- There are so many moving pieces with D1 teams trying to win while some of their best wrestlers are trying to make the Olympic team that there are many truly unknowns out there. Things on your favorite team might not be so clear. So many college wrestlers are looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo that it’s a little overwhelming. This Team USA and UWW Olympic cycle is moved earlier in the year and will interfere with the NCAA season. Lots of wrestlers have declared that they are taking Olympic Redshirts but most that have already qualified for the redshirt have not made a public declaration. While the Olympic and World teams are usually filled with wrestlers that have already graduated from college, this cycle has many high-profile college wrestlers in the mix: Spencer Lee, Yianni D, Nick Suriano, Daton Fix are just the tip of the iceberg and for the American team only. With this senior level rush will people start giving national champs an asterisk during the Olympic cycle? Penn State seems to have adjusted their schedule the most to accommodate the Olympic schedule.
-With some many wrestlers actively working towards the Olympics some weight classes are looking very different. 133 looked to be stacked but with Daton Fix and Nick Suriano likely out things look very different. Rumors swirl that Suriano might be back in the lineup for in-state rivals Princeton and Rider. I’m not sure that Suriano wants to spend one minute more than he has to in college. Based on past history the only thing that I can project is that we can expect the unexpected.
Cornell seems to be all in on the Olympics. Iowa and Penn State? Coaches have different angles on NCAA finishes and Olympic pursuits.
Iowa seems to be all in on this NCAA season even though I don’t see them in the hunting for a title this year, they do need a trophy. Things haven’t been measuring up to the Gable scale of metrics, the Brands bros need more trophies. How does Spencer Lee deal with this?
- Coaching makes a big difference. Does Coach Bomo have the Badgers in contention for a team trophy? Highlights of their lineup: 1-Gross, #11Martin, #4 Wick, #6 Hilger. Going into the season I have them tied with ASU for 4th. But if you made me pick I’d take Wisconsin to finish higher than ASU in March despite ASU having bigger ranked names. Wrestling at ASU is kind of like playing NFL football in Miami. There are tons of distractions off the mat and it takes a very very special athlete to stay focused enough to be a champ.
- Moving weights and missing depth. The biggest name changing weights is Zahid Valence. Valence is moving up and away from rival Mark Hall. This will end one of the best rivalries that I’ve seen in recent times and makes 74 look much softer. The move makes 184 look better but it’s still kind of empty right now.
Ben Darmstadt moving down from 97 is a wild card. He is gonna make everyone at the weight look short and question choosing bottom automatically. Shakur Rasheed has a high ceiling but injuries seem to have put a damper on his March performances.
- Does ASU take a step? Lineup highlights: 25- #20 Courtney, 49- #15 Maruca, 57-#12 Teemer, 65- #7 Shields, 74-#12 A Valencia, 84-#1 Z Valencia, 85-#4 Hall. This is kind of a make or break year for Coach Jones. He’s got a ton of talent but the breakthrough hasn’t happened. With Fresno State reconstituted they could rival ASU for keeping the best Cali and west coast kids.
- Does Penn State continue? PSU is rolling going undefeated in duals for a 4th straight season winning 59 in a row. They are 10 wins short of Iowa’s record of 69 consecutive dual wins. They didn’t actually lose the 70 matches, it was a tie with Oklahoma State. In total they went unbeaten for 84 straight dual meets. PSU has won 8 of the last 9 NCAA Championship Tournaments. They’ve had 11 individual champions some winning multiple titles. The dual dominance has been harder to come by. They didn’t have an undefeated season until the current streak started. I think that this speaks to the real challenge of building a solid lineup with depth. They passed the longest PSU win streak of 34 from 1950 to the middle of the 1954 season. If they wrestled as many duals back then as they do today the streaks would look a bit more comparable. Coach Charlie Speidel is the only other Penn State wrestling coach to have a national title in his bio.
PSU travels to Iowa in the 8th dual of the season. Can they tame the Lions at Carver Hawkeye? If Penn State gets through the Hawkeyes they could easily run the table. It might be an ironic twist. Penn State might have better odds of winning all their duals this season than winning a 5th straight national title come March. If everyone that is projected to take an Olympic Redshirt does, I think that really helps the Penn State squad Penta-peat. Time will tell.
A list of some wrestlers that have qualified for Olympic redshirts.
Maxwell Dean, Vitali Arujau, Yianni Diakomihalis
Stevan Micic, Myles Amine, Kanen Storr, Logan Massa
Matthew Kolodzik, Lenny Merkin
Will Lewan, Kurt McHenry, Mason Parris
Trent Hidlay, Nick Reenan
Ryan Deakin, Lucas Davison
Gavin Hoffman , Greg Kerkvliet, Brady Koontz, Kollin Moore
Aaron Brooks, Mark Hall, Mason Manville-Greco