Air Force to Host NCAA West Regional Wrestling Tournament
March 2, 2004
The Air Force Academy will host the NCAA West Regional wrestling tournament. The tournament, which will determine 23 qualifiers for the NCAA National Championships, will be held on Saturday, March 6th, in the Cadet East Gymnasium.
The Air Force wrestling team will compete against teams from Fresno State, Northern Iowa, Eastern Illinois and Wyoming. The only team Air Force has faced head-to-head in dual competition was Wyoming, who defeated the Falcons 31-9. Northern Iowa, which is ranked 16th in the country, is the favorite to win the tournament.
"We have several wrestlers who have a chance of qualifying for the NCAA Championships," head coach Wayne Baughman said. "We have struggled this year with injuries and that has really hurt us. Nearly everyone in the line up has been sidelined with moderate to severe injuries."
The Falcons, who finished the season with a 3-7 dual record, expect to have two-time NCAA qualifier Heath McKim back in the line up. McKim opened the season ranked in the top 20 nationally, but has been out for six weeks with a knee injury.
"McKim is looking strong, but he hasn't been tested in competition since early January," Baughman said. "If he can go full speed, he is awfully tough to beat."
Senior Blaine Brown, a grappler out of Canon City, Colo., leads the team with 23 wins. Denver product Chris Nissen, Mile High Magazine's high school athlete of the year for 2003, will be competing in his first-ever NCAA qualifying tournament. Jacob Lillich (174 pounds) has been one of the team's most consistent wrestlers and is expected to do well, but will need to go through Northern Iowa's Derek Hauan, who is ranked third in the nation.
The first session starts at 10 a.m. with the championship session set to start at 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door ($7 adults, $5 for children/seniors).
AIR FORCE PROBABLE STARTERS