Monday, February 20, 2023

JT#1's Notes, Thoughts & Observations for Final week of Regular 2022-2023 College Wrestling Season

 The 2022-2023 regular season of collegiate wrestling is done. All we have left are the post season tournaments which I have come to find out to some are the most important part of the season & to others the only important part of the season. This mentality has bothered me for years.  Nearly half a year of wrestling & the final 3 days of it seem to be the only of importance to so many. 

I found myself in some debate about certain issues revolving collegiate wrestling this weekend. One can try and keep a conversation cordial, civil & respectful but it doesn't mean all involved will follow in suit. I was given the impression that fans had been out of line & belligerent, but soon came to find out that the issue was more about someone voicing an opinion & being upset that not all responses resulted in, "I agree."  What the issue revolved around was varsity wrestlers not competing in duals & furthermore it not being noted ahead of time that a varsity wrestler would not be present. I agreed that personal issues, be them medical or otherwise, have a right to be kept private.  I agreed that things come up last minute & sometimes there are last second lineup changes. I agreed that a wrestler's health was of more importance than competing.  Where the disagreement came was that if known, it should be noted for fans & media that a wrestler will not be participating. No one is asking for details, but a simple courteous, "So & so will not be participating today" goes a long ways.  I also disagreed with the notion that if for example a #4 was scheduled to face a #7, that I as a fan should be as supportive & excited for a #4 Vs a backup.  Yes, wrestlers get injured, sick & deal with other issues. These things do happen. It's also a fact that Coaches do sit kids to protect potential seeds.  It's also a fact that year after year we have duals that on paper look to be fun, thrilling & exhilarating. Then when you see them on the mat, to be quite frank, they suck.  

I got some flack thrown at me, as well as accusations that are just plain and simply not true. I'm perfectly fine with Tony Rotondo finding an opportunity to take his shots, but I hope he realizes when he makes an accusation about me that has absolutely no truth to it whatsoever, I will set the record straight. He made the claim that I do not care about wrestling teams or their backups. I only care about star individuals.  I wrote preseason previews for every single team in the NAIA, NCAA DIII, DII & DI.  I also have written over the seasons, countless articles speaking in depth about backups.  Yes, when a dual advertises that I'm gonna see #11 Vs #17, #5 Vs #3 & #8 Vs #6, I do want to see those matches.  And yes, I will be upset, as I should be when those matches don't happen & I see the #'s Vs the B.U.'s instead. That doesn't mean that I don't care about backups & I'll let 9 years of articles via JT#1 speak for itself.  Tony Rotondo is a respected photographer that does phenomenal photography.  Yet, I'll say what I believe to be true. He's done mainly all DI events, with very few events covering other collegiate divisions of wrestling. I'm also of the impression that he's been paid, and paid well for every event that he's ever photographed. I do most everything I do for wrestling for next to nothing or for free. He does good work & I have no problem that he is compensated for the work that he does. However,  I'm not sure if he's one that should be pointing a finger at me, doubting my love & passion for the sport. 

As you can tell, I'm a very passionate person about this sport.  I can be just as passionate about those I love, admire & respect.  I did a "Pick em" contest with the Portillo Brothers & Aaron "Swayz" Sweazy for each of the NAIA qualifiers. What a joy it was to work with the three of them. I really hope that it has helped all three of them to get more recognition and grow as wrestling personalities. The Portillo Brothers are doing fantastic work, diligently covering the often overlooked and underappreciated divisions of collegiate wrestling. I want to see these guys succeed because they have a great product & on top of it, they are outstanding people.  Feel the same about Swayz, who seems to see all & know all about wrestling.  Everyone who loves wrestling should know who these three guys are & I do what I can to help spread the news. 

So circling back to the issue involving duals, it amazes me how wrestling seems to be the only sport that is in constant opposition with its fans. As things are currently, I don't think we're gonna find resolution. Things need to change in order to find moderation. I think a lot can come to an agreement that our current season is too long. We have too many competitions. It's difficult to stay healthy.  Is there really a reason to have as many duals as we do? To have as many opens? I think opens are a good thing in many ways, especially for the backups.  Yet, do we need as many as we have?  I think many of us can see the positive in shrinking the season down. Giving wrestlers more time to heal, get healthy & be at 100%.  What exactly what that look like? I have my own ideas.  I've expressed them before. for the actual wrestling that took place!! 

