FanPost

College Wrestling Preseason: NWCA Allstar Classic Fan Recap

Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

Ed: Bumped because of awesomeness. --CG

This is the second year in a row the National Wrestling Coaches Association Allstar Classic has come to DC. I had such a blast at last year's meet, I had to come out to see the action again this year. And again I was rewarded withsome of the country's best wrestlers in some amazing competitions in a wonderful event. I mistakenly rolled solo, but after downing a couple brews and donning my social hat I met some really nice people, and ended up enjoying some great wrestling conversation. Last year's Allstar meet was the first I had been back in a wrestling gym since trying to watch Kerry McCoy wrestle Iowa in Rec Hall in 1997. There's an unmistakable vibe in these gyms, and this one brought back a lot of youthful memories: long bus rides, all-day tournaments, and a lot of really hard work. The fans were familiar too! All sizes and ages, and a host of cauliflower ears. Everybody was friendly, approachable and eager to talk about their favorite sport.

This year's event was hosted at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Its Patriot Center was built in 1985, has a seating capacity of 10,000 and is very well designed. The stands begin at a safe distance from the mat/court and ascend pretty steeply, giving the place the cozy fan feel you want in a modern sprots arena. I walked around all the levels and there didn't seem to be a bad seat in the house. I had checked in on Ticketmaster during the week and kept seeing plenty of seats left and I ended up waiting until I arrived to purchase my ticket. Price levels available were $25 to $60. In the spirit of 'supporting the sport,' I splurged for the $60, but it was clear I didn't need to. Movement to different seats was freely available after your first entry. My seat was stuck a little behind Flo Wrestling's high-tech matside cameras, so I climbed up a few rows and centered a bit for a really amazing view. Looking around at the empty seats, I felt a little guilty for not trying harder to support the event more. But after last year's success at American University's Bender Arena, the first sellout of this event since 2001, it made sense to host this year's event in a larger arena. And the fans rewarded the move with a modest increase in attendance, from 3,376 to 3,882.

The last thing to mention before diving into the matchups is the size of these wrestlers when viewed up close and in person. I know from my reading that weight-cutting is orders of magnitude safer than 20 or even 10 years ago. Advancements in nutrition knowledge and beatdowns suffered at the hands of an opponent more closely wrestling to his optimum weight have contributed to some obvious improvements in the product displayed on the mat. I probably watched upwards of 50 matches last year online or on TV and never got much beyond 'that guy's stocky' or 'that guy's tall and lean' in my physical observations, but in person that's a different story. I may also have been influenced by last week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter, in which a top contender who looked sickly and emaciated failed to complete his cut down to 135 pounds. Seeing these guys in person brings the relativity thing more into play. I'm 5'10" 185 and know I've got an easy 10-15 pounds I could shed. But standing 20 feet from the 157-pounders, seeing their muscles upon muscles and practically feeling their power without even touching them, it was pretty trippy thinking that I was 30 pounds heavier than they. All in all, that phenomenon reminded me that weight cutting clearly still exists.

Showcase Matches

I was bummed to learn there weren't going to be any youth matches this year, but finally getting to see Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis wrestle made up for that in spades. If it weren't for Pennsylvania's Chance Marstellar, Snyder would be the consensus #1 pound-for-pound scholastic wrestler in the country and that case could legitimately be made regardless. The past three years, he's wrestled for Good Counsel, MD and aside for all the accolades he's racked up on the Freestyle circuit, he's most famous to me as the sound victor in every one of his matches against 3x PA state champ, one-time Penn State commit and current Ohio State commit, Thomas Haines. He's decided to forgo his Senior year of High School and now wrestles out of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He also wrestles at that tweener weight which is not contested by NCAA Division 1: 220lbs in HS folkstyle and 211lbs in Freestyle. Consensus wrestling media opinion is that he will compete at 197 at Ohio State next year (and if Buckeye coach Tom Ryan is committed to coming after Penn State immediately after Ruth & Taylor graduate, expect Snyder to forgo a redshirt and begin immediately), while Haines bumps up to Heavyweight. In person, the first thing that jumps out at you is his muscular, massive hindquarters. One can quickly deduce where his leverage comes from. His opponent was a Junior Greco Champion from Canada, who was terribly overmatched. If you arrived any later than the 7p start time, you likely missed Snyder tech-falling this guy, 10-0 in no time at all. He made it look slightly easier than even David Taylor did later on.

