As Swayz, the Portillos & I have done for all of the other conferences in the NAIA, we will finish up with our picks for who we think will win each weight class in the Heart of American Athletic Conference.
*NOTE* - Keep in mind that Portillo's picks are purposefully sleepers. He wants to draw attention to overlooked underdog's who should have a great Heart of American Athletic Conference Tournament!
JT#1: Esco Walker Grand View
Portillo Bros: Devon Schoenberger Missouri Valley
Swayz: Esco Walker Grand View
JT#1: Let's get real. Who's touching 2022 NAIA champ Esco Walker of Grand View? No one.
Portillo Bros: Devon Schoenberger, Missouri Valley. This is a bit of a personal pick. After a decent Juco career he transferred to MoVal for the 2021 season and gave me one of the better matches of the year. He qualified for nationals that year but has had a bit of bad luck since then with injuries and such. He can throw the kitchen sink and could earn a spot back at nationals his senior year.
Swayz: Colton King is ranked 2 nd in this conference and is very scrappy. I think what helps him
come out the gates firing and upsetting folks is he was a 106 lb state Champion in 2020 for MO
Powerhouse DeSmet. I think the semi with him and Bradley of Mo Valley will be fun, but will take too much out of either and Walker will walk to the title: Esco Walker champ.
JT#1: Carson Taylor Grand View
Portillo Bros: Hayden Williams Missouri Valley
Swayz: Joseph Lupton Graceland
JT#1: I know Grand View is going into this tournament thinking that they might go 10/10. I think that is a possibility but here at 133 lbs, I think we could possibly have challenge. Carson Taylor has been 2nd & 3rd in the last two NAIA championships. Joseph Lupton of Graceland was 4th. Still going with Taylor as my pick, but wouldn't count out Lupton.
Portillo Bros: Hayden Williams, Missouri Valley. Williams is another MoVal guy with a fun story. The Oklahoma native started at Missouri Valley, transferred near home to Oklahoma City, but then actually transferred back to Missouri Valley. One of his best wins this year was over national qualifier Dillon Witt by tech fall.
Swayz: Grand View has a lot of guys ranked 1 in the conference, doesn’t mean they will enter
them though. I can see them doubling up at HWT for some near guaranteed AA’s. I think this is a
challenging weight. I’m going to have Lupton as my champ in a squeaker.
JT#1: Shea Ruffridge Grand View
Portillo Bros: Dante Venema Dickinson State
Swayz: It's a Mystery Guess!!
JT#1: Going with Shea Ruffridge of Grand View but I am anxious to see how Jackson Wenberg of Graceland fares against him in the finals (should he make the finals of course).
Portillo Bros: Dante Venema, Dickinson State. Venema has long been one of the leaders of the Dickinson State wrestling team. He has a win from last year over my sleeper pick at 149, Tyler Okada.
Swayz: (will get back to us on his pick....)
JT#1: Blake Gonzalez Grand View
Portillo Bros: Tyler Okada Waldorf
Swayz: Steven Weathers Missouri Baptist
JT#1: Going with Blake Gonzalez of Grand View
Portillo Bros: Tyler Okada, Waldorf. Last year he got a wildcard to qualify for nationals at 141. Now up a weight, he earned his weight an automatic bid in the conference, but could place even higher.
Swayz: Man…I’m juggling the top 3 ranked at this weight. Being from Kansas I could go with
Koelzer who has a 1-0 match with Gonzales in the semis of the Doane Open , but I’m going with
Weathers…he qualified out of the AMC last year when at MO Bap, and found the podium there. He has more irons sharpening him this year in the Mo Valley room which makes him dangerous. I’ll gamble and go with Weathers.
JT#1: Giovanny Bonilla of Grand View
JT#1: Giovanny Bonilla Grand View
Portillo Bros: Diego Machado St Ambros
Swayz: Giovanny Bonilla Grand View
Portillo Bros: Diego Machado, St. Ambrose. Machado’s best wins this season are over Missouri Valley Invitational Champion Dylan Whitt of Grand View by major decision and over 2x national qualifier Thade Radosa of Cornerstone. This is the deepest weight in the conference for sure, as evidenced by Machado’s 9 seed.
Swayz : Bonilla healthy is Bonilla scary. He likes to score, his opponents like to slow him down.
The only time I’ve ever seen him look vulnerable was when he basically was wrestling a gutsy finals on 1 leg. Bonilla is going to light this bracket on fire as he has 5 TF in his last 6 wins, with the lone outlier being an 8-0 mdec.
JT#1: Marty Margolis Grand View
Portillo Bros: Jayden Terronez St. Ambrose
Swayz: Marty Margolis Grand View
JT#1: Marty Margolis of Grand View has been 3rd & 2nd in the past two NAIA championships. I think he's poised to make a run at the title this year. As far as Heart of America? Maybe Joey Hancock of Baker might give him a decent match, but other than that, I say he runs through this tournament.
