The Hodge contenders get together over a few beers to discuss the award. (The trophy is awarded based on seven criteria: 1. Record 2. Number of pins 3. Dominance 4. Past credentials 5. Quality of competition 6. Sportsmanship/citizenship 7. Heart.)
Zain Retherford: "OK guys, I hope you'll agree that I deserve the Hodge this year. Remember, I won the NCAA Most Dominate Wrestler Award and was the tournament's MOW. Plus I had a lotta FUN wrestling this year!"
Bo Nickal: "Well, if you win, I should get to share the award. You know they were all set to give it to the 'Destroyer of Worlds' until I took him out in the finals. They've handed out two Hodges in the past â€“ I don't see why they can't do it again."
Gabe Dean: "Just a minute, Bo. I still have more pins this year than anybody else. Plus I wasn't feeling too well Saturday night and you still only won by a point. It's not like I was spladled and pinned in the center of the mat. If they gave it to Metcalf, they can give it to me."
Corey Clark: "Not feeling well? Geez Gabe, I won with a dislocated shoulder and topped it off by taking Terry Brands to the mat for a pinfall. Nobody else in history has won an NCAA title and defeated a 2x world champ and Olympic medalist on the same night."
Dean Heil: "Come on, dudes. I rolled around on my back all season and still went undefeated. You know damn well none of you could've done that. That's gotta count for something."
Darrien Cruz: "You guys are all great. But don't forget I'm the guy that took out the villainous Gilman. I should win based on criteria number 6, citizenship. Just think what an awful example it would have set for kids if Gilligan had won the 125 pound title."
J'den Cox: "Good point, little fella. I agree we should stick to the criteria. Just remember criteria number 4 comes before criteria number 6. And I've now got three NCAA championships under my belt - more than any of you guys. Plus I can sing and play the guitar pretty darn good - if I do say so myself."
Mark Hall: "Hold on, Jâ€™den. The Hodge is supposed to be a single season award. I subscribe to WIN magazine and they say criteria number 6 is only to be used as a tie-breaker. Besides, I still have the opportunity to become a 4-timer. And we all know you won as a true freshman, but so have I. Besides, the guy I beat is a full-grown man with a wife and two kids â€“ maybe even a dog. You only beat Heflin who is still a bachelor - as far as I know.â€
Jason Nolf: "Listen fellows. My numbers were right up there with the best of you. And if you want to talk about criteria, all the fans are raving about how my ankle strap placements meet criteria numbers 6 and 7. Donâ€™t you guys read themat.com forums?
Vincenzo Joseph (shouting): â€œDown goes Imar! Down goes Imar! I shook up the world! Iâ€™m the greatest of all time!â€
Somebody whispers: â€œDude has four losses and wants the Hodge. Apparently, he thinks heâ€™s a combination of Nick Ackerman AND Mohammed Ali â€“ too funny!â€ (Everyone rolls their eyes and chuckles.)
Kyle Snyder: â€œYou guys have all gotta be kidding me. The Hodge award is supposed to go to the best wrestler and Iâ€™m the reigning WORLD AND OLYMPIC CHAMPION.â€
Everybody else (in unison): â€œFor the hundredth time, Kyle! Itâ€™s for the best COLLEGE wrestler. Those other accomplishments donâ€™t mean diddly-squat.â€
Well, sports fans, it looks like the Hodge Committee really has their work cut out from this year. Stay tuned to this forum for further developments.
â€‹- Your humble correspondent, HurricaneWrestling
If Mark Hall wrestles at SDSU? Semifinals..., the referees review a Coach Bono contested call, of Valencia grabbing the headgear on a takedown. After review, not enough to warrant a penalty. The referee comes out on the mat, and the call stands. The match is a whole different story. Hall is not ahead by one, and now not stalling, as opposed to the actual match.
