Daniel Woiwor and the Apple Valley Eagles finished runner-up at The Clash X (Photo/The Guillotine)
The Clash XI National High School Wrestling Duals represent a truly unique event in high school wrestling. It is a tournament of dual meets where nationally elite squads will have at least three, and possibly even five, competitive dual meets over a two-day period. Day 1 is three dual meets for each squad using an eight-man bracket team advancement concept, while the second day is three dual meets in a round-robin setting based on their position in Day 1 (i.e. the four first-place teams are in one pool, those that take second in another, etc.).
Since predicting when and where the elite individual matchups will take place is going to be imperfect, let's instead list the nationally ranked wrestlers from all 32 teams in the event below:
106: No. 9 Mitch McKee (St. Michael-Albertville, Minn.)
113: No. 5 Sean Russell (Collins Hill, Ga.) and No. 14 Jaret Singh (Kearney, Mo.)
120: No. 2 Tommy Thorn (St. Michael-Albertville, Minn.), No. 6 Ryan Millhof (Collins Hill, Ga.), and No. 17 Jordan Laster (Montini Catholic, Ill.)
126: No nationally ranked individuals
132: No. 18 Seth Gross (Apple Valley, Minn.)
138: No. 2 Kevin Norstrem (Brandon, Fla.) and No. 9 Daniel Lewis (Blue Springs, Mo.)
145: No. 1 Jake Short (Simley, Minn.) and No. 14 Darick Lapaglia (Blue Springs, Mo.)
152: No. 1 Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn.) and No. 12 Cain Salas (Blue Springs, Mo.)
160: No. 8 Daniel Woiwor (Apple Valley, Minn.) and No. 17 Davonte Mahomes (Oak Park River Forest, Ill.)
170: No. 4 Nick Wanzek (Simley, Minn.) and No. 14 Colin Holler (Carl Sandburg, Ill.)
182: No. 3 Brooks Climmons (Pope, Ga.), No. 5 Ricky Robertson (Carl Sandburg, Ill.), No. 13 Michael Pixley (Blue Springs, Mo.), and No. 18 Ryder Newman (Green Valley, Nev.)
195: No. 5 Broc Berge (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.)
220: No nationally ranked individuals
285: No. 4 Sam Stoll (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.)
Thirty-two teams will assemble at the UCR Regional Sports Center on Friday for Day 1 of competition in either the morning or evening. Brackets "C" and "D" will compete in the morning session, with matches at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. Central Time (10/noon/2 ET); while Brackets "A" and "B" will compete in the evening session, with matches at 4 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. (5/7/9 ET).
Teams losing in their first match will compete for fifth through eighth place in their brackets during the two remaining Day 1 rounds, and reconvene for pool competition in the Saturday morning session at 9 a.m. Those winning the first match on Friday will finish top four in the bracket, their last two matches determining exact placement, and assemble for their pool competition on in the Saturday evening session starting at 4 p.m.
For coverage of the dual meets as they happen, check out the direct link from Track Wrestling.
The following represents an analysis of each of the four Day 1 brackets with some projection involved.
Bracket C: Three nationally ranked teams are featured: No. 4 Apple Valley, Minn., No. 10 Montini Catholic, Ill., and No. 33 Kearney, Mo. Apple Valley is the top seed and perennial participant in the championship pool on Day 2. They are prohibitive favorites in the opening match against Arrowhead, Wis., with the only remotely interesting matchups coming at 132 and 152; at 132 it is likely to be a 2011 Cadet freestyle final rematch between Seth Gross (Apple Valley) and Andrew Crone, while at 152 it is likely to be two-time state placer Mitch Berenz (Arrowhead) against either No. 1 Mark Hall or state runner-up Dayton Racer. Also prohibitively favored in their opening matchup is fourth-seed Bound Brook, N.J., who draws Pierre, S.D.
Guessing Apple Valley's lineup for the Clash with any degree of intelligence has been an exercise in absurdity on a year-to-year basis, since they always have some sort of adjustment up their sleeves. The Eagles will additionally be strong favorites in their semifinal against Bound Brook, a balanced team with five returning state qualifiers but no true anchor, with only Craig De La Cruz (113) even a state placer.
Down in the lower half of the bracket, Montini Catholic is the second seed, looking at an opening round walkover against Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Minn. Third seed Kearney will be just slightly more challenged by Hastings, Minn., though this is not a dual meet whose outcome is truly in doubt. There is potential for one interesting match though, as Hastings' best wrestler Luke Rowh (132), a returning state placer, matches up against state runner-up Blake Clevenger who placed at the Ironman earlier this month.
