In 2019, 80 men stood on the podium and celebrated that they were among the most elite of the elite in college athletics. They were All-Americans. Now, after a year of adversity and the challenge of competing in a national pandemic, champion wrestling is back. The top-eight men in each of the ten weight classes this year have earned a special honor, and they will march out together as a group tonight during the parade of All-Americans savoring and remembering the moments that made up this wild, unprecedented year.
Here's what you need to know about the individuals that will take home All-American trophies.
At 125 pounds, No. 1 Iowa's Spencer Lee leads the pack as a two-time champ and now four-time All-American, and he'll wrestle 2020 NWCA second-team All-American Brandon Courtney of Arizona State in the finals.
Central Michigan's Drew Hildebrandt, a 2020 first-team All-American, and Utah Valley's Taylor LaMont locked up their 2021 All-American honors with their wins in the quarterfinals, and, for LaMont, the top-eight honor was the first of his career.
The remaining four All-Americans at the lightweight — Pat McKee, Eric Barnett, Sam Latona and Killian Cardinale — all earned their spots on the podium with Blood Round wins. McKee picked up a big win against Northern Iowa's Brody Teske for his All-American honor, while Barnett stopped Devin Schroder of Purdue to finish in the top eight for the first time. Minnesota sophomore McKee went on to take third, topping Hildebrandt while the CMU star finished fourth.
Cardinale of West Virginia overtook Jakob Camacho in the Blood Round to put West Virginia on the podium, and Sam Latona stayed tough with his win over Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern. Both Latona and Cardinale are first-time All-Americans. Cardinale finished his tournament in seventh, beating Barnett 12-7 to end his tournament with a win. Latona fell to Lamont to wrap up his freshman year in sixth while the Utah Valley All-American LaMont ended up in fifth.
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The 133-pound weight class, typically one of the toughest of the tournament, went chalk for the finals, with No. 1 Daton Fix and No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young set to battle it out for the top finish.
Fix is an NCAA finalist, while Bravo-Young is a now three-time All-American and Big Ten Champion.
Semifinalist Austin DeSanto added honors to his resume, picking up his third All-American finish while fellow semifinalist Korbin Myers finally broke through and picked up his first podium finish. DeSanto then showed off his speed and strength against Myers in the consolation finals, and the Hawkeye senior finished third with a 10-5 decision.
In the Blood Round, Lucas Byrd of Illinois put himself on the podium for the first time with a tie-breaker win over Micky Phillippi, delivering the Pittsburgh athlete his second-consecutive Blood Round loss. Byrd went on to finish fifth by fall.
Michael McGee of Arizona State also secured All-American honors at 133 with his win over No. 6 Matt Schmitt of Missouri for his first podium finish. McGee finished sixth overall after his loss to Byrd in the fifth-place match.
Chris Cannon of Northwestern rounded out the spots spot on the podium, as did Louie Hayes, whose gritty pin over Chance Rich will give him his first All-American honor. Cannon beat Louie Hayes 11-3 for seventh place.
The Riddler put on a show at 141 pounds, as No. 1 Jaydin Eierman will head into the finals against Penn State's Nick Lee with a tech, a decision and two falls.
Both Lee and Eierman earned their fourth All-American honors with their performances and will be looking for their first titles. Rutgers' Sebastian Rivera also locked up his fourth All-American honor with his bid to the semifinals, and, despite losing to Lee, Rivera has made history as one of three Rutgers' All-Americans, the most in one tournament in school history.
His fellow semifinalist, Tariq Wilson, will end up on the podium for the second time after finishing third as a freshman, dropping in the Blood Round as a sophomore and earning NWCA Honorable Mention honors last year. Wilson then topped Rivera for third while the Rutgers grad student dropped to fourth.
Nebraska's Chad Red was the story of the Blood Round, beating Missouri's Allan Hart for his fourth All-American honor. Red lost in the second round of the championship bracket, but battled back with wins over Ian Parker of Iowa State and Parker Filius of Purdue before his victory over Hart for the podium spot.
Dylan Duncan of Illinois, Clay Carlson of South Dakota State and Zach Sherman of North Carolina will all also stand on the podium as place-winners for the first time in their careers. Duncan ended his tournament in fifth place after a 3-0 win over Red, while Sherman defeated Carlson for seventh, 11-4.
As a junior, Austin O'Connor is the podium veteran in this crew of 149-pounders, as he earned his third All-American honor and his second podium finish with his finals bid.
Semifinalists Boo Lewallen and Brock Mauller both also earned their third All-American honors this weekend, after finishing in the top eight as freshmen and notching NWCA All-American honors last year. Lewallen ended his tournament in fourth, while Mauller ended fifth.
Sammy Sasso, the Ohio State sophomore, will finish on the podium for the first time and earn his second All-American honor.
In the Blood Round, it was Stanford freshman Jaden Abas who stopped Iowa's Max Murin for his first podium finish, while Yayha Thomas of Northwestern denied Mitch Moore a spot on the podium as well. Thomas, the No. 26 seed, finished his wild tournament run with a third-place match win over Lewallen.
After his performance this weekend, no one will be overlooking @yahya2021prime anymore! Thomas takes 3rd for @NUWrestle. #NCAAWrestling x 🎥 @espn pic.twitter.com/TdLRQxeKn5— NCAA Wrestling (@NCAAWrestling) March 20, 2021
App State put an All-American in the top eight when John Millner beat Josh Finesilver of Duke, despite a gutsy effort from the Blue Devil who battled to the Round of 12 after an early loss in session one. Millner ultimately finished eighth after dropping to Abas 5-3 in his final match.
Fresno State's Kyle Parco also cracked the top eight, despite his No. 17 seed, and he'll represent the Bulldogs proudly on the podium in sixth despite the program being cut next year. Parco dropped his final match to Brock Mauller of Missouri 8-5, but he's made history for his school.
