Tuesday, February 28, 2023

2023 Mid-American Conference Preview (March 4th-5th)


ACC, BIG 12, SOCON & PAC-12 out of the way, it is now time to tackle the MAC!  A conference with a relatively small amount of allocations & a whole lot of talent out to claim them. It's gonna be a street fight! 

125 lbs
Spots Available: 2
Contenders: Who knows? 7? Maybe More? 

The in-season MAC results leave us with an assortment of back & forth, parity and chaos that make little certain & most unknown.  As far as who will be our champion here, Anthony Noto of Lock Haven, the 2022 MAC champion looks likely to repeat. As to who joins him in a trip to the NCAA's as the runner-up? Now that's a good question. 

The thing about it is, it really doesn't matter which side of the bracket you are on. Even if one ends up on the same side of the bracket as Noto, I would imagine that if you're able to capture 3rd place, you'd get an opportunity to come back & challenge for true second.  Noto owns a 10-3 decision over Markel Baker of George Mason & his closest match within the conference has been a 5-3 decision with Joey Fischer, last year's runner up. 

Blake West of Northern Illinois owns both a 2-1 & 3-2 decision over Ohio's Oscar Sanchez. 

Jake Ferri of Kent State, a qualifier from 2021 & one of the best to not make the 2022 NCAA's, owns a 3-2 victory over Sanchez, a 9-5 decision over West & a 4-3 decision over Sean Spidle of Central Michigan. 

Spidle owns a 15-12 victory over Ferri. 

Fischer has both a 3-1 win over Ferri & a 5-3 victory over Spidle. 

Sanchez owns a both a 3-1 tiebreaker as well as a 2-1 tiebreaker over Spidle. 

Baker owns a 4-0 win over Fischer. 

So as you can see MAC silver truly is up for grabs & it's a free for all on who exactly will grab it. 

133 lbs
Spots Available: 1
Contenders: 1
Gable Strickland
Lock Haven 

The powers at be allotted one spot for NCAA qualification at 133 lbs & they are relying on Gable Strickland of Lock Haven to take that spot. Thus far he's remained undefeated in conference competition & he'll have to remain so in order to earn Lock Haven what is likely to be their second MAC title of the tournament.  

141 lbs
Spots Available: 2
Contenders: Who Knows? 7? Maybe More? 

This weight class is even nuttier than 125.  Champ & runner-up go to the NCAA's, but as to who those two will be? Good luck with that guess. 

Saul Ervin of SIUE is a decent bet as far as I'm concerned. The '21 NCAA qualifier has a 10-0 major decision over Caleb Rea of Cleveland State & a 2-0 decision over Jaivon Jones of Northern Illinois. 

Perhaps our safest bet is McKenzie Bell of Rider.  Now some may point a finger at his very out of place & extraordinarily strange 20-4 technical fall loss to Mike Rapuano of George Mason, but I'm not overly concerned with it. He later avenged that loss by majoring Rapuano 11-2.  He also owns a 9-0 major decision over Seth Koleno of Clarion as well as a 14-12 s.v. over Josh Mason of Bloomsburg. 

Amonn Ohl of Edinboro recently took it to Mason 14-4. Mason our MAC runner-up from last season & an NCAA qualifier, owns an 11-5 decision over Jones. 

Rea has been known his entire career for pulling off at least one or two major upsets per season. He really hasn't had one yet & I'll be damned if he doesn't get at least one in during what could very well be the last tournament of his career.  Thus far he does own a 10-6 victory over Koleno. 

Koleno, owns both a 2-1 decision over Mason & a 3:00 fall over Ohl. 

You'll have better luck at the roulette table than you will trying to predict what will happen here. 

149 lbs
Spots Available: 5
Contenders: The Appropriate Question Here Is, Who isn't? 

If you've ever read the novel IT by Stephen King then you are aware of the deadlights & how they can drive a person to the point of insanity if stared at for too long. I think 149 MAC might be having the same effect on me. The only solace within all of this, is at least there are more allocations here than what there are at 125 & 141. It's still gonna be a mess, but 5 allocations with all of the challengers we have here sure as heck makes a lot more sense than 2. 

Quinn Kinner of Rider was last year's MAC champion at 141, but he's far from a shoe-in to repeat. While he does own an impressive 16-0 technical fall over Kyle Schickel of Clarion, he is not without his conference losses. 

Ryan Burgos of Edinboro owns a 10-8 victory over Kinner as well as a 7-4 decision over Schickel. 

Johnny Lovett of Central Michigan, a two time NCAA qualifier started off the season pretty cold, but has sense heated up. MAC wins include a 4-0 victory over Alec Hagan of Ohio, a 10-1 major over Kody Komara of Kent State & an 8-3 decision of Burgos. 

Nick Stonecheck of Lock Haven owns a 6-4 decision over Kinner. 

Caleb Tyus of SIUE ironically enough is the one coming into this bracket with plenty of wins and no losses as far as the MAC is concerned. I'm not sure if that equates to winning a title, but he does have the resume to suggest it. A 5-4 win over Lovett, a 7-6 win over Shickel, a 4-2 victory over Burgos, a 2-1 win over Anthony Cheloni of Northern Illinois, a 3-1 tiebreaker of Komara & a 3-0 win over Hagan. He's certain proven that he CAN beat anyone in this bracket. 

Hagan an NCAA qualifier in '20, has kept ahead of Komara in what has to be the biggest on going feud in NCAA Division I wrestling. These guys have met more times than the Hatfields & McCoys.  This season alone, Hagan has won 7-1, 3-2 & 3-1 s.v. decisions against the Golden Flash. 

Komara last year's champ at this weight class, has his 4-3 victory over Hagan as well as a 4-0 victory over Shickel. If he repeats as champion here despite some of the losses he's had within the conference this season, it'll have be the craziest overall moment of the entire DI qualifiers. 

