2023 Big Ten champion Silas Allred (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
With the at-large's announced on Tuesday and brackets released Wednesday, the NCAA Championships are officially looming. And now, less than a week away. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of our previews, here's a fun look at the NCAA Tournament, its competitors (individuals/teams). It's some of the facts, trends, numbers, and overall randomness that you never thought to look up about the participants of the 2023 NCAA Championships.
Four teams will send all ten of their wrestlers to Tulsa: Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Virginia Tech.
Air Force had three automatic qualifiers (Tucker Owens/Sam Wolf/Wyatt Hendrickson) and added two more in the at-large phase (Cody Phippen/Dylan Martinez). Those five qualifiers are the most for Air Force since 1991. Of course, they were Thad Allen/126, Jon Erickson/134, Matt Ciccarello/142, Brian McGill/158, and Mark Lindlow/190.
Wyatt Hendrickson got the second seed at 285 lbs. He's the highest-seeded wrestler from Air Force since Cole Von Ohlen got the number three in 2012. He's the first Air Force wrestler to get the second seed since fellow heavyweight Kevin Hoy in 2003.
Jack Maida finished fifth in the EIWA for American University. He's the first NCAA qualifier during the Jason Borrelli-era at American.
Jon Jon Miller became a four-time SoCon champion for Appalachian State. He's only the 16th wrestler to achieve the feat in the SoCon, the first since Nick Soto (Chattanooga) in 2012-15. Millner is the first Appalachian State wrestler to win four SoCon titles.
Josh Mason made the MAC finals for the second time and is now a two-time national qualifier. He is Bloomsburg's first multi-time national qualifier since 2014.
Cal Poly big man Trevor Tinker will head to his first national tournament after getting an at-large berth. He's the first 285 lber to wrestle at nationals for the Mustangs since Cody Parker did so in 2007.
Clarion had a pair of MAC champions in Seth Koleno (141) and Will Feldkamp (184). It was the first time multiple Clarion wrestlers were victorious since moving to the MAC. The last time the school had two conference champions in the same season was in 2016 with Brock Zacherl and Michael Pavasko.
An at-large addition of Cesar Alvan gives Columbia six wrestlers headed to Tulsa. That is the most in school history.
Yianni Diakomihalis won his fourth EIWA title and became the 14th four-time conference champion.
Cornell had six individual EIWA champions (Vito Arujau - 133; Diakomihalis - 149; Julian Ramirez - 165; Chris Foca - 174; Jacob Cardenas - 197). That is the most in school history in a single season. Of Cornell's seven national qualifiers, only Brett Ungar did not win the EIWA.
Despite their long run of excellence and tradition, Cornell has never had an All-American at heavyweight/285 lbs. That streak will continue as the Big Red did not qualify at 285 lbs.
George Mason's Nathan Higley became the team's first finalist since moving to the MAC in 2019-20. A match later, Peter Pappas joined him in the conference finals. Pappas defeated Ashton Eyler (Lock Haven) to win the school's first individual MAC championship.
Harvard will send four wrestlers to Tulsa. The last time they had four NCAA qualifiers was in 2012 with Steven Keith (133), Corey Jantzen (149), Walter Peppleman (157), and James Fox (197).
Yaraslau Slavikouski is the sixth seed at 285 lbs. The last time Harvard had a top-six seed at the tournament was in 2012 when Peppelman was the four.
Iowa State's David Carr received the number one seed for a second consecutive year. The last time a Cyclone wrestler earned the #1 on multiple occasions was in 2009-10 with Jake Varner and David Zabriskie.
Josh Humphreys became the first Lehigh wrestler to enter the NCAA Tournament unbeaten since Darian Cruz did so in the 2017-18 season.
Carrying on the tradition of Jordan Wood at 285 lbs for Lehigh, redshirt freshman Nathan Taylor made the EIWA finals at the weight. That gives Lehigh an EIWA finalist at 285 lbs every year since 2018.