Hypothetical SDSU Hall in a finals match. Hall leads by one, but is warned for stalling with approx 35 seconds remaining. The ref brings the wrestling to the middle for another start, after going off the mat. Immediately after blowing the whistle, Hall backs up, shuffles back and forth, ties up, but still going back. The referee is not intimidated, and tags Hall for stalling after 20 seconds of this- and ties the match, sending it into overtime. ( yes, Bono is in a rage)
Like it or not, many of these calls, and video reviews of contested calls, are arbitrary. Tell me it's no different for a referee to make a decision, with a Cael Sanderson or a Roger Kish sitting there, then I have a bridge to sell you.
21guns- I think you might be right, that if Hall wrestled for SDSU, this thread doesn't happen, but neither do the same calls happen.
If Gilman ever posed like that in angry defiance after a victory the internet would break as everyone from around the world posts their outrage. However, Hall hit all the talking points in his interview, even though it was clear he was conflicted and wanted to go full Gilman, so it is all ok. Heroic even.
There are plenty of tough brackets and seed/draw issues, its the NCAA tournament - its supposed to be tough. But to go the opposite throw NaTo in the B12 schedule and he might have 3 losses. Brock's 2 losses are to Gross, both in matches where if he doesn't chose bottom (not JS approach in season) perhaps wins and one where he had a called take down waved off. Gross's one lose was SV. Gross is pretty tough I don't think there are any easy sides to the brackets. But then look at 125, JRod would've had only one loss and probably got the 3 seed if he hadn't lost in SV to Picc in B12 final. And even then I don't see how a guy who doesn't wrestle the tourney gets a higher seed, and how seeded over Lambert and the Lizard. But because of it JRod (with only 2 loses) gets the 9 seed with potentially facing Picc all over again in the 2nds match. I'm sure neither of them were thrilled with that seeding outcome and would probably rather be an 11 seed than 8 or 9. It's just plain tough.
I do think 184 has lost a bit of luster in terms of overall competition, however, it's still incredibly deep, with an emerging Top 2 in Dean / Nickal.
I don't think we should overlook 141. Although Heil is the returning Champ, there is a LOT of competition and overall depth. Heck... Meredith is #11 right now based on Flo Rankings. With McKenna, Jack, Cruz, Kolodzik, Ashnault, just to name a few, any of them could have a good tourney and upset the apple cart. 141 is probably going to shake out to have the most overall parity, without a clear Top 2 emerging by NCAA time.
125 is also shaping up to be an interesting turn. Dance seems to be in good form, while Gilman is the man on top. However, new storylines are emerging with Suriano and this "no-name" JRod kid from tOSU. As in other years, where we've seen Moisey as runner-up, anything can happen NCAA tourney time (i.e. Dance always losing), and again, we have weight class with much drama that is yet to unfold.
149 is Zain's to lose, as is Nolf's at 157.
165 seems to be turning into a two-horse race with IMART and Massa.
174 maintains significant intrigue. BoJo is finally back on the mat, but is he NCAA champ material? Will Zahid be a Frosh Champ afterall, and the "next really big thing"? Epperly and a slew of others will have something to say about all of this by the end of the season.
197 is a 2-horse race between Cox and Pfarr (most likely), with a little intrigue for who else makes the podium.
HWT is Snyder's to lose, with Medberry and Walz nipping at his heals.
So... overall, I would say for overall uncertainty and intrigue, 141, 133, 125 and 174 are the weight classes that I believe will bring the most drama, suspense, and overall interest.
Imar should not burn himself out trying to pin someone that good. All that effort is what killed him. He should just wrestle a regular match because Nolf is in great shape and won't wear out. Imar needs to be more conservative and attack on a more even and steady basis to prevent burnout.
Lets take some time to look at where everybody stands with regards to the team race. I've said all along Penn State was the clear favoirte going into this year and advocated early on for Iowa to redshirt Burak and have him for next year. That obviously didn't happen, so lets take a look at where we stand as of now.
