Some pretty good wrestling to take place at this year's Johnathan Kaloust Bearcat Open. The tournament held in honor of the former Navy Seal should teams send their full squads will have ranked wrestlers at every weight.
Rank & Name
Place They Took Here Last Season
If he enters this tournament I would think that Cornell's Vitali Arujau takes the gold here without much of an issue. Silver seems in line for Northern Colorado's Jace Koelzer but I wouldn't put an upset past Binghamton's Anthony Sobotker. He's been known to upend higher ranked wrestlers before & he has an uncanny ability to put opponents to their back. Then there is also Franklin & Marshall's Pat Phillips who came out of nowhere this past weekend to take a runner-up finish at the Southeast Open. Lastly look for a top six showing out of Navy's Tyler Hunt.
Don't see much of a challenge standing in the way of Northern Colorado's Andrew Alirez taking a title here. Josh Koderhandt of Navy by all means should be his finals opponent. I believe the fight for 3rd will be between two young grapplers, Cornell's Josh Saunders & West Virginia's Jordan Titus.
Are we going to get lucky enough to see Yianni Diakomihalis this early into the season? I'd wager to say probably not. We didn't see him until towards the latter half of November last season & I highly doubt we see him here. Nevertheless if he does show up, it'd make leaving him off of the preview pretty stupid. So I always error of the side of "treat them as if they WILL be there." If for some reason he does decide to compete here, it'll be for conditioning purposes. He'll easily major, tech or pin his way though the competition. The question is, who wins this bracket if Diakomihalis is not here?
I'd say the guy with the most to prove here is West Virginia's Sam Hillegas. He recently lost his varsity spot to teammate Jeff Boyd in a 4-3 wrestle-off loss. He could easily gain his spot as well as his status back by coming in here and taking the tournament. Easier said than done as Boyd won't be the only one looking to knock him off. You also have their other teammate Brayden Roberts as well as Navy's Christian Hodges, all of whom are looking to make a name for themselves. A title here would do it.
Last season we were treated to a fantastic final between Navy's Andrew Cerniglia & Cornell's Colton Yapoujian, won by Cerniglia in a 7-5 decision. It is likely to be our final once again. As to third place, I see a battle between West Virginia teammates Alex Hornfeck & Caleb Downing. Downing recently downed Hornfect 5-3 in the wrestle-off as the battle for varsity continues.
I believe our final here will be between Cornell's Julian Ramirez & West Virginia's Peyton Hall. I expect it will be one of the best matches of the tournament, if of course both wrestlers enter this tournament. Navy's Val Park could go up to 174, but I have heard that he'll be at 165. Another Midshipmen in the hunt for a top six showing is Henry Hague Jr & I'm also anxious to see how Northern Colorado's Baylor Fernandes will fare.
Binghamton's Brevin Cassella has his work cut out for him if he wants to add another Bearcat Open title to his resume. If Cornell's Chris Foca enters this tournament, Cassella is likely to be the #2 seed. Also in the hunt to make the finals depending on who is on the opposite side of Foca will be Northern Colorado's Andrew Berreyesa & Navy's Sammy Starr.
Four ranked wrestlers & three returning place-winners, 184 lbs will be one of our more competitive weight classes. Cornell's Jonathan Loew, last year's champion is the forerunner to once again win a title. If seeds hold to rankings, I would think the semi between Binghamton's Jacob Nolan & Navy's David Key would be quite good. Then again Key may have to get past West Virginia's Anthony Carman before he need worry about Nolan. I'd also look for Hunter Johns of Navy to perhaps pull off an upset or two. He did after all make the finals here last season.
If I had to guess who our top six place-winners will be, here are my guesses. I think Lewis Fernandes of Cornell is likely to be our champion. While he hasn't wrestled everyone in this group, he does own a 10-0 major decision over Grady Griess of Navy. West Virginia's Michael Wolfgram is the likely candidate for a place in the finals opposite Fernandes but I tell you the guy I'm keeping an eye on this tournament is Franklin & Marshall's Vincenzo Pelusi. He has added a ton of muscle over the summer & on his resume already are wins over Wolfgram as well as Navy's Ryan Catka. Could be some big surprises in our biggest weight class.