Sunday, March 5, 2023

IF NCAA DIII Had Wildcards....JT#1's Picks

 It's no secret to anyone that most DIII wrestlers, DIII coaches & DIII wrestling fans believe that 18 qualifiers for the NCAA DIII championships plain & simple just isn't enough. Arguments over how many it should be varies, but most of us want to see more qualifiers.  Would the thing to do be to simply have more allocations? Or would we be better off to have a wildcard system?  Opinions again vary.  

What I have done now is simply used my imagination to try and determine who the wildcards would be if indeed NCAA DIII had a wildcard/at large selection process.  My thinking here is six.  18 earned allocations with 6 wildcards that would make the tournament a 24 man bracket.  

I ask for a favor as you read this.  Please realize this is subjective.  I realize that my picks my not necessarily be your picks. You may be angered that I chose so & so over so & so.  I don't think I could come up with any list that would make everyone happy.  These are simply my picks & why I'd pick them if each weight class had 6 wildcards.  


JT#1's 125 Picks

If we did have a selection process of picking six wildcard entries for the 2023 NCAA DIII championships, I don't know who in their right mind could leave out Riley Parker of Washington & Lee.  If anyone makes the case for "best not to qualify at 125 lbs in '23" it is, no question about it Parker.  6th in the DIII nation last year, he's done plenty this season to justify the claim. An ODAC champ he defeated BOTH Mideast Regional champion Terry Adams of Ursinus & Southeast Regional Champion Mason Barrett twice!! A 6-1 & 5-3 decisions over Adams & 4-0 & 3-1 s.v. decisions over Barrett.  He was 4th in the Southeast Regional just barely missing out on qualification. 

Jack Stanley of Mount Union would be another pick for me. The two time NCAA DIII qualifier was R12 in last year's championships.  At the Central Regional he lost two heartbreaking sudden victory matches to finish one match shy of another qualification.  4th in the Pete Willson Invitational, he owns an 8-6 s.v. over qualifier Brandon Murphy of UW-La Crosse. 

Jacke Thode of Centenary is someone I feel might challenge for the DIII title before his collegiate career is all said an done.  He took 5th at the Mideast Regional giving champ Adams all he could handle in a 5-4 decision.  On the season he also had victories of Mideast Regional runner-up Joey Lamparelli of Muhlenberg as well as Southeast Regional Runner-up Jacob Blair of Delaware Valley. 

Derek Steel was an NCAA DIII qualifier last season.  For the record he owns a 6-4 decision over another one of my picks James Levy of Wartburgh.  He also owns a 3-2 decision over Brandon Murphy of UW-La Crosse who defeated him in the qualifying match at the Upper Midwest Regional. 

Cade Hornbeck of Coe is another tough hombre that barely missed out on qualification this season. 4th in the Lower Midwest Regional he had tough losses to both 3rd place Brady Koontz of Dubuque as well as runner-up Zac Blasioli of Millikin.  Further testimony as to why he's one of my six is a 4-2 s.v. over Luc Valdez of UW-Oshkosh, the Upper Midwest regional runner-up.  For the record, he also owns a 7-5 s.v. over Levy. 

Last but not least, Levy.  The Knight was 5th at the Lower Midwest Regional but has some impressive wins on the season. This includes sticking Central Regional runner-up James Day of Wabash in 3:33 & nearly majoring NCAA DIII qualifier Brandon Murphy of UW-La Crosse 7-1. 

133 lbs JT#1's Picks 

I'm not sure how much stock you want to put into it, but for what it's worth the year that the NWCA ran the show (2021) Coe's Alex Friddle went undefeated and won a national title.  Let's also keep in mind that in his regional he had Robbie Precin of North Central who going into the NCAA DIII's this weekend  a returning champion with a current record of 116-2.  Friddle's other loss in the consolation finals was to Joey Pins of Wartburg a two time D3 All American in his own right by a score of 8-7.  Tough rocks as some would call it, perhaps better testimony is Friddle's 9-6 decision over Mideast Regional Champ Jayden Cardenas of Cortland.   He also owns both an 8-4 & 8-2 decision over another one of my top 6 Wildcard selections, Trevor Boryla of Augustana (Ill). 

Gianni Manginelli in my opinion simply had a bad Regional.  In a situation where you can only afford to lose once, it makes the Regional a rather stressful event. He entered the tournament with a 20-1 record & unfortunately finished in 4th place. Still a Hell of an accomplishment in a tough regional, but not a qualification spot. He has wins over two of my other picks Wilson Gomes of Bridgewater State (9-5) & Anthony Romero of Oneonta (8-2). 

