Friday, September 22, 2023

2023-2024 NCAA DI The Season: Top Returnees 174 lbs

 I don't give a hoot if they go undefeated or not, whoever wins this weight class outright deserves the MOW of the NCAA DI wrestling championships & the Hodge trophy.  We are talking three National champions, one of them a three time NCAA DI champion & then an NCAA bronze medalist waiting in the wings to try and knock them off. You make top 8 in this weight class, brag, cause you earned it. 

Carter Starocci
Penn State

Carter Starocci has two losses in his entire NCAA DI career, but dear lawd, if he is able to win the NCAA DI title this year & next, you can't tell me that wouldn't trump those losses. Can you imagine that? A five time NCAA DI champ? He's in the running to do so & not only that, if he is to win his fourth title this season, look at who he has to go through to get it! Criteria seems to change critic to critic, fan to fan, but anyone who gives their vote to Starocci, IF he's able to accomplish these feats, will get no argument from me. 

Mekhi Lewis
Virginia Tech 

Of those in line to try and dethrone the king, Mekhi Lewis stands towards the front.  An NCAA DI champ in 2019, he was 2nd in 2022 & 4th this past season. 22-3 on the year, he was an ACC champ & a CKLV runner-up. 

Shane Griffith

Our third NCAA DI champ in this weight class, Shane Griffith who won his NCAA DI title in 2021 competing at 165 lbs. Matter of fact, his entire career up to this point has been at 165 lbs.  NCAA DI runner-up in 2022, he was 5th at last year's championships.  A transfer of Stanford to Michigan, he will look to challenge Starocci for both crowns this year. 

Chris Foca

With three NCAA DI champs in this bracket, one of them already being a three-timer, it's difficult to even remotely imagine anyone else coming in & walking away with an NCAA title.  To some the mere thought is pure blasphemy.  If anyone can do it though, that someone is Chris Foca.  An EIWA champion last year, he finished 3rd in the DI nation, handing Mekhi Lewis a 3-2 tiebreaker loss in the process. 

Nelson Brands Brennan Swafford

Pending Kenny Rogers.....which is now ineligible but if he weren't.....

Barring injury, sickness or some other bizarre happening, I would say four spots on the NCAA DI All American award stand are already spoken for.  As to the other four spots?  Nelson Brands really came alive at last year's national championships. That is the best he has ever wrestled to date as he was very impressive bringing home a 5th place finish.  I also haven't counted out Brennan Swafford quite yet. He ended up getting injured last season, but before he did he had some nice wins too. A 6-3 decision over Devan Hendricks, he also defeated Nick Fine 9-6.  The two time NAIA national champ if 100% will give Brands all he can handle in the Iowa room. I expect to see good things out of both wrestlers this season, with our deciding factor most likely the Soldier Salute. 

Dustin Plott
Oklahoma State 

The back to back 6th place NCAA DI All American went 25-7 on the season last year winning titles at both the Southern Scuffle & the BIG 12. 

Peyton Mocco

There's thus far been a lot of silver in Peyton Mocco's career. Back to back Southern Scuffle runner-up finishes, he also has back to back runner-up finishes in the BIG 12.  Can he weave his silver into gold this year?  I would say it's certainly possible.  Despite the losses he has to Dustin Plott, he does own a 4-3 victory over the Cowboy.  23-7 on the season, he was 8th in the DI nation last year. 

Cade DeVos
South Dakota State

A threat to both the BIG 12 title & to NCAA All American honors is Cade DeVos. As to the BIG 12, he's defeated both Dustin Plott & Peyton Mocco in competition before.  Not sure if South Dakota State will participate in the Southern Scuffle this season or not, but if they do, DeVos is obviously a threat to the title there as well as he was champion two years ago.  28-9 on the season he won the Daktronics Open, finished 4th at CKLV, 3rd at the BIG 12's & was one match shy of All American honors. 

Edmond Ruth

In his first full season of NCAA DI wrestling, Edmond Ruth looked quite good. 30-8 on the season, he was 3rd in the Michigan State Open, winning a Midlands title. & finishing 6th at the BIG 10's before ending the year on a NCAA DI R12 finish. 

