As we did for the CCC and the GPAC & as we'll do for the other NAIA Conference (with exception to the WHAC which has already taken place) Swazy, the Portillo Brothers & I will go through all 10 weight classes of the MSC (Mid South Conference) picking who at each weight we feel will walk out champion.
NOTE - Keep in mind once again that Portillo's picks are underdogs that he feels are overlooked that he wants to draw attention to.
JT#1: Austin Franco Cumberlands
Portillo Bros: Chandler Akins Cumberlands
Swayz: Chris Busutil Cumberland
JT#1: Thus far Austin Franco of Cumberlands has been 3rd & 2nd in the MSC, as well as R12 at the NAIA's. I say he adds a gold medal to his collection as well as an NAIA All American honor this year. Well aware that Connor Diamond of Lindsay Wilson will be his toughest competition.
Portillo Brothers: Chandler Akins, Cumberlands. He’s been around for a while but is finally shaping into form along with his teammate Franco who is the one seed. He started this year hot as runner-up at the Patriot Open, champion at the Life Open, and a techfall over Beavers, who will be fighting for that fourth auto bid in this region. Akins had an odd Missouri Valley Invite but should be back on track here.
Swayz: Right now at this weight Cumberlands (KY) has the #1 and #3 guy in conference. In a recent dual on 1/30/2023 Cumberlands opted to not wrestle either (losing could potentially put both of those guys on same side of the bracket is my hunch). Chris Busutil of Cumberland (TN) took out his energy on that 3 rd string guy. I know Busutil has a recent loss to Connor Diamond of Lindsey Wilson, but I can see this former NJCAA AA (5 th in 2021) winning the bracket on a mission: Chris Busutil.
JT#1: Marckis Branford Lindsey Wilson
Portillo Bros: Sammy Shires Cumberland
Swayz: Marckis Branford Lindsey Wilson
JT#1: I believe Marckis Branford of Lindsey Wilson who was a multiple time NJCAA All American for Clackamas will be our MSC champion at 133 lbs this year.
Portillo Brothers: Sammy Shires, Cumberland. Shires is a true freshman who has already notched a few great wins in his career to earn him the #17 national ranking. #15 Branford has only wrestled one match at 133, so we aren’t quite sure what could happen in the finals here.
Swayz: Marckis Branford is a 3x NJCAA AA (a rare feet that was accomplished by the Covid free season of eligibility). He was 5 th , 3 rd , and 2 nd but all up at 141. He has had 1 match at 133 this season. I think the freshman Shires of Cumberland (TN) who was a 7 th place finisher a year ago at NHSCA Sr. Nationals can give him a match if they wrestle in the finals, but Branford is the fav on experience and my choice. Big concern is if we will even see a finals competed or if someone will med fft. here in my opinion.
JT#1: Bryce Nickel Cumberlands
Portillo Bros: Kyler Adams Midway
Swayz: Chasen Brown Cumberlands
JT#1: Very confident that we see two time MSC champion Bryce Nickel of Cumberlands win his third title this weekend. The Patriot for record is also a two time NAIA All American with finishes of 7th & 6th the past two seasons.
Portillo Brothers: Kyler Adams, Midway. Thankfully this weight takes 5 because it has even more than 5 hammers. I will go with the 4 seed Adams to avenge a loss to Ayala in the quarters, then Nickel in the semis. If Dinh makes the finals I will still take Adams to avenge his third loss in a row. Despite these in-conference losses, he is #14 in the nation, according to the Open Mat.
Swayz: I could see Jared Dinh causing some major mischief in this weight, he has a loss to Brown already though. This is another weight where I’m not sure if we will see a finals, but if we do I’ll say I’ll put an upset of Chasen Brown (a NQ last year at 149) as the champion beating teammate Nickel.
JT#1: Ryan Moore Thomas More
Portillo Bros: Mitchel Freeman Rio Grande
Swayz: Jace Luachau Cumberlands
JT#1: More Moore More!! Ryan Moore of Thomas More (That's fun to say isn't it?) is my pick for champion here in the MSC. Although I am anxious to see what kind of a match Dayton Marvel of Campbellsville will give the two time NAIA runner-up.
Portillo Brothers: Mitchell Freeman, Rio Grande. Freeman might be the best athlete on Jason Schweer’s squad. He’s got wins for #19 at 157 Chacon, #13 at 141 Lopez, and over Ben Miller who is ranked in the coach's poll. However, as the 5 seed in a bracket that takes 4, he’s going to have to wrestle his best to earn a bid or a wild card.
Swayz: I’m going with Jace Luchau to beat Marvel and then also upset Ryan Moore. Luchau was ranked in the top 10 at 152 by The Open Mat, Intermat, and the other place that doesn’t talk about non DI wrestling unless it is to collect our money on video feeds, so no need to give them free press here in a NAIA preview. Fargo Champ and DI transfer from Fresno State. I like Luchau of Cumberlands (KY).
