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Big College Wrestling Preview

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It's time to get back on the mat. Let's take a look around the landscape.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Coming off of a 6th place finish last season, Penn State will put a young but supremely talented roster on the mat, in pursuit of a 5th National Championship in six years.  Our Lions enter 2015/16 as the favorite.  Let's take a look at the team standings, and each of the 10 individual weights.

All rankings courtesy of the great guys at Intermat.

Pre Season National Ranking

Rank School Points Conf
1 Penn State 97.5 Big Ten
2 Oklahoma State 89 Big 12
3 Iowa 75 Big Ten
3 Michigan 75 Big Ten
5 Ohio State 71 Big Ten
6 Cornell 70.5 EIWA
7 Virginia Tech 68 ACC
8 Lehigh 47.5 EIWA
9 North Carolina State 47 ACC
10 North Carolina 46.5 ACC
11 Missouri 42.5 MAC
12 Nebraska 41.5 Big Ten
13 Wisconsin 40 Big Ten
14 Illinois 37 Big Ten
15 Oklahoma 33.5 Big 12
16 Old Dominion 32 MAC
17 Northern Iowa 31.5 MAC
18 Northwestern 26.5 Big Ten
19 Ohio 24.5 MAC
20 Iowa State 24 Big 12
21 Kent State 23.5 MAC
22 West Virginia 22 Big 12
23 Rutgers 21.5 Big Ten
24 Minnesota 20.5 Big Ten
24 Stanford 20.5 Pac-12

See?  I wasn't lying.  Penn State's ranked 1st in the preseason. The usual suspects - Okie State and Iowa - are close behind.  Lehigh and NC State are two pretty good "sleeper" teams, if you're looking for a sleeper to break into the top 5.

Next, let's take a look at the ten individual weight classes.

125 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Nathan Tomasello Ohio State Sophomore
2 Nico Megaludis Penn State Senior
3 Zeke Moisey West Virginia Sophomore
4 Thomas Gilman Iowa Junior
5 Conor Youtsey Michigan Junior
6 Joey Dance Virginia Tech Junior
7 Eddie Klimara Oklahoma State Senior
8 David Terao American Senior
9 Dylan Peters Northern Iowa Junior
10 Darian Cruz Lehigh Junior
11 Ronnie Bresser Oregon State Sophomore
12 Tim Lambert Nebraska Junior
13 Chasen Tolbert Utah Valley Senior
14 Dominick Malone Northwestern Senior
15 Josh Martinez Air Force Senior
16 Nick Herrmann Virginia Senior
17 Josh Rodriguez North Dakota State Junior
18 Ethan Lizak Minnesota Sophomore
19 Paul Petrov Bucknell Senior
20 Trey Andrews Northern Colorado Junior

Our Guy: Nico's back after taking a redshirt last season.  In three years, he's placed 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd.  He's a tough - mentally and physically - as they come.  He's a pit bull on the mat, makes nary a mistake, and just. won't.  ever. quit.  His gas tank has no bottom.  What else can you say?  He's been our favorite since he stepped on the mat as a true frosh, and we think he earns a much deserved national title this season.

The Field: Ohio State's Tomasello and VaTech's Dance can score from neutral - Tomasello with a left-handed high crotch, and Dance with sweep singles to your right foot.  WVU's Moisey (via Bethlehem Catholic) finished runner-up at NCAAs last season in spite of his un-seeded start, using big moves to score a ton.  With Sammie "the bull" Henson in his corner, Moisey's always a threat.

Not Top 8 Sleeper(s): Darian Cruz (10th - another BeCa prep) won't be 10th for long - he'll be moving up the rankings.  17-Rodriguez will probably pull an upset or two at Midlands.