Schickel owns a 5:34 fall over Lovett & a 9-4 decision over Stonecheck. 

Good grief!! 

157 lbs
Spots Available: 4
Contenders: 7

This weight class makes a lot more sense. Here we have 7 talented, worthy of qualification wrestlers & four of them will get to represent the MAC conference while the other 3 stay home. 

Peyten Kellar of Ohio has had a very respectable redshirt freshman season thus far for the Bobcats.  I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't win multiple MAC titles during his career, including this one.  He owns a 6:34 fall over Ashton Eyler of Lock Haven. 

The past two seasons the best Marcus Robinson of Cleveland State has wrestled as been right here at the MAC championships. Will he make history repeat itself a third time? The two time NCAA qualifier owns both a 3-1 s.v. over Peter Pappas of George Mason & a 4-3 decision over Eyler. 

Corbyn Munson of Central Michigan has looked very good within the conference this season & honestly pretty good outside of it too. He'll challenge for the MAC title. A 1:29 fall over Anthony Gibson of Northern Illinois, he owns a 4-0 decision over Robinson & a 7-5 decision over Michael Petite of Buffalo. 

Petite despite being a two time NCAA qualifier, seems to be about the most overlooked wrestler in NCAA DI wrestling today. Not sure what he has to do for rankers to start giving him some respect. Wonder if a third qualification will do it? He owns a 9-7 s.v. over Gibson. 

Gibson despite his losses nearly majored Kellar 11-4. 

Pappas as you know from reading other articles I've written is a phenomenal story of making a miraculous comeback. We speak of injuries a lot in this sport but not often about losing faith in yourself & then gaining it back. What an ending it'd be to the story for the Patriot to earn his first NCAA qualification as a senior. Even if the story doesn't end that way, it still ends on a high note as far as I'm concerned. 

Eyler an NCAA qualifier last season owns a 6-3 decision over Pappas. 

165 lbs
Spots Available: 1
Contenders: 1
Izzak Olejnik 
Northern Illinois

I was rather surprised with the amount of talent at this weight class within the MAC, that the conference was only given one allocation. While I do not rule out the possibility of an upset, I think it is unlikely. Our probable champion here is three time NCAA qualifier Izzak Olejnik of Northern Illinois. 

174 lbs
Spots Available: 4
Contenders: Who knows? 8? Maybe More? 

If you thought we were done with chaos & pandemonium you were sadly mistaken. 174 is just as nuts as is 125, 141 & 149. There are four spots available here & plenty of competition in a fight for them. The parity and back & forth here is unreal. Or perhaps in some cases better described as surreal. 

Sal Perrine of Ohio was an NCAA qualifier last season. 

Alex Cramer of Central Michigan has an 11-7 win over John Worthing of Clarion & a 7-3 decision over Jay Nivison of Buffalo. 

Jared McGill of Edinboro has a 4-1 decision over Perrine, a 4-2 decision over Nivison & a 4-2 decision over Tyler Stoltzfus of Lock Haven. 

Stoltzfus has tech'd Michael Wilson of Rider twice by scores of 15-0 & 16-0. 

Worthing owns a 15-8 decision over Stoltzfus, a 6-5 decision over Logan Messer of George Mason & a 3-1 s.v. over Nivison. 

Messer owns a 3-1 decision over McGill, a 12-9 decision over Stoltzfus & a 15-0 tech over Wilson.

Nivison was an NCAA qualifier last season. 

Wilson owns a 7-3 decision over Wilson, and both a 9-7 s.v. as well as a 3-1 decision over Messer. 

Whoever predicts the top 8 here in order deserves a nomination for the Noble Prize. 

184 lbs
Spots Available: 2
Contenders: 3 

Compared to 125, 141, 149 & 174, 184 lbs is rather an anomaly. No chaos here.  Things are straight forward and simple. We have two allocations & three very talented grapplers in contest for them. 

Will Feldkamp of Clarion a 2022 NCAA qualifier, Zayne Lehman of Ohio & DeAndre Nassar of Cleveland State, a 2021 NCAA qualifier. Both Feldkamp & Lehman own 3-1 decisions on Nassar for the season. 

*NOTE* - One of the biggest disappointments for me all season was that he never saw the appearance of Kyle Davis of George Mason. I was really looking forward to him challenging for a MAC title this year but he never did step out on the mat for the Patriots.  I do not know the story as to why. Not sure if he's done wrestling, hurt or what.  I would think if eligible for a medical hardship he might receive one for '23-'24. 

197 lbs
Spots Available: 1
Contenders: 1
Ethan Laird

Even more so than 165 lbs, I was really surprised that MAC 197 lbs only allotted one spot.  With talent like Anthony Perrine of Cleveland State & Tyler Bagoly of Clarion, that didn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense to me. Nevertheless, there is only one allocation & it has a very, very high probability of going to Ethan Laird of Rider. The Bronco has looked absolutely stunning this season & will most certainly challenge for All American honors at the NCAA championships. 

Spots Available: 1
Contenders: 1
Colton McKiernan 

Colton McKiernan is another fun story in NCAA DI wrestling. Making the MAC finals as a freshman back in 2019, it has since been a struggle for the Cougar. Sophomore & both of his junior seasons didn't see him achieve the success that he had early in his career. Granted an extra season of eligibility due to COVID-19, McKiernan has made the most of it. This is the best season he has ever had as he currently stands at 24-3. 5th at the Midlands, he is looking to not only make a return trip to the MAC finals, but to win the whole damn thing. While there will be challenge along the way such as David Szuba of Rider, Isaac Reid of Lock Haven & Dan Bucknavich of Cleveland State, McKiernan is the odds on favorite. 

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