This sets up a somewhat intriguing semifinal between Montini Catholic and Kearney, though the 10th-ranked Broncos are clear favorites in at least seven weight classes. High profile individual matches abound in the lower half of the lineup with two-time state champion Jaret Singh (Kearney) against state champion Tommy Pawleski at 113 pounds, Junior National freestyle All-American Seth Brayfield (Kearney) against two-time state placer Jordan Laster at 120, Ironman placer Clevenger against Cadet freestyle All-American Jose Champagne at 132, state champion Kevin Kinney (Kearney) against two-time state placer Chris Garcia at 138.
The result is a much anticipated final between Apple Valley and Montini Catholic. Much of the dynamic here will be driven by lineup strategy. The opening four weight classes could help to set a tone, as even a split for Apple Valley should be a sufficient path to victory; the Broncos need three wins here for a probable victory path, while a sweep would assuredly signal victory. Part of that may involve strategic placement of Laster and Cadet Greco-Roman champion Vince Turk between 120 and 126.
At 132, it is advantage Apple Valley with Gross, while Montini should have the advantage at 138 and 145. Apple Valley looks to be favored in the next three weights if they place Racer at 152 to face state qualifier Luke Fortuna, bump Hall up to 160 for a match with Cadet double All-American Xavier Montalvo, and bump Daniel Woiwor to 170 to face state placer Mike Maduko. The four upper-weight matchups all seem to be rather even, and could set a tone for the match if the dual meet starts in the middle-to-back based on random weight class draw. In conclusion, the safest pick is Apple Valley, as they are less dependent on "swing" matchups.
Bracket D: Four nationally ranked teams are present, listed in seeding order: No. 16 Carl Sandburg, Ill., No. 17 Kasson-Mantorville, Minn., No. 49 Vacaville, Calif., and No. 50 Pope, Ga. Carl Sandburg is prohibitively favored in their opening dual meet against Forest Lake, Minn.
The fourth seed Pope, Ga. has an extremely dangerous opening match against Green Valley, Nev., which could include a showdown between nationally ranked 182 pound wrestlers in Brooks Climmons and Ryder Newman. The Bulldogs are suspect in the lower half of the lineup, while Green Valley has three Reno TOC placers in that segment with champion Sean Cannon (113), sixth placer Jared Brathur (126), and eighth place finisher Zack Perry (145) along with state placer Josh Temple (120) who was one match away from placing. On the other hand, Pope stars in the upper half of the lineup with state champion Jake Hensen (152), state runner-up Billy Meek (170), Junior National freestyle runner-up Brooks Climmons (182), two-time Super 32 placer Trevor Stevens (195), and two-time state placer Joey Tabachino (220).
Third seed Vacaville is a solid favorite to beat Owatonna, Minn., in the opening round, the match feels like one of those 9-5 type deals; while second seed Kasson-Mantorville is clearly favored to upend Corona del Sol, Ariz., in the opening round. The semifinal match involving the two squads looks like one where Kasson-Mantorville has the much clearer path to victory. They have six wrestlers who made the finals at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament two weekends ago -- freshman Gabe Shea (106); 2010 state champion Nate Thomas (126); state champions Brady Berge (132), Colton Laganiere (138), and Broc Berge (195); as well as 2011 state runner-up Sam Stoll (285). Vacaville responds with four who placed at the Reno Tournament of champions: two-time state placer Gionn Peralta (113), two-time state qualifier Kasey Klaus (120), senior Zach Dawson (152), and state placer Jeremy Sweany (195); as well as additional state qualifiers in Cameron Bailey (126) and Chris Lai (182). The featured match would be at 195 with No. 5 Berge facing Sweany.
In the upper semifinal, Carl Sandburg's extreme lineup balance should be able to upend either Pope or Green Valley. Green Valley provides a better challenge in being less susceptible to pins or a significant run of Eagle victories, while Pope can make it a battle with their upper-weight strength. The absence of two-time state finalist Sebastian Pique (120) should not that much of an issue on Day 1, as the net outcomes should not change.
Looking forward to the championship match, it should be an interesting one between Carl Sandburg and Kasson-Mantorville. It seems that Kasson-Mantorville is clearly favored in the five matches involving their best wrestlers, while clear underdogs in the five matches involving wrestlers that did not place at the Minnesota Christmas Tournament (113, 120, 152, 160, and 182). It seems likely to come down to a combination of bonus points and the other four matches: a battle between freshmen Gabe Shea (Kasson-Mantorville) and Christian Robertson) at 106, the 145 pound match between two-time state qualifier Branden Schorr (Kasson-Mantorville) against either state placer Mitch Cook or junior Alante Walter, a match at 170 pounds between two-time state qualifier Corben Hansen (Kasson-Mantorville) and three-time state placer Colin Holler, and at 220 where Bryce Seljan (Kasson-Mantorville) and state qualifier Bill Gore project to meet. It would seem that Carl Sandburg has the advantage.
