Air Force Wrestlers Head to NCAA Championships

By  | 

Four Air Force wrestlers will head to the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, being held in Oklahoma City, Okla., this week, March 20-22. Senior Greg Rinker heads to the national tournament as the West Regional champion at 133 pounds, while seniors Josh Kreimier (157) and Devin Hightower (184) both won true second-place matches to receive automatic bids. In addition, sophomore Josh Martinez (125) was awarded an at-large bid to round out the Falcons’ group of competitors this week.

About the NCAA Championships...
This year, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The event, in its 84th year, is being hosted by the University of Oklahoma.

The action begins Thursday, with the first session slated to start at 11:00 a.m. (CT), followed by Session II at 6:00 p.m. On Friday, the third session, which features the quarterfinals, begins at 10:00 a.m., with the fourth session, including semifinals, starting at 7:00 p.m.

Saturday’s action begins at 10:00 a.m. with the wrestle-back semifinals and third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches. Meanwhile, the finals are slated to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Watch the Action...
Fans who are unable to make it to Oklahoma City to see the championships in person will still be able to catch the action online and on television. All six sessions will be televised, with every match carried on

ESPN will televise the semifinals and finals, while ESPNU televises the first and second sessions, the quarterfinals and medal round. Digitally, ESPN3 will carry individual mat feeds throughout the entire tournament. All six sessions are also available on WatchESPN.

Last Year at the NCAA Championships...
Air Force sent four competitors to the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships, led by senior Cole VonOhlen, making his fourth-straight appearance. VonOhlen finished just one win shy of All-America status, advancing to the round of 12 at 149 pounds. VonOhlen, seeded fourth in the tournament, opened with a pair of wins on the first day of action, earning a 10-0 major decision over Old Dominion’s Alexander Richardson before picking up a close 7-6 victory over Michigan State’s Dan Osterman. However, battling a shoulder injury, VonOhlen dropped a pair of decisions to Steve Santos (Columbia) and Ivan Loupouchanski (Purdue) on day two, ending the year with a 27-4 overall mark.

Joining VonOhlen in Des Moines were junior Josh Kreimier, a two-time NCAA qualifier, and sophomore Dylan Hyder and freshman Josh Martinez, both making their first NCAA appearances. Kreimier (157) posted a 1-2 record in the tournament, defeating Oklahoma’s Matt Lester, 5-4, before coming up short in a 9-5 loss to eventual national champion Derek St. John of Iowa and dropping a 9-7 decision to Boston’s Nestor Taffur in the consolation bracket. Hyder lost both of his matches at 133 pounds, dropping close decisions to a pair of seeded wrestlers (Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes and Penn State’s Jordan Conaway). Meanwhile, 10th-seeded Martinez also posted a 1-2 mark, dropping his opening match to Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno. He responded with a 13-0 major decision over David Terao of American before falling to ninth-ranked Trent Sprenkle (North Dakota State) in the consolation bracket.

Last Time Out...
Air Force captured third place at the 2014 NCAA West Regional on March 8, scoring 50.0 points to finish behind North Dakota State and Wyoming. The Falcons were led by senior Greg Rinker, who captured the individual title at 133 pounds, while sophomore Josh Martinez (125) and freshman Natrelle Demison (149) were runners-up in their respective weight classes. Adding third-place finishes for the Falcons were senior Josh Kreimier (157), sophomore Konner Witt (174) and senior Devin Hightower (184).

First Up...
Sophomore Josh Martinez, who carries a 32-3 overall record on the season, enters this year’s tournament as the fourth seed at 125 pounds. In his first round match-up, Martinez will face North Carolina’s Nathan Kraisser, who carries a 25-8 record on the season. Kraisser earned his NCAA bid with a first-place finish at the ACC Championships.

Senior Greg Rinker, making his first NCAA appearance after capturing the West Regional title at 133 pounds, has posted a 19-11 record on the season. Unseeded in his bracket, Rinker will face sixth-seed Mason Beckman of Lehigh in his first match. Beckman, who recorded a 24-3 ledger on the season, won the EIWA title at 133 pounds to earn his NCAA bid.

Senior captain Josh Kreimier, a three-time NCAA qualifier at 157 pounds, enters this weekend with a 14-8 overall record. In his opening match, Kreimier is slated to face top-seed James Green of Nebraska. Green, who has posted a 29-1 record on the season, captured the Big Ten title to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.

Meanwhile, senior captain Devin Hightower, competing in the NCAA Championships for the first time, holds a 17-11 overall record at 184 pounds. Hightower is slated for a first-round match-up with 16th-seeded Nick Vetterlein of Virginia Tech. Vetterlein, who received an automatic bid to the national tournament with a third-place finish at the ACC Championships, enters this week’s tournament with a 25-8 overall record.

Repeat Performers...
This season marks the third NCAA appearance for senior Josh Kreimier and second NCAA appearance for sophomore Josh Martinez. Kreimier is one of 12 wrestlers in Air Force history who have been NCAA participants at least three times.

Four times the Falcons...
For the second-straight season, Air Force is sending four wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. Last year’s four NCAA qualifiers were the most in a single year since the 2008 season, when Jake Kriegbaum (141), Stephen Crozier (165), Tyler French (174) and Jacob Devlin (184) all represented the Falcons at the national tournament.

AF All-time All-Americans...
This year, Devin Hightower, Josh Kreimier, Greg Rinker and Josh Martinez will strive to join the ranks of such decorated individuals as Don Henderson, Terry Isaacson, Kirt Donaldson, Ken Donaldson, Bob Orwig, Terry Parham, Scott Frohardt and Kevin Hoy—Air Force’s All-American wrestlers.

Among the group of eight All-Americans in Air Force history are one national champion (Henderson), three NCAA runners-up (Isaacson, Ken Donaldson and Hoy) and two multiple All-America performers (Isaacson and Hoy).