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2015 Southern Scuffle Preview

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Penn State heads to Chattanooga for a premier tournament, the Southern Scuffle.

Five years ago, Penn State traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, as a young, talented but unproven squad.  The Lions brought no seniors, three juniors, and seven freshmen.  Cornell, Minnesota, and Michigan - give or take - all figured to place ahead of our Lions.

Instead, the wrestling world got introduced to David Taylor and Ed Ruth, who laid waste to their fields at 157 and 174, respectively (full brackets here, thanks to PennStateWrestlingClub.org).  Penn State crowned 3 champions (Cameron Wade, along with Ruth and Taylor), and tied pre-season favorite Cornell for 1st place, without an injured Quentin Wright in the lineup.  Fourteen weeks later, Penn State took home its first national championship since 1953.  And the world rejoiced as Iowa's three-year run was snapped.

Penn State 2010 Scuffle Lineup
125: FR Frankie Martellotti, 6th
133: JR Bryan Pearsall, DNP
141: FR Andrew Alton, 3rd
149: JR Frank Molinaro, 2nd
157: FR David Taylor, 1st
165: FR Jake Kemmerer, DNP
174: FR Ed Ruth, 1st
184: FR Andrew Church, DNP
197: FR Nick Ruggear, DNP
285: JR Cam Wade, 1st

Could January 1st and 2nd, 2015, see a similar performance?  Well, not quite.  First, Penn State heads to Chattanooga as one of the favorites, not as a darkhorse.  And the Sandersons will have three seniors and two juniors in the lineup, with just 4 freshmen ("just" 4 - that's a lot, but it's not 7).  Really, the Penn State program rests on a completely rebuilt foundation than it did just five years ago.  And that's a huge, sometimes overlooked, credit to Cael, Cody, and Casey.

Here are the 15 "attached" Penn State wrestlers we expect to see this year:

Penn State 2015 Lineup
125: JR Jordan Conaway
133: SO Jimmy Gulibon
141: FR Kade Moss and SO Michael Waters
149: SO Zach Beitz and JR Luke Frey
157: SR Dylan Alton and FR Cody Law
165: FR Garrett Hammond
174: SR Matt Brown
184: FR Matt McCutcheon
197: JR Morgan McIntosh
285: SR John Gingrich and SR Jimmy Lawson and SR Nick Ruggear

(Although redshirts must pay their own way, we're also hoping to see Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, and Nick Nevills wrestle, by the way.  Nico is registered, but it doesn't sound like he nor Zain will be competing.)

Since its move to Chattanooga and Coach Heath Eslinger's leadership, the Southern Scuffle has exploded.  More and better teams arrive for a bit of warm(er) weather and incredible wrestling every year.  This season, despite Minnesota's absence, is awfully deep and talented.  It's going to be a tough, tight race to the finish.

(All rankings courtesy of our buddies at InterMat)

Rank School
5 Penn State
6 Missouri
7 Cornell
8 Oklahoma State
11 Pitt
12 Nebraska
13 Iowa State
14 Virginia
16 Michigan
18 Lehigh
20 Kent State
NR Wyoming
NR Stanford
NR Central Michigan
NR Northern Colorado
NR UTC
NR Drexel
NR UNC
NR Boise State
NR Appalachian State
NR Duke
NR Army
NR Navy
NR Cleveland State
NR Gardner Webb
NR Campbell
NR Citadel
NR Buffalo


125 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
2 Garrett - Cornell
3 Waters - Mizzou
5 Conaway - Penn State
10 Cox - Wyoming
11 Klimara - Okie State
12 Silver - Stanford
13 Bresser - Oregon St
15 Andrews - No.Colorado
17 Lambert - Nebraska
19 Boyle - UTC
RS (?)
Cruz - Lehigh

Overview: Two All-Americans (plus 2 more potentials from the redshirt variety), and eight wolves on their heels.

Our Guy: Jordan's not going to have an easy road.  He'll likely see his first ranked opponent before he hits the quarters - and it'll only go uphill from there.  But, on the other hand, after his win over VaTech's Dance in the dual meet, anything lower than 4th would be disappointing.  And there are plenty of chances to slip up in this field.

The Safe Pick: Garrett

A Surprise: The final is NOT Garrett vs Waters.