Carson Kharchla
Ohio State

An NCAA All American at 165 lbs in 2022 with a 7th place finish, Carson Kharchla came up a little short finishing R12 last year. A BIG 10 bronze medalist, he will move up to do battle with the warriors of 174. 

Austin Murphy 

There have been a lot of wrestlers throughout the history of this great sport who in one way or another have gotten hosed, jipped or shafted during their careers. In recent times, few more than Austin Murphy in '22.  A '21 SOCON champion, who finished R12 at the NCAA's, he was not awarded an at large/wildcard bid after finishing 2nd in the SOCON in '22.  What an act of redemption it'd be to win a second SOCON title this year & make All American honors. Especially in the fact that he couldn't pick a tougher bracket to do it in. 

Ben Pasiuk

In the madhouse that is the EIWA 174 lbs, Ben Pasiuk comes in having posted 1st-3rd-2nd place finishes the past three seasons. 23-7 on the year he won the Solider Salute. 

Lennox Wolak

20-11 on the season, Lennox Wolak finished 2nd at the Soldier Salute & 3rd in the EIWA. 

Jackson Turley

An NCAA DI All American in 2021 with an 8th place finish, the past two seasons have been hampered with injuries for Jackson Turley, severely effecting his performance. However we saw signs towards the end of last year that we may end up seeing the old Jackson Turley before it is said & done.  He defeated D.J. Washington 8-4 at the BIG 10's & then defeated Will Miller at the NCAA's 12-6.  An at 100% Turley, if 100% could very well be one of those remaining spots on the awards stand. 

Philip Conigliaro

It was a bit of a disappointing season for Philip Conigliaro last year. An EIWA champ in '22, who also finished 3rd in '21, he slipped to a 4th place finish last year. 6th in the CKLV two years ago, he finished one match shy of a top 8 showing. I've spoke many times of how Harvard is in need of crowning an All American, to get the Crimson back to where they once were. I still say Conigliaro is the best bet to do so.  As to the EIWA, Foca seems out of reach, but I don't think anyone else is.  He's already shown he can beat Wolak & he's beaten Mickey O'Malley twice.  He'll fight for EIWA silver & be among those looking for a spot on the NCAA DI award stand. 

D.J. Washington

D.J. Washington heads into the '23-'24 season now a three time NCAA DI qualifier. He also heads into the '23-'24 the only person with collegiate eligibility left who has handed Carter Starocci a loss.  It was way back in January of 2021, but nonetheless he did hand the Nittany Lion a 10-9 loss.  He's since dropped two matches to him. What does this suggest to me? That Washington is capable of pulling off a big upset & that he should be considered dangerous anytime he steps on the mat. 

Mickey O'Malley

Mickey O'Malley heads into his final season as a Dragon looking to become a five time NCAA DI qualifier. I wouldn't put it past him to add an All American honor to his resume on his way out either. The Dragon has breathed fire before & it wouldn't surprise me to see him do it again.  A two time EIWA finalist, who won an EIWA title in '22, it wasn't such a great tournament for him last year.  Nevertheless, he's still a candidate to meet Foca in the finals this season.  He'll need to turn some close losses into wins, but in a conference full of Highlanders, he's among the Duncan McLeods. 

Alex Cramer
Central Michigan 

I really question how a guy like Camden Selig ever got his position or how he was able to maintain his position when I look at a wrestler like Alex Cramer.  Old Dominion's loss I guess as he has been Central Michigan's gain.  3rd in the MAC in '21, he took a redshirt in '22, coming back strong last year to win the MAC title on a 31-10 record. 2nd at the Cleveland State Open, he was 5th in the Midlands. 

Nick Incontrera

At this point the EIWA 174 lbs almost seems like the film The Belko Experiment. We have Chris Foca waiting on the outside as Ben Pasiuk, Lennox Wolak, Philip Conigliaro, Mickey O'Malley & last but far, far, far from least Nick Incontrera.  Heck, who knows maybe one of these five will pull off the impossible & upset Foca. Stranger things have happened in this sport.  Despite not having the best conference tournament last year, keep in mind that Incontrera has been an EIWA finalist before. He was also a Midlands finalist last year as well.  With exception to Foca, he also owns at least one victory over the rest of his conference foes. 

