I have been writing up "Best to Not Qualify for NCAA DI" articles since the 2003-2004 season. Funny, I can still remember being passionate about J.P. Reese of Missouri & Ronnie Delk of Oklahoma State being left out. That was 19 years ago. In the nearly two decades I have been writing about this particular topic, it has never challenged me as much as it is this particular season.
In terms of qualification, I have never seen a more competitive season than I have this year. 2022-2023 has seen more quality wrestlers finish outside of the top 33 per weight class than any other. When I first did a count I came up with over 70 names. Then I narrowed it down by asking myself a few questions. What criteria counts? What criteria doesn't?
For one I think it's ridiculous to list names of those who weren't a part of the process. For example, Richard Figueroa of Arizona State. Yes, he's a great wrestler. Was a CKLV champ earlier this year...BUT...it makes no sense to put him on a list like this, because at the PAC-12 championships, Arizona State's starter was Brandon Courtney. So on this list you will not find backups or redshirts. When I say, "best not to qualify" I am specifically speaking to those who DID try and qualify & failed to do so.
This goes for those who were injured as well. Breaks my heart that Malik Heinselman of Ohio State didn't get to compete in his final BIG 10 tournament & make a shot at being an All American. Nonetheless, he was injured and didn't participate.
Lastly, I also gotta find reasons from THIS SEASON to put someone on my list. Dazjon Casto of Pittsburgh had a phenomenal run last year, finishing out one match shy of placing at the NCAA's with a win over Austin O'Connor of North Carolina. This year? A 6-9 record. Same can be said about Jake Keating of Virginia. A two time NCAA qualifier, but this year, 7-10 record & his best win was over Casto. So I don't feel right or fair putting him on this list.
Can't say you'll agree with all of my picks. Can't say that there are some on my list that you wouldn't leave off or some not on my list that you would include. Nonetheless, I feel verified and justified in my picks & here they are.....
3rd in the MAC championships, in a conference that took the top two. Blake West of Northern Illinois went 249-9 on the season with some impressive wins on the season. The most impressive? A 7-2 decision over Northwestern All American Michael DeAugustino.
|Markel Baker |
Finishing right behind West in 4th place at the MAC is Markel Baker of George Mason. A tough wrestler who went 27-12 on the season. Owns an 8-5 win over NCAA qualifier Nick Babin of Columbia.
Any other season other than this one I feel a guy like Kase Mauger would have made the cut. Two guys who finished below him at the BIG 12's got to go, while his 7th place finish wasn't enough. Still has plenty of time left within his career to make his mark. On the season stuck BIG 12 champ Stevo Poulin of Northern Colorado at 4:39 & stuck qualifier Tanner Jordan of SDSU at 3:50.
|Tristan Lujan |
Lujan was plain and simple as victim of being in an incredibly stacked BIG 10 bracket. It truly is that simple. On the season he won a Navy Classic title & he had wins over NCAA qualifiers Tucker Owens of Air Force & Jore Volk of Wyoming.
Split time with a tough Jaret Lane in the lineup & in partial that might have hampered him in his chances at getting an at large/wildcard bid. Don't know for sure if it did but what I will say is this. He finished 7th at the EIWA's with the conference taking the top 6. A 10-11 record on the season. Give him the 10 matches Lane wrestled, I think realistically he finishes at 18-13. As fiercely competitive as it was, still don't know if that would have gotten him in, but it does make me wonder. For the record he did defeat NCAA qualifier Joey Prata of Oklahoma earlier this season.
As to the other 125'ers that could possibly have made the list....
Joey Fischer of Clarion? 5th in the MAC this year, he was an MAC runner-up last season. He does own a 3-1 victory over this year's MAC runner-up Jake Ferri of Kent State.
20-11 on the season, Oakley simply didn't have a good SOCON & that like Clarissa, explains it all. A tight 4-3 loss to eventual champ Brayden Palmer of UT-Chattanooga who he beat earlier 5-2. Then a 6-3 loss to Domenic Zaccone of Campbell who defeated earlier 3-1 s.v. Only a freshman, plenty of time left for Oakley to do big things.
This one just makes you hurt all over. A four time NCAA qualifier, who finished 7th in the nation in 2019 & this year he doesn't even make the dance. Some things about this sport just plain and simple aren't right & this is one of them. No, he didn't have the best of seasons, but he still had some highlights. He majored Dylan Ragusin of Michigan & he also beat two more NCAA qualifiers. Jake Maida of American 8-3 & Kurt Phipps of Bucknell 5-4.
|Hunter Adrian |
Let's be honest with ourselves. Brown Bear wrestling needs a breath of fresh air breathed within it & in many ways Hunter Adrian has done that for the program. I was really hoping that it'd result in NCAA qualification, but it didn't. Nonetheless, still a lot on the season to be proud of. A 7th place medal earned at the Midlands he had wins over NCAA qualifiers Ben Ferretti of Navy, Taylor LaMont of Wisconsin & Angelo Rini of Columbia.