Major upsets headlined 157 pounds with Jesse Dellavecchia pinning No. 1 Ryan Deakin in the semifinals and No. 3 David Carr topping No. 2 Hayden Hidlay in the semifinals. All four of these athletes will earn All-American honors, the fourth for Hidlay, the third for Deakin and the second for Carr and Dellavecchia.
Wyatt Sheets of Oklahoma State came back from being an alternative in the NCAA tournament to also earning his first All-American honor after a Blood Round victory over Brady Berge of Penn State when the Nittany Lion medically forfeited.
Jacori Teemer of Arizona State is also on the podium for the first time after a win over Jared Franek, a North Dakota State wrestler who put up a fight in all of his matches. He finished his season in fourth after dropping a tight one to Deakin for third. Joining these men in the top eight are also Kaleb Young of Iowa and Brayton Lee of Minnesota, two staples of the weight class who are earning their second and third All-American honors respectively. Hidlay went on to beat Minnesota's Brayton Lee in the fifth-place match to become the first four-time All-American in N.C. State history, while Young topped Sheets for seventh.
UPSET OF THE TOURNAMENT: Jesse Dellavecchia stops Ryan Deakin at 157 pounds
Like 157, the 165-pound weight class was also filled with upsets, as No. 8 Shane Griffith knocked off Iowa’s Alex Marinelli to earn his second All-American honor and first podium finish. He’ll meet Jake Wentzel of Pitt in the finals, a senior who will be on the podium for the first time as well and will earn his second All-American honor.
Zach Hartman of Bucknell became a semifinalist for the Bison after Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech medically defaulted out of the tournament, so Hartman is now a first-time All-American, finishing sixth, after earning Honorable Mention honors last year.
The Buckeyes also put another wrestler on the podium in Ethan Smith, who lost to Wentzel in the semis but will stand on the podium for the first time. Smith ends his tournament in fifth after topping Hartman 7-5 in overtime.
Freshman Keegan O’Toole and Cam Amine earned their first All-American honors as well with Blood Round finishes, while senior Anthony Valencia also earned his first spot on the podium after a win over Peyton Hall in the Round of 12. Valencia would ultimately medically forfeit the seventh-place match to Amine.
Oklahoma State put Travis Wittlake on the podium and the Cowboy's finish will be his first time finishing in the top eight after earning NWCA All-American honors last year. Wittlake finishes his tournament in fourth after dropping the third-place match to Keegan O'Toole despite a last-second takedown attempt.
SUGAR SHANE: Stanford's Shane Griffith moves to the finals with wins over Marinelli and Hartman
At 174 pounds, it's senior Michael Kemerer of Iowa and freshman Carter Starocci of Penn State leading the way, with Kemerer earning his fourth honor and Starocci becoming a first-time All-American.
Bernie Truax and Demetrius Romero qualified for the semifinals to earn their first All-American honors. N.C. State's Daniel Bullard and Rutgers' Jackson Turley also ended up on the podium for the first time with their Blood Round wins.
Veterans Logan Massa of Michigan and Mikey Labriola of Nebraska will also be multiple-time All-Americans, with Massa collecting a top-eight finish for the second time and Labriola earning his third All-American honor but his second podium finish.
7⃣ Hawkeyes Earn 2021 All-American Honors 🇺🇸#FightForIowa pic.twitter.com/31Ueag3v09— Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) March 20, 2021
Aaron Brooks did No. 1 seed seed Penn State things at 184 pounds, working his way to the finals, and he'll meet N.C. State's Trent Hilday, a 2020 NWCA All-American, in competition for a title.
Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen and John Poznanski put up fights in the semifinals against Brooks and Hidlay, and their efforts earned them All-American honors for the first time.
Virginia Tech's Hunter Bolen also worked his way on to the podium with a win over Ohio State's Rocky Jordan in the Blood Round, while Dakota Geer of Oklahoma State earned his second podium finish with a win over Taylor Venz of Nebraska.
Brit Wilson gave Northern Illinois an All-American after his victory against Devin Kane, and Lou DePrez will represent the Bearcats in the top-eight after surviving a Blood Round match with Owen Webster of Minnesota. The win gave DePrez his second All-American finish and his first time holding an All-American trophy on the stand.
We had an historic night on Friday in St. Louis, as three of our guys became All-Americans - the first time that has happened at a single tournament in program history.#RelentlessPursuit | #GoRU pic.twitter.com/SE9XelanwR— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) March 20, 2021
Freshman AJ Ferrari is an All-American for the first time at 197 pounds, but the Cowboy star isn't satisfied. He'll have Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh, now a two-time All-American, in the finals, after Bonaccorsi beat Jake Woodley, an Oklahoma semifinalist All-American, in the semifinals.
Myles Amine of Michigan also became a four-time All-American with his semifinal finish, while Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming, Michael Beard of Penn State and Rocky Elam of Mizzou earned their first top-eight finishes.
Jacob Warner of Iowa also secured a spot on the podium for the second time as the Hawkeye worked his way past Michigan State star Cam Caffey in the Blood Round.
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We're chalk at 285, to little surprise, as three-time All-American and NCAA finalist Gable Steveson and two-time All-American and Big Ten finalist Mason Parris will battle for the title tonight.
Iowa's Tony Cassioppi and Iowa State's Gannon Gremmel are now a two-time All-Americans after their semifinal finishes while Tate Orndorff of Ohio State, Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State and Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State earned their first All-American honors after Blood Round finishes.
Trent Hillger of Wisconsin also finished on the podium for the second time too after an impressive NCAA tournament.
These are the eighty men who will stand on the podium with trophies in their hand tonight as they celebrate an honor that can never be taken away.