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NCAA wrestling notebook: Coaches ponder bracket-style team tournament

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 11:08 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Pitt heavyweight P.J. Tasser (bottom) warms up with assistant coach Matt Wilps during a practice session for the NCAA Divison I Championships on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Pitt heavyweight P.J. Tasser (top) warms up with assistant coach Matt Wilps during a practice session for the NCAA Divison I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Oklahoma City.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Pitt's 197-pounder Nick Bonaccorsi (left) warms up with 184-pounder Max Thomusseit during a practice session for the NCAA Divison I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Oklahoma City.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Edinboro 141-pounder Mitchell Port sprints during a practice session for the NCAA Divison I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Oklahoma City.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Edinboro 141-pounder Mitchell Port (left) warms up with 149-pounder Dave Habat during a practice session for the NCAA Divison I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Oklahoma City.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Edinboro 133-pounder A.J. Schopp (top) warms up with 125-pounder Kory Mines during a practice session for the NCAA Divison I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Could college wrestling soon include a March Madness-style team tournament?

That possibility was batted around for more than three hours at Chesapeake Energy Arena, site of the NCAA Division I Tournament, on Wednesday morning by a group of 10 to 15 of the sport's most influential coaches — then again later at night.

“We're trying to hash it out and figure what the best way is to go,” said Pitt coach Jason Peters, who was among those in the meeting. “I think (Wednesday) was good. We had some healthy conversation.”

One scenario has teams seeded one through 16 and trying to win four dual meets to earn the national title. Currently the most points scored at the national tournament decides the team championship, which has gone Penn State's way the past three years.

Count the Nittany Lions' 165-pounder David Taylor among a group that thinks things are fine the way they are.

“Whatever we're doing is working right now,” said Taylor, citing attendance that eclipsed 10,000 at the Big Ten Tournament. “I don't necessarily see a reason to change that.”

Iowa's Tony Ramos, the No. 3 seed at 133 pounds, agreed.

“I like how things are now,” he said. “The sport is growing. We need more athletes who wrestle exciting and score a lot of points. I think that's going to help grow the sport.”

Peters said no changes are imminent but that finding a way to grow wrestling through dual meets is something he and his colleagues care a lot about.

“It's a sensitive topic,” Peters said. “What is best and what the fans want. What the media wants — give you guys more stuff to talk about. Then everybody is doing what they're hired to do, and that's to look out for their program.”

Positive practice

It's doubtful any team is better positioned at practice than No. 13 Edinboro.

The Fighting Scots have a lineup loaded at the lower weights: A.J. Schopp is 31-1 and seeded second at 133; Mitchell Port, the national runner-up last year is 26-1 and seeded first at 141; and David Habat is 26-4 and seeded No. 8 at 149.

“You don't want to wrestle the same person every day,” Schopp said. “This gives you the best of all different types of worlds.”

Trending upward

This marks the third time in the past four years that Pitt has brought eight wrestlers to nationals.

Max Thomusseit is seeded fourth at 184 pounds, and ACC champion Tyler Wilps is No. 7 at 174.

“I think we're trending the right way as a program, but we want to come out here and get medals,” Peters said. “We don't want to just be happy to be here, we want to get some All-Americans.”

Guess who's back

Seven of 10 national champions from 2013 are back, though none are still undefeated.

“I think all great wrestlers know that big tournaments are the only ones that matter,” said Oklahoma State's Chris Perry, the defending champion at 174, who's 25-1 this season. “It doesn't matter what happens during the year. When you get here, everybody forgets about those losses.”

Cael appreciative

Penn State's Cael Sanderson, who is normally as bland as anyone in the country when it comes to expressing his emotions, let one slip.

“You motivate people by challenging them,” Sanderson said, singling out a writer from a wrestling website. “People rise to the occasion when they're challenged. You challenged us. So thank you.”

Watch local

Of 80 first-round matches scheduled for Thursday morning, only one features two wrestlers with local ties.

At 141 pounds, North Carolina's Evan Henderson (Kiski Prep) will wrestle West Virginia's Colin Johnston (Canon-McMillan).

Around the mat

Most teams took to the mats at Chesapeake Energy Center, though Penn State worked out off-site. … Port has trimmed the back of his hair just once since losing in the finals last year, and the result is a mullet that would make Joe Dirt proud. … Wednesday marked the first use of the eight mats here, which are purchased and put down brand new specifically for this event.

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