1. Penn State
6. Eastern Michigan
8. App State
10. Sacred Heart
12. F & M
The Palestra is a great place to watch wrestling. UPenn has kept it a classic venue, one of my favorite places to watch wrestling. The Penn State fans should pack the joint, despite the challenge of travel through the Philly marathon and parking issues it may cause as well. Historically each team gets a section of the bleachers and fans can sit and mingle with their favorite team as seems appropriate. This tournament has shrunken significantly over the last few years and this year will be missing Indiana.
125lbs doesn’t have much depth as a weight class. I thought that #25 Zack Fuentes-Drexel would have progressed more at this point in his wrestling career. Can he make a jump? There are a few wrestlers a tier below what Fuentes should be. Can he get through #30 Bentley-Pitt, #35 Pasone-App State, #50 Henderson-VMI? He should. This will be a Penn State fan’s first extended look at true freshman #6 Nick Suriano. He beat #4 Connor Schram last week, which gave many of us an idea of where he stacks up at the D1 level. Schram played the match defensively to keep things close. The Keystone Classic will give him a shot at a few middle level guys and show more about his style and attacks to fans. I can’t see anyone stopping Suriano but history has shown true freshmen can be vulnerable; everyone has a learning curve at the next level. Pasone bonused Bently at the Classic last year, edge Pasone. Suriano, Fuentes, Pasone and Bently
133lbs this should be a fun weight class to watch with 2-3 wrestlers that have shots to AA this March. I think that there are 3 guys to keep on eye on. The sleeper is #25 Kevin Devoy-Drexel, an EIWA champ and round of 12 guy at 133lbs 2 years ago. Devoy at his best is a chain scrambler that is hard to plan for and has the potential to AA this season. That said his season at 141lbs last year wasn’t impressive, we’ll see which Devoy shows up this season. #8 Forys-Pitt is a stud and is also on the cusp of AA ability. I’m not sure what’s going on at the Pittsburg program? But Forys should give us a clue what direction things are going there. A big question for #9 Jered Cortez-PSU is how big a PSU bump does he get? The dark horse might be #17 Caleb Richardson who has the ability to wrestle higher than his ranking. Does he get a home mat boost? The question is seeding and who gets the tougher semi final match up? I think that Devoy’s length is a tough match up for Forys. Both semi final matches should be good. I’ll take Cortez, Devoy, Forys then Richardson.
141lbs is another weight class that isn’t stacked. It would seem wide open for #11 Jimmy Gulibon-PSU. At times it appears to me that Jimmy has had a hard time adjusting his technique or mindset to the top of the D1 spectrum. He has the ability to be a NCAA champ or go 1-2 at NCAA’s. This should be a confidence booster for him. I’ll take Drexel’s Pearce to take 2nd if he’s on the other side of the bracket from Gulibon. Springer lost to Zanetta-Ptt here last year but Zanetta went out on a slide to end his year. Who got better during the off-season? I’ll take Springer. I’d even consider Pearce over Zanetta but I’m not sure how the new weight class will affect him. Gulibon, Moss, Pearce, Springer Zanetta
149lbs should be a fun weight class to watch. #9 Matt Cimato-Drexel and #25 Mikey Racciato-Pitt can chain scramble like very few other D1 guys. Is Racciato back this year? Not so far. He was removed from the team during last season but is back and hasn’t looked good through 3 matches. It’s too bad, I enjoyed watching this guy wrestle. Throw in #23 Barber-EMU, who has some nice wins over tough guys and it should be interesting to see how 2nd-4th plays out. Why, because #1 Zain “Spartacus” Retherford takes very few prisoners. He has a bonus point win over Cimato at the Scuffle. The big question for me, can Cimato close the gap with “Spartacus” in the finals? Cimato’s workout partners have improved with the addition of Josh Dziewa to the staff and Garrett Hammond (out for the season most likely) to 157lbs weight class. That said I’m not sure how many people look forward to wrestling Retherford, is Cimato one of those people? I’m not sure. Zain, Cimato, Dinmore, Barber, Racciato.
