Rocky Elam after winning the 2022 Southern Scuffle (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
We're coming down the home stretch of tournament season. The Midlands and Soldier Salute got the holiday tournaments started and we'll finish with the Southern Scuffle. The Scuffle has become a New Year's tradition, occurring on January 1st and 2nd. Teams from the midwest tend to enjoy a trip down south during the winter and also get to see some different competition in the process. After the Scuffle, it's generally nothing but duals for the rest of the regular season.
This year's Southern Scuffle field is shaping up to be the best in years. Looking at InterMat's tournament rankings, #3 Missouri, #12 Oklahoma State, #18 Minnesota, #20 Stanford, #22 Purdue, #23 North Dakota State, and #25 Northern Colorado are expected to send full squads, while #5 Iowa State and #14 Virginia Tech will be represented as well.
Below is a preview of the action with predictions for finalists at all ten weights. Complete entries have not been made public, so they stand to change between now and Sunday!
Ranked Wrestlers: #4 Patrick McKee (Minnesota), #10 Matt Ramos (Purdue), #12 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State), #14 Noah Surtin (Missouri), #16 Stevo Poulin (Northern Colorado), #24 Braxton Brown (Maryland), #28 Caleb Smith (Appalachian State), #29 Nico Provo (Stanford)
Right away, we've got a returning champion in Patrick McKee looking for his second Scuffle title. The two-time All-American is 7-0 on the year and has racked up three falls along the way. His biggest victory, to date, has come over Trevor Mastrogiovanni, a 4-1 victory in their early December meeting. He is now 2-1 career against the Cowboy lightweight. To get round four, Mastrogiovanni likely has to go through Purdue's Matt Ramos in the semis. Ramos, an NCAA Round of 12 finisher at 133 lbs in 2022, has been excellent in his first year at 125. His only losses have come in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational finals and to a former high school teammate.
Mastrogiovanni suffered a loss in the Bedlam dual then headed out west to Reno and seemingly righted the ship with three falls in five matches. The rest of this weight class should have some wrestlers that Mastro may see later in the year in conference action. Noah Surtin has been out of the Mizzou lineup since mid-November, but is registered here. Surtin is 1-1 career against Mastrogiovanni, winning the more recent of the two contests at the 2022 Big 12 Championships. A new addition to the Big 12 at this weight is NC State transfer Stevo Poulin. Poulin has yet to lose in a Northern Colorado singlet and has already tallied 13 wins on the year. This tournament should provide him with the biggest challenges of his young career.
Speaking of testing redshirt freshman, Maryland's Braxton Brown is ready for the competition, as well. One of the faces of a resurgent Terps squad, Brown is 5-0 on the year with bonus points in four of his five outings.
Aside from McKee and Surtin (4th), the only other 2022 placewinner returning is Caleb Smith who was fifth at the 2022 tournament. Smith posted a huge, major decision win over #9 Liam Cronin (Nebraska) at the CKLV, but went 2-2 overall. He's capable of making a big dent in this bracket. Another young face to watch is Nico Provo. Provo is 9-2 for Stanford this year and scored a win over Virginia Tech's Cooper Flynn during his last outing. Flynn is also expected to be a part of a small Tech contingent in Chattanooga. Both should challenge for a place in the top eight.
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