Wednesday, February 22, 2023

NCAA DIII Lower Midwest Regional Preview (Feb 24-25)


Thus far I've done my best to make sense out of the Southeast Regional, the Upper Midwest Regional & the Mideast Regional.  Well, you can throw sense to the wind. You can take logic, reason & rationality and flush them straight down the toilet. Cause now we're talking about the Lower Midwest Regional & here, it's pure pandemonium. If you haven't been convinced yet that 3 qualifiers per weight just simply isn't enough, you will be after you join me in a look at the Lower Midwest Regional. It's an absolute travesty, as Ithaca NCAA finalist Gino Marella would say, "a miscarriage of justice" that so many of these incredibly talented athletes will not be participating in the NCAA DIII tournament.  Join me as I do a weight by weight preview, trying my best to decipher who is in the fight for a top 3 finish. 

125 lbs 

*NOTE* - We'll start this off by saying that both North Central & Millikin have more than one wrestler at 125 lbs that as far as I'm concerned is NCAA DIII qualification material. North Central could just as easily go with Christian Guzman. Among his victories, a 12-9 decision over Coe's Cade Hornback. I do think though that Valtierrez will get the nod. 

*NOTE* -  Millikin could end up going with Thomas Russell. After all he was an All American last season (8th) but I'll tell you why I think they'll go with Zac Blasioli instead. Blasioli defeated Valtierrez 5-3, whereas Russell lost to him 10-0 major decision. Russell also has a 7-2 loss to James Levy of Wartburg. Blasioli by the way is 20-2, an NCAA DIII qualifier in 2020.  

Brady Koontz of Dubuque, the former Ohio State Buckeye, has thus far looked extremely sharp as a Spartan. 11-0 on the season, he has both a 12-3 & a 6-2 decision over Hornback. 

Levy is 13-5 on the season, a 5-0 decision over Dylan McChesney of Simpson (IA). 

Hornback is 20-7, with a 4-2 victory over Levy. 

McChesney a 5th place All American in 2021, 13-4, owns a 3-2 victory over Hornback. 

Will good kids be staying home from the D3's this year at 125? You betcha. Some very good kids. 

133 lbs 

Guarantees in the Lower Midwest Regional will be more rare than finding anyone named Sarah/Sara in Morocco, but among the very, very, very, very few that we will have, one is Robbie Precin of North Central winning a title at 133 lbs. The two time NCAA DIII finalist, who won the D3 title last year is currently 27-0, looking to keep that 0 in tact. 

His finals opponent? Joe Pins? Well, he actually doesn't pin all that much. He actually tech falls. 11-1 on the season, the Knight has 5 tech falls. I guess his middle name must be "Technically."  Joe "Technically" Pins. Makes sense to me.  3rd in the D3 nation in 2021 & 8th this past season, he's my pick for Lower Midwest Regional silver. 

141 lbs 

Another tough weight class & again only three will qualify for the NCAA DIII championships. 

2022 NCAA DIII runner-up Zayren Terukin, standing at 19-0 looks to be our champion. He has totally dominated within the conference having a 4:33 fall over Bryce Parke of Coe & a 10-1 major decision over Eric Kinkaid of Loras. As far as gold is concerned, consider it spoken for. 

As to silver and bronze? Bradley Rosen of North Central did earn a 4th place finish in 2021 when the DIII tournament was half mast & ran by the NWCA.  He's currently 27-10, with a 6-0 victory over Jordan Carson of Millikin. Carson, a Triton College transfer, is currently 23-8, with a 7-4 victory over Rosen. 

Park was R12 at last year's NCAA D3's, but he's had a pit of a struggle this year.  Kinkaid defeated him earlier 14-4.  Last but certainly not least in the hunt, Jake Dado of Ozarks who currently stands at 20-6. 

149 lbs 

This weight class is only taking 3? Only taking 3!?!?!?  If you want an example of a weight class where the 3 who will go to the D3 NCAA's will contend for All American honors & to be quite frank those who don't finish top 3, they too would have contended for All American honors...149 Lower Midwest Regional is your weight.  Let me explain....

*NOTE* - I really don't know who North Central is going with here.  Javen Estrada is 19-3, an NCAA DIII qualifier from last season & he stuck Riley Wright of Coe in 2:02.  Charlie Dojan, 14-2 on the season has a 7-5 victory over Peter McCusker of Millikin but he lost 19-4 technical fall to Clayton McDonough of Luther.  I'm guessing Estrada. 

Kristian Rumph of Wartburg  will enter the Lower Midwest Regional with only a 3-3 record. Yet keep a few things in mind.  First & foremost he's already a four time NCAA Division III qualifier & an NWCA runner-up in 2021, he was 5th at the D3's last year. Secondly of all, two of those three victories include a 9-4 decision over Wright & a 14-7 decision over Loras' Jalen Schropp. 

Robert Areyano of Coe is a three time NCAA DIII qualifier in his own right who carries a 10-4 record into the Regional. He owns a 15-9 decision over McCusker. 

McCusker at 24-5, was 6th the year of 2021 when the NWCA ran the national tournament for the teams that were able to attend.  At the same tournament, Wright, a two time D3 qualifier was 5th.  He owns both a 3-1 decision over Areyano & a 4-2 decision over McDonough. 

McDonough, 25-8, owns a 10-7 victory over Areyano. 

