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  • Photo: Tony DiMarco

    Photo: Tony DiMarco

    2023 EIWA NCAA Preview

    #2 seed at 125 lbs Patrick Glory of Princeton (Photo/Tony DiMarco)

    The 2023 NCAA Championships begin on Thursday, March 16th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The EIWA Conference is sending 53 wrestlers to compete. My bold prediction at the beginning of the season was that the conference would double its number of All-Americans last season from 7 to 14. With a few key injuries during the second semester of the season, I had some doubts. But, after breaking down the brackets, I feel there is a way to get there. Unfortunately (or fortunately - depending on who you ask) we have a few all-EIWA matchups in round one. If you like me and are interested in all EIWA schools, make sure you tune in right at the 12PM EST start time. Nate Lukez (Army – 157lbs) will be on mat 5 in a pigtail bout. Next to him on mat 6 will be Harvard’s Josh Kim in the 165lbs pigtail. Also in a pigtail is Cole Urbas of Penn at 197lbs, and Travis Stefanik of Princeton at 285lbs.

    See my weight-by-weight breakdown below.

    125 – 6 Qualifiers

    **number in parenthesis is wrester’s seed in the bracket**

    (2) Pat Glory, Princeton
    (15) Brett Ungar, Cornell
    (18) Ryan Miller, Penn
    (17) Ethan Berginc, Army
    (24) Nick Babin, Columbia
    (22) Diego Sotelo, Harvard

    I’m not thrilled to see Miller and Ungar face off right away in the first round. Personally, I wish the NCAA separated conference opponents to limit the possibility of them already meeting during the season. In this case, Miller won their only matchup of the year. The winner of this one will square off against Pat Glory. Glory is the 2nd seed in this bracket. You expect him to make a run to the finals and give the fans an opportunity to see Princeton represented in the NCAA finals for the second year in a row. Babin squares off with returning All-American, Barnett of Wisconsin. He’ll need an upset here. Same with Sotelo. He will face McKee of Minnesota. Although, Sotelo’s match-up is interesting. In the last two NCAA Tournaments, McKee has lost in the first round and wrestled back for a top-five finish. It’s crazy enough to do it once, doing it twice is borderline skeptical - as if he does it on purpose? Army’s Berginc enters as the 17th seed. He faces Michigan’s Medley. Berginc has wins over the third seed (Cronin of Nebraska) and 7th seed (Kaylor of Oregon State). If he does win this one, he’ll have a tough one with Spencer Lee. Speaking of Lee, it’s worth noting he is attempting to win his 4th NCAA title this season. He’d be the 5th wrestler to do so at the D1 level. He was in a similar position in high school – looking for a 4th state title. For those of you who remember, Lee never won his 4th state title - thanks to future teammate Austin Desanto. Will history repeat itself? Glory is a man on a mission, looking to be the “Larry Owings” of this generation. Note - this is not a prediction by any means. I’m just laying the groundwork for a potential upset that you will be telling your grandkids for decades. When Sunday rolls around, I expect Glory to be in the finals. If anyone else from the EIWA wants to be on the podium, they will need to win some matches they are not supposed to. It seems Ungar, Miller, and Berginc have the skillset to do so, based on quality wins on the year thus far.

    133 – 6 Qualifiers

    (3) Vito Arujau, Cornell
    (7) Michael Colaiocco, Penn
    (29) Angelo Rini, Columbia
    (20) Brendan Ferretti, Navy
    (31) Jack Maida, American
    (25) Kurtis Phipps, Bucknell
    ** Connor McGonagle, Lehigh – qualified as the 11 seed, but has pulled out due to injury

