The latest coaches rankings published last week by NCAA.com inspired a wave of commentary about the purpose and value of rankings. Who should be ranked? What criteria should be used in rankings? How many matches does it take to be ranked?
Everyone has an opinion, but let's keep the conversation going. Here's another different subjective set of rankings, listing each of the top five athletes in each weight based on recent results, momentum and quality of opponent.
1. Spencer Lee, Iowa
2. Patrick Glory, Princeton
3. Liam Cronin, Nebraska
4. Matt Ramos, Purdue
5. Killian Cardinale, West Virginia
Spencer Lee, of course, leads the 125-pound weight class after recording another bonus point win, this time coming by major decision against Michigan's Jack Medley. Much like Patrick McKee last week, Medley fought tough and forced Lee into the third period before ultimately dropping the match.
Glory notched two nice decision wins to keep himself at No. 2 this week, beating Ryan Miller of Penn 8-6 and topping Carter Bailey of Lehigh 12-5. The win over Miller may not have been as dominant as his major decision victories last week, but Glory continues to put reps in at 125 and prep himself for what will be his final NCAA tournament in a few weeks.
Outside of Lee and Glory, Cronin has separated himself as the No. 3 guy, and while he may not have been anyone's pick for this spot at the beginning of the year following his 3-3 injured season last year, Cronin is doing what he needs to do to stay competitive. He beat two tough, ranked Big Ten foes over the weekend in Dean Peterson and Malik Heinselman by identical 3-1 scores, and his ability to win these matches will serve him well in the postseason. Matt Ramos, similarly, notched two Big Ten wins to stay at No. 4, while Patrick McKee took a loss to Eric Barnett, dropping him out of the Top Five, and finally launching West Virginia's undefeated Killian Cardinale into the rankings, even though the Mountaineer did not wrestle over the weekend. This was an overdue change, and Cardinale is worthy of the power rankings spot.
1. Roman Bravo-Young, Penn State
2. Daton Fix, Oklahoma State
3. Vito Arujau, Cornell
4. Michael McGee, Arizona State
5. Connor McGonagle, Lehigh
Four of the top five 133-pounders in last week's power rankings all notched more wins over the weekend without taking any losses, and the lone wrestler in the top five who did not compete — Michael McGee — has no reason to drop off this list. It was a typical weekend for these elite athletes, with Daton Fix and Vito Arujau kicking off the action on Friday night with wins over Derrick Cardinal and Anthony Sobotker by major decision and technical fall respectively. Fix then notched a decision victory Sunday afternoon against Jackson DiSario of Stanford to move his record to 20-0 on the year. Not to be outdone, two-time NCAA champ Roman Bravo-Young added another bonus point win to his resume on Sunday afternoon when he tech falled Maryland's King Sandoval in just Sandoval's third match of the season.
McGonagle held tough with his 7-1 win over Anthony Clark of Princeton for his lone victory of the weekend, and he's one of three Moutain Hawks in the top five of any weight class for the second week in a row.
1. Andrew Alirez, Northern Colorado
2. Real Woods, Iowa
3. Cole Matthews, Pitt
4. Beau Bartlett, Penn State
5. Brock Hardy, Nebraska
The biggest shift in the always interesting 141 pound weight class came at the bottom of the top five, as N.C. State's Ryan Jack took a reasonable loss to Cole Matthews, while Brock Hardy, consistently knocking on the door of the top five, beat Ohio State's Dylan D'Emilio and Devon Britton over the weekend. The D'Emilio win was close, as Hardy needed a takedown in sudden victory, but he managed to finish with a win. Jack's loss to Matthews wouldn't have pushed him out of the top five normally because wrestlers shouldn't be punished for toeing the line and dropping to a higher-ranked guy, but momentum plays a role in these rankings, and I'm rewarding Hardy for his wins.
Penn State's Beau Bartlett stays at No. 4 in these power rankings despite not having the greatest number of ranked wins on his record, but it's hard to drop someone whose only loss of the season came against No. 2 Real Woods of Iowa in a 4-1 battle. Bartlett will be tested at the Big Ten tournament, and we'll find out soon if he's really better than Hardy, but, for now, I have Bartlett at No. 4 and Hardy at No. 5.
1. Yianni Diakomihalis, Cornell
2. Sammy Sasso, Ohio State
3. Yahya Thomas, Northwestern
4. Austin Gomez, Wisconsin
5. Kyle Parco, Arizona State
The rankings at 149 pounds hold steady, led by No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis who racked up his final "home" dual meet win of his career in his high school gym against Michael Zarif of Binghamton by fall. He'll have Ohio State's Sammy Sasso next Saturday in a high-profile top-three bout, and while Diakomihalis will be favored, he did take a loss this year, so nothing is guaranteed. Sasso holds down the No. 2 spot in the power rankings again this week because of his win over Dayne Morton of Nebraska by fall and because Wisconsin's Austin Gomez did not wrestle again this week. In an interview with NCAA.com, Gomez said he expects to be back in peak form before NCAAs, so he can rise in these rankings once he's back on the mat.
