NEW YORK, March 15 – Wrestling begins Thursday in New York at Madison Square Garden for the NCAA Division I wrestling championships and four Connecticut natives are set to compete for their respective university squads.
North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack, a sophomore from Danbury, is ranked No. 3 in the country at 141 pounds and is a contender to win a national championship. The only other Connecticut wrestler to do that was Stamford’s John Engel, who won at 118 pounds for Lehigh in 1931.
Northwestern’s Dominick Malone (133), a senior who grew up in Granby, is making his third NCAA Tournament appearance while Binghamton’s Jack McKeever (174), a senior from Brookfield, is wrestling in the tournament for the second consecutive year. Virginia’s Patrick Gillen (285), a senior from Shelton, will be wrestling at the national for the first time.
Jack (23-3) is a key member of the Wolfpack team that hopes to contend for a national championship and has six seeded wrestlers in the tournament. Last year, Jack went from unseeded to All-American with his fifth place finish last year as a true freshman, and this season he was won 17 straight entering the NCAAs.
Jack became the first Connecticut wrestler to earn All-American honors at the NCAA Division I national championship tournament since Oklahoma’s Orville Palmer (Middletown) in 2000.
Malone (22-10) went 1-2 in the tournament a year ago and hopes to do better this year. He finished ninth in the Big 10 tournament and finished the regular season ranked No. 19 in the country. He was ranked in the top 20 in early February and has eight pins this season.
McKeever is 23-8 and has been nationally-ranked for much of the season. He is 2-4 against fellow NCAA qualifiers, including a win over Jonathan Schleifer of Princeton at EIWAs March 5. The 174-pound and 184-pound divisions have been among the most competitive in the NCAA and EIWA this season.
The EIWA advanced nine competitors to NCAAs in the 174-pound class, while seven 184-pounders have moved on to nationals.
Gillen (17-13) has finished fourth in the ACC for the past two seasons. He received a wild card to participate in the tournament last week.
2016 NCAA Division I national championships
At New York
NCAA Division I
Kevin Jack (Danbury), North Carolina State, 141, 5th, 2015
Orville Palmer (Middletown), Oklahoma, 197, 7th, 2000
Jim Guzzio (Madison), Maryland, 134, 5th, 1997
John Engel (Stamford), Lehigh, 118, 1st, 1931