Penn State: The Favorites
125 lbs.: Nico Megaludis. He looks like the same guy he's always been, which is very good, but I'm sure slightly disappointing for Penn State fans that he's never really found another gear. He's a top 4 guy who wrestles close matches against the other top guys and thus is open to being upset and possibly falling out of the top 4. By the eye test, I have Gilman and Tomasello as the best guys at this weight, with Mega slightly behind. I don't think anyone would be surprised if he beat either guy or wins the weight, but from where we stand right now, I have him taking third. I know Dance beat him, but I thought Nico mostly outwrestled him and would pick Nico in a rematch.
133 lbs: Jordan Conaway. A really cool overall story with him originally committing to a lower tier D1 school that dropped wrestling and making his way to Penn State. He was a lower end recruit, but has really developed into a quality wrestler, almost entirely based on grit and motor. He's kind of what people may stereotype as the "Iowa style" if you really think about it. He's a mid to low AA threat. I have him taking 6th.
141: Jimmy Gulibon. Yeesh. Tough season for the kid. Lots of talent, but hasn't really developed like his pedigree led many to hope. The weight jump seems to have hurt more then helped, although whether that's mental or physical is up for debate. I don't see him placing.
149: Zain "Rutherford" Retherford. Just the opposite of Gulibon. Has made a real leap, very aggressive and turning people on top. He's the rightful favorite at the weight, though I think people discounting Sorenson are doing so unfairly. Scoring margin against common opponents doesn't always tell the whole story. See: Borschel-Lewnes, Dake-Taylor. That said, I'm predicting a Zain title.
157: Jason Nolf. On the heels of his huge win over I-Mart, the hype has been justified. Very talented and creative, he kind of reminded me of Dake a little bit in that he refused to give up the TD even when it looked like I-Mart had him dead to rights. He's number 1 ranked right now, but as I indicated in the Nolf-I-Mart thread, there were some other occurrences not caused by Nolf that also affected that match. I'm saying Nolf takes second.
165: Shakur Rasheed. I'm going with him even though I know there is a triumvirate at the moment competing for the spot. The upside seems to great with him compared to the others. He's a real threat to pin early against most guys, but he's faded late in matches, including against Rodriguez, whom he almost pinned. He's a threat for the back end of the podium, but I think the grind of the tournament and making weight repeatedly gets to him and he finishes Round of 16.
174: Bo Nickal. Early in the season, I said that I thought as people started to figure out his unusual style and more tape existed, he would come back down to Earth. And, to a degree, he has, he's not really blowing the doors off people like it felt like he did to Epperly, including taking a loss to Nate Jackson of Indiana; however, even with "coming back down to Earth", he's still winning almsot every match, so.... Even in the Brunson match, I felt like Brunson was outwrestling Bo, and was in on a potentially winning takedown until Bo essentially said "Nope" and countered that suddenly having Brunson on his back. Brunson then seemingly was like "Sorry, dad" and gave up the fall. I think, withh all the evidence, I have Bo as a slight favorite,and I think he follows thru on that and takes first in a wide open weight.
184: Matt McCutcheon? It's hard to know what to say here until we know the severity of the injury. Cutch was having a good year, including a fantastic win over TJ Dudley. If he makes it back healthy, he's a mid-low AA threat. If not, no points for Penn State at this loaded weight.
197: Morgan McIntosh. Another guy who is great, like Nico, but who never really found that other gear. He's kind of been moving up the podium by attrition. He's clearly very good and deserving of the Top 3. He's had struggles against Hartmann and Cox, so he has a very reasonable shot to make the finals if he avoids one of them in the semifinals. I see him making the Finals, probably beating Burak in the semifinals, and losing to J'Den Cox.
HWT: Wes Phipps/Jan Johnson. Not much to say, neither guy has much to offer in terms of the team race.
So, I have Penn State with 6 All Americans with the lowest being 6th place, and two champions.
