McClure, Rizqallah heading to wrestling nationals
The first session begins at noon, with session two at 7 p.m. for the wrestlers’ second matches and consolation rounds. McClure will wrestle unseeded Pittsburgh redshirt senior Patrick Tasser, while Rizqallah will wrestle the winner of the match between Lock Haven redshirt junior Fred Garcia and Indiana junior Luke Sheridan.
All weight categories will wrestle at the same time, making the tournament fast-paced.
“I think John and Mike will represent us well,” head coach Tom Minkel told msuspartans.com. “Having been there before is huge. They understand what it’s all about; they can relax going into it, it won’t be a shock.”
No. 7 McClure finished the season in fourth place at the Big Ten Championships with an overall record of 27-7, and is going into his second consecutive NCAA competition. He wants to earn All-America honors for the first time in his career after posting a 2-2 performance at last year’s nationals.
“I want to go there and have fun, but at the same time, finish business,” McClure told the website. “The atmosphere (at the NCAA Championships) is insane. You have to make that atmosphere as small as possible, and make it so it’s just you and the other guy, and know that everything else shouldn’t affect the match. If you can do that, a lot of guys perform really well that way.”
Tied for an 18th ranking in MSU history with a career-record of 99-29, McClure also is ninth in the school’s record book with 24 falls — he led the team this year with 10 falls.
“The heavyweight class is just stacked. There isn’t any easy way to get to the end, you’re going to have to beat some awfully good kids. ... Everybody there is good. If Mike wrestles well, he could do very well at this tournament,” Minkel said about McClure.
Like his teammate, Rizqallah also is appearing at the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive time. He earned his trip this year in a 4-2 decision over Sheridan in the Big Ten competition, placing seventh.
In the 184-pound category, the top seven finishers automatically qualified for nationals.
“It’s less nerve-wracking and I know what to expect,” Rizqallah told msuspartans.com about going to the NCAA Championships a second time. “I feel a lot better and I’m way healthier (entering the championships) than last year. I’m more confident in my wrestling.”
Rizqallah went 0-2 at the national competition last year, but appeared in the national rankings in January 2014 after going 4-0 at the Cradle Gear Invitational on Dec. 29 in Lock Haven, Pa. — earning first place.
His overall career record is a 55-29, and he has defeated both possible opponents — Sheridan or Garcia — in the past.
“When John feels good, he’s a dangerous opponent. I don’t think there’s anybody he can’t beat when he is on his game. ... He’s a year older, he’s a year more mature,” Minkel told the website about Rizqallah. “I think as he’s looked at the brackets, he understands that if he takes care of business and wrestles to his potential, that he could be in the mix.”
The NCAA Championships session one matches begin at noon on Thursday, and all matches will be streamed live on WatchESPN.com.