157lbs has many plot lines running through it. Unfortunately #25 Garrett Hammond- Drexel won’t be one of them. The mysterious #13 Bryce Brill-NW could compete, he’s very talented but has missed most of the last few seasons with injury. #17 BJ Clagon-Rider wasn’t on top of his game last year although he did give Spartacus his toughest match of the season during the Rider dual. Not to be overlooked is #19 May Bethea-Penn, who has a great inside step shot, high shot from space and had a crazy win in last year’s finals over All American Chad Walsh. This could be one of the deepest weight classes of the tournament. I enjoy watching all the wrestlers mentioned above. The only guy I think that could give #1 “Shark Attack” Nolf a match would be Clagon but will he be on top of his game and will his cardio be ready for this early season test? Was the weight cut last season the reason for a sub par season? He hasn’t looked ready so far but the kid has bright light potential. Seeding will be interesting. A possible semifinals show-down with Nolf and Bethea could be a lot of fun with some great attacks on display. The question is can Bethea get out from under Nolf? The other semi should be interesting; Clagon and Brill could be fireworks both aren’t afraid to commit fully to their attacks and can chain wrestling with speed. So many back-stories here Northwestern was a last minute scratch last year after their head coach was unceremoniously let go. Bethea came up with a better Keystone Classic than overall season. Does he get the home mat boost? Nolf, Brill, Bethea, Clagon.
165lbs I thought Cody Wiercioch would have had a better transition to wrestling at this level. I know that the culture of the Pitt team has been undergoing some change. Will this be noticed this season or will we see more decline? All that being said #13 Te’Shan Campbell- Pitt who is down a weight class and showing real promise is at Wiercioch’s weight too. Campbell wrestled last year as a true freshman at 174 and flashed moments of hope to Pitt fans but not as much as I thought he would. Was it the weight class or team culture? Time will tell what’s going on there. That said this weight class looks like a two person race. Can #12 Vincenzo Joseph-PSU make a seamless transition into the PSU lineup? Does his aggressiveness cause trouble with a possible Walsh match-up like it did against Subjeck last week? Can #5 Chad Walsh-Rider keep up his NCAA tournament pace? Both guys are aggressive in their style. Cenzo has some nice leg attacks and is powerful. Walsh can have trouble creating his own offense but is a master of countering anything and for big points. This is another ranked match up for Joseph, trail by fire. VJ’s low power attacks are the hardest style for Walsh to counter. If Walsh knocks off Joseph it could mean that Penn States plans for a repeat come March might be on the table with possible adjustments. If VJ wins it might mean a bit less. Walsh was one of the more inconsistent All Americans that I watched last season. That said no freshman win over a returning All American should be under valued. Nolf Teched and majored Walsh last season. Watching Nolf and Cenzo there isn’t nearly that kind of separation. Edge Vincenzo, Walsh, Campbell, Przbysz.
174lbs #3 Casey Kent of Penn comes in as the highest ranked wrestler. As I mentioned in coach projected line-ups Kent’s history of injury can’t go unnoticed and the staff at Penn are crafting an individualized training program to keep him healthy for the season. Conon Schuster, the Sacred Heart hope had a very good tournament last season losing in the finals to Nate Jackson. He handily beat higher ranked #19 Nick Kee- App State on his way to the finals. Who doesn’t Penn State send? Guessing that both #13 Geno Morelli and Corey Rasheeda should both be there.
If Shakur Rasheed goes for Penn State this should be a good test of his weight change, cardio, mindset and ability. Lots of middle level competition on the way to facing a highly ranked Kent in the finals. Edge Kent. If Rasheed were to beat Kent in the finals the Penn State faithful couldn’t have hoped for more from him. Kent, Morelli, Rasheed, Schuster, Campbell.
184lbs #3 @Nobickle doesn’t have much to contend with at this weight class. If he struggles it might indicate that he’s still adjusting to dealing with larger competitors. The dark horse here is Joe Heyob who has been behind Lorenzo Thomas the last couple of years. He’s shown twinkles of being ready to break through. The rest of the weight class is 3rd tier guys. I think whoever has done the most summer work and is healthy places highest. Bo Nickal, Joe Heyob, Silga, DeCiantis
197lbs #10 Ryan Wolfe-Rider will come in as the highest ranked wrestler. He had a nice ride in the wrestle backs at NCAA’s last year. #18 Penn’s Frank Mattiace and surprise #15 Matt McCutcheon could challenge him. Josh Murphy of Drexel is also a guy that has shown glimpses of improvement and could crack the top 4. McCutcheon is a very good wrestler when healthy but hasn’t learned how to stay out of injury causing positions at 184lbs. I’m not sure how he’ll fare against bigger wrestlers over the course of the season. I can see him in the finals. I’ll take Wolfe, McCutcheon, Mattiace Stout and Murphy in that order.
285lbs #8 Denzel Dejournette might be the highest ranked competitor but Penn State’s #10 Nevills owns a 1 point victory over him at the Scuffle 2 seasons ago. Who has gotten better? Dejournette can be explosive from neutral with a running power shot that catches lots wrestlers off balance. Nevills used to have a nice snatch single. I think that Nevills will control the mat wrestling versus Dejournette. #14 Solomon-Pitt owns a 1-point victory over Gajdzik last year at the Keystone Classic. I’ll take Nevills, Dejournette, Solomon, Goodhart.