Saturday, December 23, 2023

Citrus Invitational Preview (Fri Dec 29th-Sat Dec 30th)


There's a meme going around Facebook & Twitter right now asking the question, "What is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?"  Well I have four lottery tickets in my pocket as we speak. The drawing is later tonight.  Should I be one of the winners? I'm headed to Fort Lauderdale & I'm gonna watch some wrestling.  The Citrus Invitational is a good little NCAA Division III tournament, but there will also be some NCAA Division II, as well as NAIA talent here as well.  On top of it, I also believe there will be some NCWA talent here too.  Gonna be a great tournament full of some great action. 

PINK = NCWA Ranking 


125 lbs will be one of the most interesting weight classes here at the Citrus Invitational as it involves top talent from all four Divisions of wrestling that will be participating.  Logan Seliga returns as champion, highly favored to repeat as Champion again.  The two time NCAA DII qualifier defeated Gavin Bradley last year in the finals 8-0.  Bradley, who was one match shy of NCAA DIII All American honors last season, looks to once again challenge Seliga in the finals.  He will be pushed from competition by both Jayden Rael & Mac Cafurello.  I speak a lot about potential on JT#1 & I'll say that Cafurello is one of those wrestlers who possesses a lot of potential. I think he's much better than #15 in DIII wrestling, & I'd like to see him prove that here.  This bracket also features NAIA #18 Stephen Moreno as well as #2 NCWA Zach Lovell.  The NCWA is often very vocal on their feelings of being slighted, disrespected & overlooked by the wrestling community. Here's their chance to match action to their words & earn that respect.  Zach Lovell is NCWA championship material & he'll have one of the best in DII, three of the best in DIII & a top twenty in the NAIA to test himself against.  Opinions vary on the what ifs, but you cannot argue with results. 


133 presents itself with another great opportunity for the NCWA to test itself against both NCAA DII & NCAA DIII.  Jahleel Armstrong is yet another Flame on Liberty's squad looking to win an NCWA title by season's end.  Can he hang with Logan Robinson & Kaya Bogle? Bogle although not currently ranked, did take 3rd here last season competing at 125 lbs. 


Very excited about this weight class because it features top talent from NCAA DIII, the NAIA & the NCWA. We're really gonna know who stands where by the end of the Citrus Invitational.  James Rodriguez, Thomas Williams & Jakob Brown are all All American candidates within their respective divisions & it'll be fun to see how the three of them do against one another.  Although not ranked himself at the moment, Jake Dado can be downright tough at times too.  Rodriguez won this tournament last year as Dado took 4th. 


The Braves' Jake Piccirilli is fresh off a standout performance at the Midwest Classic where he took 8th place honors & now he'll try and win a Citrus Invitational. Easier said & done as the Spartans have very tough Eli Cyr looking for a title himself.  Then we also have Jarrod Pominville in this bracket as well.   All three were place-winners here last year with Cyr taking 4th, Piccirilli taking 5th & Pominville taking 6th. 


Here's another weight class that features talent from DII, DIII & the NCWA.  Keegan Roberson (Sorry about the miss spelling above) is coming off of a very impressive 4th place Midwest Classic finish as he hopes to bring a title back to North Carolina for the Braves this tournament. Challenging him will be the DIII competition of Gabriel Smith & Patrick McGraw.  Although McGraw isn't currently ranked at the time, he is a two time NCAA DIII qualifier & he also owns two victories over Smith. A 7-4 decision as well as an 11-8 decision.  He was 4th here last season.  Lastly in mention, but not in ability, is Reid Stewart, yet another of the Flames hoping to end his season with an NCWA title. If he were to win this bracket, he would more than earn the respect that the NCWA is longing for.  As I said previously, results cannot be ignored. 


Along with the Portillo Brothers, one thing JT#1 loves to see is Cross-Division action between different levels of collegiate wrestling.  Here we really get to see who's better between the NAIA & NCAA Division III as both Wetzel Hill & Nick Roeger are ranked #14 in their respective divisions. Nick Roeger wrestled very well here last year competing at 149 lbs, taking 3rd.  It'll be interesting to see if he can have similar or even better results two weight classes up. 


Scott Joll recently proved himself to be a strong candidate for the NCAA Division II title this season by winning the prestigious Midwest Classic. He is most likely to be champion here as well, although I do wonder if Desmond McLaughlin of Castleton can give him a respectable match. 


Here's another good NCAA DIII vs NCAA DII match-up likely to happen at the Citrus Invitational.  Ironically enough with Sampson Wilkins taking 2nd & Shylik Scriven taking 3rd at last season's tournament, the two did not meet up.  I say they do meet up this year & I am pretty confident it'll be in the finals.  Should be a good match between a D3 All American hopeful & one of the better unranked wrestlers at 184, who was a D2 qualifier last season. 


Now here is a very interesting weight class for a variety of different reasons.  First and foremost we have the #14, #17 & the #20 ranked wrestlers in NCAA Division III.  It'll be fun to see if they finish in that order, or if they finish in a different order amongst themselves.  It'd be very interesting to see if Braydon Vandenberg were able to win this bracket, as he'd be the first Cardinal to win a Citrus Invite, since St John Fisher reinstated their program last season.  Treyten Steffen for the record owns a 12-4 major decision over Darby McLaughlin. 

With all of this noted, what is of most note is how this could be a bracket we see the NCWA win. Josiah Murphy has already proven himself with wins over Steffen, pinning the Ram in 1:05 & defeating him 8-6.  He's obviously ranked #6 compared to teammate Carder Miller being ranked #2 for a reason.  Not sure how this will end up on the seeding end of things, but if Miller & Murphy end up on opposite ends of the bracket, this could give us an all Liberty final. Now that'd be a statement for the NCWA. 


HWT could prove to be the most wide open of our weight classes here at the Citrus Invitational.  RayShawn Dixon, who I believe to be one of the best HWTs in D3 yet to All American, wrestled as well as I've ever seen him wrestle here last season. He'll have his work cut out for him to win another title though.  Although he's pinned Abbas Abdulrahman (4:36) the Spartan did give him a close 3-1 match.  Ka'Ron Lewis has given him two close matches as well (7-4 & 4-3).  On top of it, even though he recently pinned Wade Wheeler, Wheeler believe it or not owns a 12-9 decision over him. So while Dixon does go in here the favorite, it is far from a Shoe-in.  As to the other wrestlers matching up with one another, Lewis owns both a 2:23 fall over Abdulrahman as well as a 7-1 decision & he also pinned Wheeler at the 1:36 mark.  With all of this talent already mentioned, we cannot forget about Haven Tatarek who pinned up to HWT after finishing 5th here last year competing at 197.  He recently gave teammate Abdulrahman a 1 point match. 

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