The Peninsula Wrestling Association has released the draws for the 37th annual Virginia Duals to be held at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va., on January 13-14.
Founded in January of 1981, the Virginia Duals was an innovator in college wrestling, brining the dual-meet advancement format into widespread usage. The tournament grew from eight college teams and four high schools in 1981 to its current arrangement of 20 colleges in two divisions and 48 high schools across three divisions. What started out with just four mats on the floor of the Hampton Coliseum has morphed into a 10-mat festival of wrestling powered by hundreds of volunteers from around the country.
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Virginia Tech, two-time winners and last year’s National College Division runner-up, leads the 12-team bracket coming in ranked fifth in the country. The Hokies became the first Virginia school to win the National College Division in 2013, beating ACC-rival Virginia in the final. The Hokies anchor the Hampton River Pool with Lock Haven and Kent State.
Oklahoma makes its return to Hampton for the first time since 2010. Under first-year head coach Lou Rosselli, the Sooners are fresh off an upset win over Missouri and will come in as the tournament’s No. 2 seed. Oklahoma will compete in the James River Pool with Chattanooga and local favorite Old Dominion.
Coach Zeke Jones brings Arizona State back to Hampton and enters as the No. 3 seed. The Sun Devils bring a talented group of freshmen to the Duals, looking to revive the program. Longtime Duals participant Bucknell is in the Poquoson River Pool with Arizona State, as is rapidly-improving Campbell. Of note, two of the three head coaches in this pool represented the United States in the Olympics. Zeke Jones represented the U.S. in Barcelona in 1992, while Campbell coach Cary Kolat represented the U.S. in Sydney in 2000. Oklahoma coach Lou Rosselli was an Olympian in Atlanta in 1996.
Coach Steve Garland’s Virginia Cavaliers come in seeded fourth and will content with a solid North Dakota State team, which returns to the Virginia Duals for the first time since 2013. Also in the pool with the Bison and Cavaliers will be The Citadel.
Winners of each pool will then be placed in the Gold Bracket which will wrestle in the semifinals on Saturday with the winners facing off on Saturday night. The four pool winners will be re-seeded following the completion of the pools.
The Silver and Bronze pools will also be populated and re-seeded based on maximizing competitive matchups for each team.
Returning champions Kutztown leads the field in the eight-team American College Division. The Golden Bears will open up with local host Apprentice. Ferrum College, a third-year program in Southwestern Virginia, is fresh off an eighth-place performance at the Division III National Duals. The Panthers enter as the No. 2 seed and will open up with Nassau Community College in the first round.
King University, an NCAA Division II school in Bristol, Tenn., comes back to the Virginia Duals as the No. 3 seed. The Tornado will face Central Florida, a solid team in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, in the opening round. Liberty, also a solid NCWA program, opens up with another fledgling program, the Cougars of Camden County College.
On the high school side, three 16-team tournaments take to the mats with the National, American and Black & Blue Divisions.
Highlighting the National High School Division is Nazareth (Pa.). The Blue Eagles have placed in the National High School Division 14 times since 1996 and have come home with the team championship on four different occasions, including last year’s event where they defeated Northern Lebanon (Pa.) in the final. Coach Dave Crowell’s team looks to tie Great Bridge (Va.) as the only team to win five National Division championships. South Dade (Fla.) enters as the No. 2 seed, while Duals regulars South Plainfield (N.J.) and Christiansburg (Va.) enter as the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, respectively. Seven different states and Washington, D.C. will be represented in the field. The 2016 American Division champions, Eastern View (Va.), moves up to the National Division.
The American High School Division will also be competitive with Bellefonte Area (Pa.) returning to the Virginia Duals. After falling in the finals last year to Eastern View, Bellefonte Area will enter the American Division as the top seed. Haddonfield Memorial (N.J.) has placed four times in the American Division since 2010 and enters as the No. 2 seed. The Bulldawgs have twice finished second. Grassfield of nearby Chesapeake, Va., is seeded third while longtime Duals participant Camden Catholic (N.J.) is the fourth seed. Grassfield moves up after winning the Black & Blue Division last year. Camden Catholic has placed seven times in the event, six in the National High School Division and most recently a third-place finish a year ago in the American. Four different states are represented, including an always-boisterous group from Lexington (S.C.).
The Black & Blue Division has 16 schools all from Virginia. Grundy is the top seed and the historically tough Golden Wave have placed eight times total, including a runner-up finish last year in the Black & Blue. Amherst County is the second seed, followed by third-seeded Hickory of nearby Chesapeake and host and fourth seed Poquoson, which will be competing in its 37th Virginia Duals, the only team to own that distinction.