Sunday, December 4, 2022

JT#1's Notes, Thoughts & Observations for Week 6 of the 2022-2023 College Wrestling Season

 While last week can be compared to a 40 minute flight from Santa Rosa to San Francisco, this week is gonna be more New York to Singapore. So buckle up, adjust the seat for comfort and let's dig in. 

Upsets & Surprises, CKLV Delivers Great Wrestling Action!! 

What a fantastic tournament CKLV turned out to be this season! Some phenomenal wrestling, huge upsets & huge surprises!! There is so much story and so much drama that unfolds at a tournament like this. It's unreal how much there is to discuss post tournament. 

Sun Devils Backup Wins CKLV Title!! 

Richard Figueroa is still considered Arizona State's backup right?  The general consensus is that for one reason or another two time All American/2021 NCAA finalist Brandon Courtney is out right now, but by PAC-12 conference tournament time he'll be the starter? This alone ought to illustrate to wrestling fans across the country how incredibly tough NCAA DI wrestling is. If Brandon Courtney were starting right now, many of us wouldn't even know who Figueroa is. It's a testimony to even how hard it is to make the varsity position on a team. Figueroa wrestled an outstanding tournament. 

Liam Cronin is Not Back to Form...You know what scratch that! YES HE IS!! 

One of the biggest questions I had for CKLV 2022 was the status of Liam Cronin. I knew if he was healthy & mentally ready to go, he was gonna make things happen.  I also knew that if he was still dealing with injuries that we might not see him at 100%.  After a round two 12-2 major decision loss to Caleb Smith of Appalachian State, I was depressed thinking that injuries must still be nagging him.  Then all of a sudden through the consolations it's like Cronin took a look in the mirror said, "You know what, screw this, I AM back" & ran through to bring home the bronze! A 7-3 decision over Eddie Ventresca of Virginia Tech in the blood round, he took out All American Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State in the consolation final. 

Heinselman Shows Great Intestinal Fortitude 

In a tournament like this one it is so hard to come back from a first round loss. Malik Heinselman of Ohio State dropped a 4-0 decision to Brett Ungar of Cornell in the opening round.  He put his nose to the grind winning consolation match after consolation match including a 14-9 decision over Caleb Smith of Appalachian State in the blood round.  He then avenged his loss to Ungar in a 3-1 effort, ending the day with an 11-5 decision over Tanner Jordan of South Dakota State to take 5th. 

Vitali Arujau Keeps His Place 

I've been saying all summer, fall & now winter that I believe if anyone can keep Roman Bravo Young Vs Daton Fix part III from happening in this year's NCAA finals it is Vitali Arujau of Cornell.  I knew not to get to far ahead of myself & see how he performed at CKLV first. He delivered. A 16-4 major over Cody Phippen of Air Force, a 6-1 win over Sam Latona of Virginia Tech & another 6-1 victory over Michael McGee of Arizona State. I stand by my comments.  Arujua will challenge both the Nittany Lion & the Cowboy. 

Kyle Biscoglia Has Arrived! 

Let's be honest, it wasn't that long ago that the #1 question concerning Kyle Biscoglia was whether he'd be the starter or not.  His entire career he's been duking it out with other Panthers to see who's suiting up in the Purple & Gold, and who isn't. Even at the beginning of the season it was a question, as he had to contend with Julian Farber. Yet now I think it's pretty obvious who UNI's man is at 133 lbs.  A 3-0 win over Cody Phippen of Air Force in the blood round & then an extremely impressive 9-2 decision over two time All American Chris Cannon of Northwestern in the consolation quarter-finals. Top it off with a 6-5 decision over last year's CKLV champ Dylan Ragusin of Michigan. 

Happenin' Happel 

Biscoglia wasn't the only Panther to impress me at CKLV. I couldn't believe how well Cael Happel wrestled this tournament. It was almost as if he were a completely new wrestler.  Started off majoring Seth Koleno of Clarion.  Then a 4-2 decision over Dylan D'Emilio of Ohio State.  He looked outstanding against Tom Crook of Virginia Tech, who is a very hard wrestler to score on & on top of it a very hard wrestler to keep from scoring on you.  A 4-1 win over Clay Carlson of South Dakota State.  Granted Happel did drop a 6-1 decision to Nebraska's Brock Hardy in the finals, but there's no head down shame to be accepted here. Happel's runner-up showing should be celebrated and seen for what it is.  Someone who's obviously made tremendous growth and improvements. 

Sammy Sasso Comes Out on Top of a Very Tough 149 lbs CKLV Bracket 

I wasn't sure what order Sammy Sasso of Ohio State, Kyle Parco of Arizona State, Yahya Thomas of Northwestern & Jonathan Millner of Appalachian State would fall in, but 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th is where they ended up. Sasso showed his dominance with a 8-2 victory over Thomas & a 6-2 victory over Parco.  Parco himself defeated Millner 4-1 in the semi-finals, as Thomas upended Millner 2-1 for 3rd. These four are likely to duke it out for spots on the award stand at the NCAA's this year as well. 

