Oregon State will try to make it six straight titles when the wrestling team takes part in Sunday's Pac-12 championships at Stanford.
The Beavers, Stanford and Arizona State are regarded as the top contenders for team honors. Each finished the Pac-12 round robin with 4-1 records as OSU defeated Stanford, ASU defeated Oregon State and Stanford defeated ASU.
Competition starts at 10:30 a.m. at Maples Pavilion. The championship, third-place and fifth-place matches start at 6 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
“We are looking for guys to perform,” coach Jim Zalesky said. “It’s the Pac-12, the qualifying tournament for NCAAs. We are looking to get guys through to the next event.
Zalesky said everybody has to score points and the Beavers need to stay in the championship bracket as long as they can. Last year, the Beavers won the tournament in the wrestlebacks as redshirting heavyweight Amarveer Dhesi was OSU’s lone champion.
Senior Joey Palmer (133) and redshirt sophomore Corey Griego (197) are each ranked seeded 1 in their respective weight classes. Redshirt juniors Cody Crawford (heavyweight) and Jack Hathaway (141), redshirt sophomore Kegan Calkins (125) and redshirt freshman Seth McLeod (184) are seeded second. They would advance to the finals if the tourney unfolds according to form.
Redshirt senior Joey Delgado (149) is seeded third, redshirt junior Abraham Rodriguez (157) is fifth and redshirt sophomore Rodney Williams (165) and freshman Bob Coleman (174) are sixth. They would need an upset or two to advance to the finals.
“We have to have everybody competing at their best,” Zalesky said. “We have to score points at every weight class to have a shot at winning.
“If we wrestle well, we could put five or six guys in the finals. But so could Arizona State and so could Stanford, so it could be the guys in the wrestlebacks who make the difference. ”
The NCAA released its conference allocations for the NCAA Championships on Thursday. The Pac-12 will get three spots at 141, 149, 197 and heavyweight; two spots at 157, 165 and 174; and only one spot at 125, 133, and 184 pounds.
Others may be added on an at-large basis to fill each bracket, but the only way to guarantee an NCAA spot is to earn an automatic berth. Neither Palmer nor second-seeded Connor Schram of Stanford are ranked in the NCAA's top 33 (by RPI), so it's unlikely either would receive an at-large berth unless he wins the conference championship.
OSU (6-8) concluded the regular season on Feb. 17 with a 29-7 loss to No. 21 Oklahoma at Norman. Palmer and Griego were OSU’s only winners.
“It was a long trip, we had matches we were capable of winning, matches we were in but we didn’t do enough to win,” Zalesky said. “Now we have to move on put that behind us and get ready for Pac-12s.
“We’re wrestling better at a lot of weights (than at midseason). We have a lot of guys who can still step it up even more and that’s what we’ve looking for.”