ROANOKE, Va. – Collin Wickramaratna is ready to take his incredible rookie success to the biggest stage.
Ursinus College's 125-pound freshman wrestling star is set to take on the best the country has to offer as he opens competition at the NCAA Championships hosted by Ferrum College. Action gets underway Friday morning and continues through Saturday night.
The first Bears freshman to qualify for nationals since Matan Peleg in 2013, Wickramaratna has established himself as one of the program's brightest prospects in recent memory. The first-year phenom carries a record of 27-6 into the national tournament, which includes a Centennial Conference championship and a runner-up finish at the Mideast Regional championship.
Now, Wickramaratna brings his show to the grand arena, against a stacked field of 125-pound grapplers. His journey begins Friday morning against seventh-seeded Brady Kyner of powerhouse Wartburg. One of seven NCAA qualifiers for Division III's top-ranked wrestling program, Kyner is making his national championship debut. He comes in with a record of 24-6, which includes six pins, six tech falls, and three major decisions. He finished third at the Lower Midwest Regional, dropping a 10-9 decision to Cameron Timok of Central (Iowa), the number five seed at the NCAA tournament.
A victory would send Wickramaratna into the second round and a date with Wesleyan's Zack Murillo. Murillo qualified for the tournament by placing second at the Northeast Regional Championships. The senior defeated the No. 7 wrestler in the country, Peter Del Gallo of Southern Maine, by a 2-1 decision in the semifinals. In the championship match, he was paired against the defending national champion and No. 1 ranked wrestler in Division III, Jay Albis of Johnson & Wales. Murillo battled but was eventually edged by a 5-3 sudden victory decision in overtime.
The winner of that match would advance to the quarterfinals on Friday night, while a loss in either bout would drop Wickramaratna into the wrestlebacks.
To earn All-America honors, Wickramaratna would need to finish seventh or higher.