The women's match was really fun. I've been reading Intermat's T.R. Foley assert for a year now that women's wrestling is the key to saving and growing the sport, so I've been soaking up as much of it as I can. UFC's TUF this season is coached by two women, Ronda Rousey & Miesha Tate, and half the contestants have been women. It's been fascinating. In watching the women's matches, I've found that I focus on all the exact same things I do with men's wrestling (duh, right?): the two contestants' differing body types, different skill sets and, in cases where interviews are available, their differing personalities. It's all awesome. Helen Maroulis is a 4x U.S. Open champ and 2012 World Silver Medalist, and she is smoooove. Her body type is athletic, and you can see that she is strong, but she's not overly bulky. This makes sense given her 55kg/121lb weight class. Her opponent's resume indicate's she may be Venezuela's best female wrestler: a 12x Pan American Medalist, 4x Champ and a 2x Olympian. Maroulis schooled her. She used a slick outside trip for a takedown and exposure points, to seal the tech fall early in the match.

The other two showcase matches were won by AU's David Terao, in a 7-5 decision over Chris Donaldson from Ursinus and home-mat hero, Sahid Kargbo of George Mason, in a pin of Luke Bilyeu of West Chester.

Main Event Matches

125lbs: Nahshon Garrett, TRSO (Cornell) vs Jarrod Patterson, RSSR (Oklahoma)

The Creds

Nahshon stormed onto the scene as a true frosh last year. He won the EIWA and his performance from the 6th seed at Nationals was nearly Nico-esque. He was the first to issue a championship-bracket loss to Iowa's Matt McDonough since Anthony Robles in 2011, bumping him to the consis in the quarterfinals with a 4-2 OT victory. After succumbing to eventual champ Jesse Delgado 10-5 in the semis, he beat #5 seed Jarrod Garnett 13-9 and #1 seed Alan Waters 6-1 to finish 3rd. And speaking of Nico, this is the first we've seen of Jarrod Patterson on the NCAA stage since Nico bumped the then-JR to the consis in R2 of 2012. He finished 7th that year for his first All-American honors. Last year, he was part of Oklahoma coach Mark Cody's star-redshirt strategy, taking a year off with transfers Andrew Howe & Travis Rutt.

The Matchup

Nahshon is quick and exciting. He's been working on his counter-shot offense with Kyle Dake, who was coaching in his corner, but Patterson is an experienced defender (read: a little boring). He didn't shoot at all during regulation, which seemed to annoy the coach in his corner, OU assistant Jared Frayer, so during the first extra period, he dialed up some gumption and took a shot. Nahshon scrambled like a boss, came out in control and on Patterson's chest, earning some back points in a 6-1 SV win.

The Nittany Lion Context

Nico already owns wins against both of these guys and his motor is probably going to still be too much for the defensive Senior Patterson. Nahshon, on the other hand, presents a tougher challenge. He's lightning quick and is very Delgado-esque with his slick single leg. Depending on coach Sanderson's and Cornell coach Rob Koll's early season strategies, it's possible they could see each other at the Binghamton open next week. Otherwise, their next opportunity will be at the Southern Scuffle, over New Years. I think Nico's going to win a championship this year, but he'll likely have to get through this young stud first.

133lbs: Mason Beckman, RSSO (Lehigh) vs. A.J. Schopp, RSJR (Edinboro)

The Creds

Schopp earned his first All-American finish last year as a Sophomore, making it to the semifinals before getting tech'd by eventual champ Logan Stieber. In the consis, he went 1-1, dropping the 3rd place match 6-3 to Tyler Graff and finishing fourth. Beckman failed to place as a true frosh in 2011 and redshirted last year. Most services have him ranked in the top ten to start out this year.

