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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    2022 NCAA DI National Championships Preview (149 lbs)

    The top three seeds at 149 lbs Yianni Diakomihalis (center), Austin Gomez (left), and Tariq Wilson (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 minds. 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.

    Here are the weight classes already released:

    125 lb preview

    133 lb preview

    141 lb preview

    We'll move on to the 149 lbers as we release two of our weight class previews for the next five days:

    The Top Seed: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)

    It's been awhile since we've seen Yianni Diakomihalis at the national tournament, but he's back. Yianni took off the 2019-20 trying to make the Olympic year and luckily did not compete in the season that resulted in a canceled NCAA Tournament. Last year, he and the rest of the Ivy League could not compete as the league did not allow athletics amid the pandemic. So now, Diakomihalis and the rest of his Cornell team is back. Yianni is seeking his third NCAA title, in as many tries, and his first at 149 lbs.

    Moving up to 149 lbs hasn't been an issue. Diakomihalis is 23-0 on the year and has tallied bonus points in almost 70% of his appearances. Yianni is in the midst of his second consecutive undefeated season and currently carries a 70-match winning streak into Detroit. Diakomihalis' second national title put him into a select group of multiple-time national champions for Cornell. He's one of five Big Red wrestlers to have multiple titles. A third would put him into a more exclusive class, as only Kyle Dake has won three or more in a Cornell singlet.

    Diakomihalis already has posted wins over two of his primary challengers during the regular season in #3 Austin Gomez and #4 Sammy Sasso. Yianni neutralized Sasso in the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and got by Gomez in the season finale, 12-6. In his most recent appearance, Diakomihalis captured his third EIWA crown with two major decisions, a tech, and an injury default.

    The Contenders: #2 Tariq Wilson (NC State); #3 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin); #4 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)

    The Conference Champs:

    ACC: #2 Tariq Wilson (NC State)

    Big 12: #9 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)

    Big Ten: #3 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin)

    EIWA: #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)

    MAC: Kody Komara (Kent State)

    Pac-12: #5 Kyle Parco (Arizona State)

    SoCon: #6 Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State)

    Top First-Round Matches

    #16 Willie McDougald (Oklahoma) vs. #17 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State)

    #13 Beau Bartlett (Penn State) vs. #20 Colin Realbuto (Northern Iowa)

    #14 Josh Finesilver (Duke) vs. #19 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern)

    #7 Dean Heil (Campbell) vs. #26 Josh Edmond (Missouri)

    #10 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) vs. #23 Jaden Abas (Stanford)

    #15 Legend Lamer (Cal Poly) vs. #18 Anthony Artalona (Penn)

    At first glance, once it was confirmed that Yianni Diakomihalis was going 149 lbs, late in the preseason, this weight class looked like it was "Yianni and everyone else." That hasn't necessarily changed; however, it has developed into an intriguing weight with lots of participants that can put points on the board. Look no further than the Big Ten Championships and its winner, Austin Gomez. Most had given up on Gomez's career, after he announced his retirement due to concussions and other injuries in December of 2020. I'd venture to say expectations were very low when Gomez announced he was returning and transferring from Iowa State to Wisconsin. In a new environment, Gomez has thrived and knocked off any rust. At the Big Ten's, Gomez earned a spot in the finals after imposing his will on Ridge Lovett and grabbing a :20 fall. He was victorious in the finals by locking up three takedowns on returning national runner-up, Sammy Sasso, one of the most difficult wrestlers to finish on in the country. Maybe someone with Gomez's big-move potential is best suited to knock off Yianni?

    The ACC has a pair of high-scoring wrestlers that should make an impact in the unbeaten two-seed Tariq Wilson and Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech). Andonian has a "throw the kitchen sink" mentality, yet Wilson has been able to stay out of trouble and cruised to a pair of victories over the Junior World bronze medalist. Wilson is a two-time NCAA third-place finisher that seems to shine brightest at nationals.

    The loss to Gomez slid Sasso into the fourth seed and made a CKLV rematch with Diakomihalis only possible in the semifinals. Sasso has gone 22-2 this year with only losses to Yianni and Gomez. After making the national finals in 2021 and coming very close to coming away with a title, Sasso has spent most of the season ranked #2.

