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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Historical Bracket Breakdown: 133 lbs at the 2019 NCAA Championships

    Somewhere amid a fun 2018-19 season fans and media members started talking about the potential of the 133 lb weight class to be one of the best they’d ever seen. In my opinion, that debate starts and ends with the 2008 149 lb bracket, so it seemed kind of farfetched. Besides, for us to get a clearer picture of these types of comparisons, some time is needed. Wrestlers in the 2019 bracket needed to finish their collegiate careers, which all but one wrestler has done. Finally, sometimes time and perspective are needed, rather than getting caught up in the moment. 

    Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the 2019 133 lb bracket. The All-Americans, a brief reminder of their credentials and relevant supporting information. Along with that, the wrestlers that just missed the podium in the Round of 12 and other notables in the bracket. We also have results from important rounds at the 2019 tournament, seeds, and conference champions. We’ll wrap it up with some facts about the participants in this weight and a conclusion. 

     

    The Champion: #3 Nick Suriano (Rutgers)

    In one of the most unique careers in recent wrestling history, Nick Suriano claimed the 2019 NCAA title at one of the toughest weight classes of all-time, then proceeded to not wrestle collegiately for the next two seasons. When he resurfaced at Michigan, it was down a weight (125 lbs), where he went unbeaten winning the 2022 NCAA title. 

    In 2018-19, Suriano suffered three regular-season losses. He had the opportunity to avenge two of them, downing Stevan Micic in the semifinals and Daton Fix in the controversial NCAA title match. Suriano finished his 2018-19 season with bonus points in almost two-thirds of his bouts and became the first NCAA champion in Rutgers wrestling history. A few matches later, teammate Anthony Ashnault joined him to accomplish the feat. 

     

    The Runner-Up: #1 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State)

    This is the only wrestler from the weight class that still has a year of NCAA eligibility. Regardless of Daton Fix’s 2023-24 performance, we know how good he is. Winning an NCAA title would just make this bracket look even tougher. Fix has already gotten onto the NCAA podium four times, with three trips to the national finals and a fourth-place finish in 2023. He’ll carry a 103-6 career record into his final year in Stillwater. 

    In addition to his collegiate exploits, Fix has already made two Senior World Team appearances and captured a silver medal in 2021 in Norway. 

     

    3rd Place: #2 Stevan Micic (Michigan)

    In the four years since the 2019 tournament, we’ve seen NCAA seeding evolve a bit for the better. Stevan Micic won a match at the Big Ten Championships and forfeited down to sixth place, but got the second seed due to a head-to-head win over Suriano. At this time, Micic already was a two-time All-American, losing in the 2018 NCAA finals in a shootout against Seth Gross. This was the second time that Micic earned the #2 seed at nationals. He did so in 2018 after capturing a Big Ten crown. 

    Like Fix, Micic has already made an impact on the freestyle scene. Competing for Serbia, Micic earned a bronze medal at the 2022 World Championships at 57 kg. He also qualified for the 2020(1) Olympics and has a pair of bronze medals from the European Championships. 

     

    4th Place: #5 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)

    One of the big “what if’s” from this weight class. Luke Pletcher was the 2020 Big Ten champion and was given the #1 seed at the ill-fated 2020 NCAA Championships. Would Pletcher have been able to defeat Nick Lee again or a young Real Woods to claim an elusive national championship. We’ll never know. Pletcher was named a first-team All-American in his senior season. That marked the third All-American honor of his career. He was fourth at both this tournament and the 2018 championships. After this year, he moved up to 141 lbs for the 2019-20 season and was more explosive and high-scoring than ever before. 

     

    5th Place: #7 Austin DeSanto (Iowa)

    This was the first year at Iowa for Austin DeSanto. In 2018, he made the NCAA bloodround for Drexel as a true freshman. DeSanto jumped levels coming to Iowa City and finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships to garner the seventh seed. The mercurial star announced his presence at Iowa with a title at the Midlands followed by wins over past NCAA finalists Ethan Lizak and Suriano in back-to-back duals. DeSanto would finish his career at Iowa with three trips to the podium (two thirds and this fifth place), along with Big Ten finals appearances in each of his final two seasons. 