GPAC Showcases One of the Best NAIA Wrestlers of All Time, as Tournament Has Surprises  

The collegiate career of Baterdene Boldmaa of Doane is near an end. What a treat it has been to watch him wrestle. One more tournament of his career where he can end it as a four time NAIA champion. That's pretty special. 

I'd say the biggest surprise of the GPAC tournament had to be Alex Vandyke of Morningside upending Chinges Tsermaa of Doane in the 174 lbs finals.  Perhaps even more surprising was how Tsermaa's teammate, Michael Scarponi then challenged him for true-2nd, defeating Tsermaa, forcing him to rely on the benefit of a Wildcard. 

AAC Proves To Be Exciting NAIA Qualifier 

A lot of interesting things went down at the AAC this weekend. I said in our "Pick Em" contest that I felt Southeastern's Isaac Crowell had the ability to upset Brandon Orum of Life. He didn't, but what he did do was close the gap. He gave Orum a very tough 4-3 match. No doubt about it, it would be a darkhorse pick at this point, but I still feel Crowell at his best could be an NAIA national champion. 

It was also nice to see Andreus Bond of Southeastern close the gap with Brevin Balmaceda of Life.  Now 0-4 against the Runnin' Eagle, it was a much different outcome than it was the last time the two met. Earlier this season, Balmaceda won 10-0 major decision. This time, it was much closer as the match ended 1-0. 

I'd be interested to know what the circumstances were in the disqualification that took place in the HWT finals between Austin Harris of Life & Gage Braun of Southeastern. 

KCAC With Surprises Of Its Own 

Freddie Barajas of Saint Mary had a great tournament taking home the KCAC title at 133 lbs. Finished ahead of both Harley Williamson of York & Kolby Encinas of Oklahoma Wesleyan. 

Happy to see Chad Sakamoto punch a ticket to the NAIA championships with a 4th place finish. I think he could have won the matches he lost, but still a good performance. 

Lastly upon the conference, feel that HWT could use a Wildcard.  

Not a whole lot of opinions on the Mid-South Conference. From what I see it turned out qualifying mostly who I thought it would.  The one guy I really, really hope gets a Wildcard here is Steve Lawrence of Pikeville. Finished 5th in a bracket that takes the top 4.  

Like Mid-South, I feel Cascade for the most part, qualified who I thought would qualify for the NAIA's. My only disappointment was seeing Chris Gaxiola of Menlo finish in 4th place, in a bracket that auto-qualified the top 3.  Really hope to see him take a Wildcard. He's one that if he gets in to the national tournament & he gets hot, could earn All American honors. 

Grand View Owns Heart of America 

I had a feeling that Grand View would completely sweep the HOAAC & boy of boy did they. It's amazing to me how dominant they are. Life won 9 out of the 10 weight classes in the AAC, so I can see Life possibly making a challenge to GVU for the NAIA team title, but it'd take some luck. Grand View is just something else. 

Bedlam Part II 

I always appreciate how we get to see Oklahoma & Oklahoma State go at it twice per year. The first time the two teams met, it ended Oklahoma State 21 & Oklahoma 15. I really thought that the Sooners might give the Cowboys a better fight this go round, but it was nearly all Cowboys as the dual ended 26-6.  Really the difference for Oklahoma State here was turning close losses into close wins, & turning a decision into a major decision.  The first time Carter Young & Mosha Schwartz wrestled, it was a 8-6 victory for Schwartz. Young turned it into a 5-3 victory.  Mitch Moore defeated Victor Voinovich 3-1 s.v. in meeting one. Voinovich turned it into a 2-0 victory.  Kaden Gfeller who defeated Jacob Butler 7-1 in their first meeting, nearly tech'd Butler this time 14-3. 

Lot's of Happenings in Iowa State Vs Missouri 

The talk of the dual was David Carr's 7-2 handling of Keegan O'Toole, but as eventful as that was, there was so much more to discuss about this dual.  How about Rocky Elam's 4-0 handling of Yonger Bastida? Sam Schuyler's very nice 5-3 victory over Zach Elam.  What was most surprising to me? Brock Mauller pinning Paniro Johnson. 