Predicted Finish: 1-Nico, 2-Tomasello, 3-Dance, 4-Gilman, 5-Klimara

133 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Cody Brewer Oklahoma Senior
2 Cory Clark Iowa Junior
3 Ryan Taylor Wisconsin Junior
4 Nahshon Garrett Cornell Senior
5 Johnni DiJulius Ohio State Senior
6 Rossi Bruno Michigan Senior
7 Mason Beckman Lehigh Senior
8 Earl Hall Iowa State Senior
9 Jordan Conaway Penn State Senior
10 Kevin Devoy Drexel Junior
11 George DiCamillo Virginia Junior
12 Eric Montoya Nebraska Junior
13 Zane Richards Illinois Junior
14 Joey Ward North Carolina Junior
15 Rob Deutsch Rider Senior
16 Mack McGuire Kent State Senior
17 Caleb Richardson Penn Junior
18 Nathan Kraisser Campbell Junior
19 Kevin Norstrem Virginia Tech Sophomore
20 Anthony Giraldo Rutgers Freshman

Our Guy: Jordan Conaway wrestled 133 as an undersized freshman, finishing one match short of the podium.  He sat behind Nico and Jimmy Gulibon as a sophmore.  Then, he took over 125 last season, and made the podium.  All-American.  (How great is that?)  He'll slot back here at 133 for his last go, and it's a weight that might suit him better, actually, given his particular set of skills.  It's a brutal weight, though.

The Field: Cody Brewer must suck as much weight as anyone in the country.  In his championship final demolition of Iowa's Cory Clark, Brewer looked like a 157lber - except that Brewer was lightning fast.  Cornell's Nahshon Garrett bumps here from 125, and can probably hang with Brewer's speed (but strength might be another matter).  For our money, the aforementioned Clark is as safe of a semi-finalist bet as anyone else, including Brewer.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: Take your pick.  Given the right matchups, most of the top 20 could make a run to the podium.

Predicted Finish: 1-Brewer, 2-Clark, 3-Garrett, 4-Taylor, 5-Beckman

141 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Evan Henderson North Carolina Senior
2 Dean Heil Oklahoma State Sophomore
3 Jimmy Gulibon Penn State Junior
4 Kevin Jack North Carolina State Sophomore
5 Chris Mecate Old Dominion Senior
6 Anthony Abidin Nebraska Senior
7 Anthony Ashnault Rutgers Sophomore
8 Rick Durso Franklin & Marshall Senior
9 Geordan Martinez Boise State Sophomore
10 Dan Neff Lock Haven Senior
11 Zach Horan Central Michigan Senior
12 Joey McKenna Stanford Sophomore
13 Todd Preston Harvard Senior
14 Randy Cruz Lehigh Junior
15 Danny Sabatello Purdue Junior
16 Mark Grey Cornell Junior
17 Dante' Rodriguez Iowa State Sophomore
18 Jamel Hudson Hofstra Junior
19 Jordan Laster Princeton Junior
20 Micah Jordan Ohio State Freshman

Our Guy: Well here we go.  Jimmy finished 5th last year - down at 133.  Count us among those who think his bump to 141 will be a very positive move for him and the team.  He could match strength with the strongest 33ers, so that shouldn't be a problem.  And now his speed should shine brighter.  Prepare for a bunch of head snap - go behinds.

The Field: this weight's up for grabs.  It was a 3-man field last year (Logan Stieber, Mitchell Port, Devin Carter) - and all three are gone.  The top returning placewinner is Okie State's Heil, who took 4th (a distant 4th, getting mauled by Carter in the consi final).  UNC's Henderson returns from a redshirt, as does F&M's Durso.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: Dan Neff (10th) and Zach Horan (11th) are past AA's (and PA preps), though at different weights.  Call me stupid, but I like Danny Sabatello.