    Along with Lizak and Suriano, DeSanto boasts wins over NCAA finalists such as Micic, Roman Bravo-Young, Seth Gross, and Ridge Lovett.

     

    6th Place: #8 John Erneste (Missouri)

    One of only two seniors from this group of All-Americans was John Erneste. Erneste was a typical wrestler that we’ve seen under head coach Brian Smith. He wasn’t touted as a “can’t miss” recruit, but got better every year in the Tiger wrestling room and finished his career in the middle of this meatgrinder of a weight class. Just to make the podium, Erneste won a back-and-forth match against the returning NCAA third-place finisher at this weight, Tariq Wilson. A match later, he’d defeat Roman Bravo-Young to clinch a top-six finish. 

    Erneste was 90-26 for his career and claimed three MAC titles, qualified for nationals three times and made the bloodround in 2018. 

     

    7th Place: #6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)

    The other senior in this bunch was Ethan Lizak who moved up to 133 lbs for his final year with the Gophers. Lizak had already made the NCAA podium twice, losing in the 2017 NCAA finals to Darian Cruz and taking fourth a year later. During each of his All-American seasons, Lizak finished in the top three at the Big Ten championships; highlighted by a runner-up showing in 2018. 

    In a weight class full of current/future freestyle stars and dynamic wrestlers from their feet, Lizak was a bit of a curveball, as he was excellent from the top position; hence the nickname “Backpack.” 

     

    8th Place: #10 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)

    The only freshman (true) from this awards stand was Roman Bravo-Young. We should have known that making it into the top eight with this kind of competition as a true freshman would foreshadow just how good RBY would become. 

    During the 2019-20 season, Bravo-Young flipped the script on DeSanto and never lost to him again. He made the Big Ten finals for the first time and was set to have the fifth seed at the 2020 national tournament. After the pandemic, Bravo-Young emerged as a top guy at 133 lbs and put together a pair of undefeated seasons, beating Daton Fix in the 2021 and 2022 NCAA finals. He finished his collegiate career as a runner-up to Vito Arujau in 2023. 

     

    The Bloodround: #4 Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh), #11 Tariq Wilson (NC State), #13 Austin Gomez (Iowa State), #31 Mason Pengilly (Stanford)

    Leading off our bloodround competitors is Micky Phillippi in his redshirt freshman year. When it was all said and done, Phillippi may go down as one of the best DI wrestlers ever to not make the podium. He was a four-time bloodround finisher, but did receive first-team All-American honors in 2020. Phillippi has a “who’s who” list of prominent All-Americans he defeated in his career, but he defeated these studs alone in 2018-19 (Lizak, Pletcher, Fix, Tariq Wilson, Korbin Myers, Austin Gomez). 

    Wilson burst on the scene at the 2018 national tournament and finished third with some incredible matches along the way. After this season, Wilson would move up to 141 and then 149 for the 2021-22 campaign. He matched the 2018 third-place finish with another in 2021, then got on the podium for a third time in 2022 (7th). 

    Oh yeah, Austin Gomez started his career at Iowa State and at 133 lbs. Gomez picked up a win over DeSanto this year in their heated dual meet. His career really took off after sitting out a year and transferring to Wisconsin, where he won a Big Ten title and finished fourth in the country in 2022. The end of the 2022-23 season was marred by injury; however, Gomez did put a stop to Yianni Diakomihalis’ 75-match winning streak. 

    No offense to Mason Pengilly, but his name kind of stands out as unusual compared to the rest of the wrestlers in the bloodround and on the podium. Pengilly was a third-place finisher at the Pac-12 tournament and only had a 12-5 record entering his second NCAA tournament. After losing to Micic in the opening round, he grabbed wins over #18 Gary Wayne Harding (North Carolina) and #16 Matt Schmitt (West Virginia). To make the bloodround, he edged #24 DJ Fehlman (Lock Haven), 2-1. 