Iowa: The Challengers, Part 1
125 lbs. Thomas Gilman. To my eye, he has looked like he's found a new level from last year. So has NaTo, to be fair. I think both guys look great, and I'm going to allow my homer bias to let me pick Gilman to win the chip. 1st place.
133 lbs: Cory Clark. Unfortunately, he looks to have stayed the same place, maybe even a step back in neutral. He's wearing a pretty thick knee pad, so maybe the injury is more then we think. On top he's a monster. I think he beats Zane Richards or anyone else who isn't Nahshon or Brewer. 3rd place.
141 lbs: I'm guessing Brody Grothus, though Topher Carton is a possibility. Brody has more upside. There was a real leap between what Brody did at the open tournament he wrestled in and the match against Purdue where he beat and stifled a tough Sabatello. That said, I haven't seen anything that would indicate to me he's some surefire AA, and with the brand new weight cut (to this year) and returning from an injury...I can see him making the lower part of the podium, but I'm predicting Round of 12.
149 lbs: Brandon Sorenson. This kid is super impressive, and I think he has a real shot at a title, but there's a behemoth in his way. Sorenson is solid in all facets of wrestling, and his defense is second to none. I see him beating Lavion Mayes in the semifinals but losing to Rutherford. 2nd place.
157 lbs: Edwin Cooper. Coop has been a pleasant surprise given what we saw last year. He's a tough wrestler with some skill and athleticism. A Top 20-Top 15 guy. That's great for a dual, not so much for a tournament. I could see him winning a couple of matches, but Round of 16 is likely his ceiling.
165: Patrick Rhoads or Burke Paddock? Preseason, I was predicting Paddock would take the spot, bu the winds seem to be indicating it will be Rhoads. Neither guy is much of a threat to do anything, although Paddock does have some intriguing skills for the future. Maybe win a match, maybe 0-2 BBQ.
174 lbs: Alex Meyer. It's time to face facts at this point, Meyer isn't who Iowa fans hoped he would be coming into the season. Limited offensively and he's just not an upper echelon kind of guy. His ceiling seems to be about 5th or 6th to me. I predict he takes 8th, but obviously could easily see him off the podium.
184 lbs.: Sammy Brooks. Was lighting the world on fire early on, but has come back down to earth some. Good enough to beat anybody at the weight, including Dean, but also lose to a bunch of guys. That's the nature of the weight, 84 is loaded. I predict he takes 5th.
197 lbs.: Nathan Burak. Burak has been a really pleasant surprise this year. He was always good, but he has upped his game to my eye. More attacks, more points, and more fundamentally sound. I think he has a real chance to beat anybody and win this weight, although I would still have him as an underdog. McIntosh has had his number for awhile, though, and even if I think MM has stayed basically the same, that mental edge is sometimes very difficult to overcome. I think Burak takes 3rd or 4th. I'll say 3rd for here, but if it's Hartmann, that's been a tough match for him in the past.
HWT: Sam Stoll. Another pleasant surprise for Iowa fans, Stoll has been REALLY good out of the gate when many thought he would struggle. Early on I said I had him in about the same tier where Nick Nevills was ranked at the time (9th for Nevills) and Stoll has ended up in that area. Stoll seems to be constantly improving, too. The top of this weight is too good for Stoll to crack as a frosh, but I predict him taking 6th.
So I have Iowa with 7 AA's, but more lower tier AA's then Penn State has. One champ for Iowa, too.
Oklahoma State: The Challengers, Part 2
125 lbs.: Eddie "Pablo" Klimara. I know the nickname isn't really fair, but it always cracked me up. Klimara has shown himself to be really solid this year and is pretty firmly entrenched in the second tier of guys at this weight. Fundamentally sound, it seems like his major kryptonite is getting within a few feet of Thomas Gilman. I could see him placing as high as 4th, as I could see him upsetting Dance or Mega, but I think he takes 5th.
