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Excitement Index-D1 wrestlers

We are almost a month into the college season. There have been so many good match ups already that it makes me smile. I’ve seen more than two-dozen teams wrestle so far. As you may know I love me some aggressive wrestlers. In the past couple of years I’ve done excitement rankings. Not that I’m down on regular rankings but they generally aren’t my thing. I don’t get to see wrestling from the entire country. I generally get some B1G, EIWA and EWL exposure. Trying to rank a PAC 12 or Big 12 guy against an EWL guy is a guess. Where as I know wrestling styles that I like and I don’t need to compare them to others.
At this time of year I prefer an excitement index. The season is young; go and get to see some of these guys if you can. The obvious team in this index is Penn State. They have several guys that are on my list for different reasons. We seem to be in the midst of several changes; more wrestlers in the last 5 years are offensive. It seems that fewer college guys are planning to win by 1 or 2 points late in the match (a terrible strategy). The physical head pounding, collar tie Iowa style that Gable wrestling morphed into is being countered by improved technique and aggressiveness. The newer over-tie slide-by is lethal against someone that just pushes forward but isn’t looking to attack low.
Most physically dominant: Zain Retherford and Gabe Dean are at the top of my list. Both of these guys can force their will on you and it is very hard to stop.
Dean hasn’t gotten the respect that he deserves over his time at Cornell. Not sure if it’s because he has lost a couple of matches that he wasn’t supposed to or that Cornell has slid out of the team title picture the last few years. If Dean wins come March he will go down as an all time great college wrestler. He is pushing himself this season and going for bonus at an eye opening rate: 100% bonus wins with 10 falls. This isn’t a case of cleaning up against scrubs. He has faced 4 guys ranked in the top 15 during this run. Dean like Retherford isn’t super quick at chain wrestling but both have very quick point A to point B wrestling. Dean’s power has never been a question but this season his ability to apply his power from the top position seems better than I’ve ever seen. Nick Gravina match.
Retherford snuck up on some because he was ruled ineligible to compete his junior year in high school. He might not have some of the tools that others on this list have. I’m not sure that I’ve seen ZR scramble or use gymnastic moves in his wrestling. What he has is a mental approach that will make you question your goals while wrestling him. He will break you; it’s just a matter of when. Zain has very quick speed on his attacks from neutral and top. His biggest test last year was against a guy that could match his strength and attacks. BJ Clagon match. Did I mention that he has the power to back it up?
I’m not sure how many foes want to wrestle these 2 guys but I’m guessing that I can count them on one hand. I could watch them all day. Gabe told me that he’d save me a couple of goes for later in the season. I’ll be reserving space at the Lehigh Valley ER prior to stepping on the mat with him.
Honorable mention:
Nick Suriano is a true freshman but he has physically dominated in the matches that I’ve seen. He took apart a tough Darian Cruz in one sequence. He doesn’t seem to have super slick D1 attacks yet. He will grind you into a position he likes then pop you with everything that he has. While you’re getting over being popped he’s looking for back points. Gyro hips make it very hard to take him down. His ceiling seems very high to me. I think that being in the Penn State room he can only get stronger and improve his attacks from neutral and top.
Nick Gravina: I thought this guy would AA last March. He is physical and aggressive. He was physical enough to shut down All American TJ Dudley. Dean aside, he hasn’t face top competition so far this season. His Grapple at the Garden match with Dean was close until it wasn’t. I wonder if he has the workout partners in his room to get to the next level?