The Matchup

Most pundits picked Schopp in this one, probably based on his experience, but it's clear Beckman got a lot out of his redshirt year last year. Man, is he ever patient! I love these matches where the other guy looks bigger and stronger, but the winner looks more chill. He methodically worked his setups, rode like a champ and earned his team's Most Outstanding Wrestler award with a convincing 5-1 win.

The Nittany Lion Context

Although we haven't seen anything declarative, and we know Jordan Conaway is a fighter, it's somewhat expected that 4x PA champ Jimmy Gulibon will be Penn State's starter at 133 this year. Problem is, Beckman beat Gulibon three times last year as they both were redshirting. This weight class is loaded with upperclassmen and is heavy at the top with Iowa's Tony Ramos and Wiscy's Tyler Graff, and we love what we hear about Gulibon's motor, but Saturday night Beckman announced that he is ready to challenge for a title this year. We'll get the measuring stick out early, too, when Penn State travels to Lehigh on November 17. I may have to trek up to Bethlehem to check that one out myself.

157lbs: Nestor Taffur, RSSR (Boston University) vs. Joey Napoli, RSSR (Lehigh)

The Creds

Boston University was in the spotlight Saturday night, as the national wrestling community rallied around the struggling program set to fold after this year. Their longtime head coach, Carl Adams, was one of the honorary coaches and matside emcee Scott Casber of Intermat's Takedown Radio announced that BU representative Taffur wasn't 'wrestling alone here tonight' during early introductions. Taffur's a Senior who has never placed at Nationals, but last year he won the EIWA and finished 34-8. Dude's got massive tree trunks for thighs and you can hardly believe he made weight at 157. Napoli was a late replacement for defending champ Derek St. John of Iowa, who had to bow out due to illness. He also has never placed at Nationals, but was having a fine year last year, going 18-2 (only losses to champ St. John & runner-up Jason Welch), winning the EIWA and earning the #3 seed at Nationals. Something happened in Des Moines, though, as he went 0-2 and went home early.

The Matchup

If Taffur's thighs were the first thing you noticed about him, the moustache is the first thing you notice about Napoli. So. Very. Porny. Taffur looked far stronger, but Napoli was game, countering all his attacks and they looked like they were headed to OT until Napoli snuck a late reversal for a 2-1 decision.

The Nittany Lion Context

Penn State has two studs here in James Vollrath and Dylan Alton, and it looks like it will be Vollrath who will face Napoli in the Lehigh dual in a few weeks, as Dylan continues to rehabilitate from labrum surgery. Napoli upended Dylan at the Nittany Lion open last year 4-2, though, so we know that he can contend. Given Napoli's strange flameout last year, it's difficult to project his success this year, but most services have him ranked around 9-11.

184lbs: Jimmy Sheptock, RSSR (Maryland) vs. Jake Swartz, RSSR (Boise State)

The Creds

This was another weight that differed from the original schedule, as Cael Sanderson made a 'coaches decision' to hold Ed Ruth out of the Allstar Classic. Not sure what that is about; maybe Ruth can't handle the Ruth. As it was, the match was probably much closer than it might have been had Ed attended, although Sheptock did hold Ed to a decision in their last meeting at the NLO last year. His replacement trekked in all the way from Boise State and did a nice job. Jacob Swartz has not yet placed at Nationals, although he's been there three times. He is a 2x Pac-12 champion coming off redshirt and sounds like he takes the scholar portion of scholar-athlete pretty seriously.

The Matchup

Ooof, this was a yawner. Sheptock is jacked and Swartz is tall. Otherwise, the most entertaining part of this bout was Maryland Wrestling Fan Fanatic Robin Ficker repeatedly shouting: 'HEADLOCK. SHEPTOCK.' (Side note, check out the education section of Ficker's wiki page. He attended the U.S. Military Academy, earned his degree at Case; he attended law school at Penn, earned his JD at University of Baltimore. Not sure what to call that, but I found it funny. A front-running quitter?) He was sitting among friends, seemed to be having fun, and nobody really got irked at him, although Cael & Casey both shot him a glance when he yelled something during Matt Brown's match.