    Maida will kick things off against 3X runner-up Daton Fix. Phipps of Bucknell will square off with the 8th seed of Minnesota, Aaron Nagao. At the 20 seed, Navy’s Ferretti will take on true freshman phenom, Jesse Mendez of Ohio State. Rini has a tough out with Michael McGee of Arizona State, a multiple-time AA. These guys will need to pull an upset to win in round 1. It is possible we see Vito take on Latona of Virginia Tech, and try to avenge his lone loss of the season - assuming Vito wins his first two matches. Colaiocco’s round of 16 matchup will be a highly anticipated rematch with Illinois’s Byrd. Colaiocco beat him 15-13 at Midlands this season. It’s noteworthy to add Byrd is a 2X fifth-place finisher at NCAAs. With a healthy McGonagle, I would love to see three All-Americans at this weight in Vito, Colaiocco, and McGonagle. I expect Vito on the podium, and Colaiocco is a fringe-podium type of guy, who I believe gets it done. It seems like this weight is always entertaining.

    141 – 5 Qualifiers

    (7) Vince Cornella, Cornell
    (25) Carmen Ferrante, Penn
    (16) Josh Koderhandt, Navy
    (22) Malyke Hines, Lehigh
    (19) Matt Kazimir, Columbia

    Koderhandt will be the first wrestler taking the mat at this weight for the EIWA. The 16th seed will square off with D’Emilio of Ohio State. Koderhandt was 1-2 last year at 133 lbs. A win here will put him against top-seeded Woods, of Iowa. Ferrante will see 8th seed Hart of Missouri. Hart is a former bloodround wrestler in 2021. Ferrante has been wrestling well, and I would not be surprised to see him win this one. Hart is a guy expected to All-American, by many people, so he is the favorite on paper. Kazimir will see Happel of Northern Iowa, and Hines will wrestle Carlson of SDSU. Both guys have upset potential here - they could have worse matchups, in my opinion. Cornella is the highest seed from the EIWA after winning the conference. If the seeds hold, he will have a 10th-seeded McNeil of UNC in the R16 and Alirez of Northern Colorado in the quarterfinals. Cornella is a freshman, who has improved since November. Cornella would have to reverse a loss to McNeil to even get to the quarters. In all honesty, I am not sure where I see Cornella finishing. He was not tested at all during EIWAs, earning 4 pins and a major. Is he that good, or was he wrestling particularly well that weekend? Cornella finding the podium is a great possibility. He would help Cornell in the team race - as they will be in a fight to take home a trophy.

    149 – 3 Qualifiers

    (1) Yianni Diakomihalis, Cornell
    (29) Dylan Chappell, Bucknell
    (11) Doug Zapf, Penn

    Yianni, similar to Spencer Lee, is looking to be the 5th person in NCAA history to win 4 NCAA titles in Division 1. We should not see him break a sweat until the quarterfinal round. He’ll most likely face All-American, Abas of Stanford, or Iowa’s Max Murin, in that round. Avoiding any hiccups, expect to see Yianni on the big stage Saturday night. Zapf of Penn came in with the 11th seed. His R16 matchup with Mauller of Missouri is very winnable. Zapf can pull that one out. Assuming seeds hold, his quarterfinal could be Parco of Arizona State, who is also an All-American. Do not count out Zapf, as he is a legit All-American threat. Chappell’s first-round match in round one will be against 4th seed, Henson of Virginia Tech. He’ll need to continue his improbable postseason run - and then some - to pull off this upset. We’ve seen it before, so never say never! Yianni’s quest for four has been somewhat overshadowed by Lee’s attention. Being at a small school (in comparison with Iowa) has its benefits in that regard. Yianni will make history Saturday night. It will be incredible to witness.

    157 – 4 Qualifiers

    (5) Josh Humphreys. Lehigh
    (16) Anthony Artalona, Penn
    (33) Nathan Lukez, Army
    (27) Cesar Alvan, Columbia

    Nate Lukez will be in the pigtail round. The EIWA will have a lot of action in the pigtails - more to come on that. I like how Lukez has wrestled the past few weeks, so I like him in his first match. After his pigtail win, he’d face top-seeded Austin O’Connor of UNC. Artalona has a toss-up with #17 Jacques of Missouri. A win will also give him O’Connor. O’Connor majored Artalona during the season – he’ll have an uphill battle with him. Humphreys is looking for his first podium finish at NCAAs. I like him in the fifth spot. His potential quarterfinal match with Franek will be a doozy, as 4th vs 5th seed bouts typically are. I think he has great odds to win the whole bracket. He had O’Connor beat last year, until he slipped up and lost in the final seconds. Alvan has Cardenas of Stanford. Cardenas has had a heck of a year, although a quiet one, with a 17-1 record. Artalona has been R12 twice before, so do not be shocked to see him make a similar run in his last appearance as a Quaker.

