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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    5 Teams Poised to Improve Upon Their 2022 Placement in Tulsa

    2x NCAA All-American Sammy Sasso(Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    Last week, InterMat published an article about the teams with the top returning point scorers heading into the 2022-23 season. Looking at the standings from the 2022 NCAA Championships, we have identified five programs that are likely to exceed their point totals at the 2023 tournament. For some programs, it was because of underperformance in Detroit, while others were missing key components, and others will add talented freshmen.

    Below are the five teams we've identified, followed by their 2022 NCAA finish, along with the 2022 point total in parentheses.

    Ohio State 13th (44 points)

    It seems sort of strange to say about a team that placed four wrestlers on the NCAA podium, but Ohio State has a lot of room for growth in 2022-23. As of now, all four All-Americans (Sammy Sasso, Carson Kharchla, Kaleb Romero, and Gavin Hoffman) are expected back in the Buckeye lineup.

    It's reasonable to think that the 2021 NCAA runner-up, Sasso, could improve upon his fifth-place finish in Detroit. His two losses at the national tournament account for a quarter of his career defeats. 165 lber, Carson Kharchla, is in a weight where two of the veterans that finished ahead of him (Evan Wick - 3rd and Alex Marinelli - 5th) are done. His losses to Keegan O'Toole, Shane Griffith, and Cam Amine, were generally pretty close, so it's conceivable that he could flip one or all of those results. Kaleb Romero outwrestled his seed by a spot and I think he's capable of finishing a spot or two higher on the podium; however, sixth seems about right for him. The fourth All-American, Gavin Hoffman, severely wrestled above his seed in Detroit, making the NCAA semi's, after receiving the 21st seed. With such parity at 197, this is a finish that may be hard to replicate. That being said, Hoffman was a huge recruit for the Buckeyes and could be starting to find his potential. We'll have to see if he shows more signs of consistency in the early going next year.

    So, where can Ohio State improve aside from their All-Americans? Well, their 174 lber, Ethan Smith, was an AA in 2021 and lost in the bloodround in sudden victory to Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State). That weight should clear out a bit as three top-five finishers are done (Hayden Hidlay - 3rd, Michael Kemerer - 4th, Logan Massa - 5th). Smith probably starts the year in the top-six or seven.

    Some new faces could also provide a boost to Ohio State in 2022-23. The top recruit in the Class of 2021, Paddy Gallagher, redshirted last season and amassed a 17-2 record in open competition. Gallagher didn't necessarily have any groundbreaking wins, but with another year in the Buckeye room, he's probably ready to make an impact at 157 lbs, a weight tOSU did not qualify in 2022. Ohio State is also on the brink of inking the top-ranked recruiting class for 2022. Head coach Tom Ryan hasn't hesitated to start true freshmen, so there's a possibility that we see top-five ranked Nic Bouzakis or Jesse Mendez immediately. One of them could slot in nicely at 133 lbs; the other weight Ohio State failed to qualify last year.

    In addition, veterans like Malik Heinselman, Dylan D'Emilio and Tate Orndorff could continue to improve, as well. Orndorff was on the podium in 2021 and came up a match shy in Detroit.

    Oklahoma State 14th (38.5 points)

    Probably the biggest no-brainer on this list is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys suffered a massive loss when national champion AJ Ferrari was in a horrific car accident and was lost for the season. Even a very conservative third-place finish from Ferrari would have put the Cowboys in the top eight in 2022.

    With a big point-scorer like Daton Fix returning and assuming Ferrari is able to get back to top form, Oklahoma State should blow last season's 14th place showing out of the water.

    Even after taking Ferrari out of consideration, Oklahoma State was still hampered by injuries. 2021 NCAA fourth-place finisher, Travis Wittlake, didn't even qualify in 2022. If healthy, Wittlake could rack up another high AA finish in Tulsa.

    Just those three alone could put the Cowboys into NCAA trophy contention; however, a full, injury-free season from Dustin Plott would help too. Plott wrestled up to his sixth seed at 174 lbs, but as we mentioned earlier, there is room to move up on the podium there.

    Expect Oklahoma State to get a youth infusion, possibly at 149/157/184. While there may be some bumps in the road at those weights, the Cowboys have recruited extremely well in recent years, so they should be manned by talented youngsters.

    Iowa State 17th (37 points)

    The dual season was one to remember for Iowa State under head coach Kevin Dresser. The only blemish on the Cyclone's record was an early-season loss to Iowa. They would run the table throughout the rest of the Big 12 season and finished the regular season ranked fourth in the country. Some teams are better suited towards duals, as opposed to tournaments, and ISU was definitely one of those squads. With that being said, they certainly could have improved upon a 17th place finish in Detroit and should do better in Tulsa.

