Tuesday, February 27, 2024

2024 Upper Midwest Regional Preview (March 1st & 2nd)


The Upper Midwest Regional is the final qualifying NCAA DIII tournament to be covered here at JT#1.  Of the six Regionals, I find it to be the most convoluted. A lot of strange, unpredictable things seem to happen at this tournament.  I imagine this year will be no different.  

125 lbs 

Call up Ripley cause believe it or not, I'm about to tell you something that you may find hard to believe.  Izzy Balsiger of UW-Eau Claire is a sophomore this season.  Do you know when his freshman season was?  '12-'13 and no, that is not a typo.  He's been out of the game for 11 years & yet here he is ranked in the top 10, an All American candidate & he'll most likely be the *1 seed this weekend.  A WIAC champion with both a 10-4 & 8-6 victory over Luca Paladino of UW-Stevens Point.  

Here to challenge Balsiger for a title will be 2022 Upper Midwest Champion Derek Steele of Augsburg.  The Auggie finished 4th in last year's championships & wasn't none too happy about it.  16-3 on the season, he wants to reclaim that gold. 

A battle for 3rd, or perhaps knocking on the door to the finals themselves?  After all Paladino was the Upper Midwest Champion last season & he was one match shy of being an All American.  I really thought he'd step it up a notch this season & establish himself strong to repeat.  Instead it's been kind of a down season for him.  He's lost to more than just the three mentioned here & some of the losses have been down right ugly.  Nevertheless he's shown signs once again of what he is capable of.  A runner-up finish at the WIAC.  

Dunson, 5th here last year, was 3rd at the WIAC. 

133 lbs 

Parity is the element of wrestling that makes it as frustrating as it does fun.  We got a three man race to the Upper Midwest  title here at 133 lbs, between three very talented wrestlers. 

Ty Bisek was 3rd in the Upper Midwest Regional & 6th in the D3 nation last season.  He has Dominik Mallinder of UW-Whitewater figured out as he'd defeated the Warhawk by a 3-1 decision & a 3:37 fall.  Yet Bisek struggles with Tyler Fleetwood of UW-Eau Claire, as the Blugold has defeated him 9-0 & 6-3.  On the other hand, Mallinder has 9-3, 3-2 & 7-1 decisions over Fleetwood.  This makes things exciting, does it not? 

Mallinder was last year's Upper Midwest Champion, he came up short of All American honors.  Fleetwood was 2nd, earning 3rd at DIII nationals. 

141 lbs 

Want a peculiar fact about Sam Stuhl of Augsburg?  He was last year's NCAA Division III champion, yet at 2nd & 3rd, he has yet to win an Upper Midwest Regional title.  I think that'll change this year & he'll walk out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin carrying a gold medal. 

As to our silver/bronze debate?  I believe that'll be settled between UW-La Crosse's Sam Lorenz & UW-Whitewater's Ethan Pogorzelski.  Between the two, Lorenz owns a 8-3 decision & Pogorzelski owns a 10-6 decision. 

149 lbs 

Here is a tough weight class, where qualification will be earned.  Tyler Goebel, who competes for NCAA DIII championship host UW-La Crosse has looked exceptional this season.  3rd at the Upper Midwest Regional last year, he currently carries a 19-1 record with wins over all challengers.  8-1 & 9-8 decisions over Charlie Stuhl of Augsburg, it has been 8-3 & 4-1 wins over Scott Busse of UW-Whitewater. 

Stuhl was the Upper Midwest Regional champion last year & 8th in the D3 nation.  He's 20-3.  He's proven in the past that he can beat Goebel, with a 5-4 decision. 

Paper points to a final between Goebel & Stuhl, but I'm curious to see what Zach Sato of UW-Eau Claire might have to say about that.  He was an NCAA DIII qualifier in '22 with a 3rd place Upper Midwest Regional finish, but came up a hair short last year as he finished 4th.  A 7-0 decision over talented freshman Busse, gives precedence to a probable 3rd place finish. However, he could be in for better.  He's given Goebel a 2-1 match & he's given Stuhl two 2-1 matches, one of them ending in a tiebreaker. I would think matches that close have the potential of being turned into wins. 

Among this talent is there a darkhorse?  If there is, I say it is Ryan Fleck of Chicago.  5th in the Midwest Regional last season, he can wrestle those ranked above him tight and close.  Under the right circumstances, maybe a close loss could be turned into a win.  He lost 3-0 to Busse earlier this year. 

157 lbs 

I think things are pretty straight forward here at 157 lbs.  Last year's NCAA DIII champion Nolan Hertel of UW-La Crosse will be going for his third Upper Midwest Regional title & unless we find Elvis Presley swimming in the Lochness with Big Foot, he's going to win it. 

Silver will most likely go to Blake Jagodzinske of Augsburg, who has shown the DIII wrestling world he was one of the best reserves in the country, when he was behind three time All American Tyler Shilson last season. There are so many great backups, and year after year, we see them prove themselves as Jagodzinske has done this year. 

