Jump to content

  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    2021 MatMen Open Preview and Predictions

    Olympic bronze medalist Myles Amine (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    Just five days ago, shockwaves were sent through the collegiate wrestling community as the Midlands Championships announced that they were canceling their 2021 tournament out of “an abundance of caution” due to public safety concerns. Before most could even lament the bad news, Illinois Matmen's Izzy Martinez and MatScouts founder/InterMat owner Willie Saylor rallied the troops and set in motion a plan to host and run the tournament.

    With that, the MatMen Open was born. Since Martinez and Saylor were able to secure the same venue (NOW Arena) for the same dates, the majority of the schools committed to the Midlands, kept their plans intact to head to the greater Chicago area.

    Earlier today, preseeds were announced for the MatMen Open. Now we have a preview of the action taking place on December 29th and 30th on the Illinois MatMen Rokfin page.

    125 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #25 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers); #26 Gage Curry (Pittsburgh); #29 Justin Cardani (Illinois); #30 Antonio Lorenzo (Cal Poly); #31 Anthony Molton (Campbell), #33 Ryan Miller (Penn)

    Unranked Threats: Zurich Storm (Campbell); Colton Camacho (Pittsburgh); Hunter Adrian (Brown); Bryce West (Northern Illinois); Drew West (Northern Illinois)

    This is an extremely interesting weight class as there are plenty of ranked wrestlers expected to enter, with no clear-cut favorite. To top it off, no one at the weight is ranked higher than 25th in the nation. The bottom quarter of the rankings will certainly get sorted out, with seven participants between 25-33 entered.

    As far as rankings go, the favorite is undefeated Dylan Shawver. After going 4-3 last year as a true freshman, Shawver has gone 9-0 this season, though he has yet to face an opponent currently ranked. That should change after this week. The most decorated wrestler in this bracket is Gage Curry, who has competed in four NCAA Tournaments before transferring to Pittsburgh. His Panther teammate Colton Camacho is also in the field and is very close in ability.

    The Pitt 125's aren't the only notable teammates to watch out for. Campbell's tandem of Anthony Molton and Zurich Storm are both capable of placing, as are the West twins of Northern Illinois, Bryce and Drew.

    Finally, Antonio Lorenzo and Ryan Miller are a pair of new faces that could rise with strong performances. Lorenzo broke into the national rankings after a fifth-place showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Miller made the final of the Keystone Classic and has excelled on the freestyle circuit.

    Finals Prediction: Dylan Shawver over Ryan Miller

    3rd) Gage Curry 4th) Anthony Molton 5th) Justin Cardani 6th) Colton Camacho 7th) Antonio Lorenzo 8th) Hunter Adrian

    133 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #6 Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh); #7 Lucas Byrd (Illinois); #12 Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers); #13 Michael Colaiocco (Penn); #23 Kyle Burwick (Wisconsin); #33 Matt Ramos (Purdue)

    Unranked Threats: Drew Mattin (Michigan); Jack Skudlarczyk (Northern Iowa); Cole Rhone (Bloomsburg); Kurt Phipps (Bucknell); Nick Masters (Princeton)

    After a couple of days at the Collegiate Duals that produced some upheaval amongst the 133 lb contenders, the MatMen Open should also bring some clarity to the potential backhalf of the NCAA podium and the top-ten. The favorites are returning All-American Lucas Byrd and Micky Phillipi, both of the top-ten wrestlers at this weight. Byrd has only seen action twice this year and suffered a loss to Tony Madrigal (Oklahoma) at the Michigan State Open on the opening weekend of the season. Philippi also has a single blemish on his 2021-22 ledger, coming after a weird defensive fall in the closing seconds against Malyke Hines (Lehigh). These two are no strangers to each other. They clashed in the NCAA Round of 12 last season, in a bout won by Byrd in tiebreakers. It marked the second time that Phillippi has fallen a match shy of All-American status.

    Two potential threats to a Byrd/Phillippi rematch are #12 Sammy Alvarez and #13 Michael Colaicco. Alvarez was the victim of an Anthony Sobotker (Binghamton) headlock in his first appearance this year, but has since righted the ship and been a stable force in the Scarlet Knights lineup. He should get his first significant tests of the year with his competition at the Open. The same can be said for the unbeaten Colaiocco. A win at the Journeymen Collegiate Challenge over Reno TOC winner #16 Devan Turner (Oregon State) accounts for the best win thus far for Colaiocco.