The Nittany Lion Context

There's a sizable gap between 2x defending champ Ruth, who hasn't lost since 2011, and the rest of this field and neither Maryland or Boise State are going to contend for the team title, so not much to see here.

197lbs: Taylor Meeks, RSJR (Oregon State) vs. Scott Schiller, RSJR (Minnesota)

The Creds

With the way this weight cleared out after graduation last year, Meeks, by virtue of being the highest placing finisher returning this year, is ranked #1 by most of the services. Last year was his first AA finish, as a sophomore with two years of eligibility remaining. He had a pretty nice tourney as the #5 seed, holding Dustin Kilgore to an 8-6 decision in the semifinals before getting tech'd by Pitt's Matt Wilps in the 3rd-place match. Schiller had a nice Sophomore season as well, in his first starting duty since Sonny Yawn graduated. He finished second to Quentin Wright at Big Tens, got decked by Q in the national quarterfinals, got majored by Meeks 11-3 in the consolation semifinals and knocked off Iowa State's Kyven Gadson 6-2 for 5th place.

The Matchup

This one had me nervous we might be looking at repeat of 184, when neither guy shot or scored in period one. Schiller chose down in period two and Meeks rode him to a riding time advantage and then escaped in time to preserve it in period three. But in the last three seconds of regulation, Schiller swooped in on a surprisingly swift and technically beautiful single leg to send the bout to OT. There, he had Meeks in terrible trouble, when he locked up a cradle on a counter shot. Meeks was seated precariously on his bottom trying to fight it off and it looked like all that had to be done was for Schiller to hip into him some more to get him to his back and secure the win. But when he tried to, Meeks kept working and scooting and slipped out between his legs to earn the TD himself, along with an 6-4 victory. Great match, and the crowd recognized it.

The Nittany Lion Context

Morgan McIntosh is scheduled to step in for departed 2x champion Wright and I couldn't be more excited about it. I'll have to dig into some Gable lineups and records to see how often he replaced one champion with a new one in the same weight class the next year, but this has a legit possibility of occurring for Penn State this year. Schiller does own a win over Morgan, in the 2012 Southern Scuffle, when McIntosh competed as a true frosh and Schiller was redshirting. And McIntosh defeated Meeks 9-3 in round one of 2012 Nationals, where both of them finished 1-2 and far out of placement. Last year, McIntosh had a pretty quiet year in opens while he was redshirting, going 12-2 with 8 bonus wins and avenging a 2011 loss to Maryland's Christian Boley. His two losses were 1-0 to Micah Burak (7th place in 2012) and 5-3 in SV to Q at the Nittany Lion Open. I didn't see any of his matches last year, but his scores were high and I remember how offense-minded he was in his true Freshman campaign. Schiller & Meeks both look like they can shoot, but seem to prefer not to. I expect McIntosh will come out this year and just have too much offense for either of them in neutral, but it remains to be seen how much his workouts with Q, Casey, Cael & Varner have improved his mat wrestling. I like our chances for a title here, though.

Heavyweight: Tony Nelson, RSSR (Minnesota) vs. Mike McMullan, RSJR (Northwestern)

The Creds

Nelson is the defending 2x National Champ and a 3x AA. McMullan is a 2x AA who finished 3rd and 2nd the past two years after injury ended his Freshman year prematurely. He's 0-4 against Nelson.

The Matchup

To be honest, I could barely pay attention to the 'action.' I was totally focused on Nelson's size. I went down the floor after all was over and stood next to him to get a real sense and omg it was dwarfing. His size was a fun topic of discussion between former champ Adam Tirapelle and the Intermat writer Mark Palmer the other day. McMullan sure fights hard, but in the end it was Nelson again, 2-1 in TB.

The Nittany Lion Context

These guys are the head of the class at this weight again this year. Jimmy Lawson has had a year now to shake off the rust from his football respite, but we'll have to see something totally new out of him to make any projection that he or Jon Gingrich might be able to hang with these guys. In the team race, we're rooting for McMullan (who looks awesome in street clothes and spectacles, btw; gotta love the erudite big guy who can totally level you), as Northwestern won't contend, but Minnesota most definitely will.