Kyle Nase of TCNJ was 5th at the Mideast Regional.  What really sticks out to me for him is a 9-6 victory over southeast regional champion Nico Diaz of Stevens. 

Romero, 4th in the Mideast Regional owns an 8-3 decision on Cody Merwin of Cortland who qualified at 125 lbs. 

Gomes 4th in the Northeast Regional owns a 12-7 victory over Danny Haws of Centenary, a 2023 NCAA qualifier. 

My final pick here is Boryla who impressed me twice this season by capturing 3rd at DIII's toughest in-season tournament the Pete Willson Invitational & by taking 2nd at the CCIW. 

JT#1's 141 lbs picks 

4th in the Upper Midwest Regional & 5th at the Pete Willson Invitational I think it'd be really hard for anyone to leave Dakarai Clay of UW-Whitewater off of their list of six if this were real and this were being voted on.  He majored Lower Midwest champ Bradley Rosen of North Central early this season 15-5.  He also owns two victories over 2023 NCAA qualifier Evan Burge of Wabash (10-9 & 4:24). If that's not enough for you, how about the fact that he wrestled NCAA DI champion hopeful Cole Matthews of Pittsburgh to a 4-3 decision? 

Luis Hernandez of Ithaca is another one of my picks. An NCAA DIII qualifier last season, he was 4th in the Mideast Regional & he owns both a 7-4 as well as a 13-8 victory over Johnson & Wales Northeast Regional champion Victor Perlleshi. 

Joseph Parsons of Springfield was 4th at the Northeast Regional.  He had an earlier season win over Perlleshi 4-2 & then was barely edged by him 2-1 in the semi-finals. He also owns a 3-1 s.v. over Central Reginal runner-up Zach Anderson of Baldwin Wallace. 

Jake Dado of Ozarks was 4th at the Lower Midwest Regional. Also a runner-up at Pete Willson, both of his losses at the Regional were exceptionally close. He also owns a victory over another of my picks, Pierre Baldwin of Central, 5th at the Lower Midwest Regional. He owns a 10-5 victory over Clay. 

I know I'll catch some heat for my 6th pick, but I'm ok with that.  He was recently 6th in the Lower Midwest Regional & he was also 6th at Pete Willson.  I'm talking about Jordan Carson of Millikin who on the season defeated both Rosen (7-4) as well as Perlleshi (3-1). 

JT#1's 149 Picks 

Chicago's Ryan Fleck is one of two returning 2022 NCAA DIII All Americans at 149 lbs who did not make the 2023 NCAA championships. 5th at the Upper Midwest Regional & 4th at the Pete Willson Invite, he was 6th in the D3 nation last season.  He owns an 8-2 victory over Angelo Centrone of Cortland, another of my picks. 

Another 2022 DIII All American to not make it to the dance this season is Mike Conklin of TCNJ. 8th in the D3 nation last season, he was 5th at the Mideast Regional.  This season wins including defeating both the Southeast Regional Champ Hunter Guttierrez of Stevens (3-2) as well as the runner-up Hai Siu of Averett (Fall 4:19). 

Zach Sato of UW-Eau Claire had a very nice season this year, that unfortunately didn't result in a second NCAA qualification.  4th at the Upper Midwest Regional he was 2nd at the Pete Willson Invitational as well as 3rd at the WIAC championships.  Owner of a 15-0 technical fall over Guttierrez, he dropped a heartbreaking 9-7 decision to miss out on a '23 Q. 

A 2022 NCAA DIII qualifier, Jersey City's Jeff Johnson actually entered the Mideast Regional with an undefeated 16-0 record (you can count an injury default if you want, I'm not).  A 14-6 major over Angelo Centrone of Cortland (another of my picks) & a 5-2 decision over Conklin, he then dropped a tight 3-2 decision to eventual runner-up Matt Beyer of Ithaca. He had to Medical Forfeit to 6th place. 

A.J. Pagliarulo of USCGA put together a very respectable 20-6 record this year. 3rd during the 2021 NWCA, he is another of my picks. 

Lastly is Centrone who was 4th at the Mideast Reginal & 5th at the Pete Willson Invite.  A 10-7 decision over Conklin, nearly all of his losses this season were to D3 qualifiers. 

JT#1's Picks 157 lbs 

4th at the Southeast Regional, Jared Bair of York (PA) has both a 9-2 decision over Central Regional runner-up Thomas West of Baldwin Wallace & a 2-0 decision over 2023 NCAA qualifier Peter Kane of Williams. 

