The top three seeds at 125 lbs Nick Suriano (center), Vito Arujau (right), and Patrick Glory (Photos/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
The 2022 NCAA DI Wrestling Championships are less than a week away! In a few short days, 330 wrestlers will make the trek to Detroit, Michigan, with hopes of a national title on their mind. In addition, fan seating will be at 100% capacity for the first time since Pittsburgh in 2019. Now it's in an area that hasn't hosted nationals since 2007 and even that tournament was not held downtown; it was way out in Auburn Hills.
Before the action on the mat starts, InterMat will go through each individual bracket and highlight the favorites, top matches to watch, and much more.
We'll start with the 125 lbers and release two of our weight class previews for the next five days:
The Top Seed: Nick Suriano (Michigan)
The 2019 NCAA Champion (at 133 lbs), Nick Suriano, looked like he was ready to win a second title with his showing in Lincoln at the Big Ten Championships. Suriano's â€œclosestâ€ match of the tournament was in the finals when he majored #6 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), 12-4. To get to the finals, Suriano pinned #9 Devin Schroder (Purdue) with ease. Suriano sports an 11-0 record and seems to be hitting his stride at the right time. Earlier in the season, he barely slipped by #16 Drew Hildebrandt (Penn State), 2-1. That match looks more like an anomaly now, as it is the only one of his 11 contests where he's failed to notch bonus points.
Since Suriano joined the Michigan team in January, we generally saw him against Big Ten competition only. No meetings with the EIWA crop of contenders. In his limited action, Suriano has beaten three of the eight NCAA All-American from 2021.
Suriano has already been an integral part of history with Rutgers, being their first national champion, so could he be a key cog in Michigan's first NCAA championship team?
The Contenders: #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell), #3 Patrick Glory (Princeton), #4 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State)
The Conference Champs:
ACC: #14 Jakob Camacho (NC State)
Big 12: #5 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia)
Big Ten: #1 Nick Suriano (Michigan)
EIWA: #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell)
MAC: #17 Anthony Noto (Lock Haven)
Pac-12: #4 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State)
SoCon: #20 Fabian Gutierrez (Chattanooga)
Top First-Round Matches:
#16 Drew Hildebrandt (Penn State) vs. #17 Anthony Noto (Lock Haven)
#9 Devin Schroder (Purdue) vs. #24 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech)
#12 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) vs. #21 Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley)
#11 Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State) vs. #22 Ryan Miller (Penn)
#7 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State) vs. #26 Kysen Terukina (Iowa State)
#15 Brody Teske (Northern Iowa) vs. #18 Noah Surtin (Missouri)
Think about all the ways this weight class has changed since October. At that time, Spencer Lee (Iowa) was assumed to be ready to claim his fourth NCAA title, Nick Suriano's status was still up-in-the-air and there were just some whispers that Drew Hildebrandt could change his mind and use his final year of eligibility. Since then, Lee decided to address his previous knee injuries, Suriano gave Michigan a strong title favorite at the weight, and Hildebrandt at least provided Penn State with stability at 125 lbs for the second half of the year.
This weight class was decimated by the Ivy League restrictions during the 2020-21 season. Legitimate title contenders, Arujau and Glory, were sidelined, as were Ryan Miller and Joe Manchio (Columbia), who also qualified this year. Without Suriano, and the Ivy twosome, Brandon Courtney emerged as one of the key players at this weight. He did not lose a bout until he met Lee in the NCAA finals.
Arujau and Glory returned and have ended up being every bit the title contenders we imagined. Glory struck first and won an 11-9 shootout during the dual season. Unphased, Arujau returned the favor with a stunningly dominant 19-6, near tech-fall, of Glory during the EIWA finals. It would take a significant upset to prevent a third meeting between the two.
I've described this weight class as having three distinct tiers. The first includes Suriano/Arujau/Glory. It's hard to imagine anyone else cracking the top-three and any of the trio finishing lower than third. Courtney is on a level of his own. He lost a one-sided major decision to Glory, but generally hasn't been pushed very often. It seems as if Courtney is a good bet to AA.