JT#1: Wilder Wichman Thomas More
Portillo Bros: Will George Lindsey Wilson
Swayz: Wilder Wichman Thomas More
JT#1: Going with another Thomas More pick here, with All American Wilder Wichman.
Portillo Brothers: Will George, Lindsey Wilson. George has had two crazy matches with #13 Bailey Moore, including pinning him in two minutes at the Missouri Valley Invite. This weight takes 5 but even as the 6 seed, I can see George making it. After Wichman, this whole weight is wide open in the conference.
Swayz: I’ll not put up a big fight in this one. I like Wichman.
JT#1: Cole Smith Cumberland
Portillo Bros: Steven Lawrence Pikeville
Swayz: Shadrick Slone Campbellsville
JT#1: This is another one of those picks where you just can't go against the obvious. Strange things have happened before, but I'd bet the house on Cole Smith, NAIA champion of Cumberland winning 165 lbs.
Portillo Brothers: Steven Lawrence, Pikeville. I gotta go with my man Steven Lawrence here! He was an All-American for Grand View back in 2019. After a few years off, he’s giving it one last shot at Pikeville which is barely fielding half of a lineup. Yet he can win this bracket and make a deep run at nationals for Pikeville in their first season.
Swayz: Let me go a bit wild again. I’m going with Shadrick Slone of Campbellsville to revenge a loss to teammate Gavin Smith and then edging the defending National Champ Cole Smith. I anticipate Cole will come back though with a furious rage at Nationals and make the finals there though following this potential loss.
JT#1: Joe Koontz Lindsey Wilson
Portillo Bros: Michael Long Cumberland
Swayz: Joe Koontz Lindsey Wilson
JT#1: Going with Joe Koontz of Lindsey Wilson here at 174.
Portillo Brothers: Michael Long, Cumberland. He’s beaten Garrison, Parks, and Huber who are all in this bracket, plus #15 Cole Tenety.
Swayz: Swayz: This weight is screwy. TJ Huber of Cumberlands is ranked 8 th in the conference but has a win over #2 Cannan, Koontz has 1 loss and that was up a weight. He’s pretty much handled business. I think he handles business here too. Koonts- Champ.
JT#1: Harold Gilmore Cumberlands
Portillo Bros: Austin Antcliffe Cumberland
Swayz: Thomas Ketchem Carter
JT#1: Anxious to see if the Portillos end up going with Austin Antcliffe of Cumberland. I am going with Harold Gilmore of Cumberlands. He was a MSC runner-up last season. I was really hoping that the two would meet in the dual, but Cumberlands wrestled Thomas Ketchem instead of Gilmore. Ketchem ironically enough pinned Antcliffe, but I'm not seeing him listed in current information.
Portillo Brothers: Austin Antcliffe, Cumberland. His best win this season was over #16 Baron Gaunt
Swayz: I think Thomas Ketchen-Carter of Cumberlands is under the radar, mainly because of how few matches he has had between last year and this year. Fun stat though in all of his college wins he has collected nothing but bonus wins. I think he makes the finals, and so does Gilmore, with Gilmore winning by med fft.
JT#1: Grayson Stevens Campbellsville
Portillo Bros: Isaiah McDougal Midway
Swayz: Isaiah Reinert Lindsey Wilson
JT#1: Going with a Campbellsville Tiger on this one, Grayson Stevens.
Portillo Brothers: Isaiah McDougal, Midway. He started the year ranked and could find himself in the top 2 here to qualify for nationals.
Swayz: I’ll take Isaiah Reinert of LWC for this one. He initially committed to Bucknell after he place 7 the in PIAA’s AAA class as a junior. As a sophomore and senior he qualified as well. You don’t always see PA kids in NAIA, I’ll take a chance on Reinert (who was a RS last year at Lock Haven).
JT#1: Daulton Mayer Thomas More
Portillo Bros: Bryce Pierce Midway
Swayz: Bruce Wagers Rio Grande
JT#1: In my opinion the most competitive weight class in the MSC. Daulton Mayer of Thomas More who was 3rd at last year's MSC championships & 7th in the NAIA. Then we also have Carlos Figueroa Orando of Cumberlands, a two time NAIA qualifier, who was 2nd in the MSC. Last but certainly not least, River Henry of Cumberland. Mayer owns a 7-3 decision over CFO, while CFO needed a tiebreaker to get past Henry 3-2. A lot could happen at this weight, but going with Mayer.
Portillo Brothers: Byron Pierce, Midway. Pierce’s best win is a pin over #14 Noel Orozco. He’s the 4 seed but only lost by a point to 2 seed Figeuroa and in tiebreakers to 3 seed Henry.
Swayz: My biggest potential bracket buster, we have to go to RIO (like OHIO) as in Rio Grande. Bruce Wagers battles you to the near death if you are up for it, otherwise, he finishes you off fast. Either way he takes care of business, or makes you work for W. Wagers for the surprise win!