Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Incredible Amount of Talent Staying Home: NCAA Division III

 I don't know if collegiate wrestling fans are aware of just how incredibly tough it is to make the NCAA Division III championships. It's unbelievably difficult to qualify & I can say that, but I think it is better to illustrate it. There are some extremely good wrestlers who did not qualify for the Championships in La Crosse, Wisconsin this season.  I don't know if I'll be able to name them all, but I do want to list some of the names that stick out to me.  Try and give a good, clear picture of the vast amount of talent that will be watching from the stands. 

James Levy
125 lbs 

He was 5th a year ago in the Lower Midwest Regional & this season he took 4th.  Gotta be difficult to come that close two years in a row.  Ending the season on a 15-3 record, he actually beat Cade Hornbeck 5-0 in the last dual of the season.  Hornbeck avenged the loss at Regionals though, leaving Levy one match shy of qualification. 

Brady Koontz
125 lbs 

There's no place for forgiveness and there is no room for error at this level.  Absolutely none.  Unlike NCAA DI where you can have an off day & rely on a Wildcard to get you in, you mess up here, you're done. You want an idea of how good of a wrestler Brady Koontz of Dubuque is? He was 3rd at the Lower Midwest Regional & 7th in the D3 Nation last season.  This year alone, he scored a 10-5 decision over Upper Midwest Regional Champ Jalen Dunson of UW-Whitewater & he scored a 4-1 s.v. over Central Regional Champ Jacob DeCatur, who may I add was the 2022 DIII champ & 2023 DIII Runner-up!  He also for the record, majored Hornbeck, who we just mentioned took 3rd at the Lower Midwest Regional.  Koontz is most certainly one of the best not going this year.  He was 5th at the Lower Midwest Regional. 

Luca Paladino 
UW-Stevens Point
125 lbs 

I believe Luca Paladino of UW-Stevens Point deserves mention here.  An Upper Midwest Regional champion last year, he finished just show of qualification with a 4th place finish this year.  On the season he had a 6-4 win over UMR champ Dunson & he also defeated Wyatt Kaczrwoski of Augsburg 6-1 earlier in the tournament who then came back to beat him 8-5 for qualification.  The most unpopular opinion of mine I can share, I do think in this particular case you should be allowed to challenge in a best of three. It'll never happen & I don't know if I'd talk to 1,000,000 people if I'd get one person to agree with me.  Yet I know damn good and well that if the rules where, "They already met, therefore no match" everyone would throw a fit.  I don't get why we value "last match" so much & put little to no significance on prior victory.  Especially when something as precious and meaningful as qualification is on the line. 

Joey Lamparelli
125 lbs

A two time Mideast Regional runner-up & 8th in the DIII nation last season, my heart really sank when Joey Lamparelli fell one match short of qualification this year.  19-4 on the year, he was just in a very tough Mideast Regional bracket.  That about sums it up. 

Adrian Samano
125 lbs 

I'm really anxious to see what Adrian Samano looks like in '24-'25.  Let me put it this way.  He ended last season with a record of 19-20. He came back this year, 100 times better than he was as a freshman.  If he comes back 100 times better as a junior than he was this year as a sophomore what will that look like? Samano gave up glimpses of just how good he can be.  He looked like a million bucks at the Pete Willson Invitational.  Took it to now three time Mideast Regional champ J.C. Cardenas of SUNY-Cortland 11-5 & he handed Mac Cafurello of Roanoke, the Southeast Regional runner-up at 2-1 loss.  Hell even at the Southeast Regional championships he handed Akhil Vega of Stevens Tech a 14-10 loss. Yet while Vega came back to 3rd, Samano then slipped to 6th.  No doubt about it, things will be worked on, improvements will be made.  I'm excited for Samano in 2025. 

Trevor Boryla
133 lbs 

4th-5th-4th in the Lower Midwest Regional. makes you just wanna pull the hair right out of your head.  So freakin' close, so many freakin' times!  Again I remind myself, as we all should, especially at this level of wrestling, there is so much more to a season, to a career than the NCAA DIII championships.  Boryla did win the Pete Willson Invitational this year.  He also majored Central Regional champion Jaden Hinton 18-10.  I'm not going to go into my spiel about why 3rd place should be a best of three in this circumstances, but earlier in the tournament Boryla did beat Bryce Parke of Coe 14-9. Parke then beat him for the trip to La Crosse. 

Ty Bisek
Concordia (MN)
133 lbs 

I've said it once, I'll say it 1,000 times.  You can not afford to get upset at this level & unfortunately, Ty Bisek of Concordia (MN) had to find that out the hard way.  He was 3rd at the Lower Midwest Regional a year ago & 6th in the DIII nation.  Unfortunately he lost early on at this year's LMR and while he worked his way back to 5th place, it wasn't quite enough to earn him another trip to nationals.  Ending the season 26-4, I have a feeling this will light a fire in Bisek & we'll see him back next year better than ever.  2nd at Pete Willson, he owns a 5-0 win over highly ranked Reece Barnhardt in NCAA DII & and stuck Upper Midwest Regional champion Dom Mallinder of UW-Whitewater at the 3:37 mark. 

