Immediate Release: March 17, 2004
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Junior 141-pound Josh Ruff (Bainbridge, N.Y.) will open competition at the 2004 NCAA Championship Thursday morning from the Savvis Center. Ruff, unseeded in the 35-man bracket, will face fifth-seeded Cliff Moore of Iowa in an 11 a.m. opening-round match. If he wins, he would wrestle again in the first session. 6:30 if he loses
Ruff (25-5) earned a return trip to the national tournament with a title at the Colonial Athletic Association Championship two weeks ago. In the process, he became the first Binghamton wrestler to win a Division I conference crown. He owns a career 72-18 record, including a sparkling 16-1 mark in dual matches this season. The 16 wins tied his own school record set last season.
"I think he's ready," head coach Mike Fusilli said. "We've had some good workouts here, and Josh knows what to expect this year. He won't be overwhelmed by the big crowds and I know he will wrestle as best as he can. We're going to take it one match at a time."
Moore, a senior, captured the Big Ten championship and is 26-2 on the season. He advanced to the 2003 NCAA semifinals at 133 pounds, and hasn't lost a match since late December. He is ranked No. 4 in the latest InterMat Wrestling rankings.
"We know the style Iowa wrestles and I think what is good for us is that they don't know anything about Binghamton and Josh," Fusilli said. "Josh is one of the best conditioned 141 pounders here. Iowa typically wears their opponents down but that won't happen against Josh. I think the way he wrestled at the conference tournament and the guys he beat shows the strength of our conference. If anybody can knock off a seeded guy, it's Josh. Anything can happen in the first round - top seeds drop every year."
Last year, Ruff won his opening match at the NCAA Championship, scoring a pin over unseeded Jared Sullivan from Tennessee-Chatanooga. In the second round, he suffered a 17-3 loss to the third-seed and eventual runner-up, Dylan Long of Northern Iowa. Then in the wrestlebacks, Ruff was beaten, 8-1, by Fresno State's Casey Olson.
The Savvis Center is home to the NHL St. Louis Blues and the Saint Louis Billikens basketball team. Close to 20,000 fans are expected for each session throughout the three-day championship.
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