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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    Number One Versus the Field

    Yianni Diakomihalis and Ridge Lovett at the 2021 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)


    The college wrestling season is right around the corner, and the InterMat rankings are an early treat for the crazed wrestling fan. While several weights feature returning champions, there will be new champions crowned at the end of the upcoming season. The following looks at the number-one ranked wrestlers and how they have performed against the other 32 currently ranked wrestlers at their weight.

    149: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 12
    Record: 16-0 (100%)

    Over the summer, Diakomihalis became the first American to medal at 65/66 kg in 16 years, and he gets the chance to add a fourth NCAA title this season at Cornell. He enters his senior season with a 94-1 career college record and a 16-0 record against currently ranked wrestlers. It is not only the most wins against ranked competitors among the top-ranked wrestlers, but he has also bested 12 of the 32 other ranked wrestlers at 149 pounds.

    Diakomihalis defeated No. 2 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin) last year and holds two wins each over No. 3 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) and No. 5 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska). The highest-ranked wrestler Diakomihalis has not defeated is No. 4 Brock Mauller (Missouri). The two likely will not meet this season unless the match happens at the NCAA tournament.

    184: Aaron Brooks (Penn State)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 10
    Record: 14-0 (100%)

    Brooks lost one of his first five dual matches after coming out of redshirt in 2020, but he did not lose again until the finals of last year's Big Ten Tournament. Brooks avenged that defeat in the NCAA title match with a 5-3 victory over Olympic bronze medalist Myles Amine. With Amine graduating, there are no active college wrestlers left who hold a victory over Brooks.

    The Penn State wrestler holds two wins over No. 2 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa), two wins over No. 3 Trent Hidlay (NC State) and a victory over No. 4 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State). The Nittany Lions will participate in the Collegiate Duals event in late December, which sets up a potential match between Brooks and No. 5 Marcus Coleman (Iowa State), who is the highest-ranked wrestler he has never previously faced.

    125: Spencer Lee (Iowa)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 9
    Record: 14-0 (100%)

    Iowa's three-time NCAA champion pulled out of last season after only three matches due to his knee issues, but he is expected back this year to hunt for his fourth title. He has defeated nine of the other 32 ranked wrestlers, and he has twice beaten No. 2 Patrick Glory (Princeton).

    Despite his clear record of dominance, he has previously faced only four of the nine other top-10 wrestlers. That includes No. 3 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern). The two Big Ten teams are scheduled for a dual match on Jan. 13, and this might be one of the marquee matches of the dual season.

    133: Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 10
    Record: 13-0 (100%)

    There were some semi-serious takes about Bravo-Young not returning for his final year of eligibility. Despite that, he will be back in the lineup for the Nittany Lions at 133 pounds. He has not lost a match during his last two seasons of college wrestling, and he holds victories over 10 of the other 32 currently ranked wrestlers.

    That includes a pair of victories over No. 2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) and three wins over Big Ten rival No. 6 Dylan Ragusin (Michigan). However, he has yet to face No. 3 Vito Arujau (Cornell). Arujau finished third at 125 pounds last year and is expected to move up for this season. Cornell and Penn State are both scheduled to compete at the Collegiate Duals event. However, it remains to be seen if the two squads end up in the same group.

    174: Carter Starocci (Penn State)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 9
    Record: 11-0 (100%)

    While Starocci does have a tendency to wrestle close matches that make him look ripe for an upset, he almost always pulls out the victory. After dropping a pair of matches during his first year in the lineup, he went undefeated last year on the way to his second NCAA title.

    He has defeated nine of the other 32 ranked wrestlers. Interestingly enough he has defeated No. 2 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) and No. 3 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska), but he holds a win over one other wrestler currently ranked in the top 10: No. 7 Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley).

    This sets up Starocci with interesting potential first-time matches against the likes of No. 4 Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State), No. 5 Clay Lautt (North Carolina) and No. 6 Ethan Smith (Ohio State). Of course, Starocci would be a clear favorite in all these bouts, his style will probably lead to close and interesting matches.

