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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    2022 NCAA DI National Championships Preview (197 lbs)

    The top three seeds at 197 lbs Max Dean (center), Eric Schultz (left), and Stephen Buchanan (Photos courtesy of 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

    149 lb preview

    157 lb preview

    165 lb preview

    174 lb preview

    184 lb preview

    We'll move on to the 197 lbers as we release two of our weight class previews for the next five days:

    The Top Seed: Max Dean (Penn State)

    The fourth number one seed for Penn State is their 197 lber Max Dean. Dean is in his first year competing for the Nittany Lions after spending his first two years at Cornell. During that time, Dean earned All-American honors on two occasions and crashed the NCAA finals in 2019. As the fifth seed, Dean knocked off the previously unbeaten Myles Martin (Ohio State) in one of the more significant upsets of the tournament.

    Since moving to PSU, Dean has bumped up a weight to 197 lbs and hasn't missed a beat. He is 18-1 this year and has been one of the stabilizing forces in an otherwise chaotic 197 lb bracket. Dean claimed his Big Ten crown by cruising against three-time Big Ten runner-up Eric Schultz. Despite being the top seed at the tournament, Dean's road was anything but easy. He also had to face Cam Caffey and Greg Bulsak, two of the top 15 seeds at this weight. The Caffey win reversed a decision from earlier in the season. Caffey was responsible for the only blemish Dean's record in 2021-22.

    While Dean has consistently banked wins, he has done so in a lot of close matches. In a tournament like this, with a weight class that features capable threats up and down the bracket, it could make for another hiccup. Even his second-round opponents have spent significant time in the top ten during their careers.

    The Contenders: Who isn't? Any of the top 16 wrestlers?

    The Conference Champs:

    ACC: #5 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh)

    Big 12: #2 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming)

    Big Ten: #1 Max Dean (Penn State)

    EIWA: #8 Louie DePrez (Binghamton)

    MAC: #29 Ben Smith (Cleveland State)

    Pac-12: #16 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)

    SoCon: #33 Matthew Waddell (Chattanooga)

    If you've watched enough NCAA Tournament's, you'll know there's usually one weight that goes off the rails and craziness ensues. I'm not going out on a huge ledge by declaring this as “that weight.” With that being said, second-seeded Stephen Buchanan is a returning All-American that has spent the bulk of the year ranked in the top three. Buchanan won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and handed Schultz his only loss of the regular season. Also in Vegas, Buchanan picked up a win over fourth-seeded Patrick Brucki.

    Schultz slides into the third seed. He was seeded second last year, but was upset in the opening round. The Husker senior is likely trying to erase that memory and get onto the NCAA podium for the first time. In each of his previous three NCAA tournaments, he went 2-2. Just carving a path to Buchanan is no easy task, as Schultz could see Greg Bulsak/Jacob Cardenas in the second round and Jacob Warner in the quarters. Schultz owns a 3-2 advantage over Warner; however, their matches are always close.

    Brucki, Nino Bonaccorsi, Warner, Rocky Elam, Louie DePrez, Caffey, and Yonger Bastida round out the top ten. While unlikely, any could get hot, string together five wins and come away with the title. Bonaccorsi is the returning NCAA runner-up and made his run last year as the sixth seed. To get back in the semis, he'd have to get by Brucki. The two met earlier in the season and it was Brucki who prevailed, 6-3. Warner and Elam are returning All-Americans from this bracket that have yet to meet. Warner was fourth in 2021, while Elam was fifth. DePrez has AA'ed down at 184 lbs. A few years ago, he managed a win over Dean, during their EIWA days. He's reeled off 13 straight wins after falling to Elam at the Collegiate Duals. Caffey had a rough start to his season, rolls in with a top-ten seed after taking sixth in the loaded Big Ten. Bastida gave us a glimpse of what he's capable of when he downed Warner early in the season; he's also beaten Elam twice, as well.

    Top First-Round Matches

    #16 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State) vs. #17 Jay Aiello (Virginia)

    #12 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) vs. #21 Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State)

    #13 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) vs. #20 Jake Koser (Navy)

    #14 Greg Bulsak (Rutgers) vs. #19 Jacob Cardenas (Cornell)

    #11 Thomas Penola (Purdue) vs. #22 Owen Pentz (North Dakota State)

    #10 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) vs. #23 Braxton Amos (Wisconsin)

    #15 Isaac Trumble (NC State) vs. #18 Luke Stout (Princeton)

    Quadrant to Watch: There's arguments to be made about others, but I'll focus on the bottom quarterfinal. Of course, Buchanan anchors the bracket, but he'll have a pair of upstarts in the second round. Both Luke Stout and Isaac Trumble are freshmen that have gotten better as the year progresses. Trumble owns wins in each of the last two years over 2021 national runner-up, Bonaccorsi. Above them is Bastida and another excellent freshman, Braxton Amos. Amos and Bastida are both Junior World medalists, meeting in the opening round. On top of them in the bracket is the seventh seed Elam. Despite their seeds, Bastida holds the upperhand this year. While we're projecting Buchanan to win the whole thing, he could face trouble in the Round of 16 and quarters.

    Darkhorse All-American Contender: Anyone seeded 12th-19th

    Would it be that big of a surprise if #18 Stout or #19 Jacob Cardenas (Cornell) gets on the podium? A little bit, but I don't think anyone would be shocked. Same for #16 Kordell Norfleet and #17 Jay Aiello. Both were seeded in the top ten at the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Aiello seventh and Norfleet ninth. In this group, you also have #13 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma), who was a surprise semifinalist last year.

    Extreme (+20 seed) Darkhorse All-American Contender: #23 Braxton Amos (Wisconsin)

    Admit it; all year, you've been waiting for that one breakout match from Amos! He's been good and generally beat the guys ranked below him, while hanging tough with those above him. What we know is that the stage won't be too big for Amos. A wrestler with his pedigree and track record has competed at various continental and world championships, so he's not going to be intimidated by the bright lights. Maybe he takes advantage of an opponent that is. Again, with such an even field at 197 lbs, all Amos needs is some momentum from one breakout win.

    Projected Quarterfinals

    #1 Max Dean (Penn State) vs. #8 Louie DePrez (Binghamton)
    #5 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh) vs. #4 Patrick Brucki (Michigan)

    #3 Eric Schultz (Nebraska) vs. #6 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
    #10 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) vs. #2 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming)

    Projected Semifinals

    #8 Louie DePrez (Binghamton) vs. #5 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh)
    #3 Eric Schultz (Nebraska) vs. #2 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming)

    Projected All-Americans

    1st) Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming)
    2nd) Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh)
    3rd) Max Dean (Penn State)
    4th) Louie DePrez (Binghamton)
    5th) Eric Schultz (Nebraska)
    6th) Yonger Bastida (Iowa State)
    7th) Rocky Elam (Missouri)
    8th) Jacob Warner (Iowa)

    Round of 12 Finishers: #12 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State); #14 Greg Bulsak (Rutgers); #4 Patrick Brucki (Michigan); #9 Cam Caffey (Michigan)

    Consolation Round of 16: #17 Jay Aiello (Virginia); #11 Thomas Penola (Purdue); #13 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma); #16 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)

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