My last "article" if you want to call it discussed my most anticipated wrestlers for this upcoming season but now let's discuss a far more interesting topic, the ones who have the most to prove. These guys have the talent to but maybe haven't broken through when it matters, have more talent than their post-season finish indicates, had a previous AA finish but didn't do the same last season, or whatever it may be. Everyone has something to prove but I feel these guys have a little extra to do. I'm leaving out first year starters as they haven't proven themselves yet so obviously they have the most to prove but putting in every first year starter would be annoying so just assume they're on the list.
125 - Jacob Schwarm and Nick Piccininni
Both guys are in their final season and one is an AA and one isn't. Schwarm is a 2 time NQ and has been seeded both times. Both his tournaments have ended too early in my opinion and taking a look at 125 this year, it might finally be his year to break through. The UNI senior has the talent to be at the very least a blood round type of guy. If he stays healthy I think he can prove himself to be an AA. Nick Piccininni might be a weird pick for some people, but think about it. The first time he placed he outperformed his seed like most people thought he would, then he didn't place, and then last year as a 2 seed he came in 5th. He was a prized recruit coming out of HS and is a 2 time AA already so a 3 time AA is not bad at all. But his finishes leave something to be desired. He certainly has the talent to win the whole thing but he has yet to finish higher than 5th. This year I see him having his highest finish but I think it's clear he has something to prove to himself this year.
133 - Micky Phillippi and Chaz Tucker
These 2 guys should've both been on the podium at the end of last year. Due to it being such a stacked weight class upsets happen and they missed the cut. They wrestled in the finals of the U-23 WTT finals I believe with Tucker being the winner. Phillippi has a win over NCAA finalist and senior world team member Daton Fix and Chaz Tucker made the U23 team (but won't compete due to school), was the EIWA champion, and split matches with multiple time AA Luke Pletcher. So we know the talent is there and they can perform when the lights are on they just have yet to do it at the big dance. Look for both to break through this year, especially Tucker as it is his senior year.
141 - Tariq Wilson, Tristan Moran, Mitch McKee, Kaid Brock, and Sa'Derian Perry
With this weight class being vacated by last years top 3 finishers it leaves it wide open for a new champ and new AA's. We all know Wilson from his run in 2018 to 3rd place and nearly making the finals before losing to eventual champion, Seth Gross, in OT. Last year he was dealing with injuries and yet he still performed pretty well nearly placing again. This year he is up a weight and we all hope he is 100% as his length and talent are usual and fun to watch. Tristan Moran nearly placed last year after transferring from OK St to Wisconsin for his junior year. The transfer paid off as he had a great season for the Badgers but he just missed the podium. His pinning ability is incredible, as evidenced by his OT win over MItch McKee in dual against Minnesota last year by fall. This is his senior year, and with all his talent and how open the weight class is, so look for him to have a breakout season. I can't be the only one who feels like both Brock and McKee are way better than their finishes every year in March right? Brock is a 2 time AA and McKee is a 1 time AA but they are better than that. Whenever they wrestle each other it's a must watch, remember Kaid Brock vs Cory Brewer? I mean these guys are talented enough to make the finals, I just feel like they underperform in March. I hope for both of their senior years a fire is lit in them and they finish highly, no one would complain about a final between these two. Sa'Derian Perry is another cinderella run guy. After EMU dropped their program the year after he had an AA finish, let's take a moment of silence for our fallen program...R.I.P, he transferred to ODU he had his best season record wise, but when it came time to run to another AA finish he bowed out after 3 matches. The kid is in a great room and we know he can turn it on and run on all cylinders when it comes time to. I hope as a senior he goes out standing on the podium.