    165: Keegan O'Toole (Missouri)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 8
    Record: 11-0 (100%)

    It looked like Shane Griffith (Stanford) was about to complete another dazzling run to an NCAA title. However, O'Toole put a stop to that momentum with a 6-5 victory in the finals to take the championship. While O'Toole holds wins over four of the other wrestlers currently ranked in the top 10, there are some former 157 pounders moving up to this weight.

    After winning an NCAA title at 157 pounds in 2021 and finishing third last year, No. 3 David Carr (Iowa State) is expected to move up this year. Also, No. 4 Quincy Monday (Princeton) made the 157-pound final last year as the fifth seed, and he will also be competing at 165 pounds this year. Missouri and Iowa State are scheduled to dual on Feb. 15.

    197: Max Dean (Penn State)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 10
    Record: 15-2 (88%)

    Dean is one of four wrestlers currently ranked number one who have losses against other currently ranked competitors. Dean joined Penn State last year after previously making the finals for Cornell in 2019. He returned to the finals last year and defeated No. 2 Jacob Warner (Iowa) to win his first NCAA title.

    The two currently ranked wrestlers who hold victories over Dean are No. 7 Louie Deprez (Binghamton aka Fighting Billy Baldwins) and No. 15 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State). Deprez and Dean have wrestled four times with Deprez's only win coming at the 2019 Cliff Keen Invitational in overtime. Dean avenged that defeat with a 4-3 win at the 2022 NCAA tournament. Caffey bested Dean in dramatic fashion in a dual meet match last year, but Dean was able to even the series at the Big Ten tournament.

    Despite the title last year, Dean has never wrestled No. 3 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming), No. 4 Rocky Elam (Missouri), No. 5 Bernie Truax (Cal Poly) or No. 6 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State).

    157: Brayton Lee (Minnesota)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 9
    Record: 13-2 (87%)

    Due to graduation and weight changes, there has been a bit of an exodus at 157 pounds, and Lee has benefitted from that to earn the number-one stop at the weight. His wins over No. 2 Will Lewan (Michigan), No. 3 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) and No. 4 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) have also greatly contributed to his spot in the rankings.

    However, Teemer also holds a win over Lee. The two first met at the Midlands tournament during the 2019 season where the Arizona State wrestler won a 9-7 decision. The two rematched at the 2021 NCAA tournament, and this time Lee won by a 4-3 score.

    The only other currently ranked wrestler to hold a win over Lee is No. 17 Garrett Model (Wisconsin). Lee does have a win over Model, but the Wisconsin representative was able to pull the upset when the two teams dualed last season. Lee is coming off an injury that prematurely ended his 2022 season, so he will have plenty to prove this year. However, he is deserving of the number-one spot due to his previous performance.

    141: Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 9
    Record: 11-3 (79%)

    Matthews finished fifth at the last NCAA tournament, but the top four wrestlers have moved on, so he finds himself as the top-ranked competitor at 141 pounds. He defeated No. 2 Real Woods (Iowa) in the fifth-place match, but he has not defeated another wrestler currently ranked inside the top 10.

    He has faced No. 4 CJ Composto (Penn) and No. 8 Dyan D'Emilio (Ohio State), but he dropped both matches. Composto scored a 7-5 decision over Matthews at the Midlands replacement (MatMen) tournament last year, while D'Emilio scored a 4-3 decision over Matthews in an early season dual last year.

    285: Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State)
    Ranked Opponents Faced: 8
    Record: 9-3 (75%)

    There are some rumors and rumblings that Gable Steveson might return for yet another season, but he has officially started training at the WWE Performance Center. At the moment, the return seems unlikely. Stepping into the number-one spot is the best Greco-Roman wrestler currently active in NCAA wrestling, Cohlton Schultz.

    Schultz won all his matches last season outside of a loss against Steveson in the NCAA final. In the semifinals, he defeated No. 3 Mason Parris (Michigan), and he previously defeated No. 2 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State).

    He has been beaten twice by No. 4 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa). Both matches came at the 2021 NCAA tournament where the Iowa wrestler won 4-1 and 5-0. Schultz has also lost to No. 14 AJ Nevills (South Dakota State). Back when Nevills was at Fresno State, he scored a 5-2 decision over true freshman Schultz at the Roadrunner Open.

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