What would you call a tournament that could have as many as 75% of the ranked wrestlers in the NAIA in attendance? If your first thought is 2017 NAIA National Championship, you would be making a forgivable mistake. This may not be the national tournament, but at first glance, the 2017 Missouri Valley Invite will be nearly as tough. Eight of the top ten teams in the country will be in attendance. That includes the teams that currently sit first through fourth, which makes this, for all intents and purposes, a test run at winning a national title.
The NCAA Men’s Division I National Tournament will be in St. Louis Missouri, this March 16th through 18th, but fans of high-level wrestling should seriously think about attending the 2017 Missouri Valley Invite this Friday and Saturday. Marshall, Missouri, will play host to what should be an incredible display of NAIA talent and is a great appetizer for the postseason tournaments, at all levels, to come. If you are able, I encourage you to stop by the Burns Athletic Complex on the campus of Missouri Valley College to take in all the action.
This tournament is loaded at every weight from top to bottom, in fact, we could see every number one ranked wrestler in the NAIA compete this Friday. Can you imagine a tournament during the regular season at the NCAA level where that could occur? Starting at 125 pounds, ten wrestlers ranked in the top 16 are slated to compete. If you want an even deeper weight class, I give you 133 pounds. The top 12 wrestlers in the country will be doing battle there, including two wrestlers from Grand View. The 141-pound weight class is probably the deepest and that is really saying something. Only fifth-ranked Shonn Roberts (Great Falls) and 14th ranked Devin Poppen (Southern Oregon) will not be in Missouri. The balance to be found at 149 is impressive as well, six wrestlers in the top ten will compete for the title. 157 is headlined by Division I transfer Cam Tessari (Lindsey Wilson), but he will be attempting to fend off eight other ranked athletes. Host team Missouri Valley will send two top ten wrestlers out at 165, the weight has 11 ranked wrestlers total. It could be “moving day” at 174 pounds, six of the top eight will fight it out and the outcome could shake up the rankings. The top three wrestlers at 184 pounds will be looking to hold off challengers as they try to top a field packed with 14 ranked athletes. Grand View has two more ranked wrestlers in the top five at 197, but they will be chasing first ranked Dalton Bailey (Life) and second-ranked Ken Burkhardt Jr (Concordia). Heavyweight is nearly as top heavy as 133. The top nine wrestlers will take to the mat, including two more from Grand View.
A lot is on the line this weekend in a tournament that will go a long way in determining seeds for upcoming regions and even the national tournament. It is possible that the path the champions follow at this tournament will be a look into their future in March. Only 150 miles separates Marshall, Missouri, and the site of NAIA nationals, Topeka, Kansas. The road to individual titles, and to the team title as well. will really begin this Friday.
#1 Grand View (Iowa)
#2 Indiana Tech
#3 Montana State-Northern
#4 Campbellsville (Kentucky)
#6 Menlo (California)
#7 Lindsey Wilson (Kentucky)
#8 Oklahoma City
#9 Williams Baptist (Arkansas)
#11 Concordia (Nebraska)
#12 Life (Georgia)
#14 Cumberlands (Kentucky)
#15 Midlands (Nebraska)
#16 Southeastern (Florida)
#18 Cumberland (Tennessee)
#19 Missouri Valley (Missouri)
#20 Northwestern (Iowa)
#1 Da’Wayne Robertson (Grand View)
#2 Hugo Perez (Midland)
#3 Troy Lakin (Menlo)
#6 Adrian Camposano (Campbellsville)
#8 Sawyer Miller (Indiana Tech)
#10 Devane Dodgens (Life)
#12 Giovanni Castillo (Concordia)
#14 Mason Naifeh (Oklahoma City)
#15 Dmitri Smith (Concordia)
#16 Dustin Miller (Lyon)
This is a weight class that, come March, will be crowning a new national champion. Da’Wayne Robertson may be the man to beat right now, but a lot can happen in the next two months. Hugo Perez was the runner-up a year ago and will be looking to finish the job this season. Troy Lakin finished third last year but is absolutely capable of taking it all in Topeka this year. This tournament will do a lot to settle the seeds come March. I expect for the semifinal between Perez and Lakin to occur again then. There will be some jockeying among the lower ranked athletes, look for someone like Adrian Camposano or Sawyer Miller to try to upset the party. Anytime you have a weight class with ten ranked wrestlers, from the quarterfinals on things can get crazy and upsets will happen.
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