Debated on adding Richie Koehler of Rider to the list of 133'ers. Do you or do you not? 11-10 on the season, no wins really stick out but he is a two time NCAA qualifier. Richard Treanor of Army? Losing record but he did stick PAC-12 runner-up Jason Shaner Jr in 7:00.
This is twice now that they've left Darren Miller of Bucknell home when I thought that they would take him. 6th in the EIWA in a bracket that took 5. He was also 6th at the Southern Scuffle. 2-0 over Matt Kazimir of Columbia, 4-2 of Malyke Hines of Lehigh & 5-3 over Josh Koderhandt of Navy. I think he made his case but somehow or another the jury just didn't rule in his favor.
This is more so looking at a career than it is looking at just this season, so perhaps I'm breaking my own rules. Can't help it. Caleb Rea reminds me a lot of a wrestler from years past that I always enjoyed watching. Dustin Walraven of South Dakota State, ironically enough another 141 lbs'er. He took never did make the big dance, being put on the list of best to never qualify for the NCAA's. Rea always had his moments every year. This year in a 14-7 record, it was defeating eventual MAC champ Seth Koleno of Clarion 10-6. Rea was 5th at the MAC.
22-7 on the season, Zach Price of Gardner Webb missed out on NCAA qualification by losing a heartbreaking tiebreaker in the SOCON conference finals. He was NCAA R12 in 2021.
I'll say for Greenwood what I said about Phillips up above. Consistency is his #1 adversary & it is a matter of overcoming it. Guy has the tools. I mean he proved that with a 4-3 win over NCAA qualifier Carter Young of Oklahoma State & an 8-6 victory over PAC-12 champ Cleveland Belton of Oregon State. It's stringing wins together at the right place at the right time that is the issue.
|Dylan Drogemueller |
North Dakota State
After hearing photoman say the word "Flu" about 100 times at the World Team Trials in Wisconsin a few years back, I'm not too keen on pointing a finger towards being under the weather. Yet I can't help but wonder if that was the case for Dylan Drogemueller at the BIG 12's this past weekend. He just did not look like himself at all. In fact he hasn't for a while. When this guy wants to be, he can be down right tough. Down right tough as in getting on top of Nebraska's Brock Hardy & damn near majoring the BIG 10 runner-up 10-4. He also finished 5th at the Southern Scuffle.
Too little, too late. Most of us up until only a couple of weeks ago had no idea who Emilio Ysaguirre was. He pretty much came out of nowhere to defeat Brock Hardy of Nebraska 10-4. Makes one wonder just how good this guy really is. Hopefully next season, we find out.
Here's another guy I feel made a strong case at 141 lbs. 14-7 on the season, had quite a few notable wins. 3-1 over Carmen Ferrante of Penn, 2-1 t.b. over Dylan D'Emilio of Ohio State, 3-1 over Cole Mattin of Michigan & 2-1 over Kal Miller of Maryland. I guess in the end, it really comes down to the fact that there are only 33 spots available & a heck of a lot more than 33 wrestlers within contention.
Julian Sanchez of Army? Do you add him in at 141? A 13-11 record that includes a 6-4 win over Matt Kazimir of Columbia.
Another true heartbreaker. Three time NCAA qualifier, Dom Demas was 4th as a freshman all the way back in 2019 & was one match shy of a second AA honor in 2021. After a disappointing end to his career at Oklahoma, found a new home & hope at Cal Poly. A 5-2 win on the season over BIG 10 runner-up Michael Blockhus of Minnesota. Unfortunately not enough to make to to his fourth NCAA.
|Kody Komara |
20-13 on the season, a 4-3 win over Alec Hagan of Ohio. I think we gotta include last year's MAC champ, who was 3rd in a tough Navy Classic this year.
Feelings on 149 I think end here for me. Maybe add in Max Brignola of Lehigh? He was 6th at the Midlands.
Here's a guy that just gets down right tough a lot of times when he needs to & rarely gets the credit or recognition for it. Lost in s.v. to the eventual MAC champ & then lost another hard fought, close match in the match to qualify. Was 12-5 on the season.
Marcus Robinson of Cleveland State was able to make some magic happen at both the 2021 & 2022 MAC tournaments, but he wasn't able to make it happen this season. Did own a 3-1 victory MAC champ Peter Papas of George Mason on the season though. Has another year left too.
Others at 157? Some might add Andrew Cerniglia of Navy. I debated whether to or not. A two time NCAA qualifier, he seemed to miss a lot of this season. 8-7 on the year. Trevor Tarsi of Harvard? He's one that I'm surprised never did make the NCAA tournament during his career. A 3-2 win over Corbyn Munson of Central Michigan on the year.
This ended up being so long, I decided that it best to break it up into two parts.
165 though HWT coming soon!