Army West Point 174 lber Ben Pasiuk (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Last week, InterMat took a look at the remaining undefeated wrestlers for the 2022-23 season. In total, there were 18 spread across eight weight classes. After this weekend's action, that number dropped to 16 as a pair of notable wrestlers fell from the ranks of the unbeaten. That number will go down by at least one more number after Wednesday as the top two 165 lbers in the nation #1 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) and #2 David Carr (Iowa State) are set to square off. It is easily one of the most anticipated matches of the regular season, so hopefully, both will take the mat.
Today we'll look at the circumstances surrounding the two previously undefeated wrestlers who took losses on the weekend and the prospects of all involved moving forward.
#5 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech - 157)
Andonian's match with fellow unbeaten and third-ranked Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) was the match I was looking forward to the most. These two had plenty of history as Friday's match marked the fifth time the two have squared off collegiately. In both 2020 and 2021, the two tangled in dual competition and in the 149 lb finals of the ACC Championships.
Each of their previous clashes featured plenty of scoring and this one was no different. The exception was that it was all O'Connor. The Tar Heel national champion had a perfect gameplan, combined with exceptional talent, and managed to avoid any predicament where the dangerous Andonian could put him on his back. Not only did O'Connor keep the match away from Andonian's strengths, but he also was able to get to his offense in an 11-3 major decision. O'Connor has scored in double figures in each of their meetings now.
During Friday's match, O'Connor kept control of Andonian's head and scored multiple takedowns from positions that originated from a front headlock; one of his best areas. Early on in the match, Andonian tried to create chaos, locking his hands and attempting to roll through a double leg attempt. Those efforts did not dissuade O'Connor as he wrestled through the positions and ended up scoring.
Andonian won't have long to wait before trying to win round six. The ACC Tournament is just right around the corner. One potential hurdle for both competitors is NC State's Ed Scott. Last year, while O'Connor was fighting through a knee injury, Scott took a 3-2 win for the ACC crown. Earlier this season, Andonian nearly teched Scott during an entertaining 24-10 major decision. Scott also could knock that zero out from the loss column for O'Connor, as they'll meet this weekend.
Looking at the big, big picture, this loss probably doesn't have much of an impact on Andonian's postseason/NCAA prospects. He's still a logical choice for the #5 spot in the rankings. With a third-place finish in Detroit after starting as the 11th seed, Andonian probably isn't overly concerned about seeds/rankings either. He'll be a tough out for anyone in the 157 lb bracket.
#5 Mickey O'Malley (Drexel - 174)
The situation is a little different for Mickey O'Malley at 174 lbs for Drexel. Not only did he suffer his first setback of the year, but he also lost a second match on Sunday.
On Saturday, Drexel hosted Army West Point, whose highest-ranked wrestler is #18 Ben Pasiuk at 174 lbs. In their only previous meeting, Pasiuk defeated O'Malley 2-1 in the 2021 EIWA finals. Last season, O'Malley won the conference and Pasiuk was third; however, the two never met.
From the outset of Saturday's match, Pasiuk was the aggressor and he got to O'Malley's legs on four different occasions, finishing two. Those two takedowns proved to be the difference in a 5-3 win for Pasiuk.
A day later, O'Malley was tasked with taking on #20 Nick Incontrera (Penn) during the rivalry match with neighboring Penn. While neither wrestler scored a takedown, Incontrera was able to stay out of harm's way as he managed to avoid upperbody throws that are a trademark of the Dragon star. Like the Pasiuk match, O'Malley was never able to get to any of his offense.
The difference in the Incontrera match came down to mat wrestling. Incontrera was able to ride O'Malley out for the entire second period. He was able to get away in less than :20 seconds in the third period to inch ahead on the scoreboard and preserve riding time. Incontrera stayed defensive in the final minute and a half and ended up with a 2-0 victory.
The two losses for O'Malley definitely threw a wrench into EIWA seeding at 174. Chris Foca (Cornell) has only one loss on the year and is unbeaten against conference competition. He's clearly the one-seed. After O'Malley was beaten by Incontera, the Penn wrestler is the only one in the weight with just one EIWA loss (to Foca).
Arguments could be made between Phil Conigliaro (Harvard) and Pasiuk for the third and fourth seeds. Conigliaro only has one EIWA loss (Incontrera) but has wrestled a limited schedule. That means the two losses by O'Malley could end up dropping him from possibly the first seed, to the fifth.