Boise State's coaching staff thinks a big corner was turned for the program when Adam Hall decided to stay "home." Funny thing is that for him, that still meant going to college nearly 500 miles away.
Hall, a redshirt senior who's ranked No. 1 at 157 pounds by InterMat, grew up in a rather idyllic place: Bonners Ferry, not far from the Canadian border in northern Idaho.
To get from there to Boise, it takes over nine hours. That includes some winding roads, and you might not choose that route if you're not up for it or the weather's bad. Then you'd opt for the major highway route that cuts into the top "chimney" part of Idaho and takes you through parts of Washington and Oregon before going back into southern Idaho and the city of Boise.
"To go straight up through Idaho, that's the scenic drive," Hall said. "But it depends on road conditions. Everybody who's been to Bonners Ferry says, 'You live in God's country, don't you?'
"There's not much more I can say than that. It's true. It's a mountains and agriculture environment mixed together. It's like a getaway for anyone who's grown up in the city."
But it's a long, long haul from Boise, any way you do it. Still, the Broncos coaches made the trip a lot, which impressed Hall during the recruiting process. Hall was so talented, he could have gone to any of the nation's traditional wrestling powers, including the alma maters of Boise State head coach Greg Randall (Iowa) and assistant Chris Owens (Oklahoma State).
However, the more he thought about it, Hall became sure that the loyalty and persistence the Broncos staff had shown him during recruiting deserved a reward. So he committed to Boise State.
"For a while there, we couldn't keep our really good wrestlers in state," said Randall, who wrestled collegiately for legendary coach Dan Gable. "They'd go to places like Minnesota, Iowa or Oklahoma State. Once we landed that first really good wrestler [Hall] out of Idaho, it got the ball rolling, and more wrestlers have ended up staying.
"He was a junior national champion and everybody was calling him. Thank goodness, he wanted to help Idaho wrestling, so he stayed in the state."
Hall is one of three Boise State seniors who were recently ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes by InterMat, along with Andrew Hochstrasser (133) and Kirk Smith (184).
The Broncos as a team are a consensus No. 2 pick at the start of the season, including in the National Wrestling Coaches Association/USA Today poll. The top team in the country is Cornell, the first time an Ivy League school has had the honor of leading the NWCA rankings.
The Big Red were second at the NCAA championships last season behind Iowa, while the Broncos placed 11th. Only 11 schools have won the national championship in the 80-season history of the event, and one of them is Cornell .... although that was Cornell College in Iowa, not the Ivy League's Cornell in New York.
The Broncos would love to add their school to the champions' list, and it would be the ultimate payback for the determination that Randall has shown since arriving at Boise State in 1992.
For 10 years, Randall was the Broncos' assistant coach. He took over the top spot in the 2002-03 season. Randall is a native of Iowa, a wrestling mecca, where he was a four-time state champion in high school. After competing for the Hawkeyes, he coached at Minnesota before going to Boise.
"The culture of wrestling wasn't that deep here, compared to Iowa," Randall said. "We had a good program at the conference level, but not at the national level. I came thinking I could help things out here. And I just ended up staying. I enjoy it out here; Boise is a great city to live in."
Randall readily acknowledges that the success of Boise State's football team has elevated the entire Broncos athletic department.
Hall, of course, knew all about Boise, the rest of his state and the entire country, really. He'd traveled around a lot as a junior wrestler. After he made his decision to stay in Idaho, he never looked back.
"It's great having a football team that's successful, because that's become contagious," Hall said. "Both around the city and on campus, that feeling of being able to get to the next level and keep progressing."
Hall had a personal breakthrough himself last season at the NCAA championships, when -- after losing in the quarterfinals -- he was determined to fight his way through the consolation bracket to still earn All-America honors.
He was so hyped up during that process that he didn't notice until after one match was over that he'd worn his singlet backward. Then he did what any wrestler would do: continue to wear it that way the rest of the tournament. You don't mess with winning mojo, and his four victories in a row earned him third place and an overall season record of 32-3.
Hall laughs and says he won't push his luck past the NCAA meet -- he'll be wearing his singlet the right way this season. His senior campaign got under way Saturday as the Broncos beat North Idaho College 33-12. Hall won his match by technical fall, 17-2.
"To reach this point, you have to recruit the kinds of guys for whom wrestling means much of their life," Randall said. "They've got to want to work year-round. And being here this long and finally having the chance to contend for a national title, it takes consistency and patience."
• Sunday afternoon in Cary, N.C., fans saw something that had never happened before: An ACC women's tournament soccer final that didn't include North Carolina.
The mighty Tar Heels had won 20 of the previous 22 ACC title matches, falling in the final only in 1988 to N.C. State and 2004 to Virginia.
But the Tar Heels had a couple of unpleasant firsts this season -- their first-ever loss to Maryland, which came Oct. 24, and then their first loss shy of the final in the ACC tournament.
It seemed only fitting that the team to eliminate top-seeded UNC in the semifinals, No. 5 seed Wake Forest, would also go on to earn the championship. The Demon Deacons went to penalty kicks to win both matches, the latter after an exhausting 1-1 regulation tie with No. 2 seed Maryland.
Wake Forest earns the ACC's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, the bracket for which will be released at 4:30 p.m. ET Monday on ESPNU.
It was also an interesting weekend in the West Coast Conference, as No. 2-ranked Portland tied Saint Mary's 1-1 and No. 14 Santa Clara was upset by Pepperdine 3-2.
Vikings stand tall again
Cleveland State's men's soccer team, which upset then-No. 1 Akron on Oct. 30, followed that Friday with a 0-0 tie against another powerhouse, No. 6 Butler. Vikings keeper Brad Stuver, who was named national player of the week after the victory over Akron, had seven saves against Butler. The Bulldogs (15-0-2) are the top seed in the upcoming Horizon League tournament, in which Butler and Cleveland State might meet again.
Round two goes to Terps, too
Guess who again? No. 1 ranked Maryland beat No. 2 North Carolina 5-2 Sunday for the ACC tournament field hockey title, the second time this season the Terps have defeated the Tar Heels.
Maryland won the regular-season matchup Oct. 23 at home in College Park, Md., and that's where the Terps triumphed Sunday, as well. They could win a national championship at home, too, as the Final Four will be held at Maryland.
Maryland's top player, Katie O'Donnell, was the tournament MVP with three assists and one goal, and teammate Jemma Buckley scored three goals.
The Terps or the Tar Heels have won the past five NCAA field hockey titles. The NCAA tournament bracket will be released Tuesday night.
Battles in the Bay Area
In volleyball matches involving four teams all ranked in the nation's top 10, Stanford had the best weekend. The Cardinal defeated both UCLA and USC. Meanwhile, Cal fell to USC, then beat UCLA.
Mechelle Voepel is a columnist for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.