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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | December 18, 2022

5 potential individual wrestling matchups to watch at the 2022 Collegiate Duals 

The most exciting college wrestlers to watch this season

The second annual Collegiate Duals is a team-focused event. Its innovative showcase features programs from across the country, but it’s all about determining which teams have the best dual lineup and which teams can put together complete results in a fun, non-conference challenge. There’s pride on the line, and the results matter, but unlike the NCAA tournament, the only winners will be the teams that emerge victorious, rather than the individuals that run through their deep bracket. 

All of that being said, the fact that the Collegiate Duals bring together so many teams that do not typically wrestle one another means that the event will feature a series of notable individual matches that you won’t want to miss. So, while you’re watching your favorite NCAA teams compete in the Collegiate Duals, here are a few weight classes that you should be paying attention to and a few individual bouts that could impact the team score and offer them the opportunity to put their best lineup forward in a pool-style competition. 

Here are five individual matches you won’t want to miss: 

1. No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis vs. No. 5 Paniro Johnson (149 pounds)

This is the match everyone wants to see. 

Heading into the 2022-2023 season, Diakomihalis was the runaway favorite to win the 149-pound weight class. He earned the national title last year at the weight in convincing fashion, and he previously won two titles at 141 pounds. Diakomihalis also finished second at the senior world championships earlier this fall and looked every bit like someone who would win a fourth NCAA title and potentially compete for his first Hodge Trophy. 

The narrative changed, slightly, several weeks ago though when Diakomihalis took just the second loss of his career in his season debut against Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez. For the first time as a collegiate wrestler, Diakomihalis started his season 0-1. Paniro Johnson, on the other hand, the freshman wrestling for the Iowa State Cyclones, has an unblemished record and has already notched a win over Gomez, the same wrestler who took down Diakomihalis. 

Can Johnson now dethrone Diakomihalis himself? Given his resume and previous accomplishments, Diakomihalis has been able to maintain his No. 1 ranking, despite the loss, because of the chaos of the weight. If Johnson pulls off the win, he’ll be the unquestionable No. 1, but, despite what Gomez demonstrated a few weeks ago, taking down Diakomihalis is no easy task. 

2. No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young, Penn State vs No. 3 Vito Arujau, Cornell (133 pounds)

Unlike his teammate Yianni Diakomihalis, Cornell’s Vito Arujau will come into his biggest match of the Collegiate Duals as the underdog. Having spent the last two years racking up All-American honors at 125 pounds, Arujau has now made the jump up to 133 pounds and will have his shot against the defending NCAA champion this week in New Orleans. His projected opponent, Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, has had a hold on this weight class for the last two seasons, running through his bracket twice in his last two NCAA tournaments and finishing both seasons undefeated. Bravo-Young has quietly become one of the most exciting Penn State wrestlers to watch, and he continues to impress every time he takes the mat. 

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Arujau could present an interesting challenge for Bravo-Young, given Arujau’s freestyle savviness and potential to match Bravo-Young’s trademark quickness. With a 6-0 record on the year and wins over All-American Taylor LaMont, Sam Latona and Michael McGee, Arujau has shown that the weight class change has not slowed him down one bit, and, if anything, he’s potentially stronger and more dangerous at 133 pounds. 

Bravo-Young has a similarly spotless record, as he’s won all three of his matches this year and maintains a 100% bonus rate thus far. Though he hasn’t seen the same level of competition that Arujau has yet, he’s dominated everyone he’s met and looks primed for this high-profile top-three contest. 

3.  No. 9 Ed Scott, NC State vs No. 7 Josh Humphreys, Lehigh (157 pounds)

While matchups between top-five wrestlers naturally generate intrigue, this expected bout between N.C. State’s Ed Scott and Lehigh’s Josh Humphreys is interesting because of the unpredictable nature of the 157-pound weight class and because of the potential for both of these guys to be battling for All-American honors this year. 

Lehigh’s Humphreys, who is now in his fifth year of collegiate wrestling, has come so close to finishing on the podium in his two NCAA tournament appearances. He finished in the Round of 12 in 2019 and 2022, and he’s never had more than eight losses in a season. He’s been a consistent dual force for Lehigh and built himself into one of the key names in the Mountain Hawk lineup throughout his career. The only thing missing for Humphreys? That top-eight national finish. 