    165 – 6 Automatic Qualifiers

    (4) Julian Ramirez, Cornell
    (5) Quincy Monday, Princeton
    (16) Joshua Ogunsanya, Columbia
    (26) Brevin Cassella, Binghamton
    (33) Josh Kim, Harvard
    (30) Evan Barczak, Drexel

    Kim has a pigtail bout against Wyoming’s Moody. He, along with Lukez at 157lbs, will be in action right when the first whistles blow at 12PM EST. A win will give him a match against David Carr of Iowa State. Ogunsanya finds himself in a similar boat, with a win over Yant (Northern Iowa), and will get him a match with Carr in the R16. We could see round three of Ramirez vs Monday if they win twice – into the quarterfinals. Ramirez won both matchups in super tight fashion. It’ll be hard to beat a guy like Monday three times in a season. Also, Monday made the finals last season as the fifth seed… Just saying. The winner of this match will (most likely) get a semifinal date with a returning national champ in either 1st seed Carr or 9th seed Griffith of Stanford. Cassella has a tough first-round match with Caliendo of NDSU. Cassella is a tough out with anyone. He’s so long, can scramble well, plus likes to ride everyone hard. He can make a deep run here, as he’ll give guys fits with his length and can keep matches close. Barczak has returning All-American Hamiti of Wisconsin first round. He’ll need to avenge a 7-1 loss from their dual in December. In summary, I think we’ll see Monday and Ramirez on the podium somewhere. This is another weight class where the EIWA is expected to have at least two All-Americans. With this weight class being one the deepest in recent years, this would be one heck of an accomplishment.

    174 – 6 Automatic Qualifiers

    (4) Chris Foca, Cornell
    (14) Benjamin Pasiuk, Army
    (21) Lennox Wolak, Columbia
    (24) Philip Conigliaro, Harvard
    (25) Nick Incontrera, Penn
    (23) Mickey O’Malley, Drexel

    Conigliaro and Incontrera will have Big Ten opponents in Ruth of Illinois and O’Reilly of Minnesota, respectively. I would not give Ruth an automatic win here, as Conigliaro was R12 last season a weight down at 165 lbs. His potential is there to knock off a highly-ranked wrestler. Incontrera had to MFF for 6th place at EIWAs. His shoulder injury really limited his capabilities at conferences. Hopefully, two weeks of additional rest and rehab will help him. Wolak has Olmos of Oregon State (12th seed) off the bat. He has a win over Ethan Smith (who came in as the 6th seed) on the year, so we could see an upset here. Pasiuk has Fisher of Northwestern. A win will put him the R16 against Lewis of Virginia Tech. O’Malley’s 23rd seed could be a good spot for him. Finishing in the bloodround last season, he’s ready to improve that finish. He's dangerous to wrestle when he’s on. Depending on his health, we can see him go 0-2, or finish on the podium. Foca will likely be an All-American, coming in as the 4th seed. He looked very good at EIWAs and is ready to make a deep run. He’d need to knock off returning 2X NCAA Champ, Starocci of Penn State, in the semifinals if he were to become NCAA Champion. I’m intrigued by this weight class. Let’s see how it turns out.

