Updated Sun, Mar 9, 2014 12:05 pm
Day one of the Mid-American Conference Championships is in the books. Four Bobcats have already punched their tickets to Oklahoma City for the 2014 NCAA Championships and four will wrestle for the right on Sunday.
Jeremy Johnson, 285, will be making his fourth and final trip to the tournament. Cody Walters, 174, and Phil Wellington, 197, will go to nationals for the second time in as many years.
Qualifying for nationals has eluded Harrison Hightower, 165, in the past two seasons but the redshirt junior finally grabbed a spot at the national tournament for the first time in his college career.
“All the hard work that I put and finally getting there after falling short the past two years – to finally make it to the big show means a lot to me and my family,” Hightower said on his accomplishment.
Hightower defeated Shaun’Qae McMurty of Northern Illinois. He was not the opponent Hightower expected to see because the Huskies’ 165-pounder upset Zach Toal in the quarterfinals.
Hightower and Walters went 2-0 on the day. Walters advanced to Sunday’s finals and avenged a loss from earlier in the season in a 3-2 decision over Central Michigan’s Mike Ottinger in a second tiebreaker.
Wellington and Johnson maintained their undefeated records in MAC competition, each winning two matches.
All four grapplers will compete in their finals at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.
KeVon Powell, 125, Tywan Claxton, 149, Sparty Chino, 157, and Ryan Garringer, 184, will compete in the consolation semifinals at 12:00 p.m.
Powell, Chino and Garringer dropped their quarterfinal matches but wrestled back to find themselves in contention on Sunday. All three downed Buffalo Bulls’ wrestlers to advance.
Claxton dropped his semifinal match to Alexander Richardson of Old Dominion.
True freshmen Noah Forrider, 141, and Sebastian Arroyo, 133, are the only ‘Cats eliminated from the tournament. Both went 0-2 on the day
The Bobcats finished third in the team rankings with 81 points. Northern Iowa holds first place and Missouri is just ahead of Ohio in second.