Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Best To Not Qualify for NCAA Division II Nationals 2024

NCAA Division II is a lot like NCAA Division III in the fact that year in and year out there are a ton of extremely talented wrestlers who don't make the championships. Bad luck and bad days are one thing, but here it's simply a matter of there not being enough qualifiers. 18 per weight class isn't enough & trust me, by the end of this article you will more than agree with me on that. Like I said with Division III, I am glad that overtly difficult challenges make one value other accomplishments, such as placing at Regions & the Midwest Classic.  At the end of the day though, this much phenomenal talent staying home & not competing at the biggest tournament of the year....it ain't right. 

Anyway, here's my list.  Keep in mind that I'm one person.  I'm sure I overlooked someone and trust me it was not intentional.  I'm just going with the guys that really stuck out to me.  

Quade Smith
Chadron State
125 lbs 

5th-4th-4th in the Super Region 6, my heart really goes out to this kid. He's been so damn close three times in his career of making the dance, but he seems to always come up a match or two short.  The highlight of his season was at the Midwest Classic where he really turned it on, placing an impressive 4th.   Notable victories include a 4-2 decision over Super Region V champ Shane Corrigan of UW-Parkside, a 5-4 decision over Super Region I champ Trevon Gray of Pittsburgh-Johnstown & a 2:10 fall over Super Region III champ Luke Acuna of Ashland. He also for the record defeated Dayson Torgerson of Colorado Mesa 8-5 in the dual, whom defeated him for the qualification spot. 

Grayston DiBlasi
Colorado School of Mines
141 lbs

If you like fun, unpredictable & exciting wrestling then you need to become a fan of this guy.  Grayston DiBlasi is the type of person who often "oohs" & "ahs" the crowd.  A two time NCAA Division II qualifier with finishes of 3rd & 2nd in his freshman & sophomore campaigns, he came up a little short his year with a 5th place finish.  On the year he stuck Super Region I champion Jake Niffenegger of Mercyhurt at the 4:59 mark.  He defeated Super Region II champ Isham Peace 7-5 & he defeated Super Region IV runner-up Ronan Schuelke of McKendree 4-3.   He also claimed his second Midwest Classic Medal this year, with another 7th place finish. 

Wyatt Turnquist 
Northern State
149 lbs 

Someone said to me after reading my article on the best NCAA Division III wrestlers, if it was possible that anyone was being left home that could have potentially won a national title.  I think I could drop a few names.  Here in NCAA Division II, if you're asking the same question the answer is Wyatt Turnquist of Northern State.  I've said it once, I'll say it a million times.  At the D3 & D2 levels, there is no room for error. You are not allowed to make a mistake, you are not allowed to have a bad day. 

Turnquist has twice been 3rd at the Super Region V.  Even more telling, he had a dominating, outstanding performance at last year's NCAA DII championships, having one of the most impressive runs to a 3rd place finish I've ever witnessed (I was there live for it in Cedar Rapids).  Early this season, he won the Midwest Classic.  Victories include an 8-2 decision over Super Region V champion Colby Njos of St Cloud State, a 15-7 major over Super Region I champion Jacob Ealy of Pittsburgh Johnstown & a 5-4 decision over Super Region IV champion Dylan Brown of Central Oklahoma.  He also majored last year's NAIA runner-up Ryan Moore of Thomas More 10-2.   This is unfortunately Turnquist's final year of eligibility. 

Dallas Wilson
Mount Olive 
149 lbs

It's pretty simple, when you're in an extremely loaded bracket, full of a ton of ranked wrestlers someone is going to be the odd man out.  It's unfortunate but it is the way it is.  There's only three spots & when there's more than three guys looking for those spots, it's pretty simple math.  Dallas Wilson of Mount Olive was an NCAA DII qualifier last year with a 3rd place finish at the Super Region II.  He beat out Jake Piccirilli of UNC-Pembroke for the trip to nationals & call it irony, Piccirilli avenged last year's loss by edging Wilson for the Q in a tiebreaker this year.  In the dual meet however, Wilson did have a 7-3 win over Piccirilli.  Wilson also defeated Super Region IV runner-up Joey Semerad of McKendree by a 9-2 score. 

