Two Trojans still alive at NCAAs

As the second day of the NCAA Wrestling Tournament commenced Friday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., four Arkansas-Little Rock competitors remained in the field, with one, Nasir Bailey, still alive for a national championship at 133 pounds.

Joseph Bianchi (165 pounds), Stephen Little (197) and Josiah Hill (285) each started the day in the consolation brackets of their respective weight classes.

Bailey, the No. 7 seed, opened in quarterfinal matchup against a fellow true freshman Ryan Crookham of Lehigh, the No. 2 seed. Bailey got behind 4-0 after two periods and eventually fell to Crookham in a 4-2 decision.

While Bailey's dream of national championship was ended with the loss, he returned to the mat Friday night for a matchup with No. 13 Kurt Phipps of Bucknell in the consolation bracket, which includes wrestler who have been knocked out of championship contention, but are fighting for the last prize available to them -- a chance at earning All-American status with a win.

The match remaining scoreless until the third period, but Bailey was able to outlast Phipps in overtime and take a 3-0 sudden victory. With the win, Bailey became the first All-American in the five-year history of the UALR wrestling program.

"It's always exciting to be able to be the first to do something new," Bailey said. "Like I've been saying, I expected this out of myself. It's a roller-coaster. There are a lot of ups and downs in this tournament."

Following the match against Phipps, Bailey defeated No. 3 Kai Orine of North Carolina State in a 6-2 decision to advance to the consolation semifinals this morning where he will face No. 5 Dylan Ragusin of Michigan.

"The goal is to win, it's always to win," Bailey said. "That's the next best thing is to take third. That's the goal. The [NCAA Tournament] environment is something that you can't even explain. It's something different. I've never been to a tournament of this level."

At 165 pounds, No. 31 Bianchi was back in action Friday after winning his wrestleback against Evan Maag of George Mason on Thursday night. Bianchi took on No. 14 Giano Petrucelli of Air Force in the early session, but saw his tournament end after falling to Petrucelli in a 5-4 decision. Bianchi finished with a 1-2 record over his two days at the tournament.

After going 1-1 on Thursday, No. 9-seeded Little faced No. 7 Zach Glazier of Iowa in a wrestleback at 197 pounds. The match went to overtime where Little prevailed with a 4-1 victory.

Little advanced to face No. 17 Joseph Novak of Wyoming. Little continued to roll, picking up his third win of the tournament with a 13-5 decision over Novak to advance to the consolation round Friday evening.

In his next match, Little faced No. 6 Lou Deprez of Binghamton. Yet again Little went to overtime, this time taking a 5-2 sudden victory over Deprez. With the win, Little joined Bailey by earning All-American honors.

Shortly thereafter, Little was back on the mat again to take on No. 5 Jacob Cardenas of Cornell in his final match of the day. This time, Cardenas was able to pin Little and won by fall at 1:11, knocking Little out of contention for third place.

Hill, the No. 27 seed, faced a tough challenge to start his day as he took on No. 12 Kooner Doucet of Oklahoma State in his wrestleback at the heavyweight division. Hill stayed within striking distance the whole match, but ultimately dropped a 2-1 decision to Doucet. Hill's tournament was ended with the loss, he finished with a record of 1-2 in Kansas City.

Bailey will have an opportunity to get as high as third place at 133 pounds today, while Little will have a shot to earn seventh place at 197 pounds as takes on No. 4 Michael Beard of Lehigh.

"Like we've been saying the whole year, we're building something in Little Rock," Bailey said. "Everything that we're doing is working and it's starting to pay off. Kids are buying in and we're winning. I think this is huge."

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