The Apprentice wrestling squad has historically ruled the Mid-Atlantic conference, winning eight straight team titles from 2003-2011. They also won back-to-back Northeast Conference titles before moving conferences. The team was largely uncontested in conference action, until a new in-state rival entered the division. Liberty.
When Liberty University dropped its NCAA D1 program, the team joined the National Collegiate Wrestling Association and immediately made waves in the competition. Apprentice has not won a conference team title since Liberty first knocked them off in 2012, however the drought could soon be over.
Despite losing two head-to-head dual meets to Liberty this season, the Builders are still #1 in the team tournament rankings. Last season Liberty won the MAC with 200.5 team points, beating 2nd place Apprentice by 25. At the National Championships Apprentice nearly flipped the script, narrowly losing the National team title by half of a point.
With the strongest line-up the school has likely ever seen, Apprentice is now poised to re-claim what was taken.
· Apprentice has three entries at 125 lbs. Colton Messick is the defending National Champion at that weight, however he has still yet to win a single MAC Championship. 9th ranked Matthew Farrar is the only other top-20 wrestler currently registered at that weight, although teammate Raekwon Jackson has a recent win over Farrar since dropping a weight. The two freshman will likely have to square off again for a bid to the National Tournament, as only two wrestlers can qualify per team, per weight. The winner will likely meet Messick in the championship finals.
· Kolin Johnson and Anthony Monahan are the heavy favorites to wrestle for a title. They are the only returning All-Americans in the conference, both placing 5th at Nationals as freshmen. It is likely to be another all Apprentice showdown in the 133 lb finals.
· This weight is a bit of a merry-go-round. Everybody has beaten each other at the top, and there is no clear favorite.
· #2 ranked Ty Boyd is one of only two 3X All-Americans in the country, at any weight. He has also won the MAC the last two years.
· #3 ranked Wesley Hollingsworth of East Carolina is currently undefeated against NCWA opponents this season, but has losses to Boyd in previous seasons.
· Freshman Trey Templeton has competed at 133 the majority of the season, and has a recent win over Boyd since moving up to 141. Trey's only NCWA loss was his first college match, to Hollingsworth. Boyd's only NCWA loss is to Templeton.
· #10 Charles Hudson of Liberty has two narrow losses to Templeton (9-7) and Boyd (penalty in overtime) and will likely be looking for some redemption.
· Builders Tyler Allen and Tristan Mabe are ranked 9th and 5th respectively at this weight. #3 Chad Cantrell has wins over both builders this season. They are the only three ranked wrestlers in the bracket. An upset over Cantrell could have big implications on the final team scores.
· Chad Simmons once again dropped to 157 for the post-season and has already knocked off the #1 ranked wrestler at the weight 14-0. Standing in his way is 5th ranked Andrew Burgette of Liberty and Calvin Kopstein of JMU. Chad met Burgette in the MAC finals last season, winning his first title. Kopstein won the Builder invitational at 157 and is Burgette's biggest threat for a finals berth.
· Sleepers; #8 Andrew Welch of Tennessee is a multiple time national qualifier and #7 Bradley Walsh of South Carolina is currently undefeated including a pin over Welch.
· Dan Henson has dropped for the post season as well. #3 Luke Ely of Liberty stopped Hendo from standing on the podium in the blood-round last March by 1-0 decision. Hendo won their first of two meetings at the MAC by major-decision. This matchup is another with big team point implications.
· Freshman Jacob Heyde had a rough start to the season but is currently on a six match win streak. He has not lost since the first round of the Builder Invitational, and will be looking to qualify for his first national tournament.
· 2X National Qualifier Jeremy Mosley has only one NCWA loss at this weight to #4 Sam Karel of Liberty. Mosley is likely the favorite to challenge Karel for a MAC title, as 6th ranked Peter Becher of ECU has not competed since November.
· #7 Wes Sorey and #4 Josh McIlhenny of Liberty have traded wins this season and Sorey has also traded wins with #17Cody Richmond of Liberty the last two seasons. In the wings is #5 Ryan Thomas of James Madison who has pinned every opponent this season, including Sorey. 184 will be one of the most competitive weights of the tournament.
· There is a potential matchup of two National Champions at 197. Ross Graham of Apprentice won the 197 crown last March, and Austin Amos of Liberty won the 235 title. Amos is currently #1 at the weight since dropping this season, while Graham is #2 having yet to make the 197lb minimum this year. The two have never met in college competition.
· Vandan Schmidt is a returning national qualifier and is 1-0 against his only in-conference 197 bout.
· Liberty's Jeffrey Allen is currently #1 in the nation at 235, but surging up the ranks is #16 Russ Pierce. Russ has traded wins with #11 Mark Sizemore of JMU and recently finished 2nd at the USCAA invitational. 100% of Crust's wins are by pin this season.
· Builder freshman Peter Cortapasso has put together an excellent rookie campaign. His only NCWA losses are to #2 and #3 Dominick Johnson of Liberty. Passo will likely have to get through Middle Tennessee big-man Austin Wells for a rematch with Johnson. Wells is a 2x All-American himself and is currently undefeated on the season.
· Returning to 285 lbs, Steven Francisco is one of only four returning All-Americans at the weight. Frankie will look to turn his post-season around with a strong performance at conference. His last meeting with Johnson was in the 2017 MAC finals.
The top five place-winners at each weight automatically qualify for the National Championships in Allen, TX mid-March. The exception is two-qualifier maximum per team. 10 wildcards will also be selected to move on.