Maryland has five NCAA qualifiers headed to Tulsa. The last time five Terps wrestled in the national tournament was in 2014, their last season in the ACC.
Also leading the way for freshman national qualifiers is Maryland. They are the only school with four. Braxton Brown, Kal Miller, Ethen Miller, and Jaxon Smith. Penn State, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech all have three.
Aside from Penn State, the only team that has had a number-one-seeded wrestler in each of the last three NCAA Tournaments is Michigan. They have Mason Parris this season, Nick Suriano and Myles Amine (125/184) in 2022, and Amine (197) in 2021.
NC State had four ACC champions (Jarrett Trombley - 125; Kai Orine - 133; Trent Hidlay - 184; Owen Trephan - 285). The Wolfpack have had at least four conference champs for each of the last three seasons.
NC State produced the ACC champion at 125 lbs in Jarrett Trombley. Two other former NC State wrestlers made the tournament at that same weight. Both #6 Stevo Poulin (Northern Colorado) and #8 Anthony Noto (Lock Haven) won their respective conferences.
Silas Allred became the first Nebraska wrestler to win a Big Ten title since Robert Kokesh in 2015. Between that win and the time Allred's final match rolled around, the Cornhuskers had lost 13 straight Big Ten finals (four in 2023). That marked only the fourth Big Ten title since Nebraska joined the conference in 2011-12 (Kokesh 14/15, James Green 2014).
Allred will also get the eighth seed at 197 lbs. The last Big Ten champion to receive such a low seed was Dom Abounader (Michigan), the eighth seed at 184 lbs in 2015.
North Carolina's Austin O'Connor won his third ACC championship. He became the first Tar Heel wrestler since Evan Sola (2003-07) to win three.
O'Connor became the first Tar Heel wrestler to earn the #1 seed since TJ Jaworsky did so in 1995.
More O'Connor. He is the first Illinois native to receive the #1 seed since Chris Dardanes was the #1 at 133 lbs in 2015.
Jared Franek is the first North Dakota State wrestler to earn a top-four seed at nationals since Steven Monk was #4 in 2014.
In 2022, Andrew Alirez became Northern Colorado's first-ever Big 12 champion. A year later, he's the school's first two-time champion. Additionally, the Bears had two champions with a title from Stevo Poulin at 125 lbs.
An untimely, late-season injury to three-time national qualifier Malik Heinselman left Ohio State without a national qualifier at 125 lbs for the first time since 2011.
All of Oklahoma State's ten NCAA qualifiers hail from a home state that starts with an "O." Eight of them are from Oklahoma, while the other two are from Ohio and Oregon.
Daton Fix captured his fourth Big 12 championship and became only the tenth four-time Big 12 champion in Oklahoma State's illustrious wrestling history.
Oregon State won the Pac-12 title on the strength of five individual champions. The last time Oregon State had five champs was in 2015 with Ronnie Bresser (125), Jack Hathaway (133), Alex Elder (157), Joe Latham (174), and Cody Crawford (197).
Penn and West Virginia were the big winners after the addition of at-large berths. Both schools added three wrestlers.
Over the last two seasons, Penn has combined to send 17 wrestlers to nationals (8 in 2023; 9 in 2022). From 2016-20, they had 18.
Three of Penn's eight NCAA qualifiers are from prep power Blair Academy (NJ). Ryan Miller (125), Michael Colaiocco (133) and Nick Incontrera (174).
Penn State extended its active streak with at least one Big Ten champion. They've had at least one every year since 2010.
Penn State has had at least one number-one seed every year since the 2016 tournament.
With Carter Starocci receiving the top seed at 174 lbs, Penn State has had a top-five seed at the weight every year since 2011. Starocci (2023/1, 2022/1, 2021/3), Mark Hall (2020/1, 2019/1, 2018/2, 2017/5), Bo Nickal (2016/1), Matt Brown (2015/2, 2014/5, 2013/2), Ed Ruth (2012/1, 2011/2)
Pittsburgh's Nino Bonaccorsi is the first Panther wrestler to grab a number one seed since his head coach Keith Gavin in 2008.
