Aden Reeves in the US Open semis (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Aden Reeves finished his first year at Grand View on the bench as two of the best flyweights in the NAIA were ahead of him: National Champ Esco Walker and 5x AA Justin Portillo. Aden Reeves will immediately contend for a title next season, but for now, he's got his first Senior World Team Trials to prepare for! He qualified when he beat multiple-time DI qualifier, Joey Prata of Oklahoma, in the quarterfinals. Noah Cortez placed 8th and competes for Grays Harbor, an NCWA college.
We had to check out the history books for our non-D1 flair at 61. Both Brandon Wright of Grand View and Daniel Deshazer of UNK have been notorious on the Senior circuit after winning titles in NAIA and DII. B-Wright was the only one capable of scoring more than 2 points on eventual champ Nico Megaludis (6 points to be exact). Meanwhile, Dap's hitlist on his way to fourth place included Sean Fausz, Jesse Mendez, Sam Latona, and Cullan Schriever.
I don't have a lot of info on Timothy Nevarez, who collected two wins in a DEEP bracket littered with D1 talent. It appears that he competes domestically for a club in California. The other top 15 of 16 guys were all DI products.
Dayne Morton of Northern State has been on the Senior circuit for a while despite also competing for DII Northern State. His Folkstyle escapades have not typically been as kind to him, but he collected the best win of his career to qualify for the World Team Trials when he beat Brock Mauller 3-3 for 7th place. Mauller has placed twice in the Division I tournament and is a U23 world team member from Mizzou. Also, John Diener of Morningside hit a SWEET headlock on Ed Scott of NC State. He followed it with another nice throw for a quick pin.
Keller Rock, an NAIA blood-rounder from Embry-Riddle, had 2 pins on his run to the quarters. He would, unfortunately, finish in the round of 12 once again. Brandon Murray from Loras was a DIII AA in 2019 and was many people's pick to win nationals in 2020 when it got canceled. Here, he collected two dominant wins, but was halted by Tommy Gantt and Cam Amine. He was darn close to beating Gantt, 6-4.
Grand View's National Champion Casey Randles was one match away from placing. Isaiah Martinez ended his run on the backside, 5-3. Casey had 3 dominant victories.
Caden Steffen was the highest placer not from or associated with a D1 program. The 2x DII AA did better at the US Open than he did his own national tournament (6th in DII, 4th at the Open)! He had two big wins over SoCon-associated grapplers Andrew Morgan and Caleb Hopkins. He competed for Southwest Minnesota State.
Rodsean Graham is another DII athlete who faired better at the Open than in his national tournament. Actually, Graham did not qualify for his national tournament out of the loaded Super Region V. He took eighth place this weekend. He competed at Wisconsin-Parkside.
Duncan Lee was robbed of a national tournament his senior year after he won his region for DIII Central College in Pella, Iowa. He still got AA status, technically. But I bet he is happier to have a stop sign now. He's been coaching at his alma mater since 2020. Let's hope he straps up for the upcoming World Team Trials. He qualified by taking seventh this weekend.
Two placers here have ties outside of DI and inside of DI. Demetrius Thomas won an NAIA title in 2017 for Williams Baptist before transferring to Pittsburgh and winning ACCs in 2020. The same year Thomas won his NAIA title, Christian Lance started his career out at Fort Hays State, winning 44 matches and qualifying for nationals in 2017 as a freshman. He took some time off and after a long path, he finally earned AA status this year for Nebraska. Thomas and Lance, placing fourth and sixth, respectively at the Open, are still universally claimed by the divisions whence they came.