165lbs: David Taylor, RSSR (Penn State) vs. Michael Moreno, RSJR (Iowa State)

The Creds

Taylor is a 3x Finalist, 1x Champ who has gone 100-3 in his three-year career, with 93 bonus point wins (37 pins, 34 Tech Falls, 22 Majors) and who possesses an exciting array of offensive scoring moves. His battle with Kyle Dake was the premier bout at last year's event and with Dake's graduation, there doesn't seem to be anybody left who can compete with him. He was invited anyway. And to his credit, Moreno accepted the invite to face him. He placed 6th last year from an unseeded bracket position by first avenging an earlier loss to Iowa's Nick Moore in R1. After getting bumped to the consis by #7 seed Conrad Polz (his 2nd loss, to 1 win against Polz that year), he went on a four-match tear with 2 pins, a Tech Fall and a Decision to earn his first ever All-American placement. He finished with losses to seniors Peter Yates & Polz again to finish 6th. But this year, Yates and Polz are gone and most of the services have him ranked in the top five at this weight.

The Matchup

Taylor is fun to watch no matter who he's wrestling. He's tough and smooth and works through his chain wrestling better than anybody the past few years. He took Moreno down with ease and began his staple half nelson attempts. Moreno was a fighter, though and twice the move ended with the referee calling potentially dangerous. (Side not: check out Tirapelle's feed for some interesting takes on potentially dangerous calls; he proposes the possibility of abolishing it and directing the wrestlers to 'protect themselves'). Taylor worked up over 3 minutes of riding time, but Moreno escaped twice and actually had a quite fine ride of his own in period 3. In the end, Taylor was too much and finished with a 13-2 major decision.

The Nittany Lion Context

Barring injury, Taylor should cruise to his 4th final and 2nd championship, as he has already majored the next best guy at this weight, Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell. In addition to the 20 points an individual title sends to his team, he could also possibly earn 10 more in bonus points. Although he didn't win a title last year, his four pins netted 8 bonus points, more than doubling the final margin between Penn State and second-place Oklahoma State. As for that team race, we're all Michael Moreno fans now; anything he can do to slow Caldwell will be appreciated.

174lbs: Matt Brown, RSJR (Penn State) vs. Andrew Howe, RSSR (Oklahoma)

The Creds

Although four of the first 7 matches went into overtime, here's where things started to get really interesting. Andrew Howe has been around awhile. He came on the scene in 2009 as a true freshman at Wisconsin, won the Big Ten Championship and placed second to Edinboro's Jarrod King at Nationals. In 2010, as a true Sophomore, he won B1Gs again and defeated Penn State's Dan Vallimont in the national final for his first title. In 2011, Jordan Burroughs returned from shoulder injury and had come up a weight, to 165. Howe again won B1Gs and headed to Nationals as the #2 seed behind Burroughs. But he sustained an injury and couldn't hold off Tyler Caldwell, who then wrestled for Oklahoma, in the semifinals, falling in OT. He battled back for 3rd.

In 2012, Howe took an Olympic Redshirt for the college season and during the Olympic Trials in April, he won the right to face Burroughs by placing 1st in the Challenge Bracket. In the best-of-three Championship match (held later the same day as the Challenge brackets, during which he wrestled 3 matches while Burroughs, as the reigning U.S. Open Champ, rested and waited for him), he fought Burroughs to a close 4-2, 1-2, 1-0 loss in the first match, but injury defaulted out of contention in the second match. Burroughs, famously, has gone on to a 67-0 international career record that includes an Olympic Gold and two World Championship Golds. Having barely missed out on the London Olympics and facing an injury rehab, he opted to take his regular NCAA redshirt the following season (2013). There was also some undefined upheaval in the assistant coaching ranks at Wisconsin and he transferred to Oklahoma University to wrestle his final season for OU coach Mark Cody.

