The Big 12 champion at 184 lbs Parker Keckeisen (Photos courtesy of Sam Janicki;SJanickiPhoto.com)
The moment is here and the NCAA tournament starts today. The ACC sends a slate of solid wrestlers to Detroit and they are all looking to bring home some hardware. Individually, I think there are some great opportunities for wrestlers to get on the podium and make a statement about the success of the conference. In the team battle, NC State has a great opportunity to bring home a trophy as well. I wish I could be there in person, but I'm certainly going to be glued to multiple screens to catch all the action.
Here are your Thursday matchups:
Patrick McCormick (UVA) has an unfortunate draw. He starts with a pigtail match, which I think he wins, then he will have the 1 seed in Nick Suriano. Not a fun way to start a tournament. In round two, he will face either Anthony Noto (Lock Haven) or Drew Hildebrandt (PSU).
Sam Latona (VT) opens with Devin Schroder of Purdue--this is a very winnable match for Latona and I think his style will work well here. I have him winning this round and facing Patrick McKee of Minnesota; and I like how he matches up here as well.
Jakob Camacho (NCST) faces a former ACC foe in Joey Prata, now at Oklahoma. Camacho is a very patient wrestler and I think that is what allows him to win in the opening round. Winning in the opening round will get him the prize of facing Patrick Glory of Princeton-the 3 seed. This is a tough matchup for Camacho (for most everyone, really), but if he is able to slow Glory down, he can be in position to win.
Korbin Myers (VT) is the 4 seed and will open with Jake Gliva of Minnesota. Myers is the heavy favorite here and should handle the first match to face either Brock Hudkins (Indiana) or Chance Rich (CSUB). Hudkins is the higher seed, but I favor Rich in the matchup. I have Myers winning both matches on Thursday and moving on in the top side of the bracket.
Micky Phillippi (Pitt) is the 12 seed and will face Codi Russell of App State in the opening round. This should be a solid match, but I favor the experience of Phillippi here. He will likely face Austin DeSanto of Iowa for a very spicy matchup in round two. Phillippi lost to Desanto last year at the NCAA tournament and will put up a very tough test for Phillippi again Thursday evening.
Kai Orine (NCST) is the 15 seed and will face a familiar opponent in Joe Heilmann from North Carolina. The two split matches this season, with Orine getting the latest win at the ACC tournament. This is very much a toss-up match. The combo will face the winner/loser of the Daton Fix (OKST) and Kyle Burwick (Wisconsin) first-round match--Fix is heavily favored there. I have both of these guys moving on to day two.
Brian Courtney (UVA) will have a tough first-round match with Rayvon Foley of Michigan State. Foley was a 2019 All-American and has not faced an ACC opponent outside of open tournaments since Kyle Norstrem (VT) in the 2018 Cliff Keen. This match is a major contrast of styles and if Courtney is able to initiate some scramble situations, he has the ability to win this match. His second-round match will be either Michael Coaliocco of Penn or Ramazan Attasauov of Iowa State.
Dylan Cedeno (UVA) has a pigtail match against Josh Mason of Bloomsburg; I have him winning and facing the top-seeded Nick Lee of Penn State in the opening round. His second-round match will also be a tough matchup with either Dylan D'Emilio of Ohio State or Quinn Kinner of Rider. Cedeno has been gaining momentum and wrestling well and he will have to be at the top of his game to get to day two in Detroit.
Collin Gerardi (VT) draws five-seed Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado in the opening round. Alirez is pretty wide open, but Gerardi has the ability to slow him down. He will face either CJ Composto of Penn or Dylan Droegemueller of North Dakota State in round two; I favor Gerardi in either of those matchups and have him moving to day two.
Cole Matthews (Pitt) earned the six-seed and opened with Joey Zargo of Wisconsin in round one. Matthews should handle that match and will face either Matt Kazimir of Columbia or Shannon Hanna of Campbell, both of these guys are quick and great offensive wrestlers, but I think Matthews handles his business in both matches on day one and moves on to day two in the top bracket.
