This weight class absolutely tore me apart emotionally. Highs & lows, it was a roller coaster that topped Mount Everest & saw the depths of the Dead Sea.
What a career it was for Penn State's Nick Lee. In a decade of wrestling giants, his accomplishments go a bit overlooked but this guy was nothing short of amazing during his time as a Nittany Lion. 5-5-1-1, this guy lost only twice the last three years in what were otherwise dominant seasons. I knew he wouldn't because of who all he was up against, but had he been selected as wrestler of the tournament, I'd have been just fine with that.
Kizhan Clarke was the story of the tournament. This is the kind of stuff you live for as a wrestling fan. What a reward it was to see him make the NCAA finals. Here's a kid that's never been an All American. This was only his second trip to the NCAA tournament. Add in the fact that he had a horrible ACC tournament. I've been informed that he was ill during the ACC's, but that doesn't change the story. Regardless of why you wrestled poorly, it's hard to bounce back mentally after that kind of performance. It shows the mental strength of Clarke & the phenomenal coaching of Coleman Scott, Tony Ramos, Jamill Kelly & Gary Wayne Harding. This was one of the best moments of the 2022 NCAA's.
6th-3rd-4th-3rd at the NCAA's, he won two BIG 10 titles, a Midlands title & a CKLV title. I'm not sure exactly where you put Rutger's Sebastian Rivera on the list, but I would argue that he's gotta be one of the best ever to never make the NCAA finals.
The past two seasons I've been watching Cole Matthews of Pittsburgh thinking to myself this guy has "it" he just needs that one big win to release it. He's sorta like the DeLorean in BACK TO THE FUTURE, you knew he was capable of some serious shit, you just had to get him up to 88 mph first. He has two more seasons of eligibility left & I think he's capable of winning a national title.
I did not go into this tournament thinking that the PAC-12 would have an overall better performance than the BIG XII. That did surprise me. Nevertheless it was rewarding to see Real Woods finally make the award stand. His weird rivalry with Oregon State's Grant Willits where he either seems to win by a lot of points or get pinned will continue next season. The over/under may not be great but when is the last time we saw an All PAC-12 NCAA final?
Those were the positives....now minus Tom Petty, here are the Heartbreakers.
5th-4th-3rd-2nd, I think unless you are absolutely in utter hate with the Iowa Hawkeyes, we all wanted to see Jaydin Eierman have a good end to his outstanding career. In all my years of watching wrestling, the NCAA tournament has reduced me to tears exactly three times. When he injury defaulted I started to lose it, but I kept it together. There was no keeping it together when Michigan's Stevan Micic embraced him in a hug, in what I feel was the greatest display of sportsmanship at this tournament. Your career is not one tournament. I preach this all the time & I'm going to stick by my words. Eierman had a great career at Iowa & whatever his future is be it international wrestling, coaching or something different this young man's future is so bright, you have to wear sunglasses just to look at it.
If this guy's email & phone didn't blow up this weekend with, "Hey, we're looking for a coach" messages, then Coaches throughout the country need to get on the ball. Again I had to remind myself a lot that a wrestler isn't defined by one tournament. With that said, I really thought their for a while that we were seeing the old Micic that we've been missing all season. A 7-4 decision over Carter Young of Oklahoma State & a 10-2 major over Frankie Tal-Shahar of Northwestern. Take nothing away from C.J. Composto of Penn, who looks to be the Quakers next four time All American, but my heart sank when he put Micic on his back in overtime. Nevertheless, still a great career. 4th-2nd-3rd at NCAA's, & a BIG 10 champion. His career might not be over yet either. There might be some World & Olympic medals in his future.
Stevan Micic = The 2022 Johnnythompsonnum1 NCAA DI Sportsmanship Award Winner (Been doing these since 2002)
Four years ago I remember watching two time NCAA champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State go out onto the mat in an effort to earn his fourth All American honor. A young freshman by the name of Chad Red of Nebraska hit a cement mixer out of nowhere & before the first period was even over, ended Heil's hopes of making the award stand a fourth time. Fast forward & ironically enough Red has the same thing done to him as he's going for his fourth All American honor. It just goes to show you how unforgiving this tournament can be. While rewarding & triumphant on one hand, completely ruthless & unruly on the other. There's a guy in wrestling, fairly well known that preaches a philosophy of the only reason you ever fall short of your goals is because you didn't work hard enough. Some people buy into that belief. I don't. All of these guys, or at least nearly all of these guys pour their heart & spirits into this sport. They give it everything they have. They have an undivided focus towards their dreams, & when you look at their work ethic, their devotion, their discipline & the sacrifices they make in effort to make their dreams come true, I think such a philosophy is as ignorant & stupid as it is old and dirty. The fact is, you have 33+ guys all wanting the same thing & there's only space for 8 of them. Those are the facts. Unfortunately Chad Red Jr of Nebraska didn't get one of those spaces this season. Still a fantastic career. Three time All American & he placed three times at CKLV.
As I contemplate the future of the 141 lbs class, I question if maybe Clay Carlson of South Dakota State might be the face of the weight class in the next two seasons. He fell short of All American this season, but still had an impressive tournament. Upset in the first round, rallied three consolation victories over some very tough opponents until getting stopped dead in his tracks by Rivera. He put together a 33-6 record this season that included a CKLV title, a 4th place finish at the Southern Scuffle & a 3rd place finish at the BIG XII's. Someone said to me earlier, "Clay Carlson is one of the most overlooked wrestlers in the NCAA." I have to agree with that. I'm excited to see what he can do next season.
Long winded & it seems like I'll never stop, with plenty more to say, I'll end my 141 lbs DI thoughts on Wil Gil of Franklin & Marshall. It was so rewarding to see him have an outstanding EIWA tournament and finally make the NCAA tournament. F&M is one of our smallest programs & it is such a treat to see them have success. If you knew all they were up against, and how little they have in comparison to a program like Penn State or Iowa, it would really help to put it into perspective. You just can't help but admire a guy like Gil, who represents a program like F&M. So happy to see him finally punch his ticket to the dance.