    After the top-four seeds, you'll find a handful of guys that have quietly put together strong seasons at this weight. The fifth seed is one-loss Kyle Parco, who made a surprising run to the national podium last year, while at Fresno State. Once the Bulldog athletic department dropped their program, Parco transferred to Arizona State and has fit in perfectly. Parco is currently riding an 11-match winning streak and hasn't seen the primary contenders at 149 lbs. The Sun Devil is also responsible for the only loss of the year on #6 Jonathan Millner's (Appalachian State) resume. Millner was also a 2021 All-American, the only one for the entire SoCon. His biggest competitor was #7 Josh Heil, who lost a pair of extremely close bouts to the Mountaineer Millner. Heil was a MatMen Open champion and handed Gomez his first of two losses this season.

    You can still go down to the 8-10 seeds and make an argument that any of the group, that includes Max Murin (Iowa), Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State), and Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) can come away with a high finish. Murin has managed to win the close ones against everyone but Sasso. Gfeller has always been talented; however, this year, he's been as consistent as ever. Lovett came the closest to knocking off Yianni (in the CKLV semis) and is capable of beating anyone in the bracket.

    Quadrant to Watch: It has to be the bottom quad. In our "Best First-Round Matches" article, the match from 149 lbs we detailed was #10 Ridge Lovett vs. #23 Jaden Abas. A top-ten wrestler against a returning All-American is awesome right off the bat. The winner of that contest would face either Heil or #26 Josh Edmond. Down below is the 15/18 match with Legend Lamer and Anthony Artalona, both sporting identical 14-5 records, both were conference runner's-up this year. The winner of their match would likely face #2 Wilson. But before you go penciling Tariq in, you have to respect his opponent Michael Blockhus (Minnesota). Blockhus did not earn an automatic qualifying spot for the Big Ten, but had a strong showing at the conference meet and came away with fifth place. There he picked up wins over past national qualifiers Graham Rooks (Indiana) and Kanen Storr (Michigan). Any of the wrestlers that emerge to face Wilson in the quarters could present a problem for the Wolfpack senior.

    Darkhorse All-American Contender: #19 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern)

    We saw what happened last year when Yahya Thomas needed an at-large berth and was given the #25 seed at the national tournament. All he did was give Sasso a scare, before knocking off the third and fourth seeds on his way to third place. This year, Thomas has built off of that performance and has generally been consistent. He tripped up at the Big Ten's in a weight class that had fewer bids than one would expect. Just like last year, the road to the podium would be a tough one. In the opening round, Thomas has 2021 Round of 12 finisher Josh Finesilver (Duke). Our brackets have Thomas meeting and defeating Murin in the bloodround, which is a match he'd like to have back. Murin rallied to beat Thomas in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

    Extreme (+20 seed) Darkhorse All-American Contender: #26 Josh Edmond (Missouri)

    Though he didn't get the nod for Mizzou in the 2021 postseason, Josh Edmond's regular-season exploits (10-0) were enough to put him on the radar for this year, up a weight, at 149 lbs. Edmond has proven to be one of the more exciting wrestlers to watch at any weight. He often tries to finish high off of a leg attack leading him to launch his opponents (or get launched). Should he be able to pull a first-round upset, Edmond would likely get Ridge Lovett and that could result in fireworks with the skillsets of both wrestlers. There's a chance the brackets could break in a way that results in a third match between Edmond and Jarrett Degen. The point totals in the first two bouts between them were 16 and 28 points, both in Degen's favor. Anything can happen at the NCAA Tournament and it's good to get behind an underdog that can put points on the board.

    Projected Quarterfinals

    #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) vs. #8 Max Murin (Iowa)
    #4 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) vs. #5 Kyle Parco (Arizona State)

    #3 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin) vs. #11 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech)
    #2 Tariq Wilson (NC State) vs. #10 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)

    Projected Semifinals

    #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) vs. #4 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)
    #3 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin) vs. #10 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)

    Projected All-Americans

    1st) Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)
    2nd) Austin Gomez (Wisconsin)
    3rd) Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)
    4th) Kyle Parco (Arizona State)
    5th) Tariq Wilson (NC State)
    6th) Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)
    7th) Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech)
    8th) Yahya Thomas (Northwestern)

    Round of 12 Finishers: #17 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State); #8 Max Murin (Iowa); #14 Josh Finesilver (Duke); #9 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)

    Consolation Round of 16: #26 Josh Edmond (Missouri); #6 Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State); #12 Mike Van Brill (Rutgers); #15 Legend Lamer (Cal Poly)

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