Predicted Finish: 1-Gulibon (WHY NOT), 2-Heil, 3-Ashnault, 4-Durso, 5-Neff

149 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Jason Tsirtsis Northwestern Junior
2 Zain Retherford Penn State Sophomore
3 Brandon Sorensen Iowa Sophomore
4 B.J. Clagon Rider Sophomore
5 Alexander Richardson Old Dominion Senior
6 Jake Sueflohn Nebraska Senior
7 Lavion Mayes Missouri Junior
8 C.J. Cobb Penn Senior
9 Anthony Collica Oklahoma State Junior
10 Tywan Claxton Ohio Senior
11 Alec Pantaleo Michigan Sophomore
12 Sal Mastriani Virginia Tech Junior
13 Colin Heffernan Central Michigan Sophomore
14 Kyle Langenderfer Illinois Sophomore
15 Gabe Moreno Iowa State Junior
16 Michael DePalma Kent State Senior
17 Matt Ciamato Drexel Junior
18 Christian Pagdilao Arizona State Sophomore
19 Chris Perez Princeton Senior
20 Christian Barber North Carolina Senior

Our Guy: All aboard the Zpain train.  Zain took a redshirt last season, on the heels of his 5th place finish as a true frosh.  Based on his freestyle videos, it appears he's been hanging out in the weight room with Frank Molinaro.  If you only remember him as the 18-year old who beat Logan Stieber, you might not recognize him.  But - sure looks like it's been a productive redshirt.

The Field: It won't be a cakewalk for Zain.  Tsirtsis is a former champ.  Sorensen is much like Tsirtsis, for better and worse.  Clagon is just plain good.  Claxon can score.  Sueflohn is funky.  Lots of challenges.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: VaTech's Mastriani has something to him.  149 might be a better weight for Okie State's Collica.

Predicted Finish: 1-Retherford, 2-Tsirtsis, 3-Sorensen, 4-Clagon, 5-Richardson

157 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Isaiah Martinez Illinois Sophomore
2 Ian Miller Kent State Senior
3 Nick Brascetta Virginia Tech Senior
4 Brian Murphy Michigan Junior
5 Mitch Minotti Lehigh Junior
6 Cody Pack South Dakota State Senior
7 Jason Nolf Penn State Freshman
8 Dylan Palacio Cornell Junior
9 Lucas Smith Central Michigan Senior
10 Thomas Gantt North Carolina State Senior
11 Joey Lavallee Missouri Junior
12 Chance Marsteller Oklahoma State Freshman
13 Doug Welch Purdue Senior
14 Spartak Chino Ohio Senior
15 Aaron Walker The Citadel Junior
16 Dylan Cottrell West Virginia Junior
17 John Boyle American Senior
18 Russell Parsons Army West Point Junior
19 Markus Schieidel Columbia Junior
20 Chad Walsh Rider Sophomore

Our Guy: Don't go to the restroom, don't look away, don't even blink - you'll miss Jason Nolf scoring more points.  He's going to take shots the entire bout.  He's...he's pretty good.

The Field: Copy paste what I just wrote about Nolf right here, for defending champ Isaiah Martinez.  He, too, is awfully good.  As for the rest - Miller is electric (when healthy).  Brascetta is a horse.  Murphy and Minotti don't score a ton, but they don't let you score either.  Cornell's Palacio drops here from 165lbs - that could be a good move for him.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: NC State's Gantt.  Okie State's Marsteller.

Predicted Finish: 1-Martinez, 2-Miller, 3-Brascetta, 4-Nolf, 5-Marsteller

165 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Alex Dieringer Oklahoma State Senior
2 Isaac Jordan Wisconsin Junior
3 Ethan Ramos North Carolina Sophomore
4 Jim Wilson Stanford Junior
5 Cooper Moore Northern Iowa Junior
6 Tanner Weatherman Iowa State Senior
7 Austin Wilson Nebraska Senior
8 Max Rohskopf North Carolina State Junior
9 Anthony Perrotti Rutgers Senior
10 Duke Pickett Cornell Senior
11 Clark Glass Oklahoma Junior
12 Seth Thomas Oregon State Senior
13 Adam Fierro CSU Bakersfield Senior
14 Garrett Hammond Penn State Sophomore
15 Conor Brennan Rider Senior
16 Johnny Sebastian Northwestern Freshman
17 Garrett Sutton Michigan Sophomore
18 Steven Rodrigues Illinois Senior
19 Austin Trott Gardner-Webb Junior
20 Connor McMahon SIU Edwardsville Senior

Our Guy:  Garrett had an up-and-down freshman season, like 97% of all freshmen.  He fell achingly short of qualifying for NCAAs, and now he's being pushed in the room by another freshman, Shakur "Corey" Rasheed.  Garrett's #14 rank pre-season is no guarantee that he'll keep the starting spot.  But, no matter who starts, the expectation is that he'll reach the NCAAs and get a couple of wins.

