Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2021: Best Not To Qualify for NCAA DI Championships

 First off let's make a few things clear.  This will only be representing those who DID compete this season.  So while my heart breaks for the EIWA wrestlers from the teams that did not compete this season, they will not be included in this list. If you care to discuss those wrestlers from those teams, I wrote a previous blog that you can view here https://johnnythompsonnum1.blogspot.com/2021/02/2020-2021-ivy-league-what-would-have.html

I also am specifically speaking to this year's performances. Not last years or any previous years.  Huge fan of Jacob Seely of Northern Colorado, but he did not have the best year. I hope he returns for the 2021-2022 season and totally redeems himself. Talent wise, he's good enough to be an All American.  I can say that for other guys this season as well. Kaden Gfeller and Wyatt Sheets both of Oklahoma State.  Both noteworthy in the past and hopefully redemptions of the future.   

To be honest, I feel that this year everyone that is going to the NCAA championships should be going and that everyone staying home, should be staying home.  Nevertheless there are a few I'd like to mention. 

Luke Warner
125 lbs 

My heart goes out to Warner who was simply a victim of circumstance.  For reasons that were completely out of his control, he missed the entire season and came into the MAC championships without having wrestled a single match.  All things considered he went 4-2 and captured fifth place. There's no doubt in my mind, had he wrestled a full season he would've been an NCAA qualifier.  Here's to hopefully him taking another year next season and seeing himself among the 33 qualifiers. 

Dylan Ryder 
125 lbs

This poor kid just cannot catch a break.  2019, 2020 & now 2021 I am writing about him being one of the best wrestlers to not qualify for the NCAA championships.  That's three years in a row, that as far as I'm concerned he was one win shy of qualification.  I'm almost positive that at the EIWA championships if he could've turned a 4-3 loss to Gage Curry of American into a win, he'd be going to the dance.  I think what really hurt him was an ugly 14-4 loss to Micah Roes of Binghamton.  With a full season, I think he would've gotten in this year.  Here's to 2022 finally being a good year for him. 

Cody Phippen
125 lbs

He looked fairly solid this season.  A 12-4 record, where he simply needs to take some of his close losses and turn them into wins.  Lost twice to Oklahoma State's Trevor Mastrogiovanni by close margins, 2-1 & 6-4 sudden victory.  Also lost to West Virginia's Killian Cardinale 3-1.  He learns to win these close matches, he's going to be tough.  Real tough.  Honestly with a seventh place finish at the BIG 12's I could've seen him selected as an at large, but understand and accept that he wasn't. 

Chris Sandoval
141 lbs 

What kept Sandoval out of the NCAA tournament this year was his 3-2 loss to Dylan Droegemueller of North Dakota State at the BIG 12 championships.  If he would've won that match, I believe he'd be an NCAA qualifier this season.  A 10-4 record, among his wins is one over NCAA qualifier Chase Zollman of Wyoming.  He should qualify for the NCAA championships in his next two tries (if of course he takes the extra year.) 

Dazjon Casto
165 lbs 

Casto is an example of too little too late.  Finally wrestled like he was capable at the Southern Conference championships, making the finals with a semi-final 6-3 victory of Will Formato of Appalachian State who defeated him 3-1 sudden victory earlier in the season.  He then dropped a tight 3-2 decision to Andrew Nicholson of Chattanooga in the finals.  I'm not crazy that the NCAA took both Formato who took third and Rod Mosley of Gardner Webb who took fourth over Casto but I can understand why they did.  Mosley defeated Casto 6-1 earlier this season.  

The deal with Casto is that he's a good wrestler. He has a solid offense full of quickness, finesse and technique. He lacks that little extra something though.  Not sure if it's confidence or what it is, but something is holding him back.  Is it fear? I don't know.  What I do know is that he is so much better than what the rankers want to give him credit for.  He's so much better than he sometimes wrestles.   The thing is though as Tom Brands once said best, "He has to earn it."  He has two (or one depending on whether he takes it or not. I'm not sure if that's even a possibility at a military school like The Citadel) more chances to make it happen.  He obviously has the tools to be a Southern Conference champion. Like to see him end on that high note. 

Gavin Hoffman
197 lbs 

Laugh if you want, roll your eyes if you must, but I honestly believe Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State has the tools to one day be an NCAA champion.  Yes, you read that right. I'm saying that a guy who wasn't the varsity starter in 2020 and who failed to qualify for the NCAA championships in 2021, could one day be an NCAA champion.  So many of his losses this year have been nail bitters.  He lost 3-2 to Billy Janzer of Rutgers, Thomas Penola of Purdue and Cam Caffey of Michigan.  Not to mention, he took #1 Myles Amine of Michigan, who many feel will win this year's title to a 8-5 decision and he held #3 Eric Schultz of Nebraska, who many feel will meet Amine in the finals to a 2-0 decision.  

I think the future is very bright for Hoffman, who all things considered should have three seasons of eligibility left on his resume.  I think he was too big for 184, too small for HWT and that 197 is the right fit for him.  Puts on a bit more muscle between now and next October, while working on both his escaping skills as well as his riding skills and I think we'll see one of the most improved wrestlers of the 2021-2022 season.  

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