    The label unranked applies to Drew Mattin, but only because of the star power of the Michigan lineup. Mattin is 11-2 on the year with a pair of wins over NCAA qualifiers on his resume, including one over #23 Kyle Burwick, who is expected to compete here.

    Other possible darkhorses include Kurt Phipps and Nick Masters. Phipps recently defeated then-ranked Derek Spann (Buffalo), while Masters downed NCAA qualifier Mosha Schwartz (Northern Colorado) at the CKLV Invitational.

    Finals Prediction: Micky Phillippi over Lucas Byrd

    3rd) Michael Colaiocco 4th) Sammy Alvarez 5th) Drew Mattin 6th) Kyle Burwick 7th) Matt Ramos 8th) Kurt Phipps

    141 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #4 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern); #14 Parker Filius (Purdue); #24 Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh); #25 Cayden Rooks (Indiana); #32 Carmen Ferrante (Penn)

    Unranked Threats: Joe Zargo (Wisconsin); Wil Gil (Franklin & Marshall); CJ Composto (Penn); McKenzie Bell (Rider); Jaivon Jones (Northern Illinois)

    Unless there is a major late-addition, the only returning Midlands champion at any weight competing in this field is Sebastian Rivera. Rivera should be a significant favorite to win for the second time in Hoffman Estates. Everytime that Rivera has stepped on the mat in 2021-22, he has come away with bonus points. The only two multi-time NCAA qualifiers after Rivera are Parker Filius and Cole Matthews. Filius won a pair of matches at the NCAA Championships last year and was sixth at the CKLV Invitational earlier this month. Matthews is a two-time third-place finisher in some loaded ACC weight classes.

    Two of the wrestlers near the bottom half of the rankings that have experienced some success in tournament action this year are Cayden Rooks and Carmen Ferrante. Rooks was third at the Mountaineer Invitational and fifth at the Cleveland State Open. Ferrante won the Keystone Classic.

    One of the more overlooked wrestlers in the country is Wil Gil, who didn't compete last year due to F&M's athletic department policies. Gil won the Bearcat Open and tallied 60 wins in between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

    This tournament should also provide the biggest widespread test for freshman Joe Zargo. Zargo suffered a close loss to unbeaten Kizhan Clarke (North Carolina) in November, but has been solid ever since. He has spent time in the national rankings already this year.

    A notable here that is under redshirt is 2021 MAC runner-up McKenzie Bell. While competing unattached this year, Bell has dropped a few bouts to wrestlers in this field (CJ Composto - Penn and Justin Bierdumpfel - Brown).

    Finals Prediction: Sebastian Rivera over Parker Filius

    3rd) Cole Matthews 4th) Joe Zargo 5th) Wil Gil 6th) Carmen Ferrante 7th) McKenzie Bell 8th) Jaivon Jones

    149 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #10 Josh Heil (Campbell); #11 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin); #18 Legend Lamer (Cal Poly); #27 Anthony Artalona (Penn)

    Unranked Threats: Chance Lamer (Michigan); Anthony White (Rutgers); Kolby DePron (Bucknell); Marshall Keller (Princeton); Anthony Cheloni (Northern Illinois)

    One of the fun quirks regarding this weight class is that we have a pair of Lamer brothers in the field. #18 Legend, a seventh-place finisher at the CKLV Invitational, and younger brother Chance, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2021. Chance started the year at 141 lbs, but has moved up and captured wins over two NCAA qualifiers at the CSU Open.

    Aside from Legend, two of the favorites here are Josh Heil and Austin Gomez. While Heil hasn't competed in a month, he is 4-0, with all four wins coming over past national qualifiers. In 2019, Heil became just the second Campbell wrestler to make the Midlands finals. Expect Gomez to have the crowd on his side since he returns very close to his hometown of Carol Stream. Since transferring to Wisconsin, Gomez has a second-lease on his wrestling career and is capitalizing with a 4-0 record.

    Another 2019 Midlands placer that will compete here is Anthony Artalona, who was sixth at the 157 lb weight class. Artalona was an NCAA Round of 12 finisher as a freshman in 2018-19, but has battled injuries since. In his only bout this year, Artalona fell to Penn State's Beau Bartlett in tiebreakers.