We will see another all-ACC matchup with Kizhan Clarke (UNC) and Ryan Jack (NCST). They two have split matches this season with both being decided by a 4-3 score. Clarke won in the dual and Jack won in the ACC tournament. This is another coin flip match, but Jack is coming in with a lot more momentum than Clarke; Kizhan had a phenomenal season, but lost more matches at the ACC tournament than he did the whole season to that point. They will face the winner/loser of Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) and Wil Gil (F&M). I see both of them making it through to day two.
At the top, we have another ACC pigtail into the 1 seed… Zach Sherman (UNC) will face Dashawn Farber (Lock Haven) to move on to face Yianni Diakomihalis. In the second round, he will face either Jaret Degen (ISU) or Willie McDougal (Oklahoma). Sherman will have a tough route to get back on the podium, but his performance last year shows us that he is able to navigate the challenge.
Josh Finesilver (Duke) faces Yahya Thomas (NW) in the opening round. Thomas placed third last year at the NCAA and had another strong season; he will be a tough first-round match for Finesilver, but it is winnable. Finesilver will face either Austin Gomez (Wisconsin) or Marshall Keller (Princeton) in round two and should move on to Friday action.
Bryce Andonian drew Max Brignola from Lehigh to open the tournament. Andonian should be heavily favored in this matchup and faces a tough potential second-round matchup; he will face either Jonathan Millner (App State) or Cory Crooks (ORST). Millner was an All-American last year and holds two wins over ACC foe Josh Finesilver this season.
Tariq Wilson (NCST) earned the two seed with his undefeated season. He will face Michael Blockhus (Minnesota) in the opening round and should move on in the top side to face either Anthony Artalona (Penn) or Legend Lamer (Cal Poly). I really like the path for Tariq and am looking forward to seeing his performance in this tournament.
Connor Brady (VT) will have a challenging opening bout facing the 5 seed Quincy Monday (Princeton). Brady had a great start to the season, but struggled in ACC duals; he finished on a high note at the ACC tournament and has some momentum coming into the tournament. He will face either Chase Saldate (MSU) or Jacob Wright (WYO) in the second round--I like both of these matchups for Brady.
Elijah Cleary (Pitt) has a tricky first-round match with four-time NCAA qualifier Justin Thomas of Oklahoma. Thomas is the higher seed, but I wouldn't be surprised by an upset here from Cleary. In the second round, he will face either Michael Pettite (Buffalo) or ACC foe Ed Scott (NCST).
Ed Scott (NCST) capped off a great season with an ACC championship and earned the 4 seed in Detroit. He will open with Michael Pettite of Buffalo and is heavily favored. He will face either Elijah Cleary (Pitt) or Justin Thomas (OU) in round two--I would favor Scott in both matchups.
Jake Keating (UVA) had a strong ACC tournament and comes in at the 15 seed; he will face Kendall Coleman (Purdue) in the opening round. I think Keating matches up really well with Coleman and his length will present a challenge. In the second round, he will face either Hunter Richard (Cornell) or Jacori Teemer (ASU).
Austin O'Connor (UNC) is the returning National Champion at 149 and will face a tough challenge to get back to Saturday night at 157. He will open with Dazjon Castro of The Citadel and will be a heavy favorite. In round two, he will face Garrett Model (Wisconsin) or Jared Franek (NDSU). I would favor O'Connor in both of these matches, he's very experienced and knows how to navigate this tournament. He was a little gimpy in the finals match against Scott, I'm hopeful that this week of rest was enough to get him back to full speed.
Thomas Bullard (NCST) is rewarded in his final NCAA appearance with a not-so-friendly draw. He opens with Zach Hartman from Bucknell, which is a winnable, but tough match. His second-round match will be against either Cael Carlson (Minnesota) or reigning National Champ Shane Griffith (Stanford). If Bullard is on his game, he is very capable of making it to day two.
Justin McCoy (UVA) also has a tough but manageable draw. He will face a quietly dangerous Josh Ogunsanya (Columbia) opening round and will hit either Evan Barczak (Drexel) or Alex Marinelli (Iowa) in round two. I really like the potential paths that McCoy has and think he has a great shot at getting on the podium.
Jake Wentzel (Pitt) is a returning NCAA finalist and will face Ashton Eyler of Lock Haven in the opening round. He should handle this match easily and will face either Lucas Revano of Penn or Carson Karchla of Ohio State in the evening round. I also like Wentzel's potential paths in this bracket.
