Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Talent Staying Home (Best Not to Qualify for 2024 NCAA DI Championships)

 I'll start off by saying that I like the way NCAA DI qualification is handled much more than I do the way DII & DIII are handled.  I sincerely feel that those in charge do their best to try and get the best 33 wrestlers in the nation competing at the national tournament.  With that said, it's still wrestling.  You're still going to have good wrestlers who don't make the tournament.  It's why qualification is a big deal & should be treated as a big deal.   I went through each weight class and determined who I thought were some of the best wrestlers who won't be going this year.  I'm sure I probably missed a few here and there & maybe I included a few who you wouldn't have.  Either way, these are my picks for "best not to qualify" in '23-'24. 

Colton Camacho

Inconsistency I believe is what kept Colton Camacho out of the NCAA tournament this year.  Ended the year with a losing record of 11-12, but before anyone is quick to judge, he had a pretty strong schedule.  I think it's more important to look at those 11 wins & see that he beat some good wrestlers.  Brendan McCrone of Ohio State & Tyler Klinsky of Rider, who both did get the nod, Camacho defeated them both.  McCrone by a 14-9 score & believe it or not he tech'd Klinsky 19-4.  He also took out Brett Ungar of Cornell 3-1. 

Nick Babin

Ranked within the top 25 most of the season, I was very shocked that Nick Babin of Columbia didn't get a nod. I suppose a bad EIWA tournament really cost the 2023 NCAA DI qualifier.  On the season he majored McCrone 14-5 & he also had a nice 4-0 victory over Max Gallagher of Penn.  In a weight class featuring three guys who might very well be All Americans in a couple of weeks, Babin took 4th at the Soldier Salute. 

Anthony Molton

I think what killed Anthony Molton as to NCAA qualification this year was that he took 3rd at the SOCON instead of 2nd.  I think those in charge would have forgiven him for a loss to Braydon Palmer of UT-Chattanooga, but they can't forgive the semi-final loss to Drew West of Gardner-Webb.  That's my guess. I also think strength of schedule comes into play as well.  For the most part Molton beat everyone put in front of him this year.  21-5, but didn't see a lot of ranked competition.  Has another year left & should dominate the SOCON next season. 

Conrad Hendriksen

A true freshman, I think it was mainly adjusting to the DI grind that Conrad Hendriksen had to endure this year.  I think he'll come back poised and experienced & never miss out on the NCAA tournament again.  This year he showed signs, but it wasn't quite enough.  A 6-4 win over Jett Strickenberger of West Virginia, he was 3rd at RENO. 

Jack Maida

You really hate to see things end the way for Jack Maida the way they did.  The reason he's not going to the NCAA DI championships, is plain and simple.  He got hurt at the EIWA's.  This caused him to have to medical forfeit to 8th place.  Had he been able to wrestle in that match & capture 7th place, I think the committee of deciders may have given him a stronger look.  I really do.  On the year a 2-1 win over Tristan Lujan of Michigan State & for whatever it is worth a 9-0 major over 2023 All American Eddie Ventresca of Virginia Tech. 

Joey Fisher

Joey Fischer of Clarion has an on switch, the problem is, how in the world do you keep it on? When he's focused he is capable of doing some very big things.  He proved that earlier this season with a 9-6 decision over Anthony Noto of Lock Haven.  He's also been a MAC runner-up in the past before too.  He figures out a way to keep the switch permanently on, we're not only looking at qualification material, we're looking at All American material. 

Sean Spidle
Central Michigan

Sean Spidle of Central Michigan had some nice wins this year.  A 3-1 decision over Blake West of Northern Illinois, he defeated Lujan 5-1.  I think the issue with why he didn't get a nod was due to a lot of close losses.  I think if he had been able to turn 1, 2 & 3 point losses into wins, it might have resulted in NCAA DI qualification.  He has one more season left. 

Spencer Moore
North Carolina 

Spencer Moore of North Carolina is another tough lightweight who didn't make it to the dance this year. He was 3rd in an ACC bracket that took the top two.  15 wins on the season, a 2-0 decision over Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State. 

Richie Koehler 

For the second season in a row, Richie Koehler of Rider took MAC runner-up honors & as far as I'm concerned got pretty much ignored when it came time to select the at large bids.  18 wins on the season, he had a 6-5 win over Cory Rooks of Indiana & he also defeated MAC champ Gable Strickland 4-1 s.v.

