Wrestling Set for NCAA Championships

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Penn has arrived in Oklahoma City for the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, bringing a contingent of four wrestlers set to take to the mats in search of a national championship at the Chesepeake Energy Arena.

No. 11 Lorenzo Thomas, Casey Kent, Caleb Richardson and Brad Wukie each have qualified for their first NCAA Championships – the first time since 1991 that Penn will be sending a group consisting of only first-timers to the national tournament.

Thomas is the highest-seeded Quaker, earning the No.11 seed at 184 pounds. The runner-up at the EIWA Championships, Thomas is 25-8 overall this season and he has posted a 6-6 record against wrestlers entered in the 2014 field. A second-team All-Ivy selection this season and the Ivy League’s 2012 Rookie of the Year when competing at 165 pounds, Thomas leads the Quakers this season with eight falls and he has 15 pins over his two seasons.

Thomas will open his NCAA Tournament with Oregon State’s Austin Moorehead who is 21-10 this season. The two have met once this season, Thomas pinning Moorehead at the Southern Scuffle in 2:02.

Casey Kent took fourth this past weekend at the EIWA Championships at 165 pounds to earn an automatic bid to his first national tournament. This season, Kent is 19-7 overall with six bonus-point wins and 10 shutouts of his opponents. Of his 10 blankings, four were with bonus points, including three first-period tech falls. Kent has been one of the toughest Quakers to score on this season, conceding just 36 points in 26 matches and just eight total takedowns during the 2013-14 season. Kent has plenty of experience against the field entered next week in Oklahoma City, with a 9-12 record in 21 career contests against qualifiers for the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Kent has drawn the No. 4 seed to open the 2014 tournament in North Dakota State’s Steven Monk (31-1 in 2013-14). Last year, Monk was the No. 5 seed at 165 and went 3-2, finishing in the Round of 12 for the second consecutive season.

Brad Wukie made a surprise run through the field at the EIWA Championships, wrestling from his No. 8 seed all the way to the final before losing to No. 3 seed and national No. 10 Mat Miller of Navy. His standout performance earned Wukie an automatic trip to the NCAA Championships. Despite missing most of December and January with an injury, Wukie posted a 13-8 record this season and has won five of his last six matches entering the NCAA Tournament. He will be an unknown quantity for most opponents in Oklahoma City with just four career bouts against entries in the 2014 field. All four of those bouts have happened this season, and Wukie is 1-3 in those contests.

Wukie’s first opponent will be Pittsburgh’s No. 7 Tyler Wilps. A returning NCAA qualifier, Wilps is 28-5 this season.

Penn’s lone at-large selection for the NCAA Championships is Caleb Richardson at 125 pounds. A freshman, Richardson went 12-9 in his rookie campaign, and his berth to the national tournament provides a chance to rebound from a 0-2 showing at EIWAs last weekend. Overall this season, Richardson is 3-7 against wrestlers entered in the upcoming national championships.

Richardson draws returning All-American and No. 9 seed Tyler Cox of Wyoming. Last year, Cox finished eighth at 125 pounds. This season, he is 28-5 overall.

The Quakers will be returning to the scene of recent success for the program as Oklahoma City was the site of assistant coach Matt Valenti’s first NCAA championships in 2006. The Quakers finished 12th as a team in 2006, with 174-pounder Matt Herrington adding a second All-American finish for the Quakers as he took fifth at 174 pounds.

Penn has had 23 NCAA All-Americans since 1997 and three in the last four seasons. Since ’97, heavyweight has seen the most frequent All-American finish for the Quakers (5). Of the weights Penn has entered this year at the national tournament, 174 pounds has seen the most All-Americans (4; last done by Scott Giffin in 2010) while 125 pounds (Matt Valenti, 2004) and 165 (Josh Henson, 2002) have seen one. Penn has never had an All-American at 184 pounds.

The first round of the NCAA Championships begins Thursday, March 20 and every match of every session will be broadcast for the first time on the ESPN family of networks.

ESPN/ESPNU/ESPN3/WatchESPN Live Match Coverage
Session I (Thursday, March 20 at 12 p.m. EST) – ESPNU/ESPN3/WatchESPN
Session II (Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m. EST) – ESPNU/ESPN3/WatchESPN
Session III (Friday, March 20 at 11 a.m. EST) – ESPNU/ESPN3/WatchESPN
Session IV (Friday, March 20 at 8 p.m. EST) – ESPN/ESPN3/WatchESPN
Session V (Saturday, March 22 at 11 a.m. EST) – ESPNU/ESPN3/WatchESPN
Session VI (Saturday, March 22 at 8 p.m. EST) – ESPN/ESPN3/WatchESPN
In addition to the wide-ranging coverage on ESPN3/WatchESPN each specific mat can be viewed. Stay tuned to TrackWrestling or @PennWrestling on Twitter for upcoming mat assignments.

ESPN Special Coverage
NCAA Wrestling Championships Scoreboard (ESPN3) | 3/20 at 12 p.m. EST
NCAA Wrestling Championships Scoreboard (ESPN3) | 3/20 at 7 p.m. EST
NCAA Wrestling Championships Scoreboard (ESPN3) | 3/21 at 11 a.m. EST
NCAA Wrestling Championships Scoreboard (ESPN3) | 3/21 at 8 p.m. EST
NCAA Wrestling Championships Scoreboard (ESPN3) | 3/22 at 11 a.m. EST
NCAA Wrestling Championships Inside The Mat (ESPN3) | 3/22 at 8 p.m. EST