The first ‘Mat Mayhem’ hits the mats this weekend at four regionals around the country. The new NWCA National Duals format, with 24 teams, will be narrowed to a final foursome for the semifinal and championship on Feb. 19.
There are favorites and those trying to crash the party. Here’s a quick look at all four sites and what fans could see this weekend.
|AT PISCATAWAY, N.J.|
Breakdown: Minnesota will be the top seed in the only regional which hits the mats Feb. 11. J Robinson’s Gophers are 10-3 with the losses coming to Oklahoma State, Cornell and Iowa. Zach Sanders (20-1) is a three-time All-American 125-pounder surrounded by a solid group of rookies having huge seasons. Chris and Nick Dardanes are a combined 32-7 at 133 and 141 pounds, respectively, while Dylan Ness (149) and Logan Storley (174) have combined for 32 victories. The Gophers also have a strong trio up top with Kevin Steinhaus (184), Sonny Yohn (197) and Tony Nelson (285). Yohn is a two-time All-American.
Michigan enters with a deceiving 6-5 dual record, with one of the losses coming to Minnesota 23-15. Three of the other four losses are to members of the top 10. Reigning NCAA champion Kellen Russell has lost just once this season in 24 starts with Zac Stevens (133), Dan Yates (165), Justin Zeerip (174) and Ben Apland (285) also bringing quality to the mat.
Trying to work into the top two will be Kent State and Missouri. The two have split duals this season with the Golden Flashes (12-4) edging the Tigers at the Virginia Duals. The MAC power is led by All-American Nic Bedelyon (25-2 at 125 pounds) and seven other starters with at least 20 victories each. Missouri (12-3) knocked off No. 10 Oklahoma on Feb. 5 in Columbia, Mo. MU sophomore 125-pounder Alan Waters (22-1) beat All-American Jarrod Patterson in the OU dual.
Host Rutgers (12-6) does not have a signature win this season and enters the National Duals as losers of four of its last five matches. Mario Mason is 17-1 at 149 while Greg Zannetti (23-3 at 174) and Scott Winston (17-4 at 165) are also solid.
Cal Poly, under first-year coach Brendan Buckley, is just 5-6 in dual meets. The Mustangs are led by 2011 NCAA finalist Boris Novachkov (25-2 at 141) and Ryan DesRoches (23-1 at 174).
Last Word: Minnesota will be tough to beat.
|AT AMES, IOWA|
Breakdown: Iowa entered this season on a (what seemed like) forever unbeaten streak. It ended against rival Oklahoma State last month at 84 meets. The Hawkeyes (11-3) lost to the Cowboys, then to Ohio State and Penn State in consecutive matches, but should not be challenged in Ames.
Iowa junior 125-pounder Matt McDonough, the 2010 NCAA champion, is 23-1 this season and 99-4 for his career. Senior Montell Marion is a two-time All-American at 141 and is 20-2 this season, while 133-pounder Tony Ramos ended a 39-match win streak by Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver and is 22-1 as a sophomore. Tom Brands’ lineup took a major hit when 157-pound All-American Derek St. John went down with an injury.
Still, nobody else in Ames probably has the firepower to beat the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin, with three superstars redshirting this season, lost 39-3 at Iowa on Feb. 5. The Badgers (5-10) are 0-8 against Big Ten foes.
Iowa State, a longtime rival of Iowa, is in the midst of one of its worst seasons in school history. The Cyclones have just three wins in 15 starts in 2011-12, one of them coming on Jan. 5 against Northern Iowa. ISU also beat Virginia Tech earlier this season. Senior 165-pounder Andrew Sorenson (23-1) leads ISU. Luke Goettl has a victory against Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple, who was ranked No. 1 at the time.
Doug Schwab’s Northern Iowa squad is 5-5. Joe Colon owns a solid 18-2 record at 133; Ryan Loder is 25-2 at 184; and David Bonin has 23 wins at 157 pounds.
Virginia Tech (7-4) has one of the top 133-pounders in the country in Devin Carter (27-1).
The second-best squad in the region may be Oregon State, coached by former Hawkeye national champion Jim Zalesky, who also coached Iowa to three team titles. The Beavers are 9-2 with Michael Mangrum (30-2 at 141) and Clayton Jack (30-1 at 285) as national title contenders. Garrett Drucker (133), Scott Sakaguchi (149) and RJ Pena (157) will also provide a challenge to anyone they face.
Last Word: Expect Iowa to advance to Mat Mayhem’s national semifinals.
|AT ITHACA, N.Y.|
Breakdown: A competitive field awaits fans at this regional with Cornell, Illinois and Oklahoma serving as the top dogs. However, Central Michigan is never an easy out.
