What an eventful week in college wrestling! Holy Cow. A million things happened and I'm gonna try to touch on a lot of them, but I'm sure there is a ton that I'll miss too. If I had to pick one word to describe this week, I'd say that word would have to be....revealing. In so many ways, this was a very revealing week in the world of college wrestling. Might as well start with the biggest story.
It absolutely breaks my heart that Spencer Lee's season is done. The Iowa Hawkeye wrestling program has done just about everything. You name it, a Hawkeye has done it, except for one thing. While Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State & Cornell have all done it, the one thing Iowa hasn't done is crown a four time NCAA DI champion. Spencer Lee earned the right to be the one to do that for the black and gold. It isn't right and it isn't fair that injury stood in his way. He deserved that chance.
The Matmen Open was a success. Well ran and my hat is off to them for how successful it turned out. What impressed me most was that they didn't go cheap on the awards. Sometimes a last minute tournament is called and not even the champions will get a medal or a bracket sheet. All eight place-winners got an award & got to stand on an award stand. That was cool to see that. In a large, competitive tournament, you ought to get something for performing well.
A few words weight by weight....
A lot of things I could say about 141 lbs. Rutger's Sebastian Rivera showed easily why he's one of the top dogs. Tech, major, tech throughout the quarters, semis and finals. C.J. Composto of Penn making the finals with some impressive wins. Cole Matthews of Pitt with an impressive 3rd place finish. Yet what sticks out to me most is We Rachal placing. I'm still in shock of it. This is a guy that was 2-3 & then 3-6 the last two seasons. Not only does he find his way onto the award stand, he pins Carmen Ferrante of Penn, a ranked wrestler for 7th!! Just goes to show you that wrestling takes place on a mat, not on paper. Anything can happen.
What a performance out of Josh Heil of Campbell! This was a respectable bracket with an EIWA champion and a R12 NCAA finisher. Heil wrestled a slow, conservative pace, but it got the job done with a nice 3-1 sudden victory over Wisconsin's Austin Gomez in the finals. At this point, I'd almost be sad in a way to see Dylan Duncan make a return. I mean don't get me wrong. Nothing against Duncan, and I DO want to see him back, going for another All American honor, but let's hear it for how good of a job Christian Kanzler has done in his place. He's really stepped it up a notch. He was not expected to be the man at 149 this season & with Duncan out, he's done his job. I think he could have placed a little higher than 8th, but still a placing is a placing.
I knew when I saw that Elijah Cleary had transferred from Ohio State to Pittsburgh that he would be a great addition to the Panther squad. Glad to see him pick up a title here. I was also glad to finally see Jake Keating of Virginia back in action. Dropped a 7-2 decision to Alex Carida of Bloomsburg in the quarterfinals, but battled back to avenge that loss in the 3rd place match with a 5-3 decision.
Now to talk about the Southern Scuffle!
What a great tournament full of great wrestling. Lots of great things happened in Chattanooga this weekend. Let's take a look at some of them weight by weight.
Lastly, while there is so much love from the black and gold for so many members of the Hawkeye squad, I feel that Wyatt Henson has been a bit over looked. Black Eye Peas got me questioning, "Where is the Love?" He scored a 10-2 major decision over Angelo Martinoni of Bakersfield in round two. Martinoni is a former Scuffle place-winner & recently took 8th place at CKLV. He's no slouch. Then Henson defeated Quinn Kinner of Rider 7-3 in the consolations, another quality opponent. Those victories, with a 5th place medal are something to be conscientious of.
I said on my Twitter account that Josh Finesilver winning a Scuffle title was huge for him, huge for Duke and huge for wrestling. I mean it. For him, winning a tournament like this is a huge confidence booster. He was a hair from being an All American last season, I think it might be what he needs to see the award stand at the NCAA's this season. For Duke, come on, how can you question? The Blue Devil wrestling program operates on a budget that has to go to Goodwill to get their shoestrings. They receive no support from the administration. Everything that program has & gets is a result of Glen Lanham's hard work & the wrestlers who are part of the program + outsider help from alumni & fans. It's truly a testimony to the human spirit to see what is being accomplished there. Yes, Duke has their struggles. That's been obvious in dual results, but all things considered, it is huge for the program as well as for wrestling to crown a Scuffle champion. Shows kids out there that success can be achieved, even if the conditions aren't perfect.
Very happy to see Alex Madrigal earn medal #2 for the Patriots. I'm not 100% positive on this, but I think with his 6th place finish he became George Mason's first two time Scuffle place-winner? Unfortunately I don't have records going back to the very first Scuffle, so I could be wrong about that. Nevertheless, a great accomplishment. Sad to know that he had to MFF because of injuries. Sure hope it's one of those heal up, back quick scenarios.
I tell you, I'm just one off on all of my Minnesota predictions this year. It's no wonder when I write up my close to 80 DI team previews, that it is always Golden Gopher fans that seem to be the most nitpicky. Again, I saw Andrew Sparks being the starter come BIG 10's, but with the way Carlson wrestled here (and he's wrestled well other times too this season) now I'm not so sure. The only time he didn't look good this tournament was against O'Toole & frankly, who did look good against the national title contender?
Pat Kennedy of Iowa looked good. I didn't see his consolation semi-final match, but I am wondering if he got hurt. Must have. He MFF'd his match against Luke Weber of North Dakota State, earning 6th place.
Lastly, you ought to know by now I'm a fan of seeing wrestlers from small schools have success. Great 7th place finish for R.J. Mosley of Gardner Webb.
Matt Finesilver of Duke became a three time Scuffle place winner. 7th-5th-5th are his finishes.
While there are a ton of positives to focus on in this tournament, as in any tournament there are always a few negatives. Hated seeing Chattanooga's Matt Waddell miss the award stand by a match. Season's far from over though. Still more opportunities for accomplishments.
Let's hear it for 2022's ONLY four time Southern Scuffle place-winner Alan Clothier of Northern Colorado. This is a tough tournament and to say you earned a medal four times is a Hell of an accomplishment! 6th-7th-7th-6th.
Jaron Smith of Maryland has battled injuries throughout his entire career. I know I've said this before & I'm gonna say it probably a few more times this season. Awesome to see him finally having a healthy season. 7th place at the Scuffle.
A word in for Iowa's Aaron Costello. Another wrestler that will probably never see a BIG 10 or NCAA tournament during his career, due to their being someone in front of him in the lineup. Yet what a committed, dedicated member of his team. He has always been there for the Hawkeyes anytime he has been needed. Always performing at his best level. This was a tough bracket, that featured a lot of good wrestlers that did not medal. Seth Nevills of Penn State, A.J. Nevills of South Dakota State, Michael Wolfgram of West Virginia, Hunter Catka of Virginia Tech, I'm not lying when I say that. And here Costello places 4th.
That novel was obviously long enough, but just to think I held back..a lot. I tried to keep this as short and sweet as I could, but man it's hard to when so many interesting things happened this weekend!