Tony Madrigal

You gotta compete.  It's that simple. You can't miss most of the season & expect to get the nod when it comes to at large/wildcard bids.  That's what kept three time NCAA DI qualifier Tony Madrigal of Illinois from seeing his fourth qualification.  Nevertheless in the handful of matches that he did wrestle this year, he scored an 8-3 decision over Jacob Van Dee of Nebraska & a 4-0 decision over Tyler Wells of Minnesota. 

Haiden Drury
Utah Valley

I would imagine that Haiden Drury of Utah Valley was probably right on the fence when at large bids/wildcards were being discussed at 141 lbs.  A runner-up at RENO, he had a 7-5 decision over Max Leete of American & a 5-2 decision over Cayden Rooks of Indiana. 

Jason Miranda

Seems every season Jason Miranda finishes somewhere between 34th & 37th.  Always just a hair away from being top 33, but can't quite get over the hump.  I was really hoping that a runner-up finish at the Southern Scuffle might light a fire & at times it seemed to.  He nearly majored Kai Owen of Columbia 13-7 & he actually did major Todd Carter of Gardner Webb 12-4.  Perhaps his final season of '24-'25 he'll finally be 33 or >, rather than <

Nash Singleton
Oregon State

I'd put Nash Singleton of Oregon State into the same category as Hendriksen at 125.  He's a freshman that took some rookie slumps this year & I'm pretty sure a summer of hard work & studying, he'll come back correcting the mistakes that were made this season.  6th at CKLV, he did defeat MAC champ Quinn Kinner of Rider 8-6. 

Noah Castillo

He was ranked a lot of this season & I thought that alone might get him into the NCAA championships via an at large/wildcard bid, but it didn't.  I really think what cost him Q this year some of the close losses he had throughout the season.  If we go back in time and turn those close losses into wins, Castillo would probably be packing for Kansas City right now.  He was 4th at the Southern Scuffle. 

Zach Price
Gardner Webb

A match away from qualification last year with a SOCON finish of 2nd when he needed to win the tournament & a match away from qualification with a SOCON finish of 3rd, when he needed to make the finals this season.  Two heartbreakers in a row.  Was hoping to see Price punch a ticket to Kansas City this season, but it didn't happen. Nevertheless, I still chalk up 29 victories & a 5th place Southern Scuffle showing a pretty good season. 

Nick Stonecheck
Lock Haven 

Consistency.  Probably sick of hearing that word by now, but it is what is keeping these guys from qualification this season.  Nick Stonecheck did have 18 wins this season, including an 8-5 decision over MAC champ Kinner. 

Nate Lukez

4th in an EIWA bracket that took the top three, I thought that Nate Lukez of Army would get into the NCAA championsips, but he did not.  26-11 on the year, he was 4th at the Southern Scuffle.  I would imagine strength of schedule is probably what kept him out. 

Sal Perrine

The entire point of our current qualification system is to make sure that a bad conference tournament doesn't cost you, your trip to nationals.  To incorporate the entire system into whether you're top 33 by year's end or not.  That's what it is supposed to do, but in the case of Sal Perrine of Ohio, I don't think that it did.  Perrine is a two time NCAA DI qualifier, who had some nice wins this year.  8-5 over SOCON champ Austin Murphy of Campbell, he defeated Cael Valencia of Arizona State 8-5 s.v.  He also owns a 7-3 decision over Braydon Thompson of Oklahoma State.  While both the Midlands & the Southern Scuffle aren't the prestigious tournaments they once were, CKLV still has quite a bit of clout & Perrine was 5th there. 

Bubba Wilson

The truth of the matter is, 174 lbs saw a lot of upset that wasn't expected and therefore the weight class was unprepared for the number of at large/wildcard bids it would actually need.  Carter Starocci of Penn State taking up a spot didn't help matters any & neither did the fact that there were only three left.  Bubba Wilson of Nebraska was 3rd at the Soldier Salute.  A 3-1 victory over Jared Simma of Northern Iowa, he defeated Valencia 1-0 & had a 5-2 decision over ACC bronze medalist Tyler Eischens of North Carolina. 

