NICEVILLE, Fla. (WMBB) – Journeymen Wrestling brought 12 of the top college wrestling teams to the area for the Collegiate Wrestling Duals at Northwest Florida State College this week.
The first day of competition is now over, but it continues on Tuesday where two teams will be crowned champions.
“It’s definitely weird seeing a college, especially a college tournament of this size in North Florida,” Arizona State wrestler Ethan Pickren said.
Six of the 12 teams competing are in the top ten of the national rankings right now, including the No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Penn State.
“It hasn’t happened in 12 years we haven’t had a real national format for dual meets in over a decade, so this is a real opportunity not necessarily for Florida but for the United States of America and the college wrestling world,” owner of Journeymen Wrestling Frank Popolizio said.
The matchups have already been exciting for the wrestling world.
On Monday, last year’s national runner up in the 125 pound weight class, ASU’s Brandon Courtney took down Sam Latona of Virginia Tech 8-4.
Then after that in 133 lbs, Arizona State’s Michael McGee got the upset over No. 4 ranked Korbin Myers 8-7.
These types of matches are exactly why Popolizio wanted to put on the tournament.
“There’s dozens of dozens of nationally ranked individuals peppered within these teams so every matchup from this point forward is gonna be head to head against individuals who are super competitive and veteran. So it’s tough from here on out, it gets tough,” Popolizio said.
While this is the first time many of these wrestlers have been to Northwest Florida, Arizona state wrestler Ethan Pickren is very familiar with it as it was a homecoming for him.
Pickren wrestled for South Walton High School and said events like these are helping grow the sport in the Panhandle.
“It definitely is growing to an extent. I think there’s a lot of people in this area that are really trying to put in an effort to grow the sport. That helps, the younger kids start the better it grows and people adding to it. I think it definitely has the potential to bring kids in and draw them into the sport to see how big of an event can actually be put on with wrestling,” Pickren said.
Even though some wrestlers have never competed in Raider Arena, or even been to Niceville, they still loved coming to a tournament in the Sunshine State.
“It’s a smaller facility than many are used to competing in, big arenas, it’s an intimate environment. It’s in Florida, little bit different scenery as well, all positive,” Popolizio said.
Penn State will face off with No. 6 Arizona State for the blue pool championship. No. 5 NC State will take on top-ranked Iowa for the red pool championship.
Both those championship duals will take place on Tuesday night at Northwest Florida State College.