American University junior Muzaffar Abdurakhmanov will take a first step toward ending a 35-year title drought for Washington area wrestlers when he begins competition at the NCAA Division I championships today in St. Louis.
The 157-pound fourth seed will try to become the area's first NCAA champion since the University of Maryland's Gobel Kline won the 152-pound title in 1969. According to NCAA records, Kline and Maryland's Bob Kopinsky (1965) are the only area wrestlers to win Division I titles.
Abdurakhmanov (27-1), who won American's first Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championship on March 5, will have to navigate perhaps the tournament's toughest weight class -- Ryan Bertin of Michigan and Matt Gentry of Stanford have won the past two 157-pound titles.
Abdurakhmanov, a native of Uzbekistan, won consecutive junior college national titles at Colby Community College in Kansas before transferring to American in the fall.
-- Josh Leventhal