133 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
5 Gulibon - Penn State
6 Beckman - Lehigh
8 Bruno - Michigan
10 DiCamillo - UVA
13 Hall - ISU
14 McGuire - Kent St
18 Soto - UTC
20 Manley - Mizzou

Overview:  You wouldn't know it from the rankings, but there are 3 All-Americans in this field, and only one of them sits in the top three (Beckman).  DiCamillo (2013), and Hall (2014 at 125) are the other two.  This field doesn't offer the biggest names, but it is deep and dangerous.

Our Guy: Jimmy could take the top seed, and roll into the final.  Don't be surprised - he put an incredible run together last year, upsetting two AAs (Thorn and Mango) on his way to the final.

The Safe Pick: Folks are probably split between Jimmy and Beckman.

A Surprise: Nick Soto is strong like bull, and good.  He had a very disappointing Scuffle last year.  I think the senior pushes hard to place highly on his home mat.

141 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
5 Dutton - Michigan
7 Bright - Pitt
8 Mayes - Mizzou
10 Horan - CMU
13 Spisak - UVA
14 Ward - UNC
15 Grey - Cornell
17 Martinez - Boise St
20 Abidin - Nebraska

Overview:  What this class lacks at the top end, it makes up for with volume.  Nine of the national top 20 will be at UTC.  Michigan's Dutton is the only one to have reached the podium previously (7th in 2014).

Our Guy: our guys - plural.  It's going to be tough to reach the podium here - you'll likely have to knock off at least one, and probably two, nationally ranked wrestlers.  Easier said than done - but definitely achievable.  It's a great chance to grab a ranking of your own.

The Safe Pick: None.  I don't think there's a safe pick in this field.

A Surprise: Conversely, get ready for lots of surprises.

149 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
2 Kindig - Okie State
4 Houdashelt - Mizzou
6 Villalonga - Cornell
7 Sako - UVA
9 Cottrell - App State
13 Beitz - Penn State
14 Pantaleo - Michigan
15 Moreno - ISU
16 Racciato - Pitt
17 Cain - Duke
19 DePalma - Kent St

Overview: 11 of the national top 20, including 5 of the top 10.  Lace 'em up tight, fellas.  This is gonna get wild.

Our Guy:  Beitz and Frey.  Luke beat Zach here last year before having to medical forfeit.  It will be interesting to see how their draws fall out.  A good seed here for one or the other could get a guy an extra round in the championship bracket.

The Safe Pick: Woof.  Let's call Houdashelt the safe pick, I guess.  That feels crazy just typing it.

A Surprise: Iowa State's Moreno the Younger can wrestle.  If he doesn't do anything stupid, look out above.

157 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
2 Green - Nebraska
3 Miller - Kent St
4 Realbuto - Cornell
9 Alton - Penn State
11 Lavallee - Mizzou
14 Murphy - Michigan
17 Kerr-Brown - Duke
RS Nolf - UNA (Penn State)

Overview:  Well this one's going to be fun.  The top 4 guys are all certain they're going to win.  In March.  This weekend too, I suppose.  But I meant the NCAAs.

Our Guy: Welcome back, Dylan.  Go in healthy, come out healthy.  Anything else is icing on the cake.  And hello, Jason Nolf. One of the top 3 seeds will be in for a shockingly unpleasant quarterfinal.

The Safe Pick: Green

A Surprise: If we see Chance Marstellar enter the field unattached.

165 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
1 Dieringer - Okie State
2 Sulzer - UVA
5 Moreno - ISU
6 Palacio - Cornell
10 Massa - Michigan
13 Wilson - Stanford
15 Walsh - Navy
20 Wilson - Nebraska

Overview: Two All-Americans, and six chasers here.  Dieringer appears to be a class above everyone else, including Sulzer.

Our Guy: You're familiar with the expression, 'what a difference a year makes' ?  Let's see how accurate that is.  Last year, Garrett finished 3-2, two matches short of placing, losing to Sulzer by major, and 3-1 to Stanford's Wilson in the wrestlebacks.  A podium finish would be pretty sweet, and would probably bring Garrett's first national ranking.

The Safe Pick: Dieringer

A Surprise: if Dieringer and Sulzer don't wrestle each other in the championship final.