Rob Koll’s Big Red improved to 10-0 with a win against Hofstra on Feb. 4. Back on Nov. 18, Cornell also beat Minnesota. No question Koll’s group is led by two-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake (25-0 at 157). All-Americans Cam Simaz (20-1 at 197) and Steve Bozak (24-3 at 184) are again among the best at their weight classes, with Frank Perelli (24-4 at 125), who won his 100th career match on Feb. 5, also having a strong senior campaign.
Illinois brings a 14-2 record to Ithaca with the only losses coming against Iowa and Minnesota. Freshman 125-pounder Jesse Delgado (24-4) is the only wrestler to beat Iowa’s McDonough, and BJ Futrell (22-3) is one of the top 133-pounders. Jordan Blanton (19-3 at 174), Conrad Polz (15-2 at 165) and Eric Terrazas (19-6 at 149) give head coach Jim Heffernan plenty of studs.
Mark Cody’s first Oklahoma group has been up and down this season. Maple is 23-1, Patterson is 21-4 and 133-pounder Jordan Keller is 19-5. Getting past Illinois or Cornell will require some help from the upper half of the lineup.
Central Michigan, a longtime MAC power, brings a 13-6 dual standard into the National Duals. Two-time All-American Ben Bennett brings a 22-3 mark at 184 pounds into this weekend.
Teague Moore’s first American team has been a bit under the radar. AU (5-6) has been among the top 15 all season and has heavyweight Ryan Flores, an NCAA finalist in 2011, and All-American Ganbayar Sanjaa (15-1 at 157). Matt Mariacher (141) and Daniel Mitchell (197) are also solid.
For Purdue (8-9), Cashe Quiroga, a former All-American, has been in and out of the lineup. Camden Eppert (125), Ivan Lopouchanski (141) and AJ Kissel (197) were NCAA qualifiers a year ago. The Boilermakers will have a tough time beating anybody in this field.
Last Word: Cornell and Illinois will likely battle for the right to advance to the national semifinals.
|AT STILLWATER, OKLA.|
Breakdown: Oklahoma State and Ohio State could be on a collision course here. However, Nebraska and Wyoming will have something to say in the final outcome.
Oklahoma State is unbeaten this season and enters Mat Mayhem as the top seed. The Cowboys have Oliver (16-1) and All-Americans Jamal Parks (22-0 at 149) and Alan Gelogaev (21-0 at 285). Sophomore Chris Perry is unbeaten in 18 matches this season at 184 and 174 pounds, while Blake Rosholt is 17-2 at 197 pounds. Beating the Cowboys inside Gallagher-Iba Arena will be a difficult task.
The Buckeyes, with seven freshmen in the lineup, beat Iowa earlier this season. Penn State, the 2011 NCAA team champion, hammered OSU and Minnesota, and Nebraska also own wins against the Buckeyes. Logan and Hunter Steiber, both in their first full year, are a combined 41-4 at 133 and 141 pounds, respectively. Cam Tessari (15-6 at 149), Nick Heflin (20-3 at 174) and Andrew Campolattano (15-8 at 197) are also tough.
Nebraska will certainly play a role in who reaches the team semifinals. The Huskers, former members of the Big 12, are 14-3 with losses to Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa. Jake Sueflohn (141), James Green (157), Robert Kokesh (165), Josh Ihnen (184) and Tucker Lane (285) give veteran coach Mark Manning plenty of firepower. Kokesh and Green, both freshmen, have combined for 51 wins. Sueflohn is also in his first year on the mat.
Wyoming took Oklahoma State to the wire and knocked off Oklahoma two days later. Mark Branch’s Cowboys are led by senior All-American Joe LeBlanc (22-1), who is ranked No. 1 at 184. Shane Onufer, another All-American, is also 22-1 at 165. Alfonso Hernandez (29-4 at 197) and Patrick Martinez (27-9 at 174) are solid, while freshmen Zach Zehner (133) and Dakota Friesth (157), and senior Michael Martinez, when healthy, are also tough opponents.
Chattanooga is 11-4 but has no victories against top-25 squads. UTC saw a 39-match Southern Conference win streak snapped on Feb. 5 thanks to Appalachian State. The Mocs are led by freshman Nick Soto, who is 21-4 at 133 pounds. Freshman heavyweight Kevin Malone also has 20 wins this season.
Greg Randall would like to have his 2010-11 Boise State squad. It’s been a struggle in 2011-12 with the Broncs winning just 3 of 11 duals. Jake Swartz (184) and former Division II All-American George Ivanov (157) have been Randall’s best this season.
Last Word: Oklahoma State will be the favorite on its home mats.