Corey Griego has been to the NCAA wrestling tournament each of the past two years and finished his season in the consolation bracket after three total matches.
The Oregon State junior is competing well late in the season, riding an eight-match win streak in the 197-pound weight class. But there’s more work to do if he wants to achieve his goal.
Griego’s path to that goal continues Sunday when OSU hosts the Pac-12 championships at Gill Coliseum.
“Not just get back there but to All-American,” Griego said earlier this week inside OSU’s wrestling room.
Griego and senior teammate Amar Dhesi (285) were undefeated in conference duals this season. Both are top seeds at the conference tournament in their respective brackets.
Last year at Stanford, Arizona State ended Oregon State’s run of five consecutive conference team titles. The Sun Devils are a heavy favorite to repeat.
“Right now, on paper, we don’t have a chance,” said Beavers coach Jim Zalesky, whose team has won four of its last five duals after starting 2-5. “Arizona State, on paper, is the favorite. We’ve got to have a good first round and a good semifinal round to give ourselves a shot in the finals.”
The one-day meet begins at 10:30 a.m. with finals schedule to start at 6 p.m.
Last week, the Pac-12 was allocated four NCAA automatic berths at 197 and three at 285. Those berths are awarded based on conference tournament results. The remaining 47 at-large spots in the NCAA tournament — held March 15-17 in Cleveland — will be announced March 6.
Griego, a 2017 Pac-12 champion, had what he called a “rough showing” with three straight losses around the holidays. He’s since won eight in a row, with six earning bonus points.
“I feel good now, really confident,” he said.
Zalesky says Griego’s recent hot streak is simply a result of the Apple Valley, California, product wrestling better.
In the Pac-12 rankings released last week, Dhesi and Griego are first at their weights and junior 125-pounder Ronnie Bresser is second. Teammates Josh Reyes (149) and Hunter Willits (157) are both third.
The Pac-12’s 125 weight class was awarded four NCAA spots, 149 one and 157 three.
Dhesi, a 2016 All-American and former junior world champion, is ranked as high as sixth in the country among four prominent national ranking sites. Bresser is ranked as high as ninth and Griego 11th.
All three have been to two NCAA tournaments along with senior teammate Jack Hathaway, who is in a 141 bracket that has been allocated just one NCAA spot.
“I was planning on winning the tournament anyway, so … it is what it is,” Hathaway said. “I’ve put in all the work and I know I can beat all these guys.”
Hathaway’s season has been full of ups and downs. He has four four-match win streaks, a four-match losing streak and another of three.
He enters having lost two straight after winning four in a row.
“I’ve gotten a lot of good training and I’m not really nervous about this week,” Hathaway said. “I’m feeling as good as I have all season.”
Hathaway, ranked fourth in the Pac-12 at 141, is 1-2 this season against others in the top five.
“He can beat everybody there,” Zalesky said. “It’s one of those things where, if he wrestles the way he’s capable he can win it.”
The Beavers will compete without senior heavyweight Cody Crawford because teams are allowed just one wrestler at each of the 10 weights.
Crawford, a two-time NCAA qualifier, moved up to 285 last year to fill in for Dhesi, who missed the second of two collegiate seasons due to knee injuries.
Dhesi defeated Crawford to earn the team’s No. 1 spot in the lineup.
“That’s a tough situation,” Zalesky said. “You’re projecting when you recruit the guy, one guy’s going to be heavyweight and one guy’s going to be at 97. The guy grew and you’re in that situation.”