Cael Valencia
Arizona State 

I honestly don't know what to make of Cael Valencia.  We can all admit without getting offended or trying to think I'm insulting anyone that he's the "other" brother right?  I don't mean this as a slight or a knock. He's an NCAA DI wrestler, an NCAA DI qualifier, which are in my opinion outstanding accomplishments that should be noted as well as celebrated.  Yet I'm not rockin' the boat here, I'm not shaking the tree by saying he isn't Zahid & he isn't Anthony.  At least he hasn't been thus far.  There are times when I watch him & I think, "Donnie Jones."  Gonna end his career a multiple time NCAA qualifier, with a handful of other credentials, but we're not talking three time NCAA champion Greg Jones, nor are we talking two time NCAA runner-up Vertus Jones.  Then there are other times when I think maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe Cael will turn out to be as good as Zahid or even Anthony.  Maybe he just needs more time than his older brothers did.  He had a month stretch towards the tail end of the season where he looked very sharp & then he qualified for the national championships with a 3rd place showing at the PAC-12's.  

Tate Picklo               Darrien Roberts   

This will be one of  the best wrestle-offs at 174 lbs.  Tate Picklo was 25-10 on the season last year, qualifying for the NCAA championships with a 5th place showing at the BIG 12's.  Don't sleep on Darrien Roberts though.  11 wins on the season, four of them came against quality opponents. 7-6 over Nick Incontrera, 3-2 over Triston Wills, 8-2 over MAC champ Alex Cramer & 4-3 over Philip Conigliaro. 

Troy Fisher

20-8 on the season Troy Fisher was an at large/wildcard selection to the NCAA championships last year. He was also runner-up at the Michigan State Open & 5th at CKLV. 

Will Miller
Appalachian State 

24-12 on the year, Will Miller captured SOCON runner-up honors & finished one match shy of a top 8 showing at the Southern Scuffle. 

John Worthing

The Golden Eagles have been making strides over the past couple of seasons, but I'm not sure if they're getting the recognition for it.  John Worthing really stepped it up last season, making the MAC finals & then going 2-2 at the NCAA DI championships. 21-11 on the year, he was 2nd at the Clarion Open. 

Alex Faison 
North Carolina State

In his first full season as a starter, Alex Faison was 8th at CKLV & 2nd in the ACC. 

Sam Wolf
Air Force 

13 victories on the year, the New York native qualified for his first NCAA DI championships with a 6th place finish at the BIG 12's. 

Tyler Stoltzfus
Lock Haven 

Tyler Stoltzfus heads into his junior season having posted 32 victories last year. A two time MAC place-winner with finishes of 7th & 3rd, he was also 7th at the Navy Classic. 

Luca Augustine

Pretty good first year of varsity wrestling for Luca Augustine. '22-'23 saw both a 3rd place finish in the ACC & a 6th place finish at the Midlands. 

Sal Perrine

A true junior, Sal Perrine heads into the '23-'24 season now a two time NCAA DI qualifier with MAC finishes of 3rd & 4th. 22-9 on the year, he was 3rd at the Navy Classic, finishing R12 at CKLV. 

Triston Wills
Little Rock

Triston Wills seems to have been getting snubbed his entire career.  First off his home state snubs him as neither Kansas State, Kansas or Wichita State bother to have a DI varsity wrestling program so he could have competed at home. Then the past two seasons, he was snubbed by the committee that selects at large/wildcards to the NCAA DI championships. Last year in particularly was bad. He nearly majored Cael Valencia 9-2 at the PAC 12 championships. Yet his 5th place conference finish didn't get a look. Nor did the fact that he won the Cougar Clash or that he finished 3rd at the Southern Scuffle.  I realize our sport is so reflective on end of the day Vs begging of the day results, but I don't always agree that it should be.  Nevertheless, Wills remains one of the best yet to qualify for the NCAA DI championships. Hopefully he'll break through this year. 

Benjy Haubert

Another tough wrestler yet to qualify for the NCAA DI championships, Benjy Haubert has posted back to back 3rd place SOCON finishes the past two seasons.  With Austin Murphy & Will Miller both at this weight, looks like bronze will most likely be where he finishes at again this year.  The key to having this year's probable 3rd place finish result in NCAA DI qualification will be consistency.  Haubert is going to need to win some of the bigger matches & avoid getting upset himself.  22 wins, he was 4th at the Navy Classic. 