Portillo Bros: Jayden Terronez, St. Ambrose. The transfer from Grand View was one of St. Ambrose’s first national qualifiers last year. This year, he has big wins over The Open Mat’s #15 Bridger Hall, 2022 NAIA qualifier Jalon Strong, and a pin over Juco stud Cole Price.
Swayz: The 3rd best guy at this weight lost in a dual by fall in 49 seconds to a wrestler not even in the 12 man roster submitted for regional consideration by Grand View (but hell, the guy that beat him might not even be in the top 15 in the room at G V). This is a Marty party. Margolis wins.
JT#1: Isaiah Luellen won a HOAAC title last season for Baker as he took 3rd at the NAIA's. This year, he'll win one for Grand View.
Portillo Bros: Joey Ewalt, Baker. At 184 last year, Ewalt made Blood Round at nationals. The one seed here, Luellen, was teammates with Ewalt before transferring from Baker, so familiarity may be a factor.
Swayz I think with Cody Garcia leaving Baker to become head at Central Missouri, this opened up Luellen moving up to GV. It will pay dividends as he has hammers above and below him in the room including former NAIA runner up from Midland (Tyson Beauperthy who is not in the 12 either for GV). Luellen comes out on top of this bracket easily. By the way the reason G V is so good in part…buy in and battle it out, you aren’t seen guys hit the portal if an All-American is recruited in, they embrace the potential of an ass-whooping. LOVE IT.
JT#1: Ben Lee Grand View
Portillo Bros: Brett Bober Baker
Swayz: Ben Lee Grand View
JT#1: Ben Lee is in the exact same boat as teammate Margolis. 3rd in 2021 & 2nd in 2022 he ranks among the best yet to win an NAIA title. I think he'll win the Heart without much of a fuss. The only person I can see here giving him any trouble at all would be Brett Bober of Baker.
Portillo Bros: Brett Bober, Baker. Another Baker blood rounder, Bober beat pound-for-pound #20 J.D. Perez of Ottawa to start the year. I don’t expect him to avenge his tech fall loss to 1 seed Lee here but he should close the gap if he can avoid being turned.
Swayz Ben Lee by inifinity. He won by TF 15-0 vs. Bober this year. The aforementioned
Beauperthy also dispatched Bober in 40 seconds. Ben Lee wins.
JT#1: Owen Braungardt Grand View
Portillo Bros: Elijah Hynes Central Methodist
Swayz: Garavous Kouekabakilaho Grand View
JT#1: 3rd in 2020 & 5th last season, Owen Braungardt I would say for as stacked as 197 is in the NAIA, is still a title contender. Here in the HOAAC, he should pick up a title without much problem.
Portillo Bros: Elijah Hynes, Central Methodist. Hynes has a great win over TOM’s #19 Levi’s Rodriguez and took #4 in the nation Karibo, the 3 seed into overtime.
Swayz Grandview vs. Grandview final here. I have Kouekabakilaho over Braungardt when they go out to decide the winner and each has to correctly spell the other’s last name. NO BRAINER!
JT#1: Greg Hagan Grand View
Portillo Bros: David Toese Graceland
Swayz: Greg Hagan Grand View
JT#1: Here's where my heart and my head are at war. I'm a huge Josh Isaac fan. Love watching the big guy who moves like a little guy out on the mat. He's been 5th & 8th in the NAIA championships & I think as far as talent & ability are concerned, the sky's the limit. On the same hand though, you can't ignore history and results. Greg Hagan of Grand View, was the NAIA runner-up last season. It's not logical or rational to pick Isaac at this point, even though I so badly want to. I'd love to see that upset & for him to go into the NAIA's with the attitude that he CAN win a national title. Like I said earlier, GVU looks to completely sweep the Heart this year. It'll take upsets for anyone else to bring home gold plated plaques.
Portillo Bros: David Toese, Graceland. Just look at this celebration, not much more needs to be said. https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cnig7d8K_Gc/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y= Conference is at home for Toese so he is sure to have a good crowd rooting for him to make nationals his senior year.
Swayz Last year I believe a huge turning point for Greg Hagan was getting humiliated by DII stud Lee Herrington whose physicality vs Hagan had us that watched that dual in disbelief at how Hagan was being picked apart (this was a key match too right before the Portillo Brothers put on a show vs. each other). Hagan got revenge this year with a fall in 2:16 over then #1 DII ranked Herrington. Hagan has injury defaulted before on the season, but I’m assuming he wrestles in the finals and claims the W. Teammates could meet up in the semis for Mo Val, so be interesting to see what develops there. I’ve seen schools default one guy in and let the other battle back to qualify before not ruling it out, but will stick with Hagan.