 One of the guys that could be standing in Humphreys’ way come March is Ed Scott, an N.C. State wrestler who has seen steady improvement throughout his career but has also come up just short of the podium in his career thus far. This matchup allows both athletes to see where they stack up against one another and feel out the competition before the postseason. 

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Humphreys enters the Collegiate duals undefeated after having one of the best starts of his career thus far this season following notable wins over Dazjon Casto and Kaden Gfeller. His 6-0 record is impressive, and while Scott enters the Collegiate Duals with three more losses than his opponent, he also has two more wins, boasting an 8-3 record. Lehigh will have the edge in this bout, and the Mountain Hawks may need a win here if they want to push the Pack in the team score. 

4. No. 5 Kaleb Romero, Ohio State vs No. 3 Parker Keckeisen, UNI (184 pounds)

Kaleb Romero comes into the Collegiate Duals with two losses on the season already, but don’t let that fool you: this All-American is competitive, driven and capable of making another podium run. Romero has already recorded 14 matches this year and only dropped bouts to former All-Americans including Hunter Bolen and Trent Hidlay. The Buckeye senior, however, also has two wins against Bolen from earlier in the season, the second of which came in the opening round of the Cliff Keen Invite before Bolen beat Romero in a third-place wrestleback match.

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Romero’s most exciting opponent this coming week though, Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa, will be his chance to add another ranked win to his record, if he can top the two-time All-American. Keckeisen currently holds a 6-1 record with his lone loss coming against NCAA finalist Trent Hidlay at the Cliff Keen Invite, and he’ll also be looking to notch a high-profile W here at the Collegiate Duals to gain some confidence heading into the holidays. 

The 184-pound weight class is currently led by Penn State’s Aaron Brooks, but Keckeisen has pushed the two-time national champ in the past and will be looking to fight his way into the national finals this season for the first time in his career. After finishing third in his two NCAA tournament appearances, Keckeisen has been close to having the opportunity to wrestle on that famous Saturday night in March, and a win against Romero this week would certainly add to his credentials. The veteran Buck has finished on the podium once himself after placing sixth in 2022, so this match between the two of them is certainly one that could be replicated during the placement matches at the NCAA tournament or on the road to the finals. 

5. No. 4 Michael Beard, Lehigh vs No. 7 Bernie Truax, Cal Poly (197 pounds)

Lehigh’s Michael Beard might have more momentum than any wrestler in the NCAA right now. The Lehigh All-American transfer comes into the Collegiate Duals fresh off upsetting Penn State’s Max Dean, the Cornell transfer who moved to State College and beat out Beard for the 197-spot in the Nittany Lion lineup, one year after Beard finished on the podium for the Blue and White. 

 Now representing Lehigh, Beard’s upset win over Dean surged him up in the rankings to No. 4, one spot above his former teammate, and he has the chance to add to his resume in this match against All-American Bernie Truax of Cal Poly. Truax, the biggest name on the Cal Poly roster, finished 4th at the NCAA tournament in both 2021 and 2022, and he’s been on a roll this year as well. The Mustang junior currently holds an undefeated 6-0 record with an 83.3% bonus rate, and while he hasn’t faced anyone of Beard’s caliber yet, he did post a solid 6-4 win over U.S. U20 World team member Jaxon Smith of Maryland. 

Beard, unlike Truax, has taken a loss already this year in a 5-1 decision fashion against NCAA finalist Nino Bonaccorsi two weeks prior to beating Dean. The Mountain Hawks’ performances so far this year though still suggests championship potential. Beard will be challenged again this week at the Collegiate Duals, both against Truax and against N.C. State’s funky and tough Isaac Trumble. While both duals will be worth watching and could have rankings implications, the bout between Beard and Truax is the maybe the more exciting of the two given the credentials of these two athletes. 

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Truax will be able to use this match as a benchmark for how he stacks up against proven 197-pounders, as he’s in his first year at the weight following his last three seasons at 184, 174 and 165 pounds. For Beard, this is another chance for him to earn a ranked win. These guys are each expected to contender for All-American status in 2023, and their results from the Collegiate Duals will show how much separation, if any, exists between these two stars.  

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