Now from seeds five through 24, it really wouldn't be â€œthatâ€ big of a shocker if anyone landed on the podium. For instance, #21 Taylor LaMont and #24 Sam Latona finished in the top-six last year. Both have taken more losses than they're accustomed to; however, they aren't the caliber of most wrestlers that carry similar seeds.
Like most weights, the depth of the Big Ten and Big 12 will be on display. #6 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), #8 Patrick McKee (Minnesota), #9 Schroder, #10 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern), #12 Heinselman, and #13 Ayala are all top-15 wrestlers from the Big Ten. During the regular season, they all generally exchanged wins with each other, so there's no rhyme or reason to who may get on the podium. Just matchup, by matchup. The Big 12 has #5 Cardinale, #7 Mastrogiovanni, and #15 Teske as top 15 seeds. Cardinale has separated himself from this group, beating Mastrogiovanni by seven in the Big 12 semis and Teske by five in the finals. Even so, his lone hiccup this year came against Terukina.
Quadrant to Watch: How about the second, the one that includes the #4 and #5 seeds. Courtney is smooth and looks like a decent bet to emerge; however, Cardinale is much improved from his seventh-place finish a year ago. Also in the mix is the true freshman, Ayala. If he's near top-form, he could be a headache for Courtney in round two. This group also includes a second AA in LaMont, who must get by Heinselman before anything further. Heinselman has a win over Ayala and could be ready for an All-American breakthrough.
Darkhorse All-American Contender: #13 Drake Ayala (Iowa)
Spencer Lee's injury opened the door for blue-chip true freshman Drake Ayala. While there's no way to properly replace a figure like Lee, many Iowa fans were still confident that the homegrown Ayala could find a spot on the podium this year. Drake's Carver Hawkeye debut saw him fall to Patrick McKee; however, he defeated returning Big Ten champion Devin Schroder two days later. He followed that win with one over Michael DeAugustino. An injury kept Ayala out of the lineup for most of the last month of the regular season. He returned for Big Ten's and notched wins over Jacob Moran (Indiana) and Tristan Lujan (Michigan State), before defaulting out of the tournament after securing a bid to nationals, with a top-eight finish. Ayala will still be less than 100%, but the question is, how healthy is he? I'm guessing he's able to push through it and has a strong performance.
Extreme (+20 seed) Darkhorse All-American Contender: #26 Kysen Terukina (Iowa State)
Last year, Kysen Terukina was the very last seed at 125 lbs. He proceeded to go 0-2, as one may expect from that position. What wasn't expected was that Terukina would elevate himself to the upper echelon of Big 12 contenders. Despite his seed and the need for an at-large in a Big 12 weight class that automatically qualified six, Terukina is an All-American threat. Terukina started the year by winning 17 of his first 18 matches and logging victories over the fifth and seventh seeds here. With a resume that includes Cardinale and Mastrogiovanni, Terukina is capable of beating almost anyone here.
The Team Race: Provided Hildebrandt gets by a game Anthony Noto, he'll likely face Suriano. The road back to the podium is not kind on the backside. The path to the top-eight would probably consist of the loser of Teske/Surtin, the loser of #8 Patrick McKee (Minnesota) and Schroder, along with #6 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) in the bloodround. That sounds like a recipe for not placing!
#1 Nick Suriano (Michigan) vs. #9 Devin Schroder (Purdue)
#5 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia) vs. #13 Drake Ayala (Iowa)
#3 Patrick Glory (Princeton) vs. #6 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin)
#10 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern) vs. #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell)
#1 Nick Suriano (Michigan) vs. #5 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia)
#3 Patrick Glory (Princeton) vs. #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell)
1st) Nick Suriano (Michigan)
2nd) Vito Arujau (Cornell)
3rd) Patrick Glory (Princeton)
4th) Eric Barnett (Wisconsin)
5th) Devin Schroder (Purdue)
6th) Killian Cardinale (West Virginia)
7th) Brandon Courtney (Arizona State)
8th) Drake Ayala (Iowa)
Round of 12 Finishers: #24 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech), #14 Jakob Camacho (NC State), #10 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern), #8 Patrick McKee (Minnesota)
Consolation Round of 16: #15 Brody Teske (Northern Iowa), #22 Ryan Miller (Penn), #12 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State), #16 Drew Hildebrandt (Penn State)