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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    The Most Interesting Regular Season Matchups for Current #1's

    Lehigh 197 lber Michael Beard (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    From the outside, it may seem that the #1 wrestler at each weight is untouchable. However, as we have seen historically and most recently in the Yianni vs. Gomez match, sometimes it just takes the right matchup to take down #1. I took a look at every #1's remaining schedule and picked out what could be the best shot in taking them down. In many of these weights, the #1 guy will see other opponents ranked in the top 10. However, many of these guys have a history where the top guy has shown the ability to win repeatedly against them. So while some of these may be a reach, they are nonetheless going to be interesting matchups.

    125: #1 Spencer Lee - #4 Patrick McKee

    These two wrestled in the 2021 season with Lee getting a first-period pin. McKee is known to have somewhat inconsistent regular season results, but has put it all together at NCAA's to finish high on the podium after running wild in consolations. Since that loss, Lee won his third title and McKee has finished third and fifth. At his best, McKee has taken out wrestlers like Eric Barnett, Brandon Courtney, and Michael DeAugustino. Lee hasn't lost since the 2019 season, but coming off double ACL surgery could be potentially vulnerable.

    133: #1 Roman Bravo-Young - #13 Jesse Mendez

    Bravo-Young has looked mostly untouchable the past two seasons, and he's already beaten a majority of the ranked wrestlers on his schedule. However, there is a new name taking the mat this season that could present a new challenge. Mendez has already taken out two-time All-American Lucas Byrd early this season. Wrestling a Big Ten schedule ensures that the true freshman will be battle-tested by the time this match comes around. While it may be a stretch, it would take a lot for any wrestler to get close to RBY, so maybe a new face like Mendez could be a surprise.

    141: #1 Cole Matthews - #12 Casey Swiderski

    One of four true freshmen on this list, Swiderski shows that it's evident there is an increasing number of wrestlers ready to start as soon as they step on campus. He is already 4-0 including a ranked win over #19 Joseph Zargo and should be considered a podium threat. In the most wide-open weight class, Matthews appears to be one of the more vulnerable number ones. This match is set for February, and who knows what the rankings may look like by then. However, Swiderski has the ability to come and take a top spot in his first year.

    149: #1 Yianni Diakomihalis - #12 Caleb Henson

    Another true freshman, Henson has already taken out one former 149 finalist in Sammy Sasso. Up until the Austin Gomez match, Yianni looked untouchable and was one of the heaviest favorites to repeat. Yianni taking one loss was shocking, it's hard to conceive two in a single season. When this match happens, however, Henson is surely going to be after him the entire match.

    157: #1 Quincy Monday - #8 Josh Humphreys

    Another matchup with plenty of history, Humphreys and Monday have wrestled five times already. With the first match back in the 2019 season, Humphreys leads Monday 3-2 in all-time wins. They haven't wrestled in two years, but Humphreys won 7-0 in the 2020 EIWA finals. While Monday made the finals last year, Humphreys has yet to make the podium. These two are likely to meet up just before EIWA's again, in a match that could have a significant impact on the late-season rankings.

    165: #1 Keegan O'Toole - #3 David Carr

    While many of these matches aren't the number one vs the highest-ranked wrestler, this one was unavoidable. Both of these wrestlers have looked untouchable at times, but are in one of the toughest weights. These two could meet as many as four times this season between the Southern Scuffle, the dual, Big 12's, and NCAA's. In what could be a preview of the NCAA finals, anytime these two meet will be must-watch TV as to who's offense can get them the win.

    174: #1 Carter Starocci - #17 Donnell Washington

    Washington is the lowest-ranked wrestler on this list, and Ethan Smith was almost put here instead. However, Washington and Starocci have a history. In his first match as a starter in the 2021 season, Starocci took a shocking loss to Washington in a 10-9 decision. While Starocci has gone on to win two titles, Washington has failed to make the podium at 174 or 184. At 174, Starocci is a heavy favorite over Washington, and for good reason. It will be interesting to see how different this match may look and see how both wrestlers have developed since that match.

    184: #1 Aaron Brooks - #12 Brian Soldano

    Brooks' schedule is stacked with highly ranked opponents this season, including #4 Kaleb Romero, #6 Trey Munoz, and #10 Matt Finesilver. Brooks is coming off a dominating 12-8 win over #2 Parker Keckeisen at the All-Star Classic and looks like he may have jumped another level. With that, perhaps it will take another true freshman to potentially make things interesting? Currently, Soldano is 7-1 with a close 5-3 loss to Trey Munoz. Brooks isn't likely to put himself in dangerous positions against Soldano, but the freshman has a unique style that could surprise opponents.

    197: #1 Max Dean - #9 Michael Beard

    Another PSU wrestler that has a stacked schedule of opponents, Dean could face a familiar opponent in Beard. While the two have never faced off in competition, a majority of wrestling fans know the story behind these two. Beard was an All-American for Penn State before Max Dean transferred from Cornell. Beard proceeded to spend the season on the bench while Dean won the 197lb title in 2022. Rumor was the matches in the room between these two were razor close. Now at Lehigh, Beard will have an opportunity to show that on the national stage.

    285: #1 Cohlton Schultz - #6 Lucas Davison

    While most of these matches come from duals, this is a potential match if both wrestlers show up to Midlands this year. Schultz has some ranked dual matches, but this is one of the most intriguing regular season heavyweight matches. With his size and defense, Schultz may be one of the hardest opponents to score on at any weight. Davison has gone from a 197lber who made the round of 16 in 2021 to placing 6th last season. He also showed that he has a very dynamic offense at heavyweight, scoring takedowns on both Gable Steveson and Jordan Wood at NCAA's last year. If Davison is able to score against Schultz, this could end up being a barnburner heavyweight matchup.

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