    184 – 5 Automatic Qualifiers

    (17) Tate Samuelson, Lehigh
    (19) Jacob Nolan, Binghamton
    (26) David Key, Navy
    (25) Brian Bonino, Drexel
    (28) Jacob Ferreira, Hofstra

    Lehigh’s Samuelson will be the first to take the mat here. His matchup with Heller of Pitt is a complete toss-up. If he wins here, he’ll square off with 1st seed, Keckeisen of Northern Iowa. Bonino’s first match at NCAAs will be against Finesilver of Michigan. Ferreira takes on last year’s 7th place finisher in Coleman of Iowa State. 19th seed Nolan will face Feldkamp of Clarion. Finally, Key has Bolen of Virginia Tech, who I thought graduated a decade ago… The conference will need to wrestle over their heads to earn an All-American at this weight. Last year’s 8th place finisher from Cornell, Jonathan Loew, missed the end of the season with an injury. He looked to be the conference favorite most of the year until his injury. Samuelson’s 5th time to NCAAs should help him navigate early round jitters. Nolan and Key have both been here before - while this is the first and final appearance for both Bonino and Ferreira. I am not saying we will not see anyone on the podium from the EIWA at 184 lbs on Saturday, but the odds are stacked against us. If I had to give anyone the best odds to do so, my gut says Samuelson and Nolan. This is simply based on having the better odds to win their first-round matchups. It’s a shorter road to the podium if you win that first one.

    197 – 6 Qualifiers

    (10) Jacob Cardenas, Cornell
    (5) Michael Beard, Lehigh
    (23) Luke Stout, Princeton
    (28) Jacob Koser, Navy
    (29) Trey Rogers, Hofstra
    (33) Cole Urbas, Penn

    Cole Urbas will have a pigtail bout against UNC’s Shaw. A win will give him a bout with top-seed Bonaccorsi of Pitt. I’ve said it before, Urbas is dangerous if not scouted properly. His ability on top can lead to issues for some. Beard finds himself with a rematch of last week’s EIWA semifinal against Koser of Navy. Beard won via tech fall, so it’ll be an uphill battle for Koser to avenge that. Beard will likely take on #12 Braunagel, and then potentially Rider’s Laird (4th seed). Beard has already made the podium, in a previous life, as a Nittany Lion. I expect him to do the same in a Mountain Hawks singlet. Rogers from Hofstra has the aforementioned Laird in a tough first-round bout. In another EIWA rematch, Cardenas will face Stout. Last week’s result was an 8-1 win for Cardenas of Cornell. Stout has a win over him last season, but if Cardenas wrestles as he did at EIWAs, he is a podium threat. The winner of this one will take on 7th-seeded Sloan of SDSU. I like the path for Cardenas/Stout, as the weight class has no real favorites on either half of the bracket. For this reason, it will make for a crazy tournament at 197 lbs!

    285 – 7 Qualifiers

    (15) Grady Griess
    (21) Nathan Taylor
    (6) Yaraslau Slavikouski
    (27) Ben Goldin
    (26) Cory Day
    (28) Dorian Crosby
    (33) Travis Stefanik

    Stefanik’s pigtail against Minnesota’s Joles will lead to a potential matchup with top-ranked Parris of Michigan. Crosby will make his NCAA debut against returning NCAA finalist Schultz of Arizona State. Nathan Taylor also has a tough matchup with McKiernan of SIUE. McKiernan was the MAC champ, but I’ll never count out a Lehigh heavyweight during crunch time. Cory Day will square off with Trephan of NC State, who is slated as the 7th seed. We have another EIWA matchup between Slavikouski and Goldin. A win will get a match-up with 2X All-American, Hilger of Wisconsin in the R16. Lastly, Griess will face Heindselman in a close 15 vs 18 seed match. This season’s meeting went to Heindselman in tiebreakers. A win by Griess will get a matchup with bonus-point machine Hendrickson of Air Force. Slavikouski sitting as the 6th seed is great, but after last week’s loss - I am hesitant to say he looks like an All-American just yet. Obviously, I am hoping he proves me wrong. Do not count out Grady Griess of Navy. He’s wrestled great this year, and is a heavyweight that can ride and turn - which helps for sure!

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