133 lbs.: Gary Wayne Harding. For a few weeks, it looked like the Kaid Brock bandwagon was going to be unstoppable. Then he got hurt and many thought it was going to be a "what might have been" situation at 133. However, NOW it might be a "what might be" situation as Harding has shown a new level upon his return. Beating a tough Synon (whom he has admittedly beat before) and taking Earl Hall to the brink (literally less then a second from RT to tie the match and head to OT) is an impressive return. That said, he did lose to Hall and it's a very loaded weight. I have a hard time seeing him make the podium, so I'll predict Round of 12.
141 lbs.: Dean Heil. The guy I touted as number 1 coming into the season (looking at you, Christian Pyles) has pretty firmly entrenched himself there. He doesn't really seem to LOOK impressive, just the end result seems to come out in his favor consistently Good to great in all positions, he's going to be tough for anybody to beat. That said, I think McKenna out of Standord, whom Heil admittedly beat, is on a steeper curve and his natural ability will carry him to a title over Dean. I predict Heil takes 2nd.
149 lbs.: Anthony Collica. The Alex Meyer of Oklahoma State, Collica has been a let down. Many thought that he was finally at his correct weight and may be a title contender coming into the season. Instead, he got handled by Sorenson early, and has taken some questionable losses since then. He's shown a bit better form in the last few matches, but essentially he's showing himself to be...exactly who he's been his whole career thusfar. Talented, but not quite top tier, and more of a Round of 12/low AA guy. I think he finally gets on the podium this year, but I think he's 7th.
157 lbs.: JoJo Smith. I know everybody calls him "Joe" now, but JoJo is more distinctive, and you don't get to choose your nickname, sorry. This goes for you, too, I-Mart. If you really think about it, JoJo is on a pretty incredible learning and improvement curve right now. I won't be totally shocked if he wins this weight by the end of the year. He got handled by I-Mart, but was the aggressor in a close match with Nolf, who just beat I-Mart pretty handily himself. I think he takes 4th, though, as I think he loses to either of those two guys in the semifinals and then gets taken unawares by the dynamic Ian Miller. Fourth place for JoJo..
165 lbs.: Alex "Ringer" Dieringer. Ring ding dong. Ring da ding da ding dong, keep da heads ringin. This dude is incredible. To be frank, I don't see anyone really challenging him. I know, I saw the Lewis match. Not worried in the slightest.
174 lbs.: Kyle Crutchmer. Dynamic offense, he has some questions on defense and in the gas tank department. Maybe a slight favorite for the weight coming in, he's fallen back a little bit. I think he's still near the top of the weight, but I think he takes 3rd.
184 lbs.: Nolan Boyd. He's started to come on a little bit, but I just don't think he's a reall AA threat. I see him in the Round of 16.
197 lbs.: Andrew Marsden. I honestly haven't seen much of him. I say he may win a match, but that's it, but I admit this is kind of uninformed.
HWT: Austin Marsden. Marsden is a big boy, but I see him near the top of the second tier (with Tanner Hall), and the top 4 are a little separated to me (Gwiz, Snyder, Walz and Coon). Hall has been a little up and down, so I think Marsden maxes out his second tier placement and takes 5th.
So i have Oklahoma State with 7 AAs and 1 champ. A lot of their AAs are mid level, though, so I think they have an uphill battle for the team title. I think they'll be battling it out with Iowa for 2nd.
Ohio State: The Darkhorses
125 lbs.: Nate Tomasello. He's looked really good, outside of about 20 seconds after Conor Youtsey chokeslammed him into the Spanish Announcer's Table where he seemed dazed. NaTo is short, but powerfully built, and his neutral game is on point. He's borderline impossible to ride. On top I haven't seen anything I would qualify as elite, but...if he takes you down and can't be ridden, he's going to win almost every match. I've already predicted Gilman winning, but I have NaTo 2nd.