    Other Notables: #9 Chas Tucker (Cornell), #12 Montorie Bridges (Wyoming), #14 Korbin Myers (Virginia Tech), #21 Cam Sykora (North Dakota State), #22 Noah Gonser (Campbell), #30 Dylan Duncan (Illinois), #32 Devan Turner (Oregon State)

     

    NCAA Finals: Nick Suriano (Rutgers) over Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) 4-2SV

    Third Place: Stevan Micic (Michigan) over Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) 6-1

    Fifth Place: Austin DeSanto (Iowa) over John Erneste (Missouri) 11-6

    Seventh Place: Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) over Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) 8-5

     

    NCAA Semifinals

    Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) over Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) 4-2

    Nick Suriano (Rutgers) over Stevan Micic (Michigan) 4-1

     

    NCAA Quarterfinals

    Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) over John Erneste (Missouri) 11-3

    Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) over Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh) 4-1

    Nick Suriano (Rutgers) over Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) Fall 4:24

    Stevan Micic (Michigan) over Austin DeSanto (Iowa) 3-2

     

    NCAA Bloodround

    Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) dec Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh) 4-3

    John Erneste (Missouri) over Tariq Wilson (NC State) 9-7SV

    Austin DeSanto (Iowa) over Austin Gomez (Iowa State) 16-5

    Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) over Mason Pengilly (Stanford) 14-2

     

    Top-16 Seeds

    1) Fix

    2) Micic

    3) Suriano

    4) Phillippi

    5) Pletcher

    6) Lizak

    7) DeSanto

    😎 Erneste

    9) Chas Tucker

    10) Bravo-Young

    11) Wilson

    12) Montorie Bridges

    13) Gomez

    14) Korbin Myers

    15) Ben Thornton

    16) Matt Schmitt

     

    Conference Champions

    ACC: Phillippi

    Big 12: Fix

    Big Ten: Suriano

    EIWA: Tucker

    EWL: DJ Fehlman

    MAC: Erneste

    Pac-12: Sean Nickell

    SoCon: Codi Russell

     

    Fun Facts:

    - There are two NCAA champions in this bracket (Suriano, Bravo-Young). Both were two-time champs and combined for three undefeated seasons. 

    - Five wrestlers from this bracket appeared in an NCAA final at least once in their careers. (Suriano, Fix, Micic, Lizak, Bravo-Young). This group combined for 11 finals appearances. 

    - 14 wrestlers in this bracket got on the NCAA podium at least once in their careers (The eight AA’s, Wilson, Gomez, Montorie Bridges, Myers, Dylan Duncan, Devan Turner). 

    - The 14 All-Americans combined to get on the podium 31 times. 

    - The cancelled 2020 tournament. Chas Tucker and Phillippi were named first-team All-Americans in 2020. Cam Sykora and Noah Gonser are two others that never got on the podium but were named second-team AA’s that year, too. 

    - Four wrestlers from this bracket earned the #1 seed at the NCAA tournament at one point or another during their careers. (Suriano, Fix, Pletcher, Bravo-Young). 

    - The top-six wrestlers from the 2019 Big Ten Championships all made the NCAA podium that season (Suriano, Pletcher, Lizak, DeSanto, Bravo-Young, Micic). 

    - This was the rare NCAA bracket where all top-eight seeds advanced to the quarterfinals. There was only one minor upset in the quarters as #5 Pletcher downed #4 Phillippi. 

    - The only upset from the bloodround saw #10 Bravo-Young defeat #4 Phillippi.

    - The Round of 16 featured four matches between wrestlers that would go on to become All-Americans at some point in their careers. #5 Pletcher/#12 Bridges, #3 Suriano/#14 Myers, #6 Lizak/#11 Wilson, #7 DeSanto/#10 Bravo-Young. 

    - Two wrestlers in the bracket have already won Senior-level world medals (Fix, Micic). As of now, they are the only two that have competed at the World Championships, though others in this group are still active. 

    - The NCAA finalists were both ranked #2 overall in their respective high school graduating classes. Suriano (2016) and Fix (2017). 

    Conclusion:

    This is an excellent weight class. Definitely one of the best of the last decade. It still pales in comparison to the fabled 2008 class (we should probably have a refresher on that one in the near future). The lack of NCAA titles, Hodge Trophy’s, and Senior level success separate that class from this one (though many are still active on the Senior level). There’s even an argument to be made that it’s not the best 133 lb bracket from the last 20 years. We may get into a couple of those. Ultimately, this was a remarkable Big Ten weight class; that may be where this bracket is best remembered. Six of the eight AA’s came from the B1G.

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