Meanwhile, Matt Brown's career has been just about as long, although not nearly as successful yet. He was also a true Freshman in 2009, taking an NCAA redshirt as a member of Cael Sanderson's last Iowa State team. He then moved to Angola for a Mormon mission, which is an allowable clock stoppage according to the NCAA rules. So he didn't wrestle in the 2010 or 2011 season, but without burning any eligibility. He surprised perhaps everyone except Sanderson when he reported to Penn State in the summer of 2012 in rock-chiseled shape. That year, he was stuck behind Ed Ruth at 174, with nowhere to go up (Quentin Wright at 184) or down (David Taylor at 165). He had a very successful season wrestling unattached, going 26-2 with 20 bonus point victories and a runner-up finish at the Southern Scuffle. His two losses were to Ed Ruth (6-3) & Jimmy Sheptock (8-5). He also earned two victories over ranked 197-pounders when Morgan McIntosh went down with an injury. Last year, Ruth & Wright were more than happy to bump up a weight to allow for Brown to enter the competing lineup. The move worked out well for the team as all three Penn Staters won Big Ten Championships, both Ruth and Wright won National Championships and Brown dropped a very close OT decision to Oklahoma State's Chris Perry in the National final.

The Matchup

Watching Brown & Taylor warm up on the sidelines, I was really struck by how much bigger Taylor looked than Brown. Granted that is mostly because of Taylor's superior height, but the sense dissipated when Brown removed his warm-ups and his muscles started rippling in the gym light. The first thing you notice about Howe, when he comes onto the mat, is the size of his massive dome. His body is beast too. When the whistle blew, each of them went to work on their tie-ups, which would have knocked any normal man out. Hulk Hands had multiplied and there were now four of them. Seriously, necks are not constructed to withstand the force that was being applied to each of them. It was glorious. Last year, Brown dropped a couple close matches when he lost balance in scrambles, a characteristic he largely cleaned up for his awesome post-season run. But Howe brought back the reminder when he earned the first takedown. He shot in, Brown scrambled, but awkwardly and Howe clamped down on him and pushed him over for the 2 points.

Then things got really fun. Remember how the only way Chris Perry could hold Brown down in the finals last year was by choking him and dropping to his ankles to hold on for the win? Brown looks like he worked on bottom all offseason and was a veritable popcorn kernel underneath. Howe must have vices for grips, though, for no matter how many times Brown immediately popped up to his feet, he couldn't get a hand free to create the necessary gap between their torsos, and Howe rode him out of bounds time and again. He really could not hold him down and I tell you it's an awesome sight to behold superior fitness among two stellar competitors. After about the 5th run out of bounds, the ref was on to Howe's tactics and warned him for stalling. So the next time they returned to center, he tried a different tact and slid down Brown's body to grab knees and, eventually, ankles. Which is more clearly against the stalling rules and the ref dinged him. Then he dinged him again. Two stalling points awarded to Brown. Problem was, each of those 9 or so attempts cost time and Howe secured the riding time point, effectively putting him up 4-2. At that point, with about 20 seconds left in the match, he stopped fighting and Brown earned the 1-point escape. They circled each other on their feet for the rest of the period, with Brown unable to set up an effective shot, and Howe escaped with a 1-point win. Still, a gutty, listfull performance by the Penn State wrestler.

The Nittany Lion Context

174 is again a juggernaut, and each of the other wrestlers in the top six now owns at least one win over Brown, but our guy will most definitely be in the mix again this year. Chris Perry, Logan Storley and Mike Evans are all on Penn State's dual schedule and Brown could see Robert Kokesh in the B1G tourney. That's pretty brutal, but there's just no way that any of them are as fit as Matt Brown is. He's just got to refine a little bit more technique to separate himself from that tough field. We talk a lot about how lucky we are to be able to watch Taylor and Ruth for one more year, but it's going to be a crazy fun watching Hulk Hands go again this year and next. I think he can take Howe if they meet again.