149 - Jared Prince, Kaden Gfeller, Josh Maruca, Brock Zacherl, Max Thomsen
Prince was one match from placing last year and he's very strong on top of being a darn good wrestler. With both finalists graduating this is the perfect time for the senior from Navy to go out on a positive note. I think his specialty is getting better throughout the year so look for him to be at his best in March. Assuming he has a spot in the line-up, Gfeller has to finish an AA. A shock to most people, he went 0-2 his first showing at the NCAA's. As a 2 time Scuffle champ, we all know he's much more talented than that. Watching and looking at Maruca's results really frustrates me because I know he's much better than what his results show. With the weight class being as thin as it is maybe the Sun Devil senior can have a breakout season and finish on the podium to end his career. As a junior, Zacherl was a match away from AA status and heading into his senior year he was hungry for just that until he got hit with the injury bug. This is now his final shot to finish on the podium and perhaps he does, I see him making the blood round at the least and it's difficult denying a senior once he's there. Max Thomsen is an AA, something the other guys listed can't say, but he did that his freshman year and since then he has made the blood round the past 2 years. I think in his senior year he's a sleeper finalist pick as he's really talented when he puts it all together.
157 - Ryan Deakin and Ke-Shawn Hayes
Sure, Deakin finished 6th last year. But as a Final-X competitor who has a win over our senior world team rep, 6th seems kind of low, no? At 157 Deakin is absolutely massive and we know he has the chops to beat just about anyone at the weight. He had no bad losses last year but I think he can turn most of those L's into W's this year and possibly make the finals and challenge for the title. No other wrestler in the history of the NCAA has my pity more than Ke-Shawn Hayes. He doesn't need it and probably doesn't want it but I can't help but to feel for the kid. He has yet to wrestle a full season at his actual weight class and yet he continues to impress. His redshirt campaign at 141 saw him take 2 losses and then his first year in varsity action saw him get injured. The next year he had to bump up and still made the blood round and then at 157 last year he was a NQ, at 2 weight classes up. If that doesn't show talent I don't know what does. I hope he can finally get back to 141 and try and compete for a title there because that's how good he truly is. I list him only because that is what weight he went last season but I doubt we see him here again, at least I hope so.
165 - Everyone
Where do I even begin. Cenzo doesn't really need to prove anything so let's just do a quick take on anyone who is anyone in this weight. Evan Wick, figure it out man. You beat Marinelli once and ever since you've let him dictate the match and it's incredibly frustrating. He has the all the intangibles to win the whole thing so just do it! Alex Marinelli, you're nicknamed The Bull for a reason so get tougher. I think he can win it too, he is undefeated against Cenzo and has a series lead over Wick. Just get tougher and stay tough in March all the way to the title. Josh Shields, open up please. I know you're in the Pac-12 so your schedule isn't all the tough but your room has incredible practice partners around your weight so we know you stay sharp. Your coaches are world class too so just open it up and you will succeed, I promise. Logan Massa, find that magic again. Your freshman season was something else man, you lit it up. Did the pressure to repeat that season get to you? I don't know what happened because we know you're that good. The room you're in is filled with talent we all just hope you get that magic back. David McFadden, keep climbing that ladder. No matter weight you go this season just keep getting sharper and better. It always seems you hit someone who is on fire at the NCAA's but you stay consistent. Maybe this year you light it up but just keep going. Isaiah White, dictate the match. Whenever you wrestle someone who is a little better or just as good as you you sit back and let them dictate the match, why can't it be you who does that. We all know you have the talent to hang with the best of the best. I think if you opened up a little it wouldn't hurt either. Bryce Steiert, take that next step. You finished 8th last year so what are you going to do to improve that finish? Joe Smith, say no to your coach. Pick a damn weight and stay at it and maintain it healthily. You have so much talent to see it go to waste is a shame. You can win this weight if you are not sucked out so please choose your weight and stay there ALL YEAR. I know he can't tell his father no when he says he's going to change the line-up so this statement is more for John. Please keep your line-up consistent :) thanks. Demetrius Romero, keep it cool and keep proving people wrong. Maybe beating Joe Smith not once but twice was a fluke or maybe it wasn't. I hope he hears the doubters and people choosing against him and it makes him laugh and keeps him hungry to keep proving the doubters wrong because he is seriously good. Just a little something for Cenzo, keep scoring. I see the rest of your teammates lighting up the scoreboard and earning falls why don't you? Your inside trip is dirty and your double is not to be messed with. I understand a win is a win is a win, but come on. I could see you being a head better than this field but you keeping it cose gives them all a chance
