Wednesday, November 22, 2023

JT#1's All Star Classic Takeaways (2023-2024)


We saw a great All Star Classic last night featuring some of the best wrestlers in NCAA Division I wrestling, women's wrestling & one match featuring talent from NCAA Division II Vs NCAA Division III.  I think there was quite a bit to be taken from everything that went down last night.  Here are my takeaways. 

125 lbs Plain & Simple Will Remain An Unpredictable Chaotic Mess

Ends his season last year with a NCAA finish of 2nd after pinning the seemingly unbeatable three time NCAA champ from Iowa.  Then starts off this season by losing to a kid who is still in high school. Turns around & hands the #1 Anthony Noto of Lock Haven a 10-2 major decision loss. I mean, what in the Hell do you make of that? How are you supposed to process that? The Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational is just around the corner & while it's not a tell all, it is a tell of Hell of a lot. I think we'll get a good glimpse of where exactly Matt Ramos is by the end of his time in Vegas. 

But He's The Backup, Right?

Lehigh has one heck of a predicament at 133 lbs, but that's a good thing.  Ryan Cookham has thus far had himself a tremendous start to the 2023-2024 season. 8-0 with not only a 6-3 s.v. over teammate Connor McGonagle, but also an 8-4 decision over last year's NCAA Champ Vitali Arujau of Cornell! Yet it was McGonagle that handed two time All American Sam Latona a 7-5 tiebreaker loss last night.  So who's representing the Mountain Hawks at the EIWA championships & who's dressed in street clothes cheering from the sidelines?  The situation at Lehigh if you're paying attention has to make it crystal clear just how unbelievably tough & competitive collegiate wrestling is.  Both of these tremendous talents are All American caliber. Hell, NCAA champion candidates even.  One of them when it is all said & done is ending his season as a backup.  Let that sit in.  Really think about that for a minute. 

Oh Canada!

The 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medalist wrestled a smart 4-2 match over a tough Josh Koderhandt of Navy last night.  Just goes to show how tough it truly is at the NCAA Division I level. I'm always interested in those who wrestle collegiately in the United States & then represent other countries internationally.  Canada has had some great representation in the past but could use some more names to help build upon their wrestling. Wouldn't be at all surprised to see McNeil represent the Maple Leaf at the next Olympics. 

Penn State is GOOD

Kyle Parco is a good wrestler.  Matter of fact, that's an understatement.  Kyle Parco is a DAMN good wrestler.  A three time All American with a phenomenal offense.  Yet last night, Shayne Van Ness of Penn State totally shut him down.  Parco couldn't generate a single offensive maneuver, as Van Ness secured a 5-1 victory.  I've wondered for years the exact effects of Cael Sanderson's coaching.  How he gets these kids to not only be able to generate their offense against extremely good opponents, but also teaching them to be able to defend and counter those with outstanding technique. It's just unreal how prepared, mentally, physically, dare I say spiritually he has his Nittany Lions. 

Nolan Hertel Makes Yet Another Case for DIII Over DII

If you've been paying attention or if you've been reading me so far this year, you'll notice that in 2023-2024, it has been NCAA Division III that has been winning the battle Vs NCAA Division II.  The Luther Open had some very telling results as did the Augsburg Open.  DIII has been beating DII in head to head competition.  Nolan Hertel a D3 NCAA Champ for  UW-La Crosse added more weight to the testimony as he defeated D2 Champ Nick Novak of St Cloud State 3-1.  This may simply be a lot of coincidence & circumstance, but nevertheless I STILL wanna see an end of the year best of DII Vs best of DIII dual.  How about you? 

Can You say IMPROVED

You know last night was not the first time that Izzak Olejnik & D.J. Hamiti have met on the mat.  Matter of fact, it was the fourth time the two have met on the mat. It was the first time Olejnik has won.  Hamiti has more or less had his way with Olejnik in their first three meetings.  Sticking him in their first meeting, he shut him out 6-0 in their second & defeated him 7-3 in their third.  I think most went into the All Star match, thinking it'd be another W for the Badger.  Boy did Olejnik prove us wrong.  He looked stupendous taking it to Hamiti in an 8-2 decision. Better practice partners in the room? The coaching of legend John Smith? Chalk it up however you want, but the Olejnik stock just went up big time. 

