Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Ithaca Invitational Preview (11-4/5-22)


A very tough NCAA Division III tournament. The Ithaca Invitational has an assortment of top ranked wrestlers at every weight class battling it out for a top six finish. 

Picture Guide
NCAA DIII Ranking & Name
(What Place they took here last season)
How I would seed 

125 lbs 

A champion here last season as well as the NCAA Division III champion, I'd bet on Jacob Decatur winning another Ithaca Invitational title this tournament.  Seeing how Johnson & Wales Justin Lopez is already 4-0 with 7-4, 4-3, 11-3 & 5-2 victories over Springfield's Joey Manginelli, I would say he is our likely candidate to face Decatur in the finals.  I gave Manginelli the nod over Arborio as he finished NCAA R12 at the DIII's last season.  Some would switch them around & I do not object to that. Either way, both were place-winners here last season & will most likely be again this weekend.  Another I would watch for to place within the top six is Kaya Bogle of Castleton. 

133 lbs 

This is the weight class to pay attention to. If drama is to unfold, here is where it's going to be unfolded.  Finishing 3rd in the NCAA DIII nationals last season, Dalton Rohrbaugh of York has earned his ranking & he deserves the #1 seed here. He'll be challenged in both his semi-final match & his finals match should he hold on to his seed. Greensboro's Josh Wilson (5th in NCAA DIII last season) who I give the #2 seed to here, gave him a 3-2 match last season. 

Based on ranking & victories over the competition I give the #3 seed to Diego Santiago of New England but I wonder if he'll hold on to it. The competition in this bracket is pretty fierce & he seems to squeak by in so many of his wins.  He defeated Castleton's Michael Gonyea 2-1 & he needed a tiebreaker to get past Springfield's Gianni Manginelli 3-2. 

Last year's champion Gabriel Leo-Esparolini who was also R12 at NCAA DIII's I felt I had to give the #4 seed. I can't put him above Rohrbaugh or Wilson and back & forth both Gonyea & Jaden Hinton of Baldwin Wallace is why I put Santiago one spot above him too.  Regardless of whether you were to seed him #3 or #4, he's giving whoever he faces Rohrbaugh or Wilson absolute Hell in the semi-finals. 

Between Hinton & Gonyea, I had to give Hinton the #5 & Gonyea the #6 as head to head, Hinton owns a 7-3 decision. Both have impressive victories over Leo-Esparolini. Hinton defeated him 13-0 & Gonyea stuck him at the 3:57 mark.  However, they both have losses (more recent may I add) to GLE as well. A 6-4 sudden victory for Gonyea & an 8-7 decision for Hinton.  It really speaks to the intestinal fortitude of GLE that he can turn those types of losses into wins. 

Gianni Manginelli of Springfield, 6th here last year, I gave the #7 seed. He has a 3-2 victory over Gonyea, but he's also lost to him 5-1 & 9-0. He also has a 5-4 loss to GLE.  Lastly, I think in the hunt for a top six finish will also be Ithaca's own Luis Hernandez. 

Quarters, semis, finals, consolation semis, consolation finals....this is gonna be a fun bracket. 

141 lbs 

Are we likely to see the feud continue between Castleton's James Rodriguez and Johnson & Wales' Hayden Brown?  Brown finished 3rd to Rodriguez's 4th here last season, but it was Rodriguez who took an 8th place NCAA DIII finish to Brown's R12. Rodriguez also won their last meeting by a 6-2 decision.  

Before Brown starts thinking of vengeance on Rodriguez, he better worry about Ithaca's Travis Jones first. The last the two met, Brown won an 11-6 decision, but the time before that it was the bomber who won an 11-7 decision. It should also be noted that the last time Jones met with Rodriguez he took him into a wild back & forth match before finally dropping a 15-13 s.v. decision.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Jones step it up a notch & defeat two high quality opponents in route to winning this invitational. 

Another guy I'd look for to maybe make some noise this tournament would be Delaware Valley's Russell Benson. An NCAA DIII qualifier in 2019, it's due or die time now. Might as well start making your mark right away. Here's as good of a place as any. 