    Someone you may overlook since he's not Rutgers' current starter is Anthony White. The true freshman has amassed a 14-1 record this year and has a win over #31 Brent Moore (Clarion). White's win in sudden victory over Moore was his only non-bonus point win at the Shorty Hitchcock Open. Another freshman that's coming around is Bucknell's Kolby DePron. DePron is now 15-4 and boasts a win over 2021 national qualifier Peyton Omania (Michigan State).

    Finals Prediction: Austin Gomez over Josh Heil

    3rd) Legend Lamer 4th) Chance Lamer 5th) Anthony White 6th) Anthony Artalona 7th) Kolby DePron 8th) Marshall Keller

    157 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #10 Kendall Coleman (Purdue); #20 Doug Zapf (Penn); #28 Elijah Cleary (Pittsburgh); #29 Robert Kanniard (Rutgers); #33 Alex Carida (Bloomsburg)

    Unranked Threats: Jake Keating (Virginia), Munktulga Zuunbayan (Northern Illinois); AJ Jaffe (Harvard); Cooper Noehre (Purdue); Garrett Model (Wisconsin)

    2019 Midlands fourth-place finisher Kendall Coleman will try and move up a couple steps on the podium in this trip to the greater Chicago area. Coleman may have three losses on his record already, but two have come against the top-two wrestlers in the nation. The biggest threat to a title for Coleman is Penn's Doug Zapf. Zapf now famously started his career as a 133 lber for the Quakers, but has rapidly grown. His results on the mat have also increased as his weight has gone up. Zapf is responsible for Josh Humphreys' (Lehigh) only loss of the year. Humphreys was one of the standouts at last week's Collegiate Duals.

    After Coleman-Zapf, there's a drop-off in between them and the rest of the possible contenders. Though Elijah Cleary and Robert Kanniard are in different conferences now, they were both in the B1G last year and Kanniard came out on top when they met. Also, UVA's national qualifier Jake Keating makes his first appearance of the year.

    The biggest wild card at this weight is Munktulga Zuunbayan of Northern Illinois. The Harper College transfer was impressive at the Michigan State Open with wins over Johnny Lovett (Central Michigan) and Trevor Chumbley (Northwestern). Since then, he competed at the Jim Koch Open and dropped a bout to Wisconsin-Parkside's Ben Durocher.

    Finals Prediction: Kendall Coleman over Doug Zapf

    3rd) Jake Keating 4th) Robert Kanniard 5th) Elijah Cleary 6th) Munktulga Zuunbayan 7th) Garrett Model 8th) AJ Jaffe

    165 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #8 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh); #14 Phil Conigliaro (Harvard); #15 Zach Hartman (Bucknell); #17 Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin); #18 Izzak Olejnik (Northern Illinois); #21 Danny Braunagel (Illinois); #29 Lucas Revano (Penn)

    Unranked Threats: Michael Caliendo (North Dakota State); Holden Heller (Hofstra); Blaine Bergey (Princeton);

    At the 165 lb weight class, we could be in for a match between two of the returning NCAA semifinalists with Jake Wentzel and Zach Hartman. Wentzel is 3-2 on the year after going 13-2 all of last season. He'll need to tally wins here to keep up in a loaded 165 lb bracket, nationally. Wentzel is looking to rebound after dropping a close bout to Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) in his most recent dual appearance. Hartman got back on the winning track, as well, ten days ago when he pinned and teched opponents from Lock Haven and Buffalo. Hartman was stunned by Michigan State's freshman, Caleb Fish, for his lone loss of the year in early December.

    One of Hartman's fellow contenders for the 2022 EIWA crown is Havard's Phil Conigliaro. In Vegas, Conigliaro made the medal stand for the second time in his career, taking sixth at a stacked weight.

    This tournament should provide the first significant test(s) for Wisconsin's super-freshman Dean Hamiti. Considered one of the top recruits in the Class of 2021, Hamiti has lived up to the hype with a perfect 7-0 and bonus points in six of those contests. In his most recent appearance, Hamiti pinned Izzak Olejnik in the finals of the Cougar Clash. And speaking of, Olejnik will fall in as the number four seed at this weight. Olejnik was eighth at the 2019 Midlands, losing to Conigliaro in the process (Conigliaro was fifth).

    Illinois' brawler Dan Braunagel is sure to find his way to the podium. Braunagel is currently 5-2 on the year and lost to in-state rival Olejnik at the 2021 NCAA Championships.

