Wednesday, February 28, 2024

2024 SUPER REGION I Preview (Saturday March 2nd)


 As I did for the NCAA DIII regionals, I am going to take a look at the NCAA Division II Regions & try and do my best to guess who will be most likely to qualify for the NCAA Division II championships.  I feel need first off to explain where I'm coming from, because I do look at and treat DII differently than I do DI, DIII & NAIA. 

For one, DII wrestling has always been a bit cryptic to me.  I suppose it's because I grew up in Iowa.  We had Iowa, Iowa State & Northern Iowa for DI.  There's a ton of DIII in the state & there's a fair amount of NAIA.  I mean for most of my time growing up, Iowa didn't even have NCAA Division II wrestling. I wasn't even alive when Northern Iowa transitioned from DII to DI.  Then I was senior in high school the first year Upper Iowa went from DIII to DII.  So that's one reason. It's not the only. 

The other reason is because DII wrestling seems to operate so much differently than the other Divisions do.  While the other Divisions seem to shy away from cross divisional competition as often as they can, DII teams seem to get as much of it as they can.  Hell, there are some DII wrestlers, all they wrestle against is DI, DIII, NAIA & NJCAA guys!  In 20 matches, the only thing you won't find on their record is a match against another DII wrestler! 

Then while some wrestlers have your typical 20 to 30 matches by this time in the season, there are many who have less than 15 matches.  Some even less than 10.  That seems way more common in DII, than it does in the other Divisions.  Seems a lot of wrestlers only compete in tournaments, others only duals.   This kind of information can make deducing, guessing and predicting more challenging. 

Not trying to write a novel here, but trying to provide substance for where my mind is at and why I think the way I do.  I imagine you may not agree with all of my analyses and that's fine.  I'm sure I wouldn't agree with all of your's either. 

Without further adieu.....

*NOTE* - For those of you unaware, like DIII, DII qualifies the top 3 per Regional. 

125 lbs 

I believe our final here at 125 lbs in the Super Region I will be a repeat of last year's finals.  Trevon Gray of Pittsburgh Johnstown defeated Jose Diaz of Gannon for a title last season, but it has been Diaz who has won both of their meetings so far this year with 6-5 & 11-2 victories.  For the record, Diaz was one match shy of NCAA Division II All American honors last year as well. 

As to our bronze medalist? I can't see Will Burgess of Seton Hill beating either Diaz or Gray.  Diaz tech'd him 19-2 & Gray majored him 16-4.  However, I sure would like to see him take hold of the consolation bracket & nab that 3rd place finish.  Talk about heartbreaking endings to seasons, he's been 4th the past two seasons. To drive the dagger even further through the heart, the guy who beat him for qualification last season, he had beaten three times prior! Including earlier that day in the Region!  I once heard a wise man say that our disappointments are the gifts that make us cherish our triumphs.  May triump by the case for Burgess this weekend. 

133 lbs 

3rd & 2nd in the Super Region I and 7th & 5th in the D2 nation, I think Devin Flannery will finally win the Region title that has eluded him the past two seasons.  He currently holds an 18-3 record & has an 8-3 decision over Jerry Echevarria.  

As to Echevarria, he's a transfer from American International who has been having an outstanding season thus far with a 21-5 record.  He's most likely to be our finalist, although Thierno Diallo, a transfer of Binghamton, could plausibly give him trouble.  I talked a little about this in my D3 previews, but little makes me happier than to see a discontinued program, get restored. I think it's even more exciting when so earlier into their restoration, they already look to send wrestlers to the national tournament. That's exciting for our sport. 

141 lbs 

A Super Region I champion & 7th in the D2 nation last season, I feel confident that we will see Jake Niffenegger repeat as champion this year.  As to our silver & bronze medalist?  That's a little grayer of an area & here are my two guesses. 

I say on the opposite of the bracket from Niffenegger, we could very well see a good semi-final between Colton Stoneking of Fairmont State & Mason Myers of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.  18 wins on the season for Myers & 17 wins on the season for Stoneking, Stoneking won a wild 10-9 match against Myers the last the two met. 

149 lbs 

Here's where things might get weird. 

First off, let's get normal out of the way.  Jacob Ealy, four time NCAA DII qualifier, Super Region I champ last year & thus far 8th-3rd-5th in the D2 nation.  He's qualifying for his fifth appearance at the DII championships & he's heading their with another Super Region I title. 

Good, we got normal out of the way. 

Jimmy Ryan of Gannon, 17 wins on the year, and A Super Region I runner-up competing at 141 last season.  Still normal enough.   As is Gage Heilbrun, a freshman from Frostburg State, also looking to be a Q for the "We're BACK" program.  Has 23 wins on the season. 