Bracket A: Three nationally ranked teams present themselves in this bracket: No. 5 St. Michael-Albertville, Minn., No. 14 Oak Park River Forest, Ill., and No. 35 Blue Springs, Mo. In a somewhat humorous first round pairing, St. Michael-Albertville goes against Kimball, Minn.; three key starters for the top-seeded Knights were competing for Kimball last year. Though there is no doubt St. Michael-Albertville will win the dual, there are a few interesting matchups: at 113 pounds, state placer Blaine Tschida (Kimball) will go up against either state qualifier Aaron Dick or state runner-up Mitch McKee, who was formerly at Kimball; at 126, state placer Quentin Berres (Kimball) is likely to wrestle state placer Tanner Mills, another wrestler who was at Kimball last year; while at 138, state placer Marcus Hamer (Kimball) competes against three-time state placer Cole Sladek.
In the four-five match, it will be Collins Hill, Ga. against Lake Stevens, Wash. This should be a competitive dual meet, though neither team has a chance of beating St. Michael-Albertville in the next round. Collins Hill features a pair of nationally ranked wrestlers in Russell (113) and Millhof (120), while much of the rest of their squad is inexperienced and unproven. Lake Stevens features state champion Eric Soler (132/138) and NHSCA Junior runner-up Brandon Johnson (285). Therefore, for individual matchup purposes, one would like to see Collins Hill advance -- enabling a Thorn vs. Millhof match to occur at 120.
The lower half of the bracket will features a non-competitive match with second seed Oak Park River Forest a strong favorite to dominate Rochester Mayo, Minn. However, the match involving third seed Blue Springs and Port Washington, Wis., may be closer than expected, with an upset even possible because the Wildcats lack depth behind their four nationally ranked wrestlers, all of whom were Kansas City Stampede champions two weekends ago.
Assuming a Blue Springs first round win, the semi with Oak Park River Forest represents a situation where the tournament vs. dual meet dynamic comes into play. Despite starting five freshmen, including two in the middle-weights, the Huskies have extreme lineup balance; only one nationally ranked wrestler, but no holes except for 220 and 285. If the 32 teams in this event were to form a bracket tournament, one could see how Blue Springs finishes ahead of OPRF -- their four stars place very high, while the Huskies extreme lineup balance gets lost in the volume of talent. However, in this dual meet, finding seven Blue Springs wins is a tall order, one that could be compounded if lower weights wrestle early in the dual meet.
OPRF is strongly favored in this dual meet because of having seven matches in which they are favored (106-132, 160, 170), and likely to get bonus points in all of them. Interestingly that would mean four of the five freshman starters for the Huskies win their matches. In addition, three of the four Blue Springs stars find themselves against credible opposition: Lewis at 138 facing Jake O'Mara, a Junior Greco-Roman All-American, Lapaglia at 145 facing state qualifier Johnny Gahagan, and Pixley at 182 going against state qualifier and NUWAY Vegas champion Joe Ariola.
The resulting championship dual involves a pair of extremely balanced squads, St. Michael-Albertville and Oak Park River Forest. However, the scenarios in which STMA win this dual meet are easier to generate. Key parts of the equation are likely wins with bonus points from state placer Mitch Eull (220) and state qualifier Michael Kessler (285); getting at least one win from McKee and Dick at 106 and 113 against a pair of OPRF freshmen; Thorn (120) earning a win -- potentially with bonus points -- against state runner-up Matt Rundell; and getting at least two wins in the 132-145 area from state runner-up Mark Voss, three-time state placer Sladek, and state placer Lincoln Mallinger.
That already establishes six wins for STMA, with two additional wins noted in the above paragraph; plus there are four other swing matches in the dual meet: 126 between Mills (STMA) and freshman Isaiah White, 152 between Thor Holstad (STMA) and freshman Kamaal Bey, 170 between Joseph (STMA) and freshman Alan Stallings, and 195 between state placer Ricky Briggs (STMA) and Andre Lee. The only two sure-fire wins for OPRF in this dual are with Davonte Mahomes at 160 and Ariola at 195.