    One name you may not know, but soon will, is the ninth seed Michael Caliendo. The Illinois product is redshirting at North Dakota State and has put together an excellent campaign. He's currently 10-0 with wins over a pair of past national qualifiers.

    Finals Prediction: Jake Wentzel over Dean Hamiti

    3rd) Zach Hartman 4th) Phil Conigliaro 5th) Michael Caliendo 6th) Dan Braunagel 7th) Izzak Olejnik 8th) Holden Heller

    174 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #16 Jackson Turley (Rutgers); #21 Nick Incontrera (Penn); #25 Gerrit Nijenhuis (Purdue); #29 Joshua Kim (Harvard); #30 Mason Kauffman (Northern Illinois)

    Unranked Threats: Edmond Ruth (Unattached); Hunter Kernan (Pittsburgh); Reece Heller (Hofstra); AJ Pedro (Brown); Joseph Walker (Michigan)

    This weight isn't expected to be as loaded as some of the others, but we will get to see the return of Rutgers All-American Jackson Turley. Early in the season, Turley was beaten by Clarion's John Worthing 12-6 and hasn't competed since. Turley made a relatively unexpected run to the NCAA podium last year, knocking off the likes of Andrew McNally and Donnell Washington.

    Maybe the biggest wild card at this weight is seventh-seeded Edmond Ruth. Ruth picked up some solid wins at 184 lbs, competing unattached, while winning the Clarion Open on the opening week of the season. If he manages the weight well, he could be a factor here.

    A couple of slightly unheralded Ivy Leaguers, Nick Incontrera and Joshua Kim, should vie for spots high on the podium. The two have already met this year, with Incontrera coming out victorious at the Keystone Classic. He ended up second, while Kim settled for third.

    Returning national qualifiers Gerrit Nijenhuis and Mason Kauffman could have an impact, too. Hofstra's Reece Heller has put together some solid wins competing unattached this year and is now 9-2. His only losses have come to Kim and Hunter Kernan, who is also in the field.

    Finals Prediction: Jackson Turley over Edmond Ruth

    3rd) Nick Incontrera 4th) Gerrit Nijenhuis 5th) Joseph Walker 6th) Joshua Kim 7th) Hunter Kernan 8th) Mason Kauffman

    184 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #2 Myles Amine (Michigan); #6 Bernie Truax (Cal Poly); #7 Brit Wilson (Northern Illinois);#16 Trey Munoz (Oregon State); #19 Zac Braunagel (Illinois); #24 Chris Weiler (Wisconsin); #31 Gregg Harvey (Pittsburgh)

    Unranked Threats: Mark Hall (Post-Grad); Logan Deacetis (Bucknell); Neil Antrassian (Penn)

    This weight class went through some attrition during the last 24 hours, losing two top-ten ranked wrestlers in John Poznanski (Rutgers) and Donnell Washington (Indiana); however, it still boasts four past All-Americans and five in the top-20.

    Even with a talented field like this, the favorite could be listed in the “unranked threats” category as Mark Hall is the top-seed at the weight. The three-time NCAA finalist (2017 champion), Hall, is currently on the staff at the University of Pennsylvania and was a 2021 US Open Champion in freestyle. Speaking of freestyle credentials, it's hard to match the second seed, Myles Amine. This summer, Amine became San Marino's first-ever Olympic medalist in wrestling, when he captured the bronze medal at 86 kg.

    The other two returning All-Americans at this weight are Bernie Truax and Brit Wilson. Both may get overlooked because they don't compete for Big Ten/Big 12 programs. It will be good to see both opponents like Hall and Amine. The two were supposed to meet at the Michigan State Open; however, Truax medically forfeited out of the tournament and hasn't been in action since. Wilson has been very active and currently sports a 15-0 record.

    A new face at this weight is Trey Munoz. The Arizona State transfer shined at the Reno Tournament of Champions, up a weight from 2020-21, and won the whole thing. In the process, Munoz downed a top-15 opponent in Tate Samuelson (Wyoming).

    Some veterans that will definitely have deep runs are Zac Braunagel and Chris Weiler. The Badger, Weiler, has a head-to-head win over Braunagel last season, but has already dropped three bouts this year and, as a result, fell in the rankings.

