Penn State coach Cael Sanderson lifts Bo Nickal at the NCAA Division I Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Imagine choosing the two top college wrestlers in each weight class to face off against each other, even if they competed in different eras.
NCAA.com did just that ... by putting together a list of ten all-time dream matchups at each weight in a 4,000-word feature article posted at its website.
"Picking ten dream matchups at each of the modern weight classes is a nearly impossible challenge given the enormous amount of talent that has passed through the NCAA tournament in the last eight decades," according to author Shannon Scovel. "But we decided to take on that challenge anyway."
Scovel started with the four wrestlers who won four NCAA Division I individual titles: Cael Sanderson, Logan Stieber, Pat Smith and Kyle Dake ... then cast a wider net by also looking at three-time collegiate champs.
Scovel set some basic ground rules, starting with not pitting actual teammates against each other ... and not setting up matches between wrestlers who've already faced each other on the mat.
All that said, there are no rules against putting a coach against one of his former wrestlers. In fact, NCAA.com created at least two such matchups: former University of Iowa head coach Dan Gable vs. current Hawkeye coach (and Gable wrestler) Tom Brands at 133 pounds ... and current Penn State coach Cael Sanderson vs. one of his top wrestlers, Bo Nickal, at 184.
There's one additional element of the NCAA.com Division I collegiate dream matchup article that this amateur wrestling historian appreciates: at least two of the wrestlers featured would be considered "old-school" mat greats. At 149 pounds, Zain Retherford -- recent three-time national champ for Penn State -- is put up against Bill Koll, thrice an NCAA champ for Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) in the late 1940s (who later became head coach at Penn State). And, at 174 pounds, Ed Banach -- early 1980s Iowa star -- is matched with Dan Hodge, undefeated three-time champ for the Oklahoma Sooners in the mid-1950s.
Bill KollA lot of thought went into creating -- and presenting -- these dream college matchups ... though, note, that Scovel did not pick any winners. It's up to you the reader to do that. With that in mind, NCAA.com welcomes your picks for dream matchups by email to NCAASupport@turner.com ... with the statement "we might feature your response in a future article."
And, while you're at it, why not check out a couple other articles featuring compilations of great college wrestlers. In August, Amateur Wrestling News put together its All-Decade Team, 2010-2019. And, about 15 years ago, the NCAA asked wrestling fans to put together a 75th anniversary team with fifteen all-time great college wrestlers.