Nico Diaz
Stevens Tech
141 lbs 

A Southeast Regional champion last year as a freshman, things didn't quite go the way for Nico Diaz of Stevens Tech as he would have liked for them to have gone this year.  He slipped to a 5th place finish & as a result he is easily listed as one of the best not to make the NCAA DIII championships this year.  Among his victories he defeated Northeast Regional bronze medalist James Rodriguez of Castleton 8-6.  A 4-1 win over Southeast Regional bronze medalist Mark Samuel of Roanoke, he nearly tech'd Upper Midwest Regional bronze Medalist Sam Lorenz of UW-La Crosse. 

Jalen Schropp
141 lbs 

If you're sick of my "true 3rd argument" sorry, cause I'm about to make it again.  Jalen Schropp beat Jake Dado earlier in the Lower Midwest Regional 5-2 & then dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to him in the match to go to DIII nationals. Leaves you with an an uncomfortable itch that you just can't scratch.  Congrats to Dado, happy for him, but I still think one more match for a best of three should have decided the Q.  Nevertheless Schropp is now 4th-6th-4th in three Lower Midwest Regional tournaments.  To further my case on the fellow HWY 149'er, he stuck Lower Midwest Regional champion Kyler Romero of Wartburg at the 3:39 mark. 

Bradley Rosen
North Central
141 lbs 

Bradley Rosen of North Central is another perfect example to just how insanely loaded the Lower Midwest Regional was this season.  A champion last year & R12 at DIII's, he was 5th at the Regional this year.  24-6 on the season, he had a 6-3 s.v. over Central Regional Champion Jaden Hinton. He also defeated 3rd place Upper Midwest Regional Sam Lorenz twice. 11-3 & 2-0. 

Axel Hernandez
Buena Vista
149 lbs 

Axel Hernandez put in a serious amount of work in the off-season and really stepped it up for the Beavers this year.  He proved himself to be a leader on a team that was looking for one.  I was really hoping that it would translate into NCAA DIII qualification and it just about did. Finished one match shy with a 4th place finish at the Lower Midwest Regional.  A Pete Willson champ, Hernandez finished with a record of 23-4.  A very impressive 13-5 major decision over UMR runner-up Zach Sato of UW-Eau Claire. 

Thomas Monn
149 lbs 

Thomas Monn of McDaniel was a Mideast Regional champion last year & 6th in the D3 nation.  This year he came up one match short of NCAA DIII qualification.  On ehte year 31-4, with a 3:45 fall over Matt Beyer of Ithaca who finished 3rd at the Mideast Regional.  I look for Monn, who has two years of eligibility left to perhaps end his career a three time All American. 

Pasquale Vizzoni
Stevens Tech
149 lbs 

I would most certainly add the name Pasquale Vizzoni of Stevens Tech to the best of '23-'24 to not make the NCAA DIII national tournament. A New Standard Invite champion, he defeated Southeast Regional runner-up Evan Lindner of Washington & Lee twice by scores of 4-1.  He also stuck Northeast Regional runner-up Zach Soda of New England at the 6:58 mark. 

Javen Estrada
North Central
157 lbs 

Is this the golden goose? The best wrestler in the DIII nation to not make the 2024 national tournament? He makes a good argument.  A two time Lower Midwest Regional runner-up, Javen Estrada of North Central made the DIII finals last season.  What exactly went wrong at this year's Lower Midwest Regional, I do not know.  Yet he finished 4th, and he will not be making a third trip to the NCAA D3's.  On the year he tech'd Lower Midwest Regional champ, Nathan Callaway 20-5.  He's the kinda guy I could see having this result in him winning the whole thing in 2025. 

L.J. Richardson
174 lbs

2nd in the Lower Midwest Regional & 6th in the DIII nation a year ago, L.J. Richardson came up one match short of qualification this year.  He has another year of eligibility left. 

Colby Morris
174 lbs 

I question if health was an issue in this case.  Colby Morris of Waynesburg was 2nd at last year's Southeast Regional & this year he entered the tournament with only one loss.  He also for the record had a 15-6 major over eventual runner-up Khalil Mitchell of Averett.   Season ended at 34-3, as he forfeitted his final match of the year to finish in 6th place.  This is why I make it a point to emphasis the whole season. With exception to one loss to a NCAA DI wrestler, Morris went undefeated coming into the Regional.  4 1/2 months worth of nothing but victories while winning three invitationals & the PAC title.  There's no way I'm chalking that up as a disappointing season just because of one bad tournament. No way.  

Jared Voss
184 lbs 

Jared Voss of Coe was 3rd at the Lower Midwest Regional last year and came up a little short of another qualification this year.  22 wins on the season he stuck both the Lower Midwest Regional runner-up & the Lower Midwest Regional bronze medalist in the first period.  A 1:49 fall over Cole Cervantes & a 1:45 fall over Cael McLaren.  He also had an 11-10 victory over Ryan DeVivo of Johnson & Wales who took 3rd in the Northeast Regional. 


That's it from me.  Are there more? No doubt about it. In a Division with 125 programs, a guy with only two eyes can't see everything.  So who did I miss? 

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