174 - Anthony Valencia, Brandon Womack, and Anthony Mantanona
I've discussed Valencia in my previous post so I'll keep it short. We all want you to live up to your hype coming out of high school. I hope you're 100% healthy and back to terrorize the field with your quickness and shots from 10ft away like you used to. As a Cornell fan, Womack is incredibly frustrating to me. Watching his unprecedented run to place was something special because it came out of nowhere for me. He looked uber confident and I couldn't wait to see him try and repeat the same magic the next year, he went 0-2. It's like he changed his style and he looks less confident. I don't really understand how he still has eligibility left but I hope he uses it effectively and makes a run like he once did. I kept my eye on Mantanona his freshman campaign and wow what a ride that was. His ceiling is incredibly high but is basement is super low too. If he cleans up some stuff and keeps his explosiveness he can be a special talent.
184 - Shakur Rasheed and Jelani Embree
Rasheed being listed goes without saying. He was injured and still showed signs of greatness. I think if he's healthy and focused he has the talent to make the finals. Jelani Embree was a high school prospect that I was super excited about. Super strong, quick, and athletic and he was going to stay local as he is from Michigan. His redshirt year he showed a lot of promise and then nothing last year. I believe he got bit by the injury bug a little so he gets a pass. But now he's had time to rehab and get back to his element. This weight class is deep so navigating it to the podium will prove to be difficult but I think he'll be up for the challenge of it.
197 - Jake Woodley, Thomas Lane, and Kordell Norfleet
Woodley had the U23 spot before Bo came and took it, not by domination which surprised me. He won the spot by beating a good group of guys and he was a NQ last year. With how crazy 197 is I think he should be more of a factor this year for the Sooners and improve his postseason finish as he does have the talent. Most of you reading this probably read Thomas Lane and say who? Well the Cal Poly senior is someone to keep your eye on as some of his results are eye opening. Each year he has improved his record and postseason finish, last year one match away from placing. But look at this, he sent AA Jacob Warner to consolations early by a 4-2 dec in OT, only lost to Pat Brucki 4-3, and then lost to Ben Honis 8-5 to end his tournament. He's knocking on the door and perhaps this year he knocks it down. Norfleet is a guy who should be better than he is right now. His practice partners are good all around him and so are his coaches. A previous world team member, he should break through this year and have his best season yet.
HWT - Gable Steveson, Demetrius Thomas, and Mason Parris
Yes Gable is here and here's why. So many people thought he would go undefeated and win it all his true freshman year, I can't lie and say I didn't believe this too. He was so hyped coming out of HS and when his shirt was torn and he beat then #1 Derek White the hype was lived up to and everyone hopped on for the most part. So much was expected from him that I think a 3rd place finish is disappointing. I know it is for him. Since the NCAA season he's looked even better giving Gwiz a run for his spot. He has yet to beat Cassar and now he has at least 1 more shot at doing so. Thomas was a NAIA transfer where he was a 1 time champ and 2 time finalist and he has done great things at Pitt going 27-6 his first season there but going 1-2 at NCAA's. He's good enough to AA and perhaps his senior season he will. He also plays one mean violin. Junior World Champion Mason Parris does have something to prove. As a true freshman, mistakes are bound to happen and they did and that's what kept him off the podium, that and the fact he's a bit undersized. Once he puts his style together and gets a tad bit bigger he will be an AA and then the sky's the limit.
So that's my list and I'm sure I left people off of it so let me know who else has a chip on their shoulder and let me know your thoughts on my list and reasons. If you read all of that, again, thanks. And once again, Flo hire me :)