Lastly, Schropp, who is a favorite of mine due to the fact that I grew up playing baseball against his family & seeing them at wrestling tournaments all the way up through high school, was also 6th at the NWCA championships in 2021.  He owns both a 6-3 decision over Wright & a 6-2 decision over Areyano. 

Some have made the argument over the years that in many ways the Regionals can be as tough, if not in some cases tougher than the actual NCAA DIII tournament. If someone wants to make that argument about 149 lbs Lower Midwest Regional, I'd at least hear them out. 

157 lbs 

Three All Americans return at 157 lbs in the Lower Midwest Regional & I predict that all three qualify once again.  Zeke Smith of Loras an NWCA All American from 2021 & a D3 qualifier from last season currently stands at 11-0.  David Hollingsworth of Wartburg, a 2021 NWCA national champion & 6th in the D3 nation last season, is currently at 8-3.  North Central's Alex Villar, 4th in the D3 nation last season, is currently 21-3. 

165 lbs 

 There is no word for wrestling in the Spanish language. Instead they call it lucha libre, which literally transfers into "free for all."  Some would argue, "free fight."  Either way, I think it suits 165 lbs pretty well.  

*NOTE* - Loras has some very tough wrestlers on their team at both 157 & 165.  As noted above, I can't see Loras going with anyone other than Zeke Smith at 157.  As to 165, I'd think they'd go with Gabe Fiser.  Yet let me say this, I'm not sure if he's 57 or 65, but gotta put in a word for Dustin Bohren, who owns a 1:28 fall over Nathan Fuller of Wartburg. 

Will Esmoil of Coe , 4th in the D3 nation last year I would think is our forerunner for Lower Midwest Regional champion. 

Casey Allen 5th at the NWCA in 2021, is currently 13-1 with a 5-4 victory over Dejon Glaster of Millikin. 

Fullers only loss on the season is the one I just mentioned to Bohren. Other than that, he has 18 victories & one of them is 4-1 over Glaster. 

Cole Cervantes 21-8 on the season was 8th at the '21 NWCA.  He owns both a 9-2 decision over Marcus Mandler of Luther & a 6:15 fall over Glaster. 

Mandler owns a 2:27 fall over Esmoil. 

Fiser owns an 8-2 decision over Mandler. 

Glaster owns both a 9-7 s.v. over Cervantes & a 9-7 decision over Esmoil. 

Talk about an all out war to finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd....sheesh.  

174 lbs 

Runner up at the '21 NWCA & 4th in the nation last year, I'm very confident our champion here will be Wartburg's Zane Mulder. 18-1 on the season thus far, eight of his matches have been via fall or technical fall.  This includes a 15-0 tech over L.J. Richardson of Coe  & both a 9-3 decision as well as a 3:54 fall over Zeb Gnida of Loras. 

As to the fight for 2nd & 3rd? Gnida owns a 5-3 decision over Richardson, as Richardson owns a 6-3 decision over Gnida.  Then we also have Joey Jens of North Central who has defeated both Gnida (9-2) & Richardson (9-6). 

184 lbs 

29-1 on the season, the NWCA champion in 2021 & 4th in the D3 nation last season, Shane Liegel of Loras looks to win a Lower Midwest Regional title.  He'll have a challenge from Donovan Corn of Luther, whom he's beaten twice this season by scores of 7-1 & 5-3. Corn 4th at the NWCA in '21, was a match from away from All American honors last year. He owns both a 6-0 win over Tristan Westphal of Coe & an 11-8 decision over Payton Geigner of North Central who I believe will duke it out for 3rd. Westphal despite a couple of headscratcher losses, was an NCAA DIII qualifier last year & 8th at the '21 NWCA.  He owns a 5-1 victory over Geigner, who is 22-11 on the season. 

197 lbs 

Gage Linahon of Coe returns an NCAA DIII qualifier from last season, but with the competition ahead of him, it's gonna be a chore to make it back. Thus far this season he's been pinned in the first period by both Massoma Endene of Wartburg (0:35) & Austin Cooley of Schreiner (1:24).  He'll also have to contend with Jared Voss of Coe who is 17-6 on the season. Endene for the record has a 5-2 decision over Voss. 


Another very tough weight class.  Probably the one I'm excited about more than I am any other. "Big Nasty" Kaleb Reeves is from my hometown of Sigourney, Iowa & if he is to win an NCAA DIII title this year, he'd be the first to do so in the 60 years since wrestling was brought to our high school. 3rd at both the 2021 NWCA & the 2022 NCAA Division III's, he is currently 12-1 on the season, with 7 falls.  Among his notable victories within the Regional, a 4-0 decision over Cullen Quick of Luther & a 6-3 decision over Wyatt Wriedt of Loras. 

Quick 20-6 on the season, owns a 4-2 decision over Robby Bates of North Central. 

Bates who was 6th in the DIII nation last year, is 29-7, with a 1-0 victory over Ka'Ron Lewis of Ozarks. 

Lewis, 21-8 on the year, owns a 5-1 decision over Jack Haury of Huntingdon, who is 22-7. 

Wriedt an NCAA D3 qualifier in '20, won the NWCA national title in '21. He is 12-3 on the season. 

As I've said for many weight classes in the Lower Midwest Regional, a lot of talent & only three get to go to the NCAA Division III national tournament. 

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