Bubba "Doubt me, I dare you to" Wilson 

If anyone deserves the moniker of "Comeback Kid" it is Nebraska's Bubba Wilson. If you read my article "The Unbelievable Comeback Nebraska's Bubba Wilson" you already know this guy has a heart the size of Alaska. You can put him up against any adversity and he'll find a way to get through it.  Slated against #1 seed Carson Kharchla of Ohio State, Wilson dropped an 8-2 decision in the first round.  He came all the way back to finish in 4th place. This included an 8-0 major decision over Legend Lamer of Cal Poly. Then he knocked off Tony Negron of Arizona State 3-1. He avenged last year's loss to Josh Ogunsanya of Columbia 4-3.  Doubt him all you want, he'll often prove you wrong. 

Labriola Cements Himself As a Contender 

As far as talent & ability are concerned, Labriola has always been a contender. It's simply that he needed a huge win over one of the other contenders to prove it. Now that he owns a 3-1 victory over Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech, it's no longer an assumption, it is a fact. Labriola CAN contend for the NCAA title this season. Anxious to see what he can do against Starocci. 

A side note to the action at 174 lbs, with all of the wonderful things I saw at CKLV, it absolutely devastated me to see Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley bode out to 6th place because of injuries. Can that guy not catch a break? Every time I turn around he's hurt.  He just can't seem to get and stay healthy.  Hopefully this isn't serious & he's back soon.  Hate, hate to think this may be a career ender. 

Andy Smith of Virginia Tech Beautiful Run Through the Quarters 

I was not at all expecting Andy Smith of Virginia Tech to stick Evan Bockman of Utah Valley & then turn around & hand Tanner Sloan of South Dakota State a 5-2 loss.  Was disappointed that he then medical forfeited to 6th after a loss in the semis, but do feel his upset over Sloan was lost in the shuffle of so many other upsets. It deserves mention. 

Tanner Harvey's Back in Town 

I already spoke of this in my CKLV 197 lbs preview, but I have to continue commenting on how incredible it is that after two seasons of being out due to injury, Tanner Harvey is wrestling so incredibly well. Arizona State's Kordell Norfleet is a four time PAC-12 champion, trying to become the conference's first & only five time champion, but he's going to have to do some seriously reevaluating if that's going to happen. Harvey one a 5-2 decision over him in the quarters. Then on top of it, both have to contend with Bernie Truax of Cal Poly. Harvey took runner-up honors to Isaac Trumble of North Carolina State who defeated him 6-4 in the finals. 

Nevills Takes Down Schultz 

Sometimes I don't mind being wrong. Matter of fact, sometimes I even prefer it.  I said at the beginning of the year there was Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State, Mason Parris of Michigan, Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State, Tony Cassioppi of Iowa & then there was everyone else. I was wrong & I'm ok with that. In fact, I'm ecstatic about it.  Nevills was able to avoid Schultz's upperbody techniques, while hitting techniques of his own to stun the Sun Devil 5-2 in the quarter finals.  He would then drop his next three matches to finish 6th, which make the whole HWT discussion even more interesting. 

Lucas Davison Earns Guinness World Record For Most Deceptively Strong Man 

Now don't get me wrong, Lucas Davison of Northwestern has a set of arms on him. A well defined chest, back & legs, but the way he moves these big behemoths around like they're nothing is unreal. It's almost as if Dr. David Banner (I'm a 70's HULK fan for all of those who want to try and correct me with "Bruce") decided to expose Davison to gamma radiation & he's all but green once he goes out onto the mat. This guys displays of power & strength are incredible.  He started off with a 17-0 tech of Mason Fiscella of Appalachian State. Then he followed it up with a 6-1 win over Tyrell Gordon of Northern Iowa & he dominated Nevills 8-2 in the semis.  He gave Parris a very good match, 6-4 in the finals, finishing in 2nd place. 

Overall loved the action at CKLV. Only thing I'll complain about is way, way, way, way, way too many medical forfeits. I get injuries happen. You wanna keep your guys healthy, but I know for a fact that sour grapes was the result of at least a few of these MFFs.  I'm not a fan of that. People flew out to Vegas to watch you wrestle, not to watch you MFF because you're upset that you were upset. 

NJCAA Wrestlers Prove Themselves at Doane Open 

 You don't ask for respect, you earn it & by George did NJCAA wrestlers do so at the Doane Open. I'll talk about each individually, but collectively have to say how impressed I was by NJCAA wrestling as a whole at this tough NAIA open. 