    Iowa State's biggest point-scorer, David Carr, saw his 55-match winning streak snapped at Little Caesars Arena and wasn't able to go back-to-back at 157 lbs. Carr will still be one of the favorites next year at 157 lbs and could easily add a couple extra points with a finals appearance and/or win.

    The Cyclones other two AA's, Marcus Coleman and Yonger Bastida, are returning next season. While both outwrestled their NCAA seeds, replicating their finishes isn't out of the question. Coleman showed vast signs of improvement at the outset of the 2021-22 campaign and Bastida just completed his second year of folkstyle competition.

    Other spots where Iowa State can add points? They'll have a highly-ranked incoming freshman class with a pair of top-20 recruits in Casey Swiderski and Manny Rojas. Maybe one, or both, see action at 141 and 174 lbs, respectively. Both are capable of scoring a few NCAA points in year one.

    Penn 27th (15.5 points)

    Some of the teams we're mentioning here are expected to increase their point total because they underperformed in Detroit. Penn isn't one of those teams. A larger point total would be the result of a young, growing team. Barring more transfers nationwide, Penn is the only team, as of now, that can boast ten returning NCAA qualifiers. Of the nine that competed at nationals in 2022, only Anthony Artalona had ever wrestled at the national tournament before. The cancelation of the 2020 tournament, combined with the Ivy League preventing winter sports from competing in 2021, left Penn without NCAA Championship competition for two years.

    Though EIWA Freshman of the Year CJ Composto was the big point-earner for the Quakers, it took a total team effort to notch 15.5 points. All nine of their qualifiers chipped in with at least one win. With the competition in the room and the talent on the coaching staff and the RTC roster, I'd imagine a few of those qualifiers will add to their NCAA win total in 2023.

    Aside from the All-American, Composto, a few others could take the leap and make the NCAA podium in 2023. 133 lber Michael Colaiocco, an EIWA champion, was seeded ninth this season, but had the misfortune of running into AA Lucas Byrd (Illinois) in the consi's. That match went into sudden victory. Colaiocco lost and was eliminated, while Byrd continued on to fifth place. Artalona made a run to the bloodround for the second time in his career. His bid for a spot on the podium was stopped by second-seeded Tariq Wilson (NC State).

    If the Quakers bring back a lineup with all of their 2022 qualifiers, they should be in good shape. That may not be the case, as the Penn staff has done an excellent job of recruiting and they have a talented freshman class enrolling in the fall. Some of the incumbents could either lose their spot or get better as they fend off challenges from the new faces. However it unfolds, I'd expect a strong showing in Tulsa from Penn.

    South Dakota State 44th (3.5 points)

    Bluntly speaking, South Dakota State had a rough NCAA tournament. Even though the Jackrabbits only had four national qualifiers, three were seeded in the top-12. Unfortunately, one of their four wrestlers, Clay Carlson at 141 lbs, made it to the bloodround and he ended up losing. Their other top-12 seeds, Cade DeVos (174) and Tanner Sloan (197), went 1-2.

    The good news is that each is expected back in 2022-23 and can easily improve upon their 2022 tournament. Carlson, a 2021 All-American, had an excellent 2021-22 season and racked up three wins over Minnesota's All-American Jacob Bergeland, among others. He was stopped in the bloodround by Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers). The natural order of 141 lbs should lead to Carlson jumping up in the preseason rankings. The top-three finishers at 141 (along with the #2 seed) are all moving on.

    At 174, DeVos lost a second-round match to Michael Kemerer (Iowa), which dropped him to face #11 Peyton Mocco (Missouri). Throughout the year, DeVos and Mocco split matches. At nationals, Mocco took the rubber match with a 6-2 win. That match happened because Mocco fell in the opening round to #22 Mason Kauffman (Northern Illinois). At a minimum, you could see DeVos wrestling up to his 12th seed if the tournament happened again or next year.

    Tanner Sloan lost two matches at nationals, both of which came in sudden victory. Throughout the course of the year, Sloan notched a win over two-time AA Rocky Elam (Missouri) and got to the conference finals in a deep Big 12 weight class. With both the seventh and eighth place finishers moving on, there's room for someone to jump onto the podium. Why can't Sloan be that guy?

    South Dakota State also has a pair of potential point scorers that didn't qualify for nationals. Tanner Cook (165) is one of the best pinners at any weight. If he gets to nationals, he could get a couple, which is almost as good as having an AA, as far as point scoring goes. Gabe Tagg (133) got a late start with the Jackrabbits, starting after New Year's. With a full year in the room, he could be ready to make a jump.

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