Colton McKiernan won the first MAC title for SIU Edwardsville. The last time they had a conference champion was in 2018 when John Muldoon (133), Tyshawn Williams (149), and Nate Higgins (165) won the SoCon.
After Tanner Jordan and Cade King received at-large berths, it boosted South Dakota State's 2023 total to eight wrestlers. That's the best mark in program history. Previously, SDSU had seven wrestlers at the 2018 tournament.
Utah Valley's Demetrius Romero is finishing up his eighth year of collegiate wrestling. To put things into perspective, as a true freshman, Romero suited up for Boise State and wrestled Isaiah Martinez at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
Wisconsin had years with back-to-back Big Ten champions (Austin Gomez/22, Dean Hamiti/23) for the first time since Isaac Jordan won in 2015 and 2016.
This tournament will feature five (Killian Cardinale, Michael McGee, Shannon Hanna, Alex Cramer, Jacob Bullock) ex-Old Dominion wrestlers.
There are four from Fresno State in Kyle Parco, Jacob Wright, Matthew Olguin and AJ Nevills.
The Joe Carpino Special: The Big Ten had a pair of conference champions from Indiana (Silas Allred - 197; Mason Parris - 285). The last time two Indiana natives won the Big Ten in the same year was 2010 (Angel Escobedo/Andrew Howe). They did it in 2009 also.
Massachusetts is responsible for five NCAA qualifiers. That is the largest number during the time period that my state-data entails (1999-2023). They are Jake Ferri, Cesar Alvan, Brevin Cassella, Phil Conigliaro, and Austin Cooley.
Speaking of, Alabama has two wrestlers at the NCAA Tournament (Sam Latona/Virginia Tech; Will Miller/Appalachian State) for the first time during that time period (1999-2023).
There are three wrestlers from Alaska that will compete in Tulsa (Caleb Hopkins, Evan Bockman, Levi Hopkins). This is the first time three Alaskan natives made it to the national tournament since 2002 with (Jesse Brock/Boise State, Tony D'Amico/Boise State, and Jason Cooley/Oregon State).
I'm not sure if we'll be able to totally validate this claim; however, I am very certain that Real Woods is the first Big Ten champion from New Mexico.
It's a strong year for NCAA qualifiers from New York. The Empire State has 19 this season. The last time they had that many was in 2014 with 20.
There are 13 NCAA qualifiers from the state of Oklahoma. The last time there were that many was in 2003, which also saw 13 wrestlers go to nationals.
Florida has nine wrestlers at the 2023 NCAA Championships. Four of them, Tom Crook, Frankie Tal-Shahar, Malyke Hines, and Shannon Hanna are all 141 lbers.
Georgia has seven wrestlers at the 2023 NCAA Championships. Four of them, Gavin Kane, David Key, Jha'Quan Anderson, and Matthew Waddell are 184 lbers.
Iowa's 15 NCAA qualifiers are the state's most since they had 16 at the NCAA Championships in 2015.
Obligatory, "Pennsylvania wrestling is incredible" note. Pennsylvania has eight wrestlers at both the 149 and 197 lb weight class. At 149, PA has the #2 Sasso, #5 Johnson, #8 Murin, and #12 Zapf seeds. At 197, PA has #1 Bonaccorsi, #4 Laird, and #5 Beard.
And one more…Pennsylvania is responsible for three of the ten #1 seeds (Lee, Starocci, Bonaccorsi) and four #2 seeds (Sasso, Haines, Labriola, Hidlay).
Texas is back in the game in 2023. They did not have any national qualifiers in 2022, but had two this season with Braxton Brown (Maryland) and Isaiah Delgado (Utah Valley).
Wrestlers in this tournament with hometowns listed outside of the United States are Lachlan McNeil (Canada), Yaraslau Slavikouski (Belarus), and Yonger Bastida (Cuba).
