ANDERSON, S.C. – After finishing in fifth place at the Midwest Super Regional two weeks ago, sophomore Zak Hale qualified for his second straight NCAA Championship as the only wrestler from Anderson. Hale begins his two-day tournament run on Friday at Public Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.
Hale finished the season with a team-high 21 victories, going 21-6 overall and 18-4 for the dual schedule. After beginning the season 0-3 at the Virginia Quad Meet in November, Hale bounced back with 15 straight victories, which included four straight pins. While Hale will be slotted at the 133 weight class for the national tournament, the sophomore made 19 appearances at 141 to start the year.
The Shaftsbury, Vt. native looks to improve on last season’s tournament campaign, posting a 1-2 record, but claiming his only win in the first round over two-time national champion Trevor Franklin of Upper Iowa in his opening bout. Hale closed out the 2012-13 year with a 22-7 record.
This season, Hale posted wins against Division I’s The Citadel, Davidson and George Mason, along with posting teams points against Appalachian State. Against Division II or lower opponents, Hale is 17-3 as two setbacks came against the brother duo of Justin and Josh Kieffer of Indianapolis.
Hale may face off against Josh Kieffer again in the second round if both grapplers win their opening bouts of the tournament. In the first round, the sophomore drew Kutztown’s Evan Yenolevich who did not participate at the Midwest Super Regional to open the month. Despite missing the regional, Yenolevich enters the weekend with a 12-1 record. Kieffer drew Central Oklahoma’s Casy Rowell for his first round match, as Rowell enters the tournament with a 34-5 record.
The only other participate at 133 Hale has faced this season is Coker’s Charlie Huff, who was placed in the bottom bracket. In their first meeting, Hale defeated Huff at the Abney Athletic Center on Jan. 30 with hard-fought 8-7 decision. The two met again at the Midwest Super Duals if Tiffin, Ohio two weeks ago as Huff responded with a 4-2 overtime win in the consolation bracket, sending Hale to the fifth-place bout. Huff would eventually finish fourth at the regional tournament with a loss McKendree’s Brenden Murphy.
The action on Friday begins at 11 a.m. with the opening rounds, followed by the first two rounds of the consolation bracket and the second round of the championship bracket at 5 p.m. The championship rounds are set for 7 p.m. on Saturday.