Jett Strickenberger Wins Doane Title at 125 lbs 

Northwest Kansas Tech's Jett Strickenberger looked really sharp taking home the title at 125 lbs. As good as he looked, believe it or not, he had a teammate that looked even better.  We'll get to that in just a second...

Ellsworth's Mirzo knocks off Two Viking All Americans to win 165 lbs 

Wow is about all I can say.  3rd in the NJCAA championships last season, I knew Khayitov Mirzo was good, but I was not expecting him to knock off two of Grand View's All Americans to win a Doane Open title. A 5-3 victory over two time All American Tanner Abas in the semi-finals, he then knocked off last year's NAIA finalist Marty Margolis 5-2 in the finals. He's gotta end up somewhere next season for his final two years of collegiate eligibility. I have no idea, I am not an insider, but I wouldn't be surprised if Grand View doesn't at least invite him. 

Jameel Coles Knocks off NAIA Runner-ups to Win Doane Title 

Northwest Kansas Tech's Jameel Coles had an outstanding Doane Open tournament earning back to back 5-4 decisions in the semi-finals & finals over some very stiff competition. He first defeated Tyson Beauperthy a 2021 NAIA runner-up & then he defeated Ben Lee, the 2022 NAIA runner up.  

Alberta Has Place-Winners at Battle of the Rockies 

I'm probably fascinated by this more than any other person on the planet, but I find it really cool when teams from Canada participate in American wrestling tournaments. I mean, after all most of their team grew up wrestling only freestyle with little or no exposure to our scholastic style of wrestling.  Now, some will point out that Alec Montoya who placed 4th at 141 lbs is from North Carolina. That is true, but the Golden Bear's other three place-winners are all Canadian.  Ben Reid 6th at 125, Aidan Stevenson 4th at 184 & Taran Goring 6th at 197.  It has to be a challenge coming in and wrestling a style you are unfamiliar with.  

Ethan Laird Knocks off NCAA Champ! 

Michael Beard Knocks off same NCAA Champ! 

It's all a matter of perspective.  From one side of it, it was a rough weekend for 2022 NCAA champion Max Dean of Penn State. From the other side of it, it was a great weekend for both Rider's Ethan Laird & Lehigh's Michael Beard. Laird knocked off Dean in a 3-1 s.v. effort & Beard won a hard fought 11-9 decision.   184 lbs is all the more interesting. 

Iowa State Vs Iowa Wrestling, Delivers No Holds Barred 

This dual was as good as many of us thought it would be! And while they call Oklahoma Vs Oklahoma State Bedlam, I suppose you can this Cyclone vs Hawkeye matchup mayhem! 

Dusty Rhodes' American Dream Team looked pretty good up until Ted Dibiase announced his mystery partner as the Undertaker for the 1990 Survivor Series. Once that happened, it was the nail in the coffin & The Million Dollar Team prevailed.  Here we are nearly 32 years later & Iowa takes a page out of Dibiase's playbook. Had someone wrote a preview that included Spencer Lee, they might have gotten their behind chewed off for reporting on the wrong lineup. Yet here he is & he was the difference maker in Iowa's 18-15 victory over Iowa State.  Had it been anyone else, this dual might have turned out much differently. Great to see Lee back in action.  In an exchange of heavy blows, he was the final uppercut that sent the Cyclones to the canvas. 

All of the matches here as predicted delivered.  Attasaouv held off Schriever for Iowa State, as Woods turned around and held off Swiderski for Iowa.  Johnson then pulled off a huge victory over Murin as Siebrecht worked his tail off to get the major for the Hawks.  Kennedy kept himself from getting majored as Brands stepped it up for the Hawks getting the major over Gaitan.  Both Coleman & Bastida did their part for Iowa State pulling off extremely hard fought one point victories as Cassioppi won solidly against Schuyler. 

Current Redshirt Zeke Seltzer Impresses at Cougar Clash 

Currently redshirting for the Tigers, Missouri's Zeke Seltzer had himself a very nice Cougar Clash, picking up a title at 133 lbs.  Along the way he majored SIUE's Aaron Schulist 16-3, before upending Northern Colorado's Jace Koelzer 4-1 in the finals. 

Gibson up, Zuunbayan Down In The Northern Illinois Stock Exchange 

In the Husky battle for varsity at 157 lbs, Anthony Gibson's stock just went up as Tulga Zuunbayan's stock went down.  While Zuunbayan lost 8-4 to Missouri's Ferrdon Fisher in the semi-finals of the Cougar Clash, Gibson pinned the Tiger in 5 minutes flat in the finals.  While this battle is far from over, it does swing the pendulum in favor of Gibson. 


As always, there's a ton more I could say and a ton more to discuss but this is already long enough! Hope you enjoyed the great week of collegiate wrestling as much as I did.  Onward to week 7! 

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