Little Rock's Three Conference Champions, Four NCAA Qualifiers Highlight Pac-12 Championships

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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Three conference champions. Four automatic qualifiers. Eight placers. A second-place team finish. The Wrestler of the Meet award-winner. The 2024 Pac-12 Championships was a day like no other for the Little Rock wrestling team.

“Wow! What a day,” agreed head coach Neil Erisman at the conclusion of the tournament. “We set a lot of new standards today. There were a lot of ups and downs; I’m super happy for those who get to go on, but also hurting for those who didn’t. As a team, we are going to get back to work and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. It’s a great day to be a Trojan!”
Conference Champions
Before today, only one Trojan had ever advanced to the first place match: Paul Bianchi in 2020, the program’s very first year of competition. He placed second to set the standard for the program, and four years later Nasir Bailey, Joseph Bianchi and Stephen Little surpassed that standard by becoming Little Rock’s first-ever conference champions. 

Earning an 8-3 decision over Arizona State in the evening, Nasir Bailey was crowned conference champion at 133 pounds as a true freshman after pulling ahead 7-0 in the first period and never looking back. He was awarded Wrestler of the Meet as the cherry on top.

Stephen Little’s first-place match showcased his absolute dominance, as the redshirt freshman rolled over his opponent from Oregon State with a 17-5 major decision. Little tallied five takedowns in the process of winning the 197 pound weight class. He became the third conference champion for the Trojans after Joseph Bianchi, who turned in a 2-1 decision over Stanford in the final round of the 165 pound bracket to cap off his final Pac-12 Tournament. It was a career-best finish for Bianchi after placing fourth at 149 pounds last season.

Headed to Kansas City
Nasir Bailey and Stephen Little secured automatic qualifications to the NCAA Tournament in their first match of the day after receiving byes, locked those bids in since the conference had three pre-allocations at each weight class. The pair of first-year starters breezed through their opening matches, each collecting a technical fall to advance to the finals.

Joseph Bianchi took his with a win in his weight class, as the top two wrestlers at 165 pounds received auto-bids to the NCAA Championships. Meanwhile, Josiah Hill was the last Trojan to qualify by winning the third-place match at 285 pounds, a weight class that took the top three competitors.

Those four Little Rock wrestlers are locked in, but others may join them. At-large bids will be determined Tuesday, and both Matty Bianchi and Tyler Brennan still have a chance to make it in.

Placers On Placers
Speaking of Tyler Brennan, he took home the hardware for second place in the 174 pound bracket, winning his first match but falling to Cal Poly in the first-place match. It is the redshirt senior’s highest-ever finish at the Pac-12 Tournament after placing fourth at 165 pounds last season.

While the top two wrestlers qualify for Nationals, Brennan had to wrestle for true second. Essentially, the third-place finisher challenges the second-place finisher for a match, since they did not meet in the bracket, and in this case the cards were not in Brennan’s favor. He will have to rely on his resume to push him through to Nationals – and that is a decorated one, as he leaves Oregon with a career-high record of 20-6.

Josiah Hill finished third for the second year in a row with a thrilling come-from-behind 6-5 decision while three Trojans took fourth: Cael Keck, Matty Bianchi and Triston Wills. In his first-ever conference tournament appearance, Keck went 2-2 on the day with a major decision and a pin.

The younger Bianchi also split the day, winning by fall and decision yet dropping two tight decisions. Like Brennan, Bianchi’s entire season will be evaluated for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, since he finished one spot out from an automatic bid. However, Matty is listed in both the last RPI and Coaches Rankings, meaning his shot is more likely than not.

Last year, not a single Trojan advanced to the first place match and only Josiah Hill won his third-place match to pace Little Rock. This year, eight Trojans took home hardware, pushing the team to a second place finish overall. With their seeds, the team was projected fourth, but their performances moved them up two whole places. See the final team scores below.

What’s Next?
The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee will meet in-person to select the remaining 47 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 12. Full brackets and seeding will be announced on at 8 p.m. on March 13.

Little Rock will wrestle at the NCAA Tournament from Thursday, March 21 through Saturday, March 23 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Final Team Scores
1. Arizona State – 137.5
2. Little Rock – 115.5
3. Oregon State – 111
4. Stanford – 101.5
5. Cal Poly – 96.5
6. CSU Bakersfield – 38

For the latest information on Little Rock Wrestling, make sure to check out You can also find the team on social media at @LittleRockWRES on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.


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Written by Arkansas Wrestle