|Minnesota's Konrad highlights list of quarterfinalists at University Nationals|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
EVANSTON, Ill. - There was no shortage of star power as USA Wrestling's University Nationals for freestyle kicked off Saturday at Northwestern's Welsh Ryan Arena.
Six NCAA finalists, including 2006 heavyweight champion Cole Konrad of Minnesota, headline a strong field for this event and showed exactly why as the two-day freestyle competition opened. The FILA Cadet Nationals for freestyle also are being held in conjunction with the University Nationals.
Konrad, third at the World Team Trials last year, advanced to Sunday's quarterfinals by rolling to a pair of wins at 264.5 pounds. He will be joined in the quarterfinal round by 2004 NCAA champion Matt Gentry along with NCAA runner-ups Phillip Simpson, Brian Stith of Arizona State, Jake Herbert of Northwestern and Roger Kish of Minnesota.
Gentry and Stith are competing at 163 pounds while Herbert and Kish are on course to meet in the finals at 185 pounds. Simpson is at 145.5.
The University division quarterfinals, semifinals and finals in freestyle are set for Sunday at Northwestern University. Wrestling resumes at 9 a.m. Sunday in Evanston. The FILA Cadet freestyle finals also are set for Sunday.
Champions at the University Nationals qualify to represent the United States at the World University Championships in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on June 15-20. The top two finishers from the University Nationals in each weight class advance to the U.S. World Team Trials on May 26-28 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Konrad hopes to land a spot at the World Team Trials after he skipped the U.S. Nationals two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
Returning University Nationals champions Nick Simmons of Michigan State and J.D. Bergman of Ohio State, a pair of NCAA All-Americans, also reached the quarterfinal round.
Simmons, the defending University Nationals champion at 121, has moved up to 132 for this event. He was third at the World Team Trials last year at 121. Bergman, third at the World Team Trials in Greco-Roman last year, is in the University National quarters at 211.5. Bergman placed second in this event in Greco-Roman on Friday night.
Minnesota's Mack Reiter (145.5 pounds) and Michigan State's Andy Simmons (145.5), along with Iowa State's Trent and Travis Paulson (163), were among the NCAA All-Americans who also have landed spots in the quarters.
There were 351 entrants in the University freestyle division and 362 in the FILA Cadet division for freestyle. Greco-Roman champions at the University and FILA Cadet levels were crowned Friday night.