149 lbs 

A tournament like this helps to illustrate that in spite of rankings & credentials just how close these wrestlers are to one another in talent.   Michael Petrella 3rd here last season & 2nd in NCAA DIII deserves the top seed that he is most likely to get.  However he'll have to earn his title shall he win one. The last time he met with Kyle Merritt of Norwich (7th in NCAA DIII), he escaped with a 5-3 sudden victory win. He also snuck past Matt Beyer of Ithaca, a home crowd favorite 6-5. 

Last year's runner-up Chase Parrott of Springfield I gave the #3 seed.  I'd like to think he'll give Merritt a good match in the semi-final but thus far he's lost twice to him by 8-5 & 9-1 decisions.  He also needs to worry about his quarter-final match before he worries too much about his semi. The last he met with Nicholas Roeger of Castleton, that was a close 6-5 victory. 

Petrella Vs Merritt seems likely for our final here, but I'm not sure exactly how 3rd through 6th will shape up. I am very confident that whatever order they finish in, that I've listed who they will be. 

157 lbs 

Ithaca's Adam Wagner has quite the challenge ahead of him if he wants to win another Ithaca Invitational title this weekend. He'll have to get past #10 ranked Eric Hutchinson of York (PA), a two time NCAA DIII qualifier.  Rounding out other place-winners I believe we'll see, I gave Springfield's Jake DeGuire the nod over Western New England's Luke Pinzino as he finished 5th to Pinzino's 7th at the Northeast Regional last season. Logan Dubuque of Castleton is another I think we'll see place top 6. 

165 lbs 

Last year's 165 lbs final saw Baldwin Wallace's Dalton Leightner edge Castleton's Michael Angers 2-1 tiebreaker for the championship. That could very well be our final again  this season.  Scott DeFex of Johnson & Wales was 5th, while Ithaca's Jackson Gray was 6th. This could likely be our consolation final this season. 

174 lbs 

Like at 165 lbs, we are likely to see a repeat of the finals at 174 lbs.  Johnson & Wales Mike Ross, the NCAA DIII runner-up last season defeated Oswego's Charlie Grygas by a score of 6-1 to win last year's title. I think it is unlikely that Donovan Palmer upsets Grygas in what should be one of our semi-finals, but I do believe he is the strongest candidate for 3rd place. 

184 lbs 

5th in NCAA DIII last season, Chibueze Chuckwuezi of Ithaca won a title here at 197 lbs. This season he looks to win a title at 184 lbs.  Challenging him will be Baldwin Wallace's Luke Salmon who finished a match shy of All American honors himself last season.  In the battle for 3rd, which will also be a battle for varsity, Castleton puts Alec Richards up against Sampson Wilkins.  Richardson leads the series thus far (remember this was written BEFORE wrestle-offs) 2-1.  4-2 & 7-5 s.v. decisions Vs a 5-0 victory for Wilkins. 

197 lbs

Here's where things could get interesting.  Cam Farrow of York (PA) returns a 4th place DIII All American as Jordan Wallace of Ithaca returns an 8th place DIII All American. It's only right to put them as the #1 & #2 seeds.  However, I wouldn't put it past Johnson & Wales Dylan Harr to upset Wallace in the semi-final as he already owns a 5-3 victory over the Bomber.  Darby McLaughlin I have the #4 seed as Harr defeated him for 5th place here last season 11-5.  Rounding out our #5 & #6 seeds, Haven Tatarek of Castleton & Sam Ware of Springfield.  Tatarek owns three victories over Ware thus far, 4-0, 4-2 & a 6:36 fall. 


I believe the #1 seed here will be Johnson & Wales Liridon Leka.  As to the #2 & #3 seeds I wasn't sure whether to do with Doug Byrne of Baldwin Wallace or Michael Filieri of Springfield. Byrne was 3rd here last season, but down at 197.  Not sure if it matters, as either way this is our likely semi-final. Norwich's Mason Sprinkel I would give the #4 seed.  Although he was pinned by Filieri in 3:35, he also gave him a close 3-2 match. 


There you have it.  Bombs away! Look forward to the Ithaca Invitational!! 

Bob Marella 

And for fun, here's a picture of my all time favorite Ithaca Bomber, Bob "Gino" Marella aka Gorilla Monsoon. An NCAA runner-up in 1959. 

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