Nathan Callaway of Millikin was 4th at the Lower Midwest Regional, he owns a 2-1 decision over UW-Platteville 2023 NCAA qualifier Aiden Broskinski. 

Bryce McDonough, 32-9 on the season & 5th at the Lower Midwest Regional also owns a 3-1 decision over Brokinski. 

Joe Chapman of of the Coast Guard was an NCAA DIII qualifier last season & he was 5th at the Northeast Regional. 

Dorian Gonzalez of Elizabethtown was 4th at the Mideast Regional, he owns a 9-6 decision over Chapman. 

Jack O'Donnell of Concordia (WIS) was 8th at the NWCA in 2021 & 4th at the Upper Midwest Regional. 

JT#1's Picks at 165 

Might get a little rebuttal for my picks at 165.  While I felt strong about picks 125 through 149 & fairly strong about 157, I had a harder time deciding at 165.  Here's who I went with....

I think Brandon Peckham of UW-Stevens Point would be worthy of one of the six wildcards.  A 4-3 decision over Central Regional champion Jordan Hardrick of Ohio Northern, he also has a 1-0 victory over '23 NCAA DIII qualifier Ryan Whitten of Otterbein.  3rd at Pete Willson, he also beat another of my picks Ryan Vedner of UW-Whitewater twice this season 3-2 & 3-1 s.v. 

Vedner, 4th at the Upper Midwest Regional sticks out to me for various reasons.  6-4 s.v. & 3-2 decisions over Lower Midwest Regional champion Gabe Fiser of Loras for starters. He also owns a victory over '23 D3 qualifier Michael Angers of Castleton & a 5-1 victory over Peckham.  Not to mention both a 4-3 & 5-1 decision over another of my picks, Dorian Estevez of Chicago. 

Now some are gonna have a problem with my pick of Estevez because he took 8th at the Upper Midwest Regional. Keep in mind Regional showings are only a part of my picks, they aren't the only criteria that I'm using.  Secondly of all, his 8th place showing was due to medical forfeits.  If someone is injured, I don't hold that against them.  8th in the D3 nation last season, Estevez owns a 2-1 decision over Northeast Regional runner-up Cooper Pontelandolfo of NYU.  He also owns a 3-2 tiebreaker over Peckham. 

Probably gonna get some flack for having Travis Jones of Ithaca on this list as well. He's a strange case.  He spent nearly the entire season at 157 & then right at the end moves up to 165.  5th at the Mideast Regional, he was an NCAA DIII qualifier in both '20 & '22. 

Casey Allen of Cornell (IA) was 5th at the Lower Midwest Regional & he was also 5th at the NWCA in 2021. 

Lastly Alex LaVeck of McDaniel who was 4th at the Mideast Regional. 

JT#1's Picks 174 lbs 

Joey Jens of North Central put together a pretty respectable record this season & what sticks out on it most is a 9-6 victory over Lower Midwest Regional runner-up L.J. Richardson of Coe.  He also owns a 5-2 decision over another of my picks, Zeb Gnida of Loras. 

Jason Geyer of NYU put together a 32-3 overall record this season. Two of his only losses happened at the Northeast Regional where he took 4th place. An NCAA D3 qualifier last season, he owns a 5-0 victory over Kade Kravits of King's, who I'll mention next. 

Kravits also an NCAA qualifier last season, was 4th at the Southeast Regional. 

Rounding out my picks via 174 lbs, Gnida who was 5th at the Lower Midwest Regional, Luke Silva of Auroa 4th at the Upper Midwest Regional & Eddie Williams of York (PA) 4th at the Central Regional. 

JT#1's Picks 184 lbs 

Opinions vary, but I find it hard to believe that if there really were a committee deciding on wildcard picks that anyone would leave off Frank Medina of Stevens. 4th at the Southeast Regional, he has wins on both the Southeast Regional champ Isaac Kassis of Alvernia (3-1) as well as the runner up Cameron Blizzard of Washington & Lee (9-3).  He also owns a 10-8 decision over Kalyn Jahn of UW-La Crosse a '23 DIII qualifier. 

Another pick for me here is Sean Malenfant of Alfred State. 5th in the Mideast Regional, he owns a 7-4 decision over Mideast Regional champ Colby Giroux of RIT. 

20-4 on the season Gary Nagle of Ursinus finished 4th at the Mideast Regional.  He owns a 1:32 fall over '23 DIII qualifier Jack Ryan of Oneonta. 

