the mat, top and bottom position."

As for team expectations, the Beavers have them. There are enough qualifiers to break into the top-10, but that depends on how far they advance in the tournament.

However, they are not a favorite, let along a darkhorse. The Beavers have never won the national title, but came in second in 1995.

"When people look at us, they won't think so," Zalesky said of the team's chances for success in the tournament. "If you have five guys and you score a lot of points you never know. Our main focus is to stay in the championship round as long as we can. You have to place to score points in the top eight. If we can do that, we'll place pretty high."

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