D.J. Washington

D.J. Washington of Indiana started off the season rather hot.  On the year he not only defeated EIWA runner-up Ben Pasiuk of Army 4-2, he teched MAC runner-up Michael Wilson of Rider twice (18-3 & 17-1).  Not only that, he majored MAC champ Alex Cramer of Central Michigan 15-4.   A runner-up finish at the Southern Scuffle, things were looking up for Washington.  Then it all fell apart for him at the beginning of February & he never recovered. Unfortunately for the three time NCAA DI qualifier, forgiveness wasn't on the agenda of the selection committee.  I do think though, via COVD-19 eligibility standards, he has one more season left. 

Tate Picklo

Again, 174 lbs was not the weight to be competing at if you needed an at large/wildcard bid.  Tate Picklo more than had his fair share of impressive wins this season.  7-2 of MAC champ Cramer, he majored BIG 12 runner-up Gaven Sax of North Dakota State 11-2.  He also had a 5-2 s.v. over Braydon Thompson & he won RENO. 

Tyler Brennan
Little Rock

I'm pretty sure the collegiate career of Tyler Brennan of Little Rock has ran its course & as a result I have to conclude him a top wrestler who never made the NCAA DI tournament.  It just goes to show how incredibly difficult it is to make it to the dance.  Earlier this season he shut out Valencia 6-0. 

Zayne Lehman

Perrine wasn't the only Bobcat that I feel got overlooked by the selection committee. Granted his MAC tournament didn't turn out so hot, but I figured some other W's might factor in more than they apparently did.  He defeated EIWA 3rd place finisher David Key of Navy twice, by scores of 4-2 & 8-6.  He also defeated Arizona State's Tony Negron 12-6.  I would imagine some awkward losses is most likely what he had held against him. 

Dalton Harkins

Dalton Harkins of Army is a very strange case.  He competed at 165 lbs all season long.  Wins include a 7:00 fall over PAC 12 champ Joseph Bianchi of Little Rock, a 12-2 major decision over Jake Logan of Lehigh & for what it's worth an 8-2 decision over Beau Mantanona of Michigan, a redshirt whom many, (including myself), are very excited about for next season.  Yet Army had Gunner Filpowicz as the varsity at 165 & Ben Pasiuk as the varsity at 174.  So Harkins went up to 184 for the EIWA championships.  Giving up 20 lbs in a DI college wrestling match can't be easy.   

Troy Fisher

I believe the issue with two time NCAA qualifier Troy Fisher was that he didn't have enough W's on the record.  Nevertheless the Wildcat did place 7th at the Midlands & he had a 12-10 decision over Michigan State's Layne Malczewski. 

Tristan Wills
Little Rock

19 wins on the season, I believe that Triston Wills of Little Rock deserves mention here.  On the season he pinned Reece Heller of Pittsburgh at 2:31. 

Dennis Robin
West Virginia 

Kinda surprised that Dennis Robin of West Virginia didn't get a nod.  He was 7th in the BIG 12's, in a bracket that naturally took the top 5 & then also took 6th place Will Feldkamp of Iowa State.  Robin had 21 wins on the season, he owns a 7-4 decision over Zayne Lehman of Michigan State & a 13-5 major decision over MAC runner-up Cam Pine of Clarion

Logan Deacetis

I would imagine the coaches at Bucknell weren't too happy when they saw that Logan Deacetis wasn't selected as an at large/wildcard.  He was 7th at the EIWA championships.  John Crawford of Franklin & Marshall, whom Deacetis defeated 12-2 major decision, did receive an at large bid.  Of all cases in wrestling, this has to be one of the toughest to accept.  Deacetis was also 6th at the Southern Scuffle. 

Luke Rasmussen
South Dakota State

I thought that Luke Rasmussen of South Dakota State might get a nod, but he didn't.  16 wins on the year, he was 2nd at the Soldier Salute.  

Michael Wolfgram
West Virginia

As big, strong and powerful as this guy is, I keep wondering when in the heck is he gonna finally let loose, and really go after guys.  There are times when he wrestles so damn tense, timid and conservative. Drives me nuts.  The times when he has let loose, he's beaten some good wrestlers. Had some good wins. I'm hoping missing out on the NCAA's might light a fire within him. I think he's good enough to be an All American. I really do.  Has one more season to prove it. 


Ok, who did I miss?  I'm sure I overlooked someone. No matter how hard I try not to, I always do.  

Please come at me with guys that legitimately tried to qualify.  I realize the same as you do that Travis Wittlake would have been a force to have been reckoned with at the PAC-12's & he would have contended for All American honors.  I get that, but he was hurt & he didn't compete.  So let's keep names like that away for right now & focus on those that competed at the conference tournaments. 

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