Lawrence Saenz
San Francisco State
149 lbs 

It takes examples like this to really make fans understand that NCAA Division II wrestling isn't as far and distant of a land to NCAA Division I as so many like to think it is.  Lawrence Saenz of San Francisco State spent the first five seasons of his career competing for NCAA Division I teams Fresno State & Cal Poly.  While at these respective schools he had multiple wins over multiple NCAA I qualifiers.  Hell this year alone he placed 4th at RENO & he had a 5-4 victory over two time NCAA DI qualifier Carter Young of Oklahoma State.  That alone should tell you how tough Saenz is & that alone should illustrate how tough it is to qualify for the NCAA DII championships.  Saenz took 5th at Super Region VI & on the season he defeated Super Region VI 3rd place finisher John Burger of Nebraska-Kearney 10-5. 

Eric Faught
Upper Iowa
157 lbs 

20-5 on the season, thus far Eric Faught is a two time NCAA DII qualifier with Super Region V finishes of 3rd-6th-3rd-4th & with COVID-19 eligibility standards still in effect, I believe he has the '24-'25 season if he chooses to take it.  This year he placed 4th at the prestigious Midwest Classic & he nearly majored Super Region II runner-up Jack Tangen of Lander by a 10-3 score.  The tenacity of UW-Parkside's Ben Durocher should be noted here as well, as he had to go through Hell & back to defeat Faught twice at the Region in order to secure qualification. 

Dillon Walker
165 lbs 

"This is why the do it the way they do it."  "This is why they won't change it."   Yeah, yeah, yeah...I've heard the excuses & I've heard the arguments. It's bull.  At the end of the day, that's really all it is.  I cannot look at a wrestler like Dillon Walker of Mercyhurst & have any respect for the way the qualification system works in NCAA Division II wrestling.  The season is six months & what is reflected? Two days of wrestling.  That ain't right & no amount of trying to justify it is going to change my mind.  

Walker was 5th in the DII nation in 2022 & he was one match shy of collecting another All American honor last year, after winning the Super Region I. BUT...again, at this level, you can't get upset.  You just can't.  On the year, look at the number of quality victories he has.  He whipped up on Super Region I champ Nick Coreno of Gannon twice by identical scores of 10-3.  Nearly tech'd Alec Cook of West Liberty who took 3rd at Super Region III 15-3.  Then he also had a 2-0 win over Super Region III champ Sevi Garza of Ashland & a 6-5 tiebreaker over Cory Peterson of McKendree who was 3rd at Super Region IV. He also for the record was 7th at the Midwest Classic.  Will be a senior next year. 

Dillon Keane
165 lbs 

If I'm going to include Dillon Walker on this list, then I'm gonna have to include the guy who beat him twice this year (10-4 & 4-1 s.v.) on this list too.  Ironically enough, Dillon Keane of Pittsburgh-Johnstown made my list of "Best Not to Qualify 2023" as well.  Winning a Super Region I title in 2022, he hasn't been able to make the magic happen again the past two seasons with finishes of 5th & 4th.  Along with his wins of Walker, he also has a 9-2 decision over Sevi Garza of Ashland, the Super Region III champion. 

John Ridle
Central Missouri
165 lbs

Rankings don't lie & neither do statistics.  John Ridle of Central Missouri had to have been in one of the most challenging brackets of all the Regions.  A Super Region IV champion in 2022, he was 4th in the D2 nation.  He may have another season left.  I'm not sure due to being a bit confused about whether he was a redshirt or not one of the previous seasons.  Regardless, he was 5th at the Region this season & one of the best to not make the 2024 DII championships.  Had a 10-8 decision over Super Region VI champion Aaden Valdez of Adams State. 