133 lbs.: Johnny DiJulius. Alex Meyer's Spirit Animal. The perennially disappointing JDJ takes one last shot at his great white whale, the All American podium. Seemingly a top contender of a mid-AA, at least by ranking, for the last few years, his very limited game is somewhat reminiscent of Jake Patacsil in neutral. His limitations seem to come out every year in March. Frankly, if you get the first takedown on JDJ, the match is mostly over. He's got three moves in neutral: grabbing the wrist, a fireman's carry and grabbing the wrist REALLY hard. I see him falling short again. Sorry Ohio State fans.
141 lbs: Mickey Jordan. Absolutely massive at the weight. He's got a ton of skills, but he's also had some issues, including his loss against Matt Manley. Super talent who struggled a bit during his redshirt. I think he's going to do well, but I don't think he's a real title threat. I'm predicting Micah to take 5th in a very tough weight.
149 lbs.: Hunter Stieber. Ugh. God I hope he turns it all the way around. Out of all the guys competing at this weight, at his peak he has the most aesthetically pleasing style. He was great in all positions. He's aggressive and has great takedowns, and is just...fluid. Or he was. Now he has no arms. I'm sorry. I hope I'm wrong. But I just don't see it.
157 lbs.: Jake Ryan. He's been really solid for them all year. He's a top 15, top 20ish guy. Right now Flo has him 12th. I think that's fair. I don't see him taking a spot on the stand or the Round of 12. I have him Round of 16, but I could see him in the Round of 12 at the top of his ceiling this year.
165 lbs.: Bo Jordan. An amazing talent who just happens to be caught in a weight with maybe the best wrestler in all of college this season. He's great in all positions. I know he lost to his cousin last year, also a great talent. I think it's possible there may be a psychological issue in any rematch, but I think Bo's talent takes him over the top of Isaac in the semifinals into a Finals loss with the Ringer. 2nd place for BoJo.
174 lbs.: Myles Martin. I would not have pulled Martin's redshirt. I don't think their shot at the title is that strong, and he would be better off waiting a year. But we are where we are now. Martin is talented, but there are a lot of good wrestlers in a wide open weight. He could finish as high as 5th, IMO, but I think he misses the podium, losing in the Round of 12. I won't be shocked to see him on the podium.
184 lbs.: Kenny Courts. Coming off a big NCAA tournament, many people were hoping and believing that Martin had turned the corner and his talent was going to allow him to maintain a spot near the top of the rankings...it hasn't quite worked out that way. I have no idea if it's weight, injury or psychological, but he's all over the map. He's lost all of the matches against the highly ranked guys, including getting mollywopped by Willie Miklus by major and techfall within 8 days. The weight is crazy, and nobody expected Courts to do what he did last year, but I still think he's not going to make the podium. I just think his form is what it is right now, and it's not good. I say Round of 16.
197 lbs.: Mark Martin. Coming into the season, a lot of people were thinking maybe we'd see a Heflin-like season...again, not so much. Mark Martin continues to be Mark Martin, which is a solid wrestler who lacks dynamic scoring ability and tries to get by only on defense. I do not see him making the podium, nor even coming close. I think he may win a match or two, but that's it.
HWT: Kyle Snyder. The Kid. Man, I am against this move. He should be focusing on bringing a title back from Rio. But I don't make that call, Snyder and Tom Ryan made that call. I hope he gets it still. That leaves us with this. I don't think anybody is on his level technically, obviously, but the size disparity will be real and will have to be maintained, since he's wrestling at 211 Internationally, including a Yarygin, if I'm correct. I think he takes 4th. I have a hard time seeing him beating the massive Coon or Walz, or the big and also highly skilled Gwiz. I could be wrong, but with the added issue of keeping his weight down for International competitions, I think he's going to be giving up too much size to guys who are also highly skilled, though not as skilled as he is.
That leaves Ohio State with 5 AAs and no champs, but a couple of finalists. I could be wrong, obviously I was wrong about them last year, but I don't think they have the horses and that's why I would have left Martin and Snyder in their respective redshirts.