Bronze? Pretty sure that will be Pete Willson champ Jermaine Butler of UW-Whitewater. 

165 lbs 

You want a war? You got one.  There are four extremely talented, All American candidate wrestlers here & only three spots for NCAA DIII qualification. 

Cooper Willis was 2nd in the Midwest Regional last year & 5th in the D3 nation.  He's been on a war path this year nailing a 9-1 major decision on Noah Leisgang of UW-La Crosse & nearly majoring Tristan Massie of UW-Eau Claire 9-3. 

Massie was 3rd at last year's Midwest Regional & a match shy of All American honors.  He owns a 9-2 decision over Leisgang & a 5-3 decision over Brayden Peet of UW-Whitewater on a 23-4 overall record. 

Peet is 19-3 on the year & owns a 4-1 win over Leisgang. 

Leaves Leisgang as the odd man out, doesn't it? 

I don't think so. 

Leisgang was last year's Upper Midwest Regional champion & he was 3rd in the D3 nation.  Do I think for a second, when La Crosse is hosting the D3 championships that Leisgang is going to be watching his teammates from the stands?  No, not for a second.  Results can be what they can be, as can rankings.  He's beaten both Willis & Massie in the past.  Anything can happen & often does in wrestling, but if we're placing bets, I'm not making one against Leisgang. 

174 lbs 

An Upper Midwest Champion (3rd in '22) & an NCAA D3 runner-up last season, I'm very confident that our champion this year will be 24-0 Jared Stricker of UW-Eau Claire.  The Blugold owns both an 11-4 decision over Seth Goetzinger of Augsburg & a 5-1 decision over Leo Draveling of UW-La Crosse. 

As gold is spoken for, I believe so is silver.  Goetzinger was 3rd in the Upper Midwest Regional & 7th in the D3 nation last year.  23-4 he has a 12-7 win over Draveling. 

As to our bronze medalist?  That'll be a fight between Ryan Riser of UW-Whitewater & Draveling.  Draveling pinned Riser at the 4:26 mark earlier this season. 

184 lbs 

With the listening skills of Harry Dunne, I'm not sure if the Doctor of Pins was listening to me when I told him his brother beat a damn good wrestler earlier this year, but let me repeat, his brother beat a damn good wrestler earlier this year.  Matter fact at 24-1, the only loss Bentley Schwanebeck Ostermann of Augsburg has this season is to Brennan Swafford. Other than that the two time D3 All American ('22 4th, '23 6th) has been taking names all season.  2nd at last year's Upper Midwest Regional, he looks to win a title this weekend & then another title in a couple of weeks. 

As to our silver medalist? I said at the end of last season, I thought Niall Schoenfelder was simple a victim of circumstance.  He finished 6th at the Upper Midwest Regional & I had a feeling that he'd have a breakout year this season & so far, so good.  12-2 record. 

The battle for bronze I believe will be between Marcus Orlandoni of UW-La Crosse & Jonathan Pullen who will look to be a qualifier for Concordia (WIS). 

197 lbs 

There were a lot of huge shockers in '22-'23, but to me one of the biggest was when Ben Kawczynski of UW-La Crosse failed to place at last year's Upper Midwest Regional.  Throughout the season, I'll often try and configure who I think will be the top eight by year's end.  Kawczynski was often on my list & he didn't even make top 8 in the Regional, let alone in the nation.  That's not a knock on him, but a reflection of just how tough, rough & unforgiving this sport can be at times.  It's also to note that '22-'23 was THEN & '23-'24 is NOW. 

I don't think the 2022 R12'er is going to do anything other than make the finals this weekend & go for an Upper Midwest Regional title.  He'll have to duke it out with last year's 3rd place finisher, Parker Venz of Augsburg.  Thus far Venz owns a 1-0 win over Kawczynski & Kawczynski owns a 4-1 victory over Venz. 

Our bronze medalist?  Well, maybe more too, but I have a feeling it's going to be Gabe Zierden of Concordia (MN).  Back to back 4th place finishes in the Upper Midwest Regional, I can only imagine how starved he is for qualification this year.  For the record, he does own a 5:48 fall over Kawczynski. 


At the beginning of the season, I thought that no one would come close to touching Tyler Kim of Augsburg.  I really thought that last year's Upper Midwest Regional champion who has been 4th & 3rd in the D3 nation would end the season as national champion, with an undefeated record.  When Robby Bates of North Central handed him a loss, I wasn't overtly shocked, but when Michael Douglas defeated him, it did throw me off guard. 

2nd in the Upper Midwest Regional & 8th in the DIII nation last year, Kim defeated Douglas twice earlier this season by scores of 2-0 & 5-2.  Yet in an extremely well wrestled match, it was Douglas who got his hand raised in their last meeting with a 6-2 decision.  Both of these guys are extremely tough and extremely talented.  Should be a great finals. 

As to bronze?  

I'm excited because I believe that in only their second year back on the mat since reinstatement, Linfield will qualify Jacob Barnes to the NCAA DIII tournament. He was 5th in the Regional last season. 

No comments:

Post a Comment