Max Bruss 
174 lbs 

I don't know if wrestling fans truly grasp just how tough it is to place at a Super Region. These aren't your run of the mill opens at the beginning of the year.  They are only second to the National championships in prestige and wrestlers fight like Duncan McLeod in Highlander to earn a medal (preferably top three) at them.  To think, Max Bruss of Mary was able to secure five medals.  Yes, five.  During his career as a Marauder he was 2-4-5-2-4 at Super Region V.   Last year he was also 5th in the DII nation. Not to mention 4-1-6 at the Midwest Classic the past three years. I've already said enough. I've already proven my point on why he's one of the best this season not to qualify, but I'll add a few more points.  4-2 over Super Region II runner Brandon Matthews of Lander. 10-5 over Super Region III runner-up Nate Barett of Ashland.  6-1 over Super Region IV runner-up Matt Ortiz of McKendree. 7-5 over Super Region IV bronze medalist Trey Sizemore of Indianapolis. He had the wins to back it up too. 

James Penfold
Lake Erie
174 lbs

I have no insider information. I don't know anything more than any other fan with an outsider's perspective. However, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find out that James Penfold has been injured or sick most of the season. That the only thing that makes sense to me.  A three time national qualifier, he earned back to back All American finishes of 8th & 4th the past two seasons.  Why his final year of eligibility ends on a sour note, he did have wins this season that help to warrant his name being on this list for this season.  A 9-3 decision over Super Region I runner-up Cole Casilio of Gannon, he defeated Super Region II bronze medalist Andrew Reed of Newberry 10-5. 

Colter Bye
Upper Iowa
184 lbs 

Colter Bye was an NCAA DII 8th place All American last year with a 2nd place finish at Super Region V.  He came up just a hair short of qualification this season with a 4th place finish in the Region.  Among his victories a 4-2 decision over Super Region IV champ Garrett Wells of Central Oklahoma.  He defeated both the Super Region I runner-up Cole Casilio of Gannon (4-3) & the Super Region VI runner-up Cole Gray of Western Colorado (4-2).  Then he also defeated Owen Butler of Indianapolis 9-4, who was 3rd at Super Region IV.  Not to mention, he took 8th at the Midwest Classic. 

Matt Kaylor 
197 lbs 

3rd in '22 & '23 at the Super Region V & 5th in the DII nation last season, Matt Kaylor came up short of a third qualification with a Region finish of 5th this year.  27 wins on the season, what sticks out most is a 29-10 technical fall over Nick Johnson of Glenville State who won the Super Region III.  He also had a 5-2 s.v. over Super Region VI runner-up Jackson Kinsella of Nebraska-Kearney & a 7-1 decision over Super Region IV bronze medalist Logan Kvien of McKendree.  4th at the Midwest Classic, I believe he has one more season of eligibility. 

Jake Swirple
Minot State

3rd in Super Region V & 8th in the DII nation last season, Jake Swirple lost two heartbreakers this season to come up a nosehair short of qualification.  Goes to show the intestinal fortitude of Zach Peterson of Augustana (SD), because when you can beat someone as good as Swirple two times in a row in sudden victory, that is saying something.  All in all those two losses, were two of the only losses Swirple took this year.  A record of 18-4 he beat both Super Region V finalists earlier this season.  A 2-1 tiebreaker over champ Luke Tweeton of Mary & a 5-0 shutout over runner-up Lloyd Reynolds of UW-Parkside. 

Mason Watt
Chadron State

There's a handful of things in wrestling that I don't like.  Things I don't care for.  However, there's only a select few things I hate in wrestling & if I hate anything, I HATE injuries.  Especially when they happen in a wrestler's final showing.  Just makes me sick to my stomach that Mason Watt was injured and went out that way.  Nevertheless, what a standout career he had for the Eagles.  4th-5th-2nd-6th in the Super Region VI, he was one match shy of DII All American honors last year.  This year he made the finals of the Midwest Classic.  On the year he had a 4-1 s.v. over Super Region V runner-up Lloyd Rogers of UW-Parkside & he stuck Super Region II bronze medalist Massimo Sullivan of UNC-Pembroke at 4:18. 


I think I've given enough examples to state my case.  As there was in NCAA Division III, there's a ton of talent in DII that is staying home/watching from the stands. 

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