Defending 157-pound champion Mark Choinski leads a list of 17 UW-Oshkosh participants who will compete at the 63rd Annual Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Wrestling Championship (presented by Culver's) on Friday (Feb. 9) in Whitewater.
Competition begins at noon in UW-Whitewater's Kachel Gymnasium and concludes with the first-, third- and fifth-place matches at approximately 6:15 p.m. The championship will crown 10 individual first-place finishers, along with a team champion. Each of the six competing teams is permitted to enter two wrestlers per weight class.
UW-La Crosse aims for its second straight team title after earning a winning score of 160 points at last year's championship. The Eagles were followed by second-place UW-Whitewater with 108 points, third-place UW-Platteville and UW-Stevens Point with 97.5, fifth-place UW-Eau Claire with 89 and sixth-place UW-Oshkosh with 75.
UW-Whitewater enters the championship ranked eighth in the NCAA Division III by the National Wrestling Coaches Association while UW-La Crosse lists 10th and UW-Platteville 25th.
Choinski and UW-Whitewater's Jordan Newman are the only champions returning from last year's championship. Choinski won the 157-pound title with a 13-4 victory over UW-La Crosse's Jackson Shoen and Newman the 184-pound crown with a 10-2 triumph over UW-Platteville's Grant Wedepohl.
First-place finishers from the 2016 championship returning are UW-Stevens Point's Ben Vosters at 125 pounds and UW-Whitewater's Nicholas Bonomo at 184.
Second-place performers from the 2017 championship returning are UW-Eau Claire's Toby Mosley (165 pounds); UW-La Crosse's Konrad Ernst at 285; UW-Oshkosh's Kody Azarian (141 pounds); and UW-Platteville's Jon Goetz (174 pounds) and Wedepohl (184 pounds). Azarian lost last year's title bout by a 13-0 score to UW-La Crosse's Dustin Weinmann.
Other top wrestlers back are UW-Stevens Point's Dan Squires and UW-Platteville's D'Andre Johnson. Squires was the runner-up at 184 pounds while Johnson was the second-place finisher at 285 pounds in 2016.
In addition to Choinski and Azarian, UW-Oshkosh also returns three other former championship place winners in Colten Cashmore, Anthony Senthavisouk and Dellas Vandenberg. Cashmore placed fifth at 174 pounds and Senthavisouk fourth at 125 in 2017 while Vandenberg finished fourth at 133 pounds in 2016.
UW-Oshkosh's lineup for Friday will feature Jaylin Johnson (1-5 Record, 1 Pin) and Damien McCray (2-2) at 125 pounds; Senthavisouk (9-11, 1) at 133; Vandenberg (2-5) and Wesam Alabed (11-5, 1) at 141; Azarian (1-1) and Corey Knudsen (10-13) at 149; Choinski (12-0, 2) and Christian Quiles (1-8, 1) at 157; Nate Arquinego (8-7, 6) and Tony Kontney (4-8, 3) at 165; Husam Alabed (6-14, 3) at 174; Cashmore (21-3, 2) and Juwon Anderson (3-3) at 184; John DePersia (4-7, 2) and Jordan Lemcke (4-12, 1) at 197; and Ben Kitslaar (3-4, 1) at 285.
DePersia, Knudsen, Senthavisouk and Vandenberg are making their third appearance at the championship while Wesam Alabed, Anderson, Johnson, Kitslaar, Kontney, Lemcke, McCray and Quiles are making their first.
UW-Whitewater has won 17 WIAC titles and UW-La Crosse 16, including 14 in a row from 1998-2011. UW-River Falls ranks third in the conference with 11 championships, followed by UW-Stevens Point with eight, UW-Stout with two and UW-Oshkosh one (1982). UW-River Falls and UW-Stout no longer sponsor wrestling as an intercollegiate sport.
Qualification for the 2018 NCAA Division III Championship will be based on regional competition. All six WIAC teams will compete at the Upper Midwest Regional on Feb. 23-24 in Minneapolis, Minn. The national championship will be held March 9-10 in Cleveland, Ohio.