141lbs: Devin Carter, RSJR (Virginia Tech) vs. Tony Ramos, RSSR (Iowa)

The Creds

Ramos got the short end of the stick here, kind of. He knows Logan Stieber, who has twarted Ramos' title dreams the past two seasons, is moving up from 133 to compete at 141 this year. So he agreed to bump up to 141 for this event, probably hoping for another chance at Stieber. But the organizers had other ideas and were setting up a match for Stieber to wrestle defending champion Kendrick Maple, with both of them bumped up to 149. So they brought in Devin Carter, who is back from a redshirt year, after finishing 5th at 133 his true Sophomore year in 2012, and who is planning on wrestling 141 this year. It is expected that Ramos will again compete at 133 during the season, so he was still giving up weight in this match. Also, the NWCA ran a poll on their website for fans to vote for the order of matchups at this event and of course the Iowa fans turned out in droves to vote this match the most-favored. But apparently the organizers were more interested in the Stieber (2x Champ) v Maple (1x Champ) matchup than they were in honoring fan votes. It makes sense, but it's kind of a ripoff. Ramos is a 2x AA (3rd and 2nd) and Carter has AA'd once.

The Matchup

These two are no strangers to each other. Ramos went 2-1 against Carter at 133 in 2012 (4-6, 3-2, 8-3). And Carter seemed familiar with Ramos' trademark pre-match stare, as he hung way back off the mat until the very last second, before trotting out for the handshake. Also, Carter wrestled 141 in all his matches last year as redshirt, and when he finally came out, he looked waaaaay bigger than Ramos. In the first period, the Cornell fan I was sitting next to (I know!) and I agreed that Ramos looked to be in trouble. But, as he does, he hung in. They each scored a takedown and an escape and as they headed into overtime, the tide began to shift and Ramos' superior fitness and famed tenacity began to shine through. He took a tough shot, that Carter might have been able to fend off, but Ramos gritted through for the two points and the win. The crowd totally appreciated the effort and the drama. It was pretty awesome.

The Nittany Lion Context

We don't totally know for sure who the Nittany Lions will trot out at these two weights, but you can bet that both of these guys are legit impediments to any title dreams our guys have. I'm very, very curious to see Jimmy Gulibon against Ramos in our dual with the Hawks just before Christmas, for Gulibon is Pennsylvania-famous for his non-stop motor. Ramos is also far more experienced and, it would have to be said, probably hungrier for a title here his last year. Mason Beckman, as noted above, will likely be in the All-American mix at 133 and Penn Staters would be a fan of his to knock off the Hawkeye, but this preseason, on paper, it's Ramos' title to lose (note: haha, as I write this, I see Intermat has updated their rankings and Beckman went from #10 to #6 and Schopp went from #4 to #7). We're also rooting against Oklahoma State's Jon Morrison, who's ranked around #4 right now, and Minnesota's David Thorn, who's ranked around #8. Stieber remains the man, even at his new weight of 141, but we're only worried about Minnesota's Chris Dardanes who's ranked around 6th right now.

149lbs: Kendrick Maple, RSSR (Oklahoma) vs. Logan Stieber, RSJR (Ohio State)

The Creds

Maple is a 2x AA, who won his first title last year to finish undefeated at 30-0. In 2012, he headed into Nationals with only 1 loss and the #2 seed behind Michigan's undefeated defending champ, Kellan Russell. He got bumped by #3-seed Montell Marion in OT in the semifinals and lost the 3rd place match to Boris Novachkov to finish 4th. Stieber started his TRFR year in 2011 at 125 and got injured before the turn of the new year, so he took a redshirt to complete that year. The next year, as a RSFR, he went 33-2 and won a controversial decision over Jordan Oliver in the 133-pound final, for his first title. Last year, with Oliver bumping up to 149, he went 27-0 at 133 and finished with a 7-4 decision over Ramos for his second title. He has two years of eligibility remaining, and if you're scoring at home, that means he remains in contention to do what only Pat Smith, Cael Sanderson and Kyle Dake have done: win 4 championships.