The Field: Alex Dieringer is a horse.  He is become death, the destroyer of worlds.  No one's particularly close to knocking him off.  Ike Jordan is a very good, fundamentally sound wrestler.  His cousin Bo might drop back down to this weight, and give this class a little spice.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: Take your pick.  I'm not sold on numbers 3 - 8, any more than I'm sold by numbers 9 - 20.  If you need just one, then try out Northwestern's Sebastian, a highly touted super frosh who used a redshirt last season.  But be warned - with jNW giving the popular Drew Pariano the boot, their squad could be unsettled.

Predicted Finish: 1-Dieringer, 2-Jordan, 3-I have no idea

174 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Bo Jordan Ohio State Sophomore
2 Brian Realbuto Cornell Junior
3 Zach Epperly Virginia Tech Sophomore
4 Kyle Crutchmer Oklahoma State Junior
5 Cody Walters Ohio Senior
6 Alex Meyer Iowa Junior
7 Blaise Butler Missouri Senior
8 Zac Brunson Illinois Junior
9 Mike Ottinger Central Michigan Senior
10 Ricky Robertson Wisconsin Sophomore
11 Davonte Mahomes Michigan Sophomore
12 Elliot Riddick Lehigh Junior
13 Ben Stroh Wyoming Junior
14 Bo Nickal Penn State Freshman
15 Nate Jackson Indiana Junior
16 John Staudenmayer North Carolina Senior
17 Lelund Weatherspoon Iowa State Junior
18 Matt Reed Oklahoma Junior
19 Jadaen Bernstein Navy Sophomore
20 Bryce Hammond CSU Bakersfield Senior

Our Guy: Bo Nickal has a lot of skins on his wall from high school.  He came to PSU last year and started adding some college skins to his collection, but an injury cut his season short (at the Scuffle).  I think Bo turns a lot of heads, and climbs up the rankings.

The Field: this weight cleared out a ton of seniors, but into that void came a whole bunch o' dudes.  Bo Jordan (165), Brian Realbuto (157), and Elliott Riddick (197!!) all can wrestle very well.  Bo, as noted in the 165 preview, may not stay at this weight, depending upon Ohio State's team needs.  But if he does, he's probably the favorite.  That notwithstanding, this will be a wild weight class.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: Numbers 10 - 15 are all pretty decent sleeper picks, in our opinion.

Predicted Finish: ????? Put Epperly on the podium.  But other than that, ????

184 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Gabe Dean Cornell Junior
2 Vic Avery Edinboro Senior
3 Blake Stauffer Arizona State Senior
4 Nathaniel Brown Lehigh Senior
5 Kenny Courts Ohio State Senior
6 Hayden Zillmer North Dakota State Senior
7 Jack Dechow Old Dominion Junior
8 Willie Miklus Missouri Sophomore
9 T.J. Dudley Nebraska Junior
10 Lorenzo Thomas Penn Senior
11 Sammy Brooks Iowa Junior
12 Dominic Abounader Michigan Junior
13 Matt McCutcheon Penn State Sophomore
14 Nikko Reyes Northern Colorado Junior
15 Nolan Boyd Oklahoma State Junior
16 Brett Harner Princeton Junior
17 Pete Renda North Carolina State Junior
18 Mathew Miller Navy Senior
19 Jeff Koepke Illinois Junior
20 Andrew Romanchik Ohio Senior

Our Guy: Matt "Mighty Mouse" McCutcheon came as close to the podium as you can get without quite making it.  It was an awfully good freshman campaign, and included wins over four wrestlers currently ahead of him in the pre-season (#'s 11, 9, 8 and 3).  Mouse seems like the type who'll take that experience and build on it.