Did I Mention That Penn State Was GOOD!?!?!

An 11-0 major decision over Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech.  I gotta say that again & try and process it.  An 11-0 major decision over Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech.  An 11-0 major decision over a two time NCAA DI finalist & NCAA DI champion! Who does that!?!? How does that happen!?!? How can you be that good, to kick the crud out of a wrestler who is that good!?!  I really thought that there would be some competition for the title at 174 lbs this season. I really did.  I don't think that anymore. Not after what I saw last night.  I mean we still have a lot of season left to go & anything can happen in this sport, but Starocci looked untouchable last night. 

184 lbs Is Gonna Be A Fun Weight 

As far as competitive? I felt that the 184 lbs match was the most competitive last night.  The one with the two wrestlers who were the most equal.  Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa, who in my opinion is one of the best wrestlers in the nation yet to win a national title, edged Bernie Truax of Penn State 7-5.  I tell you what, it's gonna be a chore to stay one step ahead of Truax. There's something special about that Penn State wrestling room, & these guys never ending relentlessness to improve and get better. You can bet your bottom dollar that Truax is already working on what he needs to do in order to defeat Keckeisen. In turn Schwab & Co are gonna have to work their asses off to keep Keckeisen a step ahead of Truax. 

I Repeat Penn State Is Good

I wasn't as shocked or surprised here as I was at 149 or especially 174.  Aaron Brooks majoring Tanner Sloan was something that I didn't necessarily expect to happen, but it didn't take me by storm either. Brooks has only lost three times in his entire collegiate career & he hasn't even had that many close matches. The guy is a prodigy & come Hell or high water is most likely going to end his career as a four time NCAA DI champion.  He was upset last year by Marcus Coleman of Iowa State, so I'm not saying that aren't kinks in the armor, but I think it's a real possibility he goes undefeated the remainder of this year, without any real scares. 

Now I REALLY Wanna See Greg Kerkvliet Vs Gable Steveson!

Perhaps I'm off my hinges here, but seeing Greg Kerkvliet just manhandle Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force has me overzealous to see Kerkvliet get on the mat with Gable Steveson again! I know Steveson is a God among men & I'm not dismissing that.  He's defeated Kerkvliet 8-3 & 9-4 thus far.  Yet seeing how dominant Kerkvliet was last night, I just can't help but think he can challenge Steveson the next time they wrestle.  I might eat crow for saying this, but so what? Boldfaced predictions are a part of the hype of sports.  As hot as he looked last night, I can see him being a concern for the Golden Gopher. 

In Deede She Is Good

First off I want to apologize for not being more well versed in women's wrestling. I am still learning about the sport, the coaches & the participants. I'd love to tell you I'm as knowledgeable about women's wrestling as I am about DI, DII, DIII & the NAIA for men's.  I'd love to tell you that, but that'd be dishonest. At this point I am not. I'm still at the beginner stage.  So that's why I'm only providing commentary on one of the matches. 

Being in Iowa & close to the University of Iowa, I have had a chance to look at the women on their team.  I have also had a chance to look see the McBryde sisters of Life compete a few different times. Thus making me familiar enough with both parties to have an opinion on this particular match.   

I want to say that I think strength is more provable in women's collegiate wrestling than it is in men's. As well as more important. I think one of the reasons why strength is romantically shoved aside in favor of technique & strategy when it comes to men's wrestling, is because at the collegiate level, men of the same weight class usually have the same strength levels. Being extremely strong often doesn't have the advantages it could, because more often than not, your opponent is extremely strong too. Therefore you have to rely on other factors to gain victory. 

I think strength played a major role in this match between Marlynne Deede & Latifah McBryde. My opinion based on my observation, I don't think that McBryde was getting out techniqued. I actually feel her technique was better than Deede's. I feel Deede had a size, strength & power advantage of McBryde & that she used these attributes to win her match.  This isn't an insult & I hope no one is taking it that way.  What it is, is a testimony to how important it is to condition yourself to have the best tools physically that you can.  One sword may initially be designed better for fighting, but it is the sword that consistently gets sharpened that will do you better in battle. I know I for one grow a little tired of how strength gets snubbed so often in this sport.  It's extremely vital to success & I think Deede demonstrated that well here. 


My Thoughts. Hope you enjoyed. 

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