McNeil is the first national qualifier from Canada since Amar Dhesi (Oregon State) 2014-19.
The EIWA's top-three 125 lbers are all located in the same quadrant. #15 Brett Ungar (Cornell) and #18 Ryan Miller (Penn) clash in the first round. The winner likely gets #2 Patrick Glory (Princeton).
At 133 lbs, should Brody Teske (Iowa) and Wyatt Henson (Oklahoma) lose in the first round, you'll have a match between a wrestler that transferred out of Iowa this offseason and another that transferred in.
The 149 lb first-round matchup between #5 Paniro Johnson (Iowa State) and #28 Jarod Verkleeren (Virginia) who verbally committed to Iowa State, before attending Penn State.
In the second round at 149 lbs, we could see a huge matchup between #2 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) and Austin Gomez (Wisconsin). Both have accounted for the last three Big Ten titles at 149 lbs. Gomez holds a 3-0 edge on Sasso.
Penn State's Levi Haines is the highest-seeded freshman true or redshirt at #2. He's a true freshman. The last true freshman to get a top-two seed at nationals was J'den Cox in 2014.
All year we've talked about how star-studded and amazing the 165 lb weight class is. The top half of the bracket features three past NCAA finalists #1 David Carr, #5 Quincy Monday, and #9 Shane Griffith.
The 165 lb bracket features a pair of high school teammates squaring off in round one. Olentangy Liberty's #10 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) and #23 Connor Brady (Virginia Tech) will meet for the second time this season. Kharchla won round one, 3-1.
The 174 lb bracket has another meeting between #6 Ethan Smith (Ohio State) and #27 Tyler Eischens (Stanford). The two met in the first round last season and Eischens pulled a 13-12 upset.
7 of the 17 wrestlers on the top half of the 184 lb bracket have transferred at one point or another in their collegiate careers. Two matches feature battling transferee's #16 Reece Heller/#17 Tate Samuelson and #8 Matt Finesilver/#25 Brian Bonino.
Two weight classes loaded with future stars and budding rivalries are 125 and 149 lbs. Both feature nine freshmen.
The top-six seeds at 285 lbs have combined to compete in 19 World Championship events. #1 Mason Parris (19/Junior), #2 Wyatt Hendrickson (21/Junior), #3 Greg Kerkvliet (19/U23, 18/Cadet, 17/Cadet), #4 Tony Cassioppi (22/U23, 21/U23), #5 Cohlton Schultz (22/U23, 22/Senior, 21/Senior, 19/Junior, 18/U23, 18/Junior, 17/Junior, 17/Cadet, 16/Cadet), #6 Yara Slavikouski (21/U23, 19/Junior, 15/Cadet for Belarus)
There will be two first-round matches that feature past NCAA All-Americans clashing. At 165 lbs with #2 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) and #31 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State) and at 174 lbs with #3 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) and #30 Jackson Turley (Rutgers). Sheets was involved in the only first-round matchup between past All-Americans in 2022, when he squared off with Ryan Deakin.
In the 133 lb bracket, if seeds hold up in the first round #23 Cody Phippen (Air Force) will face Kurtis Phipps (Bucknell) in the first set of consolation matches. Once again, if seeds hold in the Round of 16, Micky Phillipi (Pittsburgh) will drop to the winner. Phipps, Phippen, and Phillipi. Try to say those names five times quickly.
Four brackets contain multiple unbeaten wrestlers: 125 (#1 Spencer Lee/#2 Patrick Glory), 133 (#1 Roman Bravo-Young/#2 Daton Fix), 141 (#1 Real Woods/#2 Andrew Alirez), and 157 (#1 Austin O'Connor/#5 Josh Humphreys).
From the, "I'm pretty sure it's never happened before" department. Austin O'Connor and Nino Bonaccorsi are both #1 seeds from the ACC. Going through brackets back to the 1970's, it doesn't appear that a pair of ACC wrestlers have been seeded number one at nationals in the same year.