The Field: the field is brutal, with 10 past All-Americans peppering it.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: start at 9, and go thru 18.  Being a homer, I'll take Mouse. Iowa's Brooks seems like a pretty good bet, too.

Predicted Finish: 1-Dean, 2-Brown, 3-Dechow, 4-Avery, 5-Brooks

197 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Morgan McIntosh Penn State Senior
2 J'den Cox Missouri Junior
3 Conner Hartmann Duke Senior
4 Nathan Burak Iowa Senior
5 Max Huntley Michigan Senior
6 Abram Ayala Princeton Senior
7 Brett Pfarr Minnesota Junior
8 Phil Wellington Ohio Senior
9 Jake Smith West Virginia Junior
10 Aaron Studebaker Nebraska Junior
11 Zach Nye Virginia Senior
12 Cody Crawford Oregon State Sophomore
13 Anthony Abro Eastern Michigan Senior
14 Scott Boykin Chattanooga Junior
15 Mark Martin Ohio State Senior
16 Nathan Rotert South Dakota State Sophomore
17 Jared Haught Virginia Tech Sophomore
18 John Bolich Lehigh Senior
19 Bryce Barnes Army West Point Senior
20 Trent Noon Northern Colorado Senior

Our Guy: Morg finished 3rd last season.  This is his year, in our opinion.  When Morg stays aggressive, no one is beating him.

The Field: J'Den Cox won it all two years ago, and has a brutal ride.  Duke's Hartmann knocked Morg out of the champions bracket last season.  Iowa's Burak has gotten better every year.  After that, things thin out.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: there are some good names in the list, but we're taking VaTech's Jared Haught, from way down at #17.

Predicted Finish: 1-Morg, 2-Cox, 3-Hartmann, 4-Burak, 5-Open for business

285 LBS

Rank Wrestler School Year
1 Nick Gwiazdowski North Carolina State Senior
2 Ty Walz Virginia Tech Junior
3 Adam Coon Michigan Junior
4 Blaize Cabell Northern Iowa Senior
5 Austin Marsden Oklahoma State Senior
6 Michael Kroells Minnesota Junior
7 Amarveer Dhesi Oregon State Sophomore
8 Billy Smith Rutgers Senior
9 Ross Larson Oklahoma Junior
10 Riley Shaw Cleveland State Senior
11 Joe Stolfi Bucknell Senior
12 Denzel Dejournette Appalachian State Junior
13 Nathan Butler Stanford Sophomore
14 Doug Vollaro Lehigh Junior
15 Collin Jensen Nebraska Junior
16 Brooks Black Illinois Sophomore
17 Nick Tavanello Ohio State Junior
18 Ryan Solomon Pitt Sophomore
19 Tanner Harms Wyoming Senior
20 Jared Johnson Chattanooga Junior

Our Guy: sad news, friends.  We all thought we'd see super-frosh Nick Nevills here, ranked somewhere between 6th and 12th.  Unfortunately, word from the room is that Nick suffered a season-ending injury.  Cael asked James Franklin if he could borrow true frosh walk-on linebacker Jan Johnson, a 2x PIAA champ.  James consented.  According to Jan, he quickly remembered that there's a big difference between "football shape" and "wrestling shape".  It's gonna be a tough hill to climb.

The Field: Nick "Gwiz" is better than everyone else.  Also of note, he tries offensive moves (and scores points with them).  His championship victory over Tony Nelson two years ago clinched Penn State's sixth national title.  So, there's reason to cheer for him, too.

Not Top 8 Sleepers: sticking in the Big Ten, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of 15-Black or 16-Tavanello on the podium.  Outside the conference, I like 12-Dejournette.  He can wrestle.

Predicted Finish: 1-Gwiz, 2-Coon, 3-Walz, 4-Marsden, 5-Kroells