The Missouri Fightin' Tigers: The Upstart
I know they're not the highest ranked non-B1G team, but hey, it's my thread.
125 lbs.: Barlow McGhee. Rock solid and has really improved under Brian Smith. Nobody knew who this guy was two years ago and now he's top 10ish in the country. I think his style and strength lend itself to winning some funky backside matches, and I think he sneaks on the podium for a 7th place finish.
133 lbs.: Zach Synon. Another guy who's made a real leap. before this year his biggest accomplishment was beating a Nahshon Garrett who had been trying to make a brutal cut to 125 last season and missed weight. This year he's developed more consistency. I don't think he makes AA, but I think he's in the Round of 12.
141 lbs.: Matt Manley. Being very honest with you guys, didn't know anything about him coming into the season. He's won a lot this year though, including the big win over Mickey Jordan. That said, despite his ranking, I'm still skeptical, perhaps unfairly so. I think he sneaks an 8th place finish.
149 lbs.: Lavion Mayes. Many, myself included, questioned his ability to move up in weight, but he does not seem to have slowed down. Dynamite on his feet, he has weaknesses on the mat and is susceptible there. That makes Zain Rutherford B. Hayes a tough match up for him. His style will be an interesting match up with Brandon Sorenson. Sorenson is ubertough defensively, but Lavion is lightning on his reattacks. I'm picking Sorenson to beat him in the semis on the way to Mayes taking 3rd, but I won't be shocked if Lavion is in the Finals.
157 lbs.: Le'Roy Barnes. A blown up 141 who actually beat Manley, Barnes has made a name for himself by being insanely tough despite being small for the weight. He's not actually winning a lot of these matches, but I think he'll win a couple at NCAAs, but will not AA or make the Round of 12. Round of 16 probably is his ceiling, which is great for a 141lber. I'm going to officially predict 2-2, both wins on the backside.
165 lbs.: Daniel "Day" Lewis. HAs really announced himself to the world by riding the bejeezus out of the two best (IMO) 165s in the country. I have no idea why Dieringer wasn't called for stalling at least once more. That skill alone is enough to win a bunch of matches. Flo has him ranked 9th, but I think he may place considerably higher than that. I will predict he takes 5th.
174 lbs.: Blaise Butler. This wrestling nomad keeps on winning wherever he goes, with his latest win over a guy who has given him a lot of trouble in Kyle Crutchmer. Blaise is reallly good, although he can struggle on bottom. He's very skilled in neutral especially. I think he takes something like 6th place
184 lbs.: Willie Miklus. The Iowa native is maybe the most fun guy to watch on Mizzou and at 184, which is saying something in such a loaded weight. Tons of offense from Willie and always creating angles, I like him to do quite well. He's ranked 6th by Flo, but I predict he will take third, losing in the semifinals to Vic Avery, but beating Lehigh's Nate Brown in the consi finals.
197 lbs.: J'Den Cox. The man-child. He looks gigantic at this weight, and despite delivering a Tombstone piledriver on the exposed floor of Phil Wellington, he's lookd fantastic this year. I don't think anyone really has the sikill set to consistently win against him. I have him taking 1st place.
HWT: James Romero. This appears to be the guy. He's just not that good right now, although that's to be expected of a true freshman out of NEw MExico. He has shown flashes of raw athleticism that could develop into a good NCAA D1 level wrestler, but right now I don't see him qualifying.
Virginia Tech: The Mystery
I call them the mystery because they have a bunch of high end talent, but I'm not sure what to expect, especially with the mysterious disappearances of Bracetta and Epperly.
125 lbs.: Joey Dance. The last member of the top tier to get into the preview, Dance is a very interesting style. Very scrambly and tough on top, he seems to me, relative to the Gilman and Tomasello, more of a counterwrestler in neutral. Mega is kind of like that, too, when wrestling top guys. If Tomasello and Gilman keep their attacks clean, I think they're just a bit better than Dance. I know Dance beat Mega earlier this year, but IMO Mega was the better wrestler whereas Dance took advantage of the situation a little bit. I'm sure Va. Tech fans feel differently, but I have Dance taking 4th.