Michael Wilson

I'd count Michael Wilson in the list of those who were barely outside of the top 33 last year.  27-11, he was 5th at the MAC championships. A Lehman Open champ, he had a 7-3 decision over MAC runner-up John Worthing. 

Max Maylor

Michigan transfer Max Maylor will spend his final season at Wisconsin, where he will also be looking for his first NCAA DI qualification.  Good reason to believe that he will earn it too. Among his victories last year, a 7-5 decision over MAC champ Alex Cramer, an 8-4 decision over Albert Urias, a 10-7 decision over Dominic Solis & a 5-4 decision over '21 All American Jackson Turley. 

Ross McFarland

As if the EIWA at this weight class wasn't already a house of horrors. Here's another to add to the list. Ross McFarland won 15 varsity matches last year, mind you that one of them was a 3-1 decision over Philip Conigliaro. He also defeated Cael Valencia 2-0. 

Lance Runyon
Northern Iowa

When it comes to sickness, injury, ect, the sport of wrestling is extremely cryptic. What we don't often know is why.  That is the case with Lance Runyon.  I had no idea what was going on with him this past season, but I do know that he wasn't wrestling anywhere near as well as he is capable. I can only imagine he was hurt, sick or something else. Don't know.  What I do know is that the Panther is a two time NCAA qualifier. One that if back to 100%, will be a force to be reckoned with both within the BIG 12 & the NCAA.  A 4:59 fall over Dustin Plott gives testimony to that. 

Elise Brown Ton

Behind four time All American Mikey Labriola the past few seasons, I am excited to see what all Elise Brown Ton can do on the mat this year. 19-2 over all last season, we saw glimpses of his capability. 2nd at the Navy Classic he efeated both Sam Wolf & Sal Perrine by 3-2 scores. 

Jared McGill

Edinboro is a long ways away from where it was at one time, but the heart of Fighting Scot wrestling is still beating & among the defibrillators, Jared McGill.  16-4 on the season, he was 7th in the MAC. A Clarion Open Champ, he defeated Tyler Stoltzfus 4-2. 

Albert Urias
Cal State Bakersfield

13 wins on the season last year & a 6th place finish in the PAC-12, Albert Urias will contend for NCAA DI qualification this season. 

Devan Hendricks

An NCWA champion this past season, I would give nod to Devan Hendricks being one of the Knights best wrestlers. 21-5 on the season, he had a 2-1 victory over Benjy Haubert. 

Jay Nivison 

A little rougher of a season for Jay Nivison last year than what '21-'22 was.  8th in the MAC, he was an NCAA DI qualifier in 2022 & could contend for qualification once again this season. 

M.J. Gaitan
Iowa State 

A great addition to the Cyclone lineup as well as to BIG 12 wrestling will be freshman M.J. Gaitan.  Last year as a redshirt he had 9 victories, one of which was a 9-5 decision over Lance Runyon & another a 5:27 fall over Triston Wills. 

Brody Conley
West Virginia

Speaking of tough freshman being added to the varsity lineup, Brody Conley will be anough great addition to the BIG 12 this season at 174 lbs. 15-4 on the season, he placed a very impressive 3rd at the Midlands championships. Among his victories, a 4:46 fall over Cael Valencia. 

Mason Reiniche
Oregon State

I believe Mason Reiniche will be one to look out for in the PAC-12 this season.  9-0 on the season last year, within his career he owns a 5:00 fall over Cael Valencia. 

Dominic Solis

Domnic Solis falls into the same category as is Jay Nivison. '22-'23 wasn't as good of a year for him as was '21-'22. Nevertheless Solis is too an NCAA DI qualifier from '22 & he will once again be in the running for a Q this year. A 3-1 win over Luca Augustine last year. 

Sammy Starr

 And the last of our stars in what will be a crazy EIWA bracket this year, Sammy Starr. 4th at the Clarion Open & 6th in the Navy Classic, Starr had a 6-4 s.v. over Tyler Stoltzfus & a 9-7 s.v. over Tate Picklo on the season. 

No comments:

Post a Comment