Lehigh's Jordan Kutler is expected to face Michigan's Myles Amine in a battle of returning All-Americans at 174 pounds (Photo/Juan Garcia)
The NCAA wrestling season really kicks into gear this weekend. There are several high-profile matches, but the most interesting stories might be the integration of formerly top-ranked recruits facing off with the accomplished veterans. There are several of those bouts this weekend highlighted by No. 9 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) taking on returning champion No. 1 Seth Gross (SDSU) at 133 pounds.
125: No. 14 Patrick Glory (Princeton) vs. No. 18 Connor Brown (Wisconsin)
Even though Glory made his collegiate wrestling debut with a first-place finish at the Princeton Open, this weekend will really be the former top recruit's first test. In the finals of that tournament, he defeated Jonathan Tropea (Rider). This Friday, Glory will face off against No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa), who might end up being too much at this point. After all, he is too much for pretty much everyone at this point. However, on Sunday, he matches up here against Brown, which should be a good gauge.
Two weeks ago, Brown made his debut in a Wisconsin singlet and picked up a fall over Kyle Akins (Buffalo). This past weekend, the former South Dakota State wrestler defeated Jake Ferri (Kent State) and Alejandro Hernandez-Figueroa (CSU Bakersfield) to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Brown is known mostly for his flashy post-win celebrations, but he is an accomplished lightweight who appears to have made strides so far this season. Based on his high school career, Glory should be the higher quality prospect. However, adjusting to the college scene can be tough. He will need to show that he can get out on bottom, and his scrambling game might be more difficult with the "danger" rule. With all that being said, Glory should be able to pull off enough takedowns to take this match.
Prediction: Glory (Princeton) dec. Brown (Wisconsin)
133: No. 9 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 1 Seth Gross (SDSU)
It seems like fans have been waiting an eternity for Fix to step onto the big stage in college wrestling. Things will get to a quick start as he is set to face the returning NCAA champion early in the season. Fix had a short redshirt season last year highlighted by his title at the Reno Tournament of Champions. Over the summer, he finished second at the U.S. Open falling in the finals against Tony Ramos. However, Fix came back at the World Team Trials and defeated Ramos to advance to Final X. His run at the World Team came to an end against Thomas Gilman there.
Gross nearly went undefeated last season. His lone loss came when he bumped up a weight to face off against the eventual national runner-up at 141. This year, Gross is looking to pick up his second straight NCAA title and third straight finals appearance. However, the 133 field is loaded with returning talent and welcoming several new contenders. The road back to the top of the podium started last week for Gross. He defeated Josiah Kline (Arizona State) via first-period fall.
This is an extremely tough match to predict since there are clear paths to victory for both wrestlers. If Fix is able to make this basically a takedown contest, he should be able to outpoint Gross. However, Gross has proven that his scrambling and top game are difference makers. At this point, he might simply be too folkstyle savvy for Fix. No matter what the result, any future rematches will likely remain tossups.
Prediction: Gross (SDSU) dec. Fix (Oklahoma State)
141: No. 5 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 8 Mitch McKee (Minnesota)
At least at the college level, it might be hard to call this a rivalry. Brock has beaten McKee four times in college. However, with the exception of their first match, all of the matches have been decided by three points or less. Brock has twice finished fifth at 133, but this year he will move up to 141. He made his unofficial debut at the new weight at the All-Star Classic where he dropped against returning third-place winner No.2 Joey McKenna (Ohio State).
McKee has twice finished one match short of becoming an All-American. For his junior season, he has also moved up to 141 and hopes to finally break through at the NCAA tournament. He has gotten off to an impressive start to the season. Between the Daktronics Open and Minnesota's dual against Air Force, he has wrestled three time and all three matches have ended via fall.
While Brock has had McKee's number in folkstyle, McKee has been able to take matches in freestyle. In their last meeting the U23 World Team Trials, McKee put up a 10-0 technical fall over Brock. In the end, style does seem to be an important factor, and Brock should be able to win another close match.