The Matchup

Stieber will bump from 133 to compete at 141 this year and Maple is planning to compete at 149. To give the organizers a marquee matchup of former National Champions, Stieber agreed to wrestle this match at 149. Along with the rest of the crowd, I was super excited to see this contest. I've seen Maple wrestle four times and his quickness is something to behold, for his size. At last year's event, he was too fast for even B.J. Futrell and there was nobody at 141 last year who could hang with him. Stieber's fundamentals are so sound and he's been a champion for so long, that I just couldn't pick the winner. Even while watching it live, you had no idea who was going to come out on top. Maple was definitely quicker (I'm guessing only the 125-pounders Jesse Delgado or Nahshon are quicker), but Stieber trusts his instincts and balance and remained calm during Maple's neutral attacks. Then Stieber earned the first takedown with a sound shot of his own. Maple escaped once in the first and once in the second to tie it up, and then took the lead with a beautiful, scrambly counter-shot takedown. Stieber escaped from that and did so again from bottom in the third, tying it up again at four, heading into OT. The first sudden victory period was tense, but neither felt comfortable enough in their positioning to attempt a full shot. In the first tie-breaker, from bottom, Stieber fought through to a reversal near the edge, which kind of broke Maple, who got flattened and rode out when it was his turn on bottom. Thrilling win and exciting action. Definitely delivered as the showcase final bout.

The Nittany Lion Context

Penn State fans have a lot of high hopes for former Junior World Champion Zain Retherford, but even with his impressive pedigree, at this point there's just no way to pick against Stieber, even bumping up a weight. Team-wise, this year at least, we're fine with Stieber winning, as Ohio State is not likely to contend. The only contenders' contender at this weight, so far this preseason, is Minnesota's Chris Dardanes, a 2x AA at 133 who is bumping up this year. At 149, we're not likely to see Andrew Alton until at least the Southern Scuffle, and with his injury- and suspension-riddled 2013 season, we don't really know what to project. Minnesota's got the other Dardanes bumping up here and he's widely ranked in the top eight. Oklahoma State's Josh Kindig is ranked around #10 and could be in the mix, but who knows what Iowa's Tom Brands might try this year at this weight. On paper, here this preseason, it's hard to project Penn State to score many points at these weights in March. But we know we have talent there; we'll just have to wait and see how we look after a few months.

The Takeaway

This was fun. I saw some great wrestlers and some amazing wrestling matches. I enjoyed every conversation I had with other wrestling fans (including my new Cornell friend, ugh ;) and the whole event got me even more excited for the upcoming season than I already was, and that's saying something. The organizers appeared to partner really well together again this year, they stayed creative in making matchups at different weight classes and they earned a stellar turnout of participants, coaches and fans. Big kudos from this fan to all of them for putting together an excellent, excellent event.


Results Summary from AWN's Jason Bryant, writing for USA Wrestling in its recap:
125: Nahshon Garrett (Cornell) dec. Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma) 6-1, SV
133: Mason Beckman (Lehigh) dec. A.J. Schopp (Edinboro) 5-1
157: Joey Napoli (Lehigh) dec. Nestor Taffur (Boston U.) 2-1.
184: Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland) dec. Jake Swartz (Boise State) 3-1, SV
197: Taylor Meeks (Oregon State) dec. Scott Schiller (Minnesota) 6-4, SV
285: Tony Nelson (Minnesota) dec. Mike McMullan (Northwestern) 2-1, TB1
165: David Taylor (Penn State) maj. dec. Mike Moreno (Iowa State) 13-2.
174: Andrew Howe (Oklahoma) dec. Matt Brown (Penn State) 4-3.
141: Tony Ramos (Iowa) dec. Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) 5-3, SV
149: Logan Stieber (Ohio State) dec. Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) 6-4, TB1

WFS 121: Helen Maroulis (USA) tech fall Marcia Andrades (Venezuela) 8-0
WFS 211: Kyle Snyder (USA) tech fall Yiannis Narlidis (Canada) 10-0
125: David Terao (American) dec. Chris Donaldson (Ursinus) 7-5.
149: Sahid Kargbo (George Mason) pin Luke Bilyeu (West Chester) 5:33.

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