Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Wilkes Open Preview (Friday 12-22-2023)


It's hard to believe but this Friday will mark the 90th Wilkes Open.  Meaning that the first tournament started in 1933! As it's been around just a decade short of a century it has been competition that has seen many changes throughout the years. At one time it featured many teams across many divisions. Today it features two NCAA DI teams among six NCAA Division III teams.  What I like most about this tournament is that it gives a chance to see some good D3 talent that is not ranked, yet still very skilled.  In the world of NCAA Division III it is asinine for anyone to think that anyone not ranked is not worthy of watching.  I mean think about that for a second.  Most rankings don't do more than top twenty or top twenty five for NCAA D3 rankings. There are around 125 teams.  I assure you that there are more than 20 wrestlers per weight class that are worth watching & the Wilkes Open is a tournament that helps to illustrate that. 

125 lbs 

To my understanding Army will be sending their varsity here, so I would think that 2023 NCAA DI qualifier Ethan Berginc would dominate this bracket. The Black Knight is currently out of the top 33 in rankings I refer to, but nevertheless he will most certainly pose a threat come time for the EIWA's.  As to who our other finalist is?  I think Wilkes has a shot at getting a homer in the finals.  Austin Fashouer isn't currently ranked in D3, but he was an NCAA DIII qualifier in 2022. Plus he has both a 16-5 major over Gus Petruske as well as a 9-2 decision over Ryan Berstler.  Petruske owns a 13-2 major over Berstler himself. 

133 lbs 

I'm sure Army will have someone tough here & from my understanding I believe Binghamton is bringing their B team.  Not 100% on that.  However, looking at 133 lbs strictly from the D3 side of things, the match I look forward to most is Jack Bauer against Patrick Snoke.  The last the two met, the Colonel defeated the Wildcat by a 9-5 score.  I imagine should they meet here, it'll be another good match. 

141 lbs 

As far as I'm concerned Army has two talented 141 lbs'ers, either of which will contend for NCAA DI qualification by season's end. While the two have met numerous times in the Army wrestling room, they have yet to have an official match.  If both enter here, this should be our final.  As to our third place match? I see a good match between Mateo Hernandez & Noah Hunt. 

149 lbs 

As to NCAA DIII I feel that in many respects, Jeff Johnson of Jersey City is getting the short end of the stick. He was an NCAA D3 qualifier in 2022 & most likely would have become a two time qualifier in 2023, had it not been for a season ending injury that happened at Regionals.  He ended last year 18-2.  This season he's currently 7-0 & yet he's not in the rankings. I get that there are 125 teams, thus 125 wrestlers (albeit not all rosters are full) to sort through, but still I feel he's getting overlooked.  Do I see him coming in here and knocking off DI Thomas Deck of Army?  That's a tall order.  What I do see though, is him coming in here and easily taking runner-up honors.  Not sure if this will grab the attention of those that put together the rankings, but nevertheless taking runner-up honors in one of the oldest tournaments in the country is pretty prestigious.  Look for Jaryn Hartranft to pick up another placing for host Wilkes. 

157 lbs 

It amazes me that in top 33 rankings for DI, that Army, with as much talent as they have on the team, isn't found in any of the rankings. From my estimation I think the Black Knights are as good as six qualifiers this season, and as of today, not a one of them ranked in the top 33.  I guess that's why we wrestle.  What happens on the mat, goes far beyond what is written on paper. I think Nathan Lukez should win this bracket hands down & Charles Everdale should give the Colonels another home school finalist. 

165 lbs 

Hate to be a broken record, but Army coming in here with what I am to understand will be their full squad, will mow through the competition like a lawn mower for the most part.  Reality as it is, that's just the nature of DI vs DIII in most cases, and therefore Dalton Harkin is our likely champ here at 165 lbs.  With that stated, I think we should see an excellent semi-final between Frankie Theroux & James Geiger.  The last Theroux & Geiger met, it was a tight 6-3 victory for Theroux. 

174 lbs 

Colby Morris is by far one of the best wrestlers on the Yellow Jacket roster this year & he is also one of the best wrestlers we will see at this tournament via NCAA Division III.  I am anxious though to see if wrestling in his home tournament, on his home mats, if Chris Nuss can give the NCAA DIII R12'er a match. 

184 lbs

I have a lot of thoughts concerning this weight class.  First and foremost, I accept that Ben Pasiuk is currently out of the top 33 in the rankings that I am using. He is up a weight class & he's not doing nearly as well has he has in year's past. I get that.  I also get that he's a three time EIWA place-winner with finishes of 1st-3rd-2nd & all three of those finishes have earned him NCAA DI qualification.  I think eventually he'll find his groove and that could be found here in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I know sometimes fans question why Division I coaches schedule against smaller divisions. I think there is a lot of reasons as to why.  For one, it gives fans of the nearby area an opportunity to see DI competition. It gives the smaller Division wrestlers an opportunity to test themselves against the larger Division.  It also gives the DI wrestlers an opportunity to rack up some wins to build up the confidence.  To as I just mentioned, get back in the groove. 

With that said, it is situations like these that always get fans excited.  There have been instances in the past where DIII wrestlers have proven themselves against DI competition & it's not out of the question to think as well as Isaac Cory has been competing thus far this season, that he might add his name to the list of wrestlers who have accomplished this feat.  While looking to upset his DI opponent, Cory will also need to watch his own back however.  The last he met with Connor Wrobleski, he only defeated the Monarch 4-1.  Wouldn't that be the talk of the tournament if Wrobleski were to pull off this upset?  Would it be considered sorta kinda but not really on home turf?  After all King's is only 1/2 a mile down the road. 

#10 Cameron Butka         Rich Fronheiser 
     Wilkes                            King's    
197 lbs 

Cameron Butka is thus far having himself a great season, currently 13-0 & I see him wrestling very well here at his home tournament.  Of course he'll have whatever DI competition Army & Binghamton throw his way, but as to DIII competition, the only person I can see giving him a match here would be King's Rich Fronheiser. 


Here's the match that interest me the most & the one that could potentially have the most effect on the rankings depending on how it turns out.  Caleb Burkhart & Jake Feese have met exactly twice & both have pinned one another in the first period.  Feese owns a 52 second fall over Burkhart & Burkhart owns a 29 second fall over Feese.  Now watch, the third meeting will go the full 7 minutes...

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