Prediction: Brock (Oklahoma State) dec. McKee (Minnesota)
149: No. 1 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) vs. No. 12 Pat Lugo (Iowa)
Despite clearly having the ability to contend for a title, Kolodzik took some loses last year during the regular season. Despite coming in as the 11th seed, he ended up having a strong run in the field and finishing third. One of the losses that Kolozdik took during the year came against Lugo. In fact, the former Edinboro wrestler pinned Kolozdik at the Midlands Tournament while wrestling as a redshirt.
The victory was clearly the highlight of Lugo's redshirt season since he only competed in the Midlands. Over the summer, he placed fifth at the U23 World Team Trials in freestyle where he picked up another victory over Kolodzik. Prior to coming to Iowa, Lugo was a two-time qualifier for Edinboro. The Florida native started his season with an upset loss against Russell Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield), but he bounced back with a fall over Kody Komara (Kent State).
This is a tough match to predict. Kolodzik certainly should be the favorite thanks to the rankings disparity. However, Lugo has performed rather well in their head-to-head meetings. On the feet, Kolodzik should be able to control the position and score. If he stays smart, he should be able to avoid getting stuck and pull out the victory.
Prediction: Kolodzik (Princeton) dec. Lugo (Iowa)
157: No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State) vs. Christian Pagdilao (Arizona State)
Hayes is making the move up to 157 this year after campaigning at 149 last season. Last year, he had the unlucky draw of facing four-time All-American Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) in the blood round and came up short of becoming an All-American. Things have started well so far at 157 this season. He has won all five of his matches including a win over Connor Prince (Navy).
Due to some lineup shifting, Pagdilao has somewhat unexpectedly become the starter for the Sun Devils at 157. So far this year, he has gone 6-0 including a dual meet victory over Colten Carlson (SDSU) last weekend. Pagdilao competed sparingly during his redshirt year, but he did defeat teammate and former NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis in an open tournament.
Hayes should be a big favorite in this match. Pagdilao has looked solid this season, but at this level of competition, he will likely struggle to score. Hayes has the pedigree to push to become an All-American this season, but his progress at a higher weight will be interesting to monitor.
Prediction: Hayes (Ohio State) major dec. Pagdialo (Arizona State)
165: No. 2 Evan Wick (Wisconsin) vs. No. 11 Isaiah White (Nebraska)
Wick ended his season with a bang last year. He pinned No. 3 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) in the third-place match to become an All-American in his freshman season. He has started off this season with the same sort of dominance. wick has already won the Cyclone Open and gone 3-0 in dual matches. Along the way, he has picked up five bonus-point wins.
White was upset in his first match of the season. He dropped a 6-3 decision against Jarrell Ebed (Drexel). However, White bounced back with a 7-3 victory over Cameron Coy (Virginia) in his last outing. Last year, the Nebraska wrestler went 24-8 and went 2-2 at the NCAA tournament.
Wick and White split a pair of matches last season. They first met in a February dual meet, which White won via a 6-3 score. They rematched at the Big Ten tournament. This time, Wick walked away the winner in a close 3-1 match. Wick certainly seems to have the momentum due to the victory in the rematch and his recent run of success. However, White is always dangerous when he decides to engage offensively and string his leg attacks together. Look for Wick to score an early takedown and make an impact with his riding ability from the top.
Prediction: Wick (Wisconsin) dec. White (Nebraska)
174: No. 7 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) vs. No. 3 Myles Amine (Michigan)
Last year, Lehigh pulled off an impressive upset over Michigan early in the season. A big part of that win was Kutler's one-point victory over Amine. However, the two met again at the NCAA tournament â€¦ and in that match, Amine was the one who took home the one-point win. The Michigan wrestler went on to finish third, while Kutler wrestled back for sixth place.
