By FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION
INDIANAPOLIS – Five Fort Hays State wrestlers now know their path to a National Championship after the release of finalized brackets for the 2020 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships on Tuesday (March 10). Brandon Ball, Jordan Davis, Aryus Jones, Mason Turner and Marty Verhaeghe will all contend for a national title after placing in the top three at the Super Region 4 Championships last weekend in Hays.
Augustana University and the Sioux Falls Sports Authority will host the event inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. Friday and Saturday (March 13-14). Action will begin at 11 a.m. on Friday before a 10 a.m. start Saturday. Ticket information and more can be found at the Championship Homepage above.
Ball is the only Tiger who is making his return to the national championship, competing for the national title for the fourth year in a row.
The Tigers have not had five or more national qualifiers since 2014. Fifty-two schools will be represented at the Championships, including just 16 with at least five wrestlers present.
Mason Turner will lead things off for the Tigers in the 125-pound bracket. The redshirt-freshman was picked as the No. 7 seed and will wrestle Zachary Collins (18-17) of Findlay in the preliminary round before advancing to the first round. Turner finished second in the region, defeating a pair of ranked wrestlers en route to the regional championship bout. The Kansas City, Kan. native is 16-6 on the year, including 11 pins, two tech falls and one major decision.
Brandon Ball is the No. 3 seed in the 141-pound bracket and will wrestle Nick Young (13-7) of Gannon in the first round. Ball, ranked No. 2 in the country in the latest NWCA poll, is looking to become the fifth Tiger all-time to earn a trio of All-American honors, and just the third to do so during the NCAA DII era (NCAA era – Keith Blaske & Andrew Ubben, NAIA era – West Harding & Billy Johnson). Making his fourth appearance at the national tournament, Ball is 16-1 this season, including seven bonus-point wins (one pin, three tech falls, three major decisions). The senior enters his final tournament with a career winning percentage of 85.5, the best in program history (130-22).
Marty Verhaeghe will make his NCAA Championship debut at 174 pounds when he faces off with the No. 8 seed, Phillip Springsteen (11-5) of U-Mary. Verhaeghe clinched his spot in the tournament when he defeated fourth-seeded Josh Jones in the semifinals of the regional tournament last week in Hays. The Bucyrus, Kan. native carries a 28-12 record on the year, tied for the third-most wins on the team. Verhaeghe has five pins, one tech fall and five major decisions this season. Springsteen is ranked eighth at 174 pounds in the latest NWCA poll.
Despite holding the No. 7 ranking in the latest NWCA poll, Aryus Jones is unseeded in the 184-pound bracket. The sophomore will face off with the No. 8 seed ZeBrandon Gant (27-5) of Newberry. Jones and Gant will wrestle in the preliminary round before moving into the first round. Jones is 28-9 on the year, tied with Verhaeghe for the third-most wins by a Tiger this season. The Junction City, Kan. native has won 16 of his last 19 matches, with two of those losses against other national qualifiers. Jones has seven tech fall victories this season, eighth-most in Division II.
Jordan Davis rounds out the group of national qualifiers for the Tigers in the 197-pound bracket. Davis will open the tournament against fifth-seeded Nicholas Mason (26-6) of Tiffin, who was ranked fourth in the final NWCA coaches poll. The senior is 23-9 overall this season, including a 9-4 at 197 pounds. He placed third in the region after pinning the ninth-ranked wrestler twice in the same day to earn his spot in Sioux Falls. Sixteen of his wins have come via pin, tied for the most on the team and fifth-most in Division II.
Schedule of Events for the 2020 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championship
Friday, March 13
Session I – 11 a.m. – Prelims and 1st round
Session II – 5 p.m. – Championship quarterfinals, 1st and 2nd round consolation
Saturday, March 14
Session III – 10 a.m. – Championship semifinals, 3rd round consolation, consolation semifinals and placement matches (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Session IV – 7 p.m. – Championship finals