So where exactly can things get weird? 

Craig Cook of Millersville. 

Here's the deal  He's lost to everyone listed above him.  Ealy pinned him at 6:15, Ryan majored him 10- & Heilbrun defeated him 6-1.  That's not all either, he has other losses to other Region opponents too.

But...but...but...but he's three time NCAA DII qualifier, who finished one match shy of his fourth qualification last season and I...CAN...NOT...IGNORE...THAT.   

I mean how can you? He's the type of wrestler that if you don't include him, don't mention his name & don't make aware what he's capable of, it'll come back to bite you in the Francis, and not everyone referred to Francis as a mule! 

So here's to Super Region I 149 lbs.  Good luck. 

157 lbs 

These are the three gentlemen I believe that will earn qualification here in the Super Region I & despite rankings, I could see them finishing in about any order.  

When Bailey Gimbor of Kutztown had to medical forfeit to 6th place in last year's Super Region I because of injury, I had a feeling he'd come back poised to earn the qualification that he may have very well have earned last year, had he not gotten hurt.  He owns a 2-1 tiebreaker over Cooper Warshell of Pittsburgh-Johnstown & he owns a 6-3 decision over Mercyhurst's Max Stedeford.  Between Warshell & Stedeford, Warshell owns a 12-9 s.v.   So as you can see, we're in for some good wrestling to see who ends up gold, who ends up silver & who ends up bronze.  For the record, Stedeford has been 4th & 5th the past two Regions. 

165 lbs 

In many of my Regional previews for NCAA Division III, it was more than obvious that in many cases, three qualifiers per weight wasn't enough. It happens in NCAA Division II too & Super Region I 165 lbs is evidence of it.  Here we have four of the top DII wrestlers at 165 lbs & at the end of the day, one of them is staying home. 

I talk all the time about how good some of our backups are around the country & Gannon's Nick Coreno is proof of that.  Behind 4th place DII All American Dom Means last season, Coreno has more than established himself as an All American candidate in his own right.  22-5 on the year, he has a 3-1 decision over Dalton Gimbor of Kutztown, a 6-5 decision over Dillon Walker of Mercyhurst & a 6:18 fall over Brandon Connor of Millersville.  Likely he'll be the *1 seed here in the Super Region I. 

Gimbor, like brother Bailey at 157, would like to be a Super Region I champ himself.  He was 3rd last year, then finishing a match shy of All American honors at DII nationals.  23-5 on the year, he owns both a 7-2 decision over Walker & a 6-3 decision over Conner. 

Two seasons ago, Walker was the Super Region I runner-up & he finished 5th in the D2 nation.  Last year he won a Super Region I title & finished one match shy of a second All American honor.  21-5 on the year, he owns two 10-3 decisions over Conner this season. 

Conner has been 2nd the past two Super Region I tournaments. 

Again, one of these top talents will be staying home this year. 

174 lbs 

The one thing I feel confident about saying about 174 lbs in the Super Region I is that I think Jack Mackiernan of American International will be our champion.  A qualifier for the Yellow Jackets with a 3rd place finish last year, he has 19 wins on the season. 

I also felt for quite a while that Cole Hivnor of Gannon would be another qualifier here at 174.  He was 6th in the Super Region I last year competing at 184 lbs.  15 wins on the season, the only thing now making me question is that fact that he was injured here not to long ago.  I'm not sure how serious the injury was.  A simple bounce back injury? Or one hat will seriously effect him this tournament?  We'll see. 

184 lbs

A Super Region I runner-up last season & 4th in the DII nation, Matt Weinberg of Kutztown will look to capture a title this weekend.  20-2 on the year, he has a 7-1 win over Cole Casilio of Gannon & both a 10-4 as well as an 8-2 decision over Anthony Giampietro of Millersville. 

Casilio himself as a Super Region I runner-up last year, competing at 174 lbs.  18 wins on the season, one of which is a 12-9 decision over Giampietro.  Giampietro for the record was an NCAA DII qualifier in '22. 

197 lbs 

Silver & bronze as far as I'm concerned is a free-for-all at 197 lbs in Super Region I.  Gold on the other hand? Gold belongs to Dakoda Rodgers of Pitt-Johnstown.  5th & 3rd thus far in Super Region I, he was one match shy of All American honors last season. 


25-1 on the season & a Super Region I runner-up last season, take it to the bank that our champion here is most likely going to be Isaiah Vance of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.  Very confident to meet him there in the finals & possibly give him a challenge will be talented East Stroudsburg freshman Layton Schmick.  27-3 on the year, one of his only losses is a 9-4 decision to Vance. 

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