174 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
1 Kokesh - Nebraska
2 Brown - Penn State
5 Wilps - Pitt
6 Butler - UVA
7 Weatherman - ISU
13 Marsh - Kent St
14 Mahomes - Michigan
17 Crutchmer - Okie St
20 Subjeck - Stanford
RS Nickal - UNA (Penn State)

Overview:  Kent Dorfman "ooooh boy this is gonna be great" dot gif.

Our Guy:  Don't worry about Hulk Hand's OT loss to Epperly two weeks ago.  He's fine, and will be fine in March.  Instead, turn your attention toward redshirting freshman Bo Nickal.  Bo, I'm betting, is chomping at the bit to get into this field, and has the talent to wreck half of a bracket.

The Safe Pick:  No one is safe.  Flip a coin between Kokesh and Brown, who, despite sharing a conference and a top 5 ranking, haven't wrestled each other in two years.

A Surprise: Forget the 'surprise' aspect - I'm excited to get a look at Mahomes, who has put up some impressive early season results for the Wolverines.

184 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
1 Thomusseit - Pitt
3 Brown - Lehigh
7 Dean - Cornell
9 Miklus - Mizzou
15 Stroh - Wyoming
16 Abounader - Michigan
17 Weatherspoon - ISU
18 McCutcheon - Penn State
20 Dudley - Nebraska

Overview:  Wow.  The top 4 guys here all look like 2015 All-Americans to me.

Our Guy:  Consequently, Mouse is going to have an awfully difficult bracket.  TJ Dudley, the guy ranked #20, behind Mouse, was ranked as high as 4th last year, and was the 2-seed at Big Tens, ahead of two guys named Lofthouse and Steinhaus.

The Safe Pick: N/A.  Get ready for a gun (muscle) show, though, between the top 4 dudes.

A Surprise: if any of the bottom five make the semi-finals.

197 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
1 Gadson - ISU
3 Cox - Mizzou
4 McIntosh - Penn State
5 Hartmann - Duke
9 Bonaccorsi - Pitt
12 Huntley - Michigan
14 Nye - UVA
17 Riddick - Lehigh
18 Bennett - Cornell
19 Woods - Wyoming
20 Schafer - Okie St

Overview:  this is a pretty close facsimile of NCAAs from the quarters on.  This field, with 4 of the top 5, and 11 of the top 20, is loaded for bear.

Our Guy: Morg, of course.  Seeding, like at NCAAs, could be a big deal in this one.

The Safe Pick: N/A

A Surprise: the guy way down at #17, Riddick, might be the most athletic of all of them.  We all hate the way he wrestles - but I bet he pulls an upset, too.

285 LBS

Natl Rank Wrestler
4 Marsden - Okie State
7 Coon - Michigan
8a Gingrich - Penn State
8b Lawson - Penn State
14 Jensen - Nebraska
16 Harms - Wyoming
19 Shaw - Cleve. State
RS Nevills - UNA (Penn State)

Overview: After 2 or 3 years of loaded fields, this Scuffle weight clears out a bit.  Marsden, believe it or not, is the only past AA in the field - and many were none too happy that he won his R12 match last year.

Our Guy:  Hopefully the seeding committee puts Gingrich and Lawson on opposite sides.  Then, hopefully both make the semi-finals.  And last, hopefully one of them distinguishes himself with a big win (or two).  Meanwhile, keep an eye on redshirting freshman Nick Nevills.  He, too, has the talent to ruin some team's Scuffle.

The Safe Pick: I'd guess Coon, if you put a gun to my head.  The Junior World team member is pretty athletic, and a good scrambler.  If he gets to his offense, he's difficult to beat.  If he doesn't, and spends 7 minutes pushing a collar tie, then it's a 1-takedown match, and a coin flip.

A Surprise: if the top 4 as shown above don't finish top 4, in some order.

Overall

Phat Mat Stats

Team Top 8 Top 3 Proj.Pts
Penn State 6 5 86
Mizzou 7 4 93
Cornell 7 4 87.5
Okie State 7 4 92

JP compiled a special Scuffle edition of his Phat Mat Stats.  Using current average rankings, seeding Scuffle-only wrestlers according to those rankings, and projecting tournament placement points, JP's numbers - before bonus, of course - show Penn State in 4th, behind Mizzou, Okie State, and Cornell.

Surprised?  Me too.  But thems the numbers.  Fortunately, just seven team points separate 1st and 4th in this projection.  That's an upset or two, and we'll be certain to see plenty of those.