    Finals Prediction: Myles Amine over Mark Hall

    3rd) Brit Wilson 4th) Bernie Truax 5th) Trey Munoz 6th) Chris Weiler 7th) Zac Braunagel 8th) Logan Deacetis

    197 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #2 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh); #12 Greg Bulsak (Rutgers); #26 Braxton Amos (Wisconsin)

    Unranked Threats: Ryan Reyes (Oregon State); Chris Kober (Campbell); Cody Baldridge (North Central); Cole Urbas (Penn); Levi Hopkins (Campbell); Kolby Franklin (HS); Caden Rogers (HS)

    Even without an extremely deep field at 197 lbs, there's a lot to be excited about. Returning NCAA runner-up Nino Bonaccorsi will headline this group. Bonaccorsi made the U23 World Team, so he missed the first few competitions upon his return. But since he's been back, Bonaccorsi has picked up where he left off. Which is putting points on the board! Bonaccorsi has scored ten points in all three of his wins this season, the most recent coming against #21 Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State). The veteran with the best track record, aside from Bonaccorsi, is Greg Bulsak, a graduate transfer, formerly of Clarion. The four-time national qualifier has been extremely impressive during his time with Rutgers, compiling bonus points in all but two of his eight wins.

    Looking to make the next step is Wisconsin's stud freshman Braxton Amos. A Junior World champion in freestyle and medalist in Greco-Roman, Amos came into this year with plenty of fanfare and high expectations. Some of the hype subsided after a dual loss to Hofstra's Trey Rogers. His results since, though not against top-tier talent, indicate that loss was more likely a blip on the radar, than a sign of things to come.

    There are three others in this bracket with past NCAA experience, Ryan Reyes, Chris Kober, and Cole Urbas. Well, we should specify at the DI level, because North Central's Cody Baldridge made the DIII tournament in 2019 and 2020.

    Also, a pair of talented Pennsylvania high schoolers are slated to compete. Wyoming Seminary's Kolby Franklin and Malvern Prep's Caden Rogers are both top-50 recruits from the Class of 2022. Franklin has signed with Iowa, while Rogers will stay in-state to wrestle for Lehigh.

    Finals Prediction: Nino Bonaccorsi over Braxton Amos

    3rd) Greg Bulsak 4th) Chris Kober 5th) Cole Urbas 6th) Ryan Reyes 7th) Kolby Franklin 8th) Cody Baldridge

    285 lbs

    Ranked Wrestlers: #5 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin); #17 Luke Luffman (Illinois); #26 Boone McDermott (Rutgers); #28 Jake Slinger (Pittsburgh)

    Unranked Threats: Ethan Laird (Rider); Jack DelGarbino (Princeton); Ben Goldin (Penn); Michael Woulfe (Purdue); Sam Aguilar (Cal Poly); Vincenzo Pelusi (Franklin & Marshall); Christian Carroll (HS)

    A two-time Midlands placewinner (3rd and 8th), Trent Hillger is seeking to take the next step and come out of Illinois with a title in late December. Also, a two-time NCAA All-American, Hillger is undefeated and has falls in four of his six wins this year. He has quite a familiar face amongst the contenders in Luke Luffman. Last year, the two split matches; however, Hillger holds the career edge 2-1 between the two.

    The second seed is Rider's Ethan Laird, another Bronc that is taking the year off. Laird was the seventh seed at the 2021 NCAA Championships and advanced to the Round of 12 before his elimination. He has won all eight of his bouts this year, including titles at the Bearcat and Patriot Open's.

    Near the bottom of the nationals lies Boone McDermott and Jake Slinger. Both have been instrumental in their respective team's success this year, as Slinger has clinched a pair of Pitt wins in the final bout with falls. McDermott won his first seven matches this year, before falling to Army's Ben Sullivan in sudden victory.

    Others to watch include Jack DelGarbino, who had one of the biggest upsets of the young season, when he pinned U23 world champion Tony Cassioppi (Iowa). Purdue's Michael Woulfe is a past national qualifier for the Naval Academy that is finishing his eligibility with the Boilermakers. He has made the most of his opportunity with a 7-4 record.

    Finally, we'll get a glimpse into the future as one of the top high school juniors in the nation, Christian Carroll, has entered. Carroll is a UPenn recruit that dominated his way to a Junior freestyle title in Fargo and his second Super 32 crown in October.

    Finals Prediction: Trent Hillger over Luke Luffman

    3rd) Ethan Laird 4th) Boone McDermott 5th) Christian Carroll 6th) Ben Goldin 7th) Jack DelGarbino 8th) Sam Aguilar

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Create New...