Bracket B: Like Brackets "A" and "C," three nationally ranked teams present themselves here: No. 7 Brandon, Fla., No. 20 Simley, Minn., and No. 29 Marist, Ill. Brandon will blow out their opening round opponent Burnsville, Minn., who has no state ranked wrestlers in Class 3A per The Guillotine. In the four-five match, it will be Jefferson, Ga. against Prior Lake, Minn. This should be a competitive dual meet, though neither team has a chance of beating Brandon in the next round.
Like with Brandon, the opening round matches for Simley and Marist should be non-competitive as well. Simley is slated to face Thompson, Ala., which does feature Super 32 placer Nick Hall at 152; while Marist faces Rapid City Central, S.D. This results in a semifinal match between Simley and Marist, two teams that have not performed up to their pre-season expectations in the early part of the season; maybe this dual meet can help give these squads the necessary impetus to right the proverbial ship.
Even though the national rankings have Simley higher, based on "base lineups," it is easier to create a scenario in which Marist wins this match than one in which Simley wins. Marist's strength in the upper-weights makes it highly likely they win five of the last six weight classes, losing only wherever Nick Wanzek competes for Simley. Those figures for the Red Hawks are state placers Peter Andreotti (160), Alex Benoit (170), Josh Pruitt (195), and Josh Hickey (285), along with senior Ethan Benoit (182) and two-time state qualifier Tom Howell (220).
Simley can get to five wins pretty easily, as they are very strong in the middle-weights where Marist is weak. Those key figures would be two-time state champion Kyle Gliva (132), 2010 state placer Wayne Voss (138), three-time state champion Jake Short (145), and state placer Mack Short (152). However, that leaves the four lower-weight classes as the likely deciders, and Marist is better in that portion of the lineup with Cadet freestyle runner-up Nick Lukanich (106), two-time state placer Mark Duda (113), and state placer David Kasper (120) present in that segment. For Simley to win this dual, they are going to need some combination of upsets, lineup strategy working in their favor, and/or winning the bonus point battle.
Since it could be either Simley or Marist in the final against Brandon, one should take a look at both dual meet scenarios. Against Simley, it is easy for Brandon to get to five wins. Lower-weight anchors Kyle Norstrem (113), James Flint (120), and Dylan Lucas (126) have all won state titles and look very likely to be after bonus points; Kevin Norstrem (138) is one of the nation's best wrestlers, and even against Wayne Voss could be chasing bonus; and two-time state champion Jacob Haydock (160) is also chasing bonus. In turn, Simley is looking at assured wins from Gliva and the Shorts, though bonus points are less assured. In order to reduce the burden on their upper-weights, it would behoove Brandon to win the 106 pound matchup and find a way to flex Super 32 placer Travis Berridge away from Wanzek.
The hypothetical Brandon vs. Marist matchup has a similar dynamic, though the path to a Marist victory is more plausible, as their back half of the lineup is stronger, and the last four weights are virtual locks to win and bring major bonus points into play. In turn, Brandon is heavily favored in four of the lower-to-middle matches, with Flint, Lucas, Kevin Norstrem, and Super 32 placer Troy Joyce (145). The result would be six matches that swing this dual meet; winning four should be enough, while a split makes it come down to bonus point. There are three "strength-on-strength" matches in that sextet: Norstrem against Duda at 113, Haydock against Andreotti at 160, and Berridge against Alex Benoit at 170.
Day 1 Predictions
Bracket A: STMA, OPRF, Blue Springs, Lake Stevens, Collins Hill, Port Washington, Kimball, and Rochester Mayo
Bracket B: Marist, Brandon, Simley, Jefferson, Prior Lake, Thompson, Rapid City Central, and Burnsville
Bracket C: Apple Valley, Montini Catholic, Kearney, Bound Brook, Hastings, Arrowhead, Pierre, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa
Bracket D: Carl Sandburg, Kasson-Mantorville, Pope, Vacaville, Green Valley, Owatonna, Forest Lake, and Corona del Sol.
Day 2 Predictions
Just going to offer orders of finish, since analyzing pools that may or may not happen makes rather limited sense.
Championship Pool: Apple Valley, STMA, Carl Sandburg, and Marist
Second Pool: Montini, OPRF, Brandon, and Kasson-Mantorville
Third Pool: Simley, Kearney, Blue Springs, and Pope
Fourth Pool: Vacaville, Bound Brook, Lake Stevens, and Jefferson
Fifth Pool: Green Valley, Prior Lake, Collins Hill, and Hastings
Sixth Pool: Owatonna, Port Washington, Arrowhead, and Thompson
Seventh Pool: Kimball, Forest Lake, Rapid City Central, and Pierre
Eighth Pool: Corona del Sol, Rochester Mayo, Burnsville, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa