Tuesday, January 24, 2023

2023 Pete Willson Invitational Preview


One of the largest, as well as one of the toughest in-season NCAA Division III tournaments, the Pete Willson invitational will feature 32 teams, 7 of which are ranked in the top twenty. These ranked programs include....

#5 North Central
#7 John Carroll 
#10 UW-Whitewater 
#11 Olivet
#12 UW-Platteville 
#19 Ohio Northern
#22 Mt Union 

Among the 10 weight classes, there are 40 wrestlers ranked within the top 15.  If you're an NCAA DIII wrestling fan, this will definitely be a tournament to follow.  The tournament is hosted by Wheaton. 

125 lbs 

Currently 12-2 on the season & one match shy of being an NCAA Division III All American last year, Mt. Union's Jack Stanley looks to be the *1 seed here at the Pete Willson Invitational. It certainly won't be a shoe-in for him though. Not among this competition. Zac Blasioli is highly ranked himself & it is actually Tommy Russell of Millikin who took Stanley to a tight 5-4 match. I would imagine Millkin starts Blasioli, but in these types of situations you never know until the day of the tournament. They could very well start Russell, considering he was 7th here last season. To further the case for Russell, he's defeated North Central's Julian Valtierrez twice. Once in a close 7-5 decision & then in a first period 1:22 fall. He also owns a 5-2 victory over Jack Hamulak. Blasioli for the record, also owns a 5-3 decision over Valtierrez, who I would call a darkhorse threat to a title. He may look like he's still in the 7th grade, but he can often wrestle with the best of em'.  

J.D. McMillin of Ferrum has yet to wrestle a match this year, but he was a runner-up here last season. You wouldn't think someone would have their first match this late into the season, but evidence to the contrary over the past couple of weeks has proven otherwise. If he does compete & he's 100%, he too will be a threat. 

133 lbs

Sometimes wrestling fans call in-season tournaments, "mini NCAA's" and the reason why is because of brackets like this one. Six of the top 15 wrestlers in NCAA DIII, including the top four!  

Not only is Robbie Precin of North Central the #1 wrestler at 133 lbs, I think he makes the argument for being the #1 wrestler in all of NCAA Division III wrestling. His career record as to date? 110-2.  To think, he's only a junior.  I do think though that he will see some of his toughest competition of the year, right here at Pete Willson.  Andrew Perelka of John Carroll, a three time Pete Willson place-winner, gave Precin a 6-4 match in last year's NCAA DIII finals. We could very well see a rematch of the national finals here in Wheaton. 

Ranking would lead to believe that Zach Thompson of UW-Platteville has the bronze wrapped up in a Price Is Right parting gift, but result suggest otherwise. A 10-1 loss to Precin puts making the finals a long ways away & while he's defeated UW-Eau Claire's Tyler Fleetwood recently 5-2, he also has two losses to him. A 3-2 decision as well as a 12-4 major decision. Ty Bisek of Concordia (MN) has also kept it close with Thompson. A 6-3 loss. 

I'm going to imagine that Cortland will go with Jayden Cardenas.  A high ranking & furthermore giving the young Red Dragon a chance to prove himself against Thompson, Perelka & wish upon a star if you will, Precin.  Then again, with as unpredictable as wrestling can be, they may very well go with Cody Merwin. He was 6th here last season & if it means anything, Trevor Boryla has a 7-2 victory over Cardenas. 

Getting back to Fleetwood for a second, who I think is severely underrated, he also owns both a 6-3 decision over Bisek & an 8-4 decision over Cardenas. 

Lastly, gotta talk about Chicago's Griffin Seyfried. 8th here a year ago, it only took Perelka a minute to pin him & Thompson whipped up on him pretty good as well in a 13-5 major decision. Ironically enough though, he wrestled Precin very well in a 5-3 loss. 

Do I see anyone taking Precin out this tournament? No, I don't, but I do think a highly probable Precin Vs Perelka will be worth the price of admission. 

141 lbs 

Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo.  "All the good ones end in 0."  A great quote from Michelangelo himself & at this moment Jacob Reed of Ohio Northern is one of the good ones, because he ends in 0. 35-0 that is. He has been looking absolutely phenomenal this season & while I think he will have some good, hard fought matches this tournament, I wouldn't at all be surprised if he leaves this tournament with that 0 in tact. 

As to who will be his finals opponent? Of course seeding will come into play here, but Ozarks' Jake Dado is a fine candidate. Among is victories Vs the competition, a 5-1 victory over Ferrum's Levi Englman.  Millikin's Jordan Carson will be another plausible finalist as will be UW-Whitewater's Dakarai Clay.  Despite what the rankings say, it is Clay who owns a 12-1 major over Carson. Ironically enough though, Carson owns a 2-1 decision over Wheaton's Ethan Renager, while Renager owns a 3-1 decision over Clay. Parity anyone? 

Maybe Carson & Clay won't have to worry about Renager at all, because Wheaton might very well start Ethan Harsted instead.  I like the sound of that, Harstead, instead. Or maybe Wheaton will wrestle them both & simply yell, "Ethan!!" to confuse spectators. Enough of my dry humor, regardless of whether it is Harsted or Renager, Wheaton will keep one of the medals handed out this tournament at 141 at home.  Carson for what it's worth, owns an 11-4 decision over Harsted. Renager owns a 3-2 victory over Englman.  Both Harsted & Renager have placed here in seasons' past. Ok, I'll shut up about the Harsted/Renager situation and move on now. 

Speaking of Englman, it has become crystal clear to me why Ferrum's head coach has such a huge chip on his shoulder.  Levi Englman is a three time NCAA DIII qualifier, a 2019 All American & he's a two time Pete Willson place-winner.  I'd be a bit cranky too if everyone who talked about DIII wrestling overlooked him as much as they do.  I don't see him upsetting Reed, but I think all other bets can be placed on the table.  He owns an 11-1 major over Carson & he pinned Clay in under a minute. 

149 lbs 

*NOTE* - Two time Pete Willson place-winner Noah Nieman of Adrian is still listed on the roster, but he has not wrestled a match since earning 8th place NCAA DIII All American honors in 2021. Stranger things have happened in this sport & you never say never, but I'd be shocked to see him enter this tournament.  

Of the 10 gold medals that will be earned over the weekend at this tournament, one of them is out right now singing karaoke with his buddies.  Do you know what he's singing? Come on! Baby don't you wanna go! I said, "come on1" Baby Don't you wanna go? Back to that same old place!! Sweet Home Chicago!"   Why? Cause the plan is go leave Wheaton around the neck of Ryan Fleck as he heads back to the Windy City.  It won't be easy. 

I don't know if there is a #1 wrestler in DIII with a bigger target on his back than Fleck. While he owns the top ranking & he'll most likely get the *1 seed, he's got a whole list of those who have more than their confidence in thinking they can knock him off.  Jake Burford of UW-Whitewater, who could very well end up his finals opponent owns a 10-6 decision over him. Javin Estrada of North Central, pinned him in 2:47.  Zach Sato of UW-Eau Claire, who could potentially meet Fleck earlier in the tournament owns a 15-11 victory over him.  

Amongst themselves, Burford owns a 5-3 decision over Sumner & Sumner owns a 10-0 major over Sato. 

The two monkey wrenches in this bracket are Cortland's Chandler Merwin & Buena Vista's Isaiah Schannep. Neither has wrestled a match this season, but both put together impressive resumes last year.  Merwin went 30-7, taking 3rd here last season, which included a 4:07 fall over Schannep.  Schannep, 5th here last season, wrestled Burford to an 11-10 decision. 

157 lbs 

Very confident that our final here will be North Central All American Alex Villar against Patrick McGraw of John Carroll who was one match shy of being an All American himself last season.  McGraw a Pete Willson Invite champion in 2020 would do his career wonders if he were able to upset Villar. In my opinion, the other major player in this bracket could very well be Jack O'Donnell of Concordia (WIS).  Not necessarily saying he's the shoe-in to take the bronze, but I'd be very surprised if he doesn't end up in the top 8. 

165 lbs 

Now here is a tough weight class.  If our final ends up being Luke Reicosky of John Carroll Vs Darian Estevez of Chicago, I won't make a bet on who will win but I will make a bet on what the score will be. These guys have met a total of four times thus far & the score has been 3-1 s.v. each time. Reicosky has won twice & Estevez has won twice.  While it is likey they will be our *1 & *2 seeds, both are susceptible to upset. 

Jordan Hardrick of Ohio Northern owns a 3-2 decision over Reicosky as Reicosky owns a 4-2 s.v. over him. Many of Reicosky's other victories have been relatively close as well. An 8-6 decision over Tristan Massie of UW-Eau Claire & a 3-2 decision over Cole Cervantes of North Central, he's managed to defeat Ryan Whitten of Otterbein three times by one point. 2-1, 3-2 & 3-2.  Estevez on the other hand has dropped a 9-3 decision to Kam Bush of Olivet.  Reicosky on the other hand defeated Bush 7-0.  Bush is a wrestler I can see really stepping it up and making a name for himself this tournament. He spent most of his career competing at NCAA DI Central Michigan & is at Otterbein now for his final season. 

Among the other competition, Massie owns a 3-1 decision over Hardrick & Cervantes has a 1:57 fall over Millikin's Dejon Glaster. 

174 lbs 

Another interesting weight class. Nathan Wynsma looks to try and give UW-Platteville a champion as he's looked pretty good against most of the competition in this bracket. A 17-2 technical fall over Olivet's Owen Guilford, he has falls over both Derick Duvall of Adrian (2:15) & Daniel Devera of John Carroll (4:09). It is Jared Strick of UW-Eau Claire who has been a thorn in his side. Despite the rankings, it is the Blugold who owns both a 5-0 & a 9-3 decision over the Pioneer. 

As we look over the rest of the potential bracket, Devera owns a 7-1 decision over Duvall & a 3-2 decision over Joey Jens of North Central. Duvall with a 5-4 decision over T.J. Rhamy of Heidelberg & Ramy with 3-2 decision over Jens. I think these eight will be our Pete Willson place-winners at 174 lbs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they finish in a completely random order. 

184 lbs 

Here's the match you came to see ladies & gentlemen. For the life of me I cannot figure out why Cornell Beachem of Mount St Joseph is currently unranked. All I can figure is that it is because he has so few matches at 184 lbs. Nevertheless he was the 2022 NCAA DIII champion at 174 lbs last season & he hasn't lost a match since the 2018-2019 school year.  A year off in 20-21, he's won 47 matches straight. Will that streak end this tournament? 

It very well could.  Jaritt Shinhoster of UW-Whitewater is having himself one heck of a season. He only has two losses thus far this season. One of them was to the #1 wrestler in D3 right now, Shane Liegel of Loras & the other one was to NCAA DI #19 Reece Heller of Pittsburg in the Midlands finals.  

Is anyone going to knock off Shinhoster or Beachem?  I doubt it.  Beachem owns a 10-5 decision over last year's runner-up Demitreus Henry of Cortland as well as a 7-3 decision over Gavin Layman. Shinhoster has defeated Layman twice. A 10-2 major as well as a 2:33 fall.  He also owns a major over Niall Schoenfelder of UW-Eau Claire 15-4.  Schoenfelder owns a 4-0 victory over Layman.  

If both Shinhoster & Beachem are in this bracket, that will be our final & it contend for match of the night. 

197 lbs 

Some weight classes are straight forward, while others are chaos. 197 reflects the latter. A lot of great talent at 197 that is currently unranked. I would think winning this tournament would change that. 

With that, we're brought back to Ferrum & what I was saying earlier about Levi Englman. I'll bring up similar sentiment in regards to Braden Homsey.  A two time NCAA DIII qualifier, he won this tournament last season. On top of it, look at his resume Vs the competition.  An 18-5 major over Danny Lingen of Chicago & he's pinned both Cruz Partain of Ozarks (3:40) as well as Jackson Punzel of Wheaton (7:00).  Homsey gives us good reason to think we could very well see an unranked champion at 197.  Matter of fact, we could see an unranked finals at 197....

Despite getting owned by Hamsey, Lingen owns a 12-9 decision over Chase Melton of UW-Eau Claire & he also owns a 9-6 decision over Tyler Hannah of UW-Platteville.  Punzel also owns an 8-6 decision over Melton & he kept it very close with Hannah in a 3-1 s.v. loss.  Against the other competition Punzel owns a 14-6 major over Jesse Kanatzr of John Carroll & a 6-2 decision over Partain.  Hannah owns an 11-0 major over Kanatzar & Kanatzar owns a 3-2 decision over Partain. 


2022 NCAA DIII finalist Donovan King of Olivet looks to be our Pete Willson Invitational HWT champion, although I would give Brett Schoenherr a fighting man's chance of knocking him off. The UW-Platteville product is continuously proving himself to be about the best wrestler in D3 yet to make the national tournament. He took King to a 5-4 decision.  Among the competition, he also owns a 5-3 victory over Cole Fibranz of Chicago. 

On paper the battle for bronze looks to be between Robby Bates of North Central & Ka'Ron Lewis of Ozarks, but on the mat it may be a different story. Fibranz who is currently 20-6, believe it or not owns a 16-0 technical fall over Bates.  RayShawn Dixon, another of Ferrum's overlooked & underrated, owns a 4-3 victory over Lewis, as he's looked really good this season, with a 19-1 record. 

Carter Urich of Messiah has yet to compete this season & I highly doubt we see him here. Nevertheless he does own a 5-3 decision over Lewis. Bates for the record owns a 5:39 fall over Urich. 


And that's your preview for the 2023 Pete Willson Invitational. 

May I give out a public thank you to Olivet Wrestling! If only all college media wrestling pages were as detailed as Olivet's! If you haven't taken a look at it, please do so. I've never seen one as helpful and informative as is the one they have put together. Very impressive! 

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