Cole Shaughnessy of Roger Williams owns a 3-1 decision over Castleton '23 D3 Qualifier Sampson Wilkins. He also owns a 9-5 decision over Scott DuPont of NYU, another of my picks. DuPont was 4th at the Northeast Regional. 

Rounding out my six picks is Owen McDaniel of Albion who was 4th at the Central Regional. 

JT#1's 197 lbs Picks 

197 lbs was the toughest weight for me to narrow down to six. Lots of arguments can be made for lots of wrestlers at this weight. It was a matter of what holds more weight? What trumps what? There are other names I can think of that would make justifiable arguments as well.  As to who I chose....

I really thought that Austin Cooley of Schreiner could have been an All American this season. Instead he finished 4th at the Lower Midwest Regional & will now either stay home or watch from the stands. 20-4 on the season he owns a 1:24 fall over Gage Linahon of Central a Lower Midwest Regional runner-up & an 8-6 victory over '23 D3 qualifier Parker Venz of Augsburg. 

Find it hard to not go with Jaedyn Harris of McDaniel. 4th at the Mideast Regional he was 30-7 overall on the season. A 3-1 decision over Alvernia '23 D3 Qualifier Mauro Pellot of Alvernia, he also has falls over two of my other picks Gable Crebs of Lycoming (1:47) & Cameron Butka of Wilkes (8:23). 

Butka did avenge his LBF to Harris with an 8-6 s.v. decision.  4th in the Southeast Regional he also owns a 3-2 decision over '23 D3 qualifier Josh Harkless of RIT.  

Gunnar Garriques of Chicago moved down to 197 after wrestling the start of the season at HWT.  While at the second biggest weight class in collegiate wrestling he went 15-5 & for the most part most of his losses made sense.  5th in the Upper Midwest Regional. 

Crebs was 7th in the DIII nation last year & 33-5 on the season this year. Of his 5 losses, most made sense.  Owned a very impressive 11-1 major decision on Jarrod Setliff, D3 '23 Q this year. 

Jesse Kanatzar of Lycoming gets the nod from me for three reasons.  4th at the Central Regional, an 8-3 decision over Setliff & 6th at Pete Willson. 

JT#1's HWT Picks 

I think you have to go with 2021 NWCA champ Wyatt Wriedt of Loras.  Gawd, the Lower Midwest Regional was particularly tough in the HWT division this year & Wriedt finished one match shy of NCAA DIII qualification. 16-5 on the year, I'd say he gave Coe D3 champ contender Kaleb Reeves one of his best matches of the season.  He also defeated Mideast Regional champ Peter Wersinger of TCNJ 3-2 tiebreaker & Darryl Aiello Lower Midwest Regional runner-up 2-1.  Also a win on the season over Baldwin Wallace '23 D3 qualifier Matt Werts. 

Some may get their panties in a bunch with me picking Cullen Quick of Luther due to his 7th place finish at the Lower Midwest Regional. Let me put that rebuttal to sleep.  His only losses at the Regional were to the 2nd & 3rd place finishers.  On the season he owns a 3-2 decision over Aiello & he's beaten quite a few of my other picks.  A 4-2 decision over Robby Bates of North Central & a 3-1 decision over Palmer Rodenhaber of Alvernia. 

Bates was 6th in the D3 nation last year & he was also 3rd at this year's Pete Willson Invite.  5th at the Lower Midwest Regional, simply a victim of an incredibly stacked weight. Defeated Werts twice by a 6:48 fall & a 4-0 decision.  A 3-1 win over Wersinger & a 4-0 decision over Daniel Skold an NCAA qualifier from Augustana (Ill). 

Dylan Waller of Elizabethtown was 29-5 this season with a 4th place finish at the Mideast Regional. Owns a 14-7 victory over another of my picks, Caleb Burkhart of Wilkes. 

Rodenhaber ws 4th in the southeast Regional, a two time NCAA D3 qualifier he was 26-5 on the season with a 4-1 win over Burkhart. 

Burkhart was 5th at the Southeast Regional. 


And there  you have it!  Agree, disagree or indifferent, those are my picks in this little fantasy.  Many of us would love to see 24 qualifiers, or even better 32 for DIII!  Not sure if that will ever happen. If it does ever happen will it simply be a straight forward thing, or will we ever see wildcards in D3 wrestling?

I figured why not have some fun, use my imagination and try and think up who the wildcards would be.  This is my subjective position.  Feel free to add names & be sure to say why you feel that they'd be a good pick as one of the top 6 at their respective weight class. 

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