Matt Finesilver (Duke) will open the tournament with Hayden Hastings of Wyoming. I think this is a great stylistic matchup for Finesilver. In the second round, he will either face ACC foe Hayden Hidlay (NCST) or Jay Nivison of Buffalo.
Hayden Hidlay (NCST) comes in at the 4 seed and has a great path to Saturday. He will open with Jay Nivison of Buffalo and will face either Matt Finesilver (Duke) or Hayden Hastings (WYO) in the evening round. I really like the way the bracket sets up for Hidlay.
Clay Lautt (UNC) is the 10 seed and will open with Troy Fisher of Northwestern. Lautt is heavily favored and matches up well here. In the evening session, he will face either Tyler Eischens (STAN) or Ethan Smith (tOSU). Smith will be a tough matchup for Lautt, but with his success this season, it is a very winnable match.
Mekhi Lewis (VT) is the 2 seed and I love the way the bracket sets up for the Hokie. He will face Dennis Robin of West Virginia to open the tournament and will see either Lance Runyon (UNI) or Anthony Mantanona (OU) in the second round. Lewis has wins over both of the top seeds on the other side of his quarter--Ethan Smith (tOSU) and Clay Lautt (UNC).
Michael Battista (UVA) will need to come out guns blazing on Thursday if he hopes to make it to day two. He has 8-seed Marcus Coleman (ISU) in the opening round--these two could put on a show if they are both on their offense. In the second round he will face either Zac Braunagel (ILL) or Caleb Hopkins (Campbell) to be able to move on to day two.
Gregg Harvey (Pitt) comes in with the 28-seed and will face Bernie Traux (Cal Poly) in the opening round. In round two, he will face either Tate Samuelson (WYO) or Brit Wilson (NIU).
Trent Hidlay (NCST) earned the 3-seed and has a great path through the bracket. He will face Max Lyon of Purdue in the opening round. In round two, he will face either Isaiah Salazar (Minn) or conference foe Gavin Kane (UNC). Hidlay is 2-0 against Kane this season and is set up well going into day two.
Gavin Kane (UNC) comes in at 12-2 at 184 and was given the 14 seed; I wasn't upset about a lot of seeds, but this one felt very low to me for his body of work. He will face Isaiah Salazar (Minn) in the opening round and either Max Lyon (Pur) or Trent Hidlay (NCST) in round two.
Hunter Bolen (VT) enters as the 15 seed and will face a test early. In the first round he will face Abe Assad of Iowa, in the evening session he will face either AJ Burkhart ( Lehigh) or returning National Champion Aaron Brooks (PSU). Bolen has a tough draw, but should make it through to day two to continue his run at the podium.
Jay Aiello (UVA) will start off in a loaded quarter from the 16 seed. He will face a very dangerous 17 seed Kordell Norfleet of Arizona State to open the day Thursday. In round two, he will face either Will Feldkamp (Clarion) or the top-seeded Max Dean (PSU). 197 is a wild bracket and it will be a battle for anyone to get to the podium, but Aiello has the ability to do it.
Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) will look to get back to the NCAA finals again this weekend, and will start that journey by facing Andrew Davison of Northwestern; Nino is highly favored here. He will have a tougher matchup in round two with either Gavin Hoffman (tOSU) or Tanner Sloan (SDSU). I like the way the bracket lays out for Bonaccorsi and I think he has a good path to the podium.
Isaac Trumble (NCST) will have a couple tough matches on Thursday, but I like the stylistic matchups for him. In round one, he will face Luke Stout of Princeton and in the later round he will face either JT Brown (Army) or the 2 seed Stephen Buchanon (WYO).
Tyrie Houghton (NCST) is the 21 seed and will face Christian Lance of Nebraska to open the day--I think Houghton matches up well in this early round. In the second round he will face either Michael McEleavey (The Citadel) or the 4 seed, undefeated Wyatt Hendrickson (Air Force).
Quinn Miller (UVA) will face in-state rival Nathan Traxler (VT) in the opening round. The two split on the season with Miller winning in the dual and Traxler winning in the ACC tournament. They will face the winner/loser of Ben Goldin (Penn) and Mason Parris (Mich). I think both make it through to day two; I like the matchups for Traxler more stylistically moving through the bracket.