ACC Ends Regular Season Duals 

The upcoming ACC championships strike me as the ones to have the most odd results out of all of the DI qualifiers that we'll soon be seeing.  There's just been so many close matches within the conference this year. Not to mention, we're probably gonna see some really strange upsets too.  Patrick McCormick of Virginia is a guy that interest me.  He's not looked hot as of late, recently losing a 8-1 decision to Eddie Ventresca, but there's something magical about the ACC's for him. Anxious to see if he'll pull that magic off again this season. 

Cal Poly Continues to Impress

Earlier this season the Mustangs pulled off a dual victory against Arizona State & this weekend they beat both Stanford & Oregon State. Am I at liberty to say I believe Cal Poly can win a PAC-12 title this year?  Everyone talked of Tinker's 0:58 fall over Peter Ming, but I think there were a lot of heroes in the dual against Stanford.  Ethan Rotondo nearly majoring Jackson DiSario 8-2. Lawrence Saenz fighting hard for the s.v. over Jason Miranda 4-3.  How about Legend Lamer going toe to to with Shane Griffith, holding the 2021 NCAA champ to a 2-0 decision?  Rotondo continued his winning ways with an impressive 6-1 victory over Jason Shaner Jr as Bernie Truax held off a tough Tanner Harvey 7-5 in the victory over Oregon State. I continue to be impressed with Cal Poly. 

Jonah Nisenbaum Continues to be the Face of Duke Wrestling 

I've written about him before this season, but I'm telling you, if you're not following the story of Jonah Nisenbaum you need to. He's stepped it up and been a leader of the Blue Devil wrestling team this year, often being the one shine of light for the program in a struggling season.  While NCAA DI is loaded perhaps more than it has ever been in general, what a story it would make if he were to earn All American honors. 

Emilio Ysaguirre, Where in The World Did You Come From? 

Entering the dual with Nebraska  with a record of 5-5, it's one thing to pull off a huge upset against a talent like Brock Hardy, but it's a completely different thing when you nearly major him 10-4! I was also impressed with Liam Cronin of Nebraska nearly majoring NCAA runner-up Brandon Courtney.  My oh my what a strange season of upsets & mishaps it has been. 

Iowa Looks Great Against Oklahoma State 

I really thought that with the way Oklahoma State took it to Oklahoma, that they'd give the Hawks a better match than what they did. Yet the Hawkeyes wrestled very smart winning a lot of the tossup matches.  Patrick Kennedy wrestled smart against Wyatt Sheets in a 7-4 victory.  Nelson Brands 3-2 over Dustin Plott. Abe Assad really picking it up & stepping it up a notch with an extremely impressive 4-2 victory over Wittlake. Warner awakening from his Slumber to get past Suber 4-0.  Woods just destroying Young 11-0.  Murin holding off Voinovich 4-3. Then Lee pinning Witcraft in only 51 seconds.  Highlights for the Cowboys included Fix proving why he's a three time finalist against Teske & Gfeller using patience to overcome Siebrecht 3-2 tiebreaker. 

I'm with most everyone else in the wrestling community saying I sure am gonna miss seeing Spencer Lee. In route to winning a BIG 10 title & his fourth NCAA title, I'll make a prediction that few will make.  I see he becomes the first four time champion to win a Gorriaran award. 

ISU Last Chance Open Worth a Discussion 

I saw how Michael DeAugustino got injured in the finals match at 125 lbs.  This is where the back and forth becomes a gray issue on the matter of competitions before the post season. Still got a ways to go before the BIG 10's. Hope it's enough time for him to heal up & be ready. 

Of all the brackets, I thought Julian Farber of Northern Iowa won a very tough one at 141 lbs. Finished ahead of Kyle Burwick of Nebraska, Jager Eisch of Minnesota and Evan Frost of Iowa State. 


Lastly I'll say that if I were ever asked to be on a certain podcast with a certain someone, I'd agree to it. It'd have to be under specific, controlled conditions. My camera to roll the footage would have to be allowed. I'm sure the response to those who read this and know what I'm referring to is that I'm not important enough of a figure to have on. I'm not gonna disagree with that. I'll argue that I'm not the nobody photoman tried to imply that I was earlier this weekend, but I also know my place in amateur wrestling media. I did have to legally file a 1099 for JT#1 in doing my taxes this year, but I still know among the giants, I am a pond compared to the oceans. Nevertheless my offer to be heard & to hear out is on the table. My drink of choice is white rum & Sprite. 

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