Kutler got off to a strong start to this season at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. He knocked off a pair of ranked wrestlers, No. 15 Ben Harvey (Army) and No. 12 Dylan Lydy (Purdue), as well as former top recruit Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma). Amine won big at the NWCA All-Star Classic over Oklahoma State's Jacobe Smith and also scored a fall over Liber Collin (Central Michigan).
These two seem to only have close matches. Kutler got off to a strong start to last season before taking some losses. It is possible that he is best early in the year. Amine on the other hand seemed to pick things up around tournament time. It is hard to say if this is a seasonal trend or a sign of gradual improvement. With all that being said, Amine's ability to ride and score from the top position will likely be the difference in this one.
Prediction: Amine (Michigan) dec. Kutler (Lehigh)
184: No. 9 Max Dean (Cornell) vs. No. 15 Louie DePrez (Binghamton)
Dean burst on the scene as a freshman. He finished with a 32-6 record and placed eighth at the NCAA tournament to become an All-American. Along the way, he knocked off several currently ranked wrestlers including No. 8 Chip Ness (North Carolina), No. 14 Canten Marriott (Missouri) and No. 10 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa). This match will be the Cornell wrestler's first action of the season.
DePrez redshirted last season for the fighting Billy Baldwins and finished with a 28-4 record. Three of those four losses came against wrestlers who would end up becoming All-Americans. Over the summer, DePrez earned a spot on the Junior World Team at 86 kilograms with a finals victory over No. 19 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State).
Binghamton has high hopes for how far DePez can go this season, and he will get a chance to show his improvement right off the bat. Of his four redshirt losses last season, two came against Dean. Both matches were close (3-2 and 4-1). In those matches, Dean was able to basically nullify DePrez's offense. If Dean can do that again, he should be able to win another close match.
Prediction: Dean (Cornell) dec. DePrez (Binghamton)
197: No. 14 Chris Weiler (Lehigh) vs. No. 16 Jackson Striggow (Michigan)
Weiler was ranked for most of last season and nearly became an All-American as he fell in the blood round. This year, he has not gotten off to a very strong start. He has gone only 4-3 to start the year. Last week at the Journeyman Open, he dropped an overtime match against No. 13 Rocco Caywood (Army) who he defeated via major decision last season.
Striggow was pushed to a reserve roll last season by the graduate transfer Kevin Beazley. However, he is expected to act as the starter for Michigan this season. Even though he mostly wrestled in open tournaments last year, he faced a rather tough schedule and finished 16-8. During the run, he did pick up a victory over No. 2 Kyle Conel (Kent State). So far this season, Striggow has gone 3-1 with his only loss coming against No. 17 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma).
Both of these wrestlers are veterans at this point. While Weiler does not seem to have momentum on his side, he has had the more successful career up until this point. If he is able to get back on track, he should be able to ride out a decision over Striggow this weekend.
Prediction: Weiler (Lehigh) dec. Striggow (Michigan)
285: No. 19 AJ Nevills (Fresno State) vs. Brandon Metz (NDSU)
The revitalized Fresno State program became a home for Nevills last season. He went 26-10 and qualified for the NCAA tournament. In the process, he earned himself a spot in the rankings to start this season. So far this year, he has gone 5-0 with a pair of falls and an overtime victory over Christian Colucci (Rutgers).
Metz was a three-time state champion and a five-time Fargo All-American who stayed home to wrestle for North Dakota State. He redshirted last season and went 16-4 with six falls. He made his official debut this season and dropped his first match against No. 11 Conan Jennings (Northwestern). However, in his last match, he needed only 21 seconds to deck Caleb Gossett (NIU) and close the match against the Huskies.
Translating high school credentials into collegiate accomplishments is always tough. Metz certainly seems like someone who will be a perennially ranked wrestler at heavyweight. If that is the case, he will need to show that here against Nevills. If he is able to push the pace on the feet and get out on bottom, he should be able to take the match.
Prediction: Metz (North Dakota State) dec. Nevills (Fresno State)