UALR wrestlers get NCAA victories

Prior to this season, only one Arkansas-Little Rock wrestler had ever qualified for the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday, five Trojans made their NCAA debuts at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Nasir Bailey and Steven Little entered the tournament as top-10 seeds at their weight classes and each advanced in their opening round matches Thursday. Bailey is the No. 7 seed at 133 pounds, while Little is the ninth-seeded athlete at 197 pounds.

Bailey defeated Kade Moore of Missouri in a 10-4 decision to kick off the action for the Trojans. Later in the day, Bailey defeated Marlon Yarbrough of Virginia with an 11-7 decision in the round of 16. Bailey will take on fellow freshman Ryan Crookham of Lehigh in the quarterfinals this morning.

"I just know I need to score so I want to go get it," Bailey said in a TV interview following his second match Thursday. "We work hard and we believe in ourselves. [UALR] is on the come up."

Little dominated his opening match, taking down Cole Urbas of Penn in a 22-3 technical fall at 6:59. Later in his second-round match against Stephen Buchanan of Oklahoma, Little was defeated in a 14-3 major decision. He will be back in action this morning in the consolation bracket.

Matthew Bianchi, Joseph Bianchi and Josiah Hill also made appearances in the tournament for the Trojans on Thursday. All three lost their first-round matches and were forced to compete in "wrestlebacks" during the evening session.

Matthew Bianchi faced a tough draw in the opening round, going up against No. 2 seed at 157 pounds in Jacori Teemer of Arizona State. Bianchi put up a strong battle, but eventually fell to Teemer in a 7-3 decision. In his wrestleback against Vinny Zerban of Northern Colorado, Bianchi dropped a 6-2 decision that ended his tournament.

Joseph Bianchi entered the tournament as the No. 13 seed at 165 pounds. He lost to Stanford freshman Hunter Garvin in an 11-0 major decision in a rematch of the Pac-12 championship that saw Joseph Bianchi edge Garvin in a 2-1 decision.

In his wrestleback following the opening-round loss, Joseph Bianchi took a dominating victory over Evan Maag of George Mason by way of a 15-0 technical fall. He will be back on the mat this morning in the consolation bracket.

Hill rounded out Thursday's morning session for the Trojans by taking on No. 6 seed Zach Elam of Missouri in the heavyweight division and was defeated in the first period by fall at 1:50. In the evening session, Hill rebounded in his wrestleback, defeating Matthew Cover of Princeton in 5-0 decision to advance to the consolation rounds today.

Four of the five UALR competitors will compete today. Little, Hill and Joseph Bianchi will all compete in the consolation rounds of their respective weight classes, while Bailey's dream of a national championship is still alive as he will start the day in the quarterfinal round at 133 pounds against Crookman.

"It's pretty rare [true freshmen in the NCAA Tournament] and it's even more rare that they're at the same weight," UALR Coach Neil Erisman said of today's matchup between Bailey and Crookman. "He's [Bailey] looking good and looking sharp. He's just got to stay consistent, keep his emotions in check and I think he'll do a great job."

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