133 lbs.: Dennis Gustafson. I'm not sure what to make of Gustafson coming back. He's been a solid wrestler for his career in general, but I just don't think he's ann AA level, not this season. He has only two losses, but both are to the best guys he's faced. He'll potentially have another upper level test in DiCamillo in a few days, maybe that will change my opinion. I think he wins a match or two if he qualifies (not sure what the ACC qualifier situation is at 133), but that's it.
141 lbs.: Solomon Chishko. Really good, but young kid. He's getting better every time I watch him. His best win, a somewhat iffy upset of Jimmy Gulibon, is kind of tarnished now given Gulibon's struggles. He's a contender for the lower end of the podium, but I think with it being his first time at NCAAs he ends up in the Round of 12.
149 lbs.: Sal Mastriani. Oof. Not how most of us saw this going, but there just appears to be something wrong with im. Whatever it is, I don't see him qualifying.
157 lbs.: Nic Brascetta. One half of the "mystery" I referenced earlier, I've heard rumors about him not wanting to wrestle anymore, but it's all very vague. Talent wise, he's very good. I'm going to look at this in a positive light and think he comes back fine and invested, and I have him taking 6th. The top of this weight is beyond him, IMO, but he's a solid mid AA.
165 lbs.: Dave McFadden. Supertalented true freshman, he's had the kind of experience you would expect from a supertalented true freshman at one of the mid to upper weights. He's had some highs and some lows. He has a really bright future, but I think he's going to fall short in year one of the podium. I have him losing in the Round of 16, although Round of 12 is also a distinct possibility.
174 lbs.: Zach Epperly. The other half of the mystery, where has he gone? There are rumors with little substantive weight about him, also, not wanting to wrestle, but I'm again going to be positive here and do this based on ability. Before the season he was probably who I would have picked to win the title. I think he comes back strong and ends up 2nd to Nickal.
184 lbs.: Zack Zavatsky. I've been very impressed with him this year, but he's also in a loaded weight. It's hard to predict who will end up on the podium here and who will come up short, there's so much talent. I think ZZ Top ends up sliding into the very last spot on the podium with an 8th place finish.
197 lbs.: Jared Haught. I haven't watched him a whole lot this year, my only real memory of watching him was again McIntosh in the dual. I remember thinking he was huge. That said, I don't think he's there from a skills perspective. I predict he wins one match, but that's it.
HWT: Ty Walz. One of the "top tier" at the weight. Walz has looked good all year, most notably in his whooping of Adam Coon. What may hurt Walz is he's probably going to lose to Gwiz at conferences, and Coon may stay undefeated (he will in my predictions) going into the NCAAs. The All Star isn't factored into seeds. That may push Walz into the 4 seed and a semi with Gwiz. I have that happening and Walz beating Snyder in the consolation semifinals, although I think he may very well be the second best guy at the weight.
So I have 5 AAs for Virginia Tech and no champs, but a few guys being really close.
I'm not sure what to make of this match. The only clear nugget i have is that I was wrong and underestimated Nolf being decently behind I-Mart. That said, there were some weird occurrences, especially from officiating, that colored the subsequent events. The escape, the stalling, and even the final takedown in the scramble.
My main takeaway is that Nolf is most definitely on I-Mart's level. I'm not sure who I'd pick in a rematch. A LOT went wrong for I-Mart in this match that wasn't directly caused by Nolf. That said, the parts from Nolf he did affect clearly show he's on that level. A really strange viewing experience.
I've been tough of Gilman too, when he throws his fits and sets the worst example ever for all competitors ever, but we should remember that these guys are still a few years shy of a fully developed brain. I'd rather adopt Kokesh as my in-law, but Gilman's just another hard working competitor.
I still hope he loses two more after the Waters incident and running off the B1G podium.