I think Ryan Wolfe is a throw back. I’ve talked many times with the above-mentioned wrestlers and all seem level headed and calm off the mat. Talking with Wolfe after a match doesn’t give me the same feeling. Wolfe goes at it with passion that is straight out of the 1970 or 80’s. He’s not just a fiery wrestler; he has some slick attacks to go with his “Big bad Wolfe” attitude. Wolfe energy may be the cause of some of his inconsistency but it has an upside too. He’s beaten All American Brett Harner so he has the ability to AA this season. The question of workout partners and improvement linger in my mind.Ryan Preisch has made his way onto the list over the last few weeks. He’s a 5-tool wrestler with strength, position-to-position speed, technique, hair and mental game plan to go with anyone. This guy can control a tie and grind you from the top with legs and a half – beware. Preisch appears to me to have improved significantly since last season. His attacks seem crisper. Even with going up a weight class he seems stronger and his over all ability has improved. His confidence has to be real high going into a tough January. He could face up to 5 top 20 foes in January, which will tell us a lot more about his improvement and prospects come March.
Part II
Attacks below the waist: Kyle Snyder, Jason Nolf and J’Den Cox are at the top of my list.
With Snyder’s below the knee attacks you’d think that he was being coached by Mr. Anklepick (Cael Sanderson). Snyder has changed his go-to attacks at least 3 times and he’s only at the beginning of his Junior year. His precision and timing are truly amazing. He’s never been a bonus point machine but I think that will start to change.
Jason Nolf, while not as decorated as many of the wrestlers on this list has attacks that are incredible. He is relentless and doesn’t seem to have a go-to move. He takes what is available. He might be the most athletic guy on the list. Deconstructing his moves and teaching them at the youth to high school level is fun but often met with kids saying that it won’t work. It’s hard to imitate Nolf’s hips and as I’ve said before, they look like the hips you’d find on a 74lb’er. He is often compared to David Taylor but the biggest difference I see is Nolf’s use of his hips/glutes. They bring power, speed and an athleticism that I think surpass Taylor at the same age. Taylor’s body moved quickly above and below the waist but not as a total body package like Nolf does.
I haven’t seen Cox this season but I still have him on my list. Watching him at Nationals and Beat the Streets was a lesson on accuracy. His conversion of attacks to points is pretty top end of the spectrum.
Honorable mention: Nathan Tomasello and Joey Dance. Both have some great attacks and are fun to watch wrestle.
Tomasello could be on the physically dominant list but with his move up to 133 his attacks have looked slick and crisp and less like a freight train than the last 2 seasons.
Dance has some great leg attacks. He can take anyone down on a given day. I love that. He’s not a bonus point machine but most guys block against him from neutral. He has some nice wins so far. I hope that he fills out the rest of his game.
I’m throwing in two freshmen here:
I hate to sum someone up with two words but Matt Kolodzik wants it. He might not be the best at any one part of the sport but he can problem solve on the fly and wants it more than anyone that I’ve seen him go against. Kolodzik is another guy that is super quick position to position and seems to have real strength from leverage and desire. He knows that people are expecting a left inside step attack so he’s started mixing it up. Watching a wrestler develop right in front of your eyes is pretty awesome. Go kid.
Ronnie Perry might not be an All American this season but he sure can rack up the points against your average D1 competitor. He’s the author of 10 tech falls so far this season. If he smells blood he’ll stay busy until he finishes you. Can Perry improve over the course of the season? If you get a chance to check him out it should be worth your while.
Wide Open:
Bo Nickal can attack from almost any angle. Tie up with him at your own risk. Push into him at your own risk. It doesn’t matter how close the match is he is always looking for the fall. I love it. What makes Bo so likeable beyond that is that this is who he is. He doesn’t change his approach for big matches.
Chad Walsh, is Mr. Wide Open. Like some of the aggressive Penn State wrestlers he’ll give up points being so assertive but he usually comes back from a deficit. You need to stay in good positions and have heavy hips to defeat this wild man. These two guys are the best throwers at the D1 level, rare and fun. These two guys can make anyone a fan of the sport. The mental toughness to not get down on themselves after a missed attack is just another shining example of their high level abilities.
Scramblers, counter wrestlers and top hammers:
Randy Cruz can do all 3. Go under him at your own risk. He might not be able to generate a bunch of offense against top wrestlers but he can sure score off your attacks.

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