TOPEKA, Kan. -- Third-ranked Montana State University Northern and sixth-ranked University of Great Falls will be competing at the 57th annual NAIA Wrestling National Championships Friday and Saturday.
As for who the top team is entering nationals, two-time defending national champion and top-ranked Grand View (Iowa) cruised to its fourth-straight Central Qualifying Group Tournament team title. All 12 of the Vikings automatically qualified for the national championships with top-four finishes.
Last year, the Lights finished third and Argos seventh.
At 141 pounds, MSU Northern’s Cameron Neiss (34-7) -- the national runner-up at 133 last year and two-time All-American – is rated No. 4. At 165 pounds, the Lights’ Ethan Hinebauch (34-2) is ranked first. Hinebauch is a two-time All-American and has won two straight West Regionals. Hinebauch was third at last year’s national tourney at 165.
At 197, Northern’s Toby Cheff (22-3) is projected to be one of the favorites. The top-ranked Cheff won the regional and was third in the nation at 184 last season.
One of the top wrestlers in the 133-pound bracket is Michael Ruiz (33-3) of UGF, who was rated No. 1 in the last coaches poll and claimed the West regional banner.
At the West Regional, fourth-ranked Southern Oregon won the team title with 147. UGF was second with 127.5 and MSUN third with 109.5.
Grand View is seeking to become the first team since Lindenwood, Mo., (2007-09) to win three-straight national titles. According to the NAIA of the current member institutions, MSU Northern leads the way with six national championships. The Lights’ last national title was in 2004.