In the meantime, No. 3 Yayha Thomas and No. 5 Kyle Parco hold down the other two spots, much like last week. Thomas earned two bonus-point wins over the weekend against Purdue and Northern Illinois, and he's looking every bit like the 2021 Thomas who finished third at the national tournament. The rest of 149 pounds should be concerned about his poise, skill, patience and precision on the mat. Parco, despite not wrestling, stays at No. 5, but he'll have CSU-Bakersfield and Nebraska this week for his final two tests of the dual meet season.
1. Austin O'Connor, North Carolina
2. Peyton Robb, Nebraska
3. Josh Humphreys, Lehigh
4. Jared Franek, North Dakota State
5. Bryce Andonian, Virginia Tech
Ready for a lukewarm take? Austin O'Connor should be the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds. He surges ahead of undefeated Peyton Robb in this week's power rankings because of his dominant win over All-American Bryce Andonian and Robb's sudden victory win over Paddy Gallagher of Ohio State. Robb is not dropping because he only won 5-4 against Gallagher, he's actually dropping due to no fault of his own. O'Connor was just too impressive. The 2021 champ needed a big win to beat out another undefeated wrestler for the top spot, and he earned that win with style over Andonian.
Yes, Robb does have one career win over O'Connor from last season. But these rankings are about the here and now. O'Connor boasts an 86.67% bonus rate, compared to Robb's 50%. This, of course, is still a match I want to see, and is likely a coin-flip match, but O'Connor deserves recognition for his dominance.
North Dakota State's Jared Franek and Andonian now each have one loss, with Andonian's coming against O'Connor and Franek's coming against Robb. Even though I just ranked O'Connor above Robb, I'm still shifting Franek above Andonian because of momentum. Franek's loss came in the first dual of the season by decision, while Andonian lost by major this weekend. Franek also beat Jacob Butler of Oklahoma State over the weekend, moving his record to 18-1. Both Franek and Andonian end up dropping to No. 4 and No. 5 respectively though as Lehigh's undefeated Josh Humphreys scoots in at No. 3 after two more bonus-point wins over the weekend against Princeton and Bucknell. Humphreys is 12-0 on the year now with his best win coming against No. 7 Ed Scott, and he'll be a favorite to win another EIWA championship in just a few weeks.
1. Keegan O'Toole, Missouri
2. David Carr, Iowa State
3. Shane Griffith, Stanford
4. Cam Amine, Michigan
5. Quincy Monday, Princeton
This weight is unstable. Missouri's Keegan O'Toole and David Carr lead the way again this week, again, but they're expected to meet on Wednesday in one of the biggest individual bouts of the year. Carr is 18-0 on the year after recording two more major decisions over the weekend while O'Toole is 12-0 with his last win coming on Feb. 5 by major decision over All-American Wyatt Sheets.
Just to highlight the intrigue surrounding this weight class, Stanford's Shane Griffith just beat Sheets 6-4 in overtime, a match that would concern Stanford fans if they hadn't seen Griffith turn up the heat in March last season after wrestling close matches in duals and even taking some losses. Griffith is Mr. March, and he wrestled O'Toole tough in last year's national finals, ultimately dropping 6-5 in a nail-biter. Griffith's narrow win keeps him at No. 3, but this is not a ranking I feel certain or secure about right now.
Michigan's Cam Amine, who currently comes in at No. 4 in the power rankings right now, has not wrestled since January 27, but he's still on this list because of his conference wins in particular, as he beat No. 6 Dean Hamiti and No. 12 Carson Kharchla in the last month. Hamiti has put together a nice season as well, but his losses to Amine, Princeton's Quincy Monday and Carr keep him out of the top five. Hamiti did beat Iowa's Patrick Kennedy who beat Penn State's Alex Facundo who beat Amine, but Hamiti's head-to-head loss to Amine keep him out of the rankings, and his position outside of the top five keeps Kennedy and Facundo out as well. The Big Ten tournament at this weight will be wild though, and these rankings will likely shuffle dramatically after that event.
No. 5 Quincy Monday notched two wins over the weekend against Penn and Lehigh, so while the Ramirez loss impacts his standing, there's no reason to move him off the list after his weekend wins. Like Griffith though, Monday's a bit of a wild card right now, but I do expect him to find another gear in March and make a run toward a title.
1. Carter Starocci, Penn State
2. Mikey Labriola, Nebraska
3. Mekhi Lewis, Virginia Tech
4. Chris Foca, Cornell
5. Peyton Mocco, Missouri
The big news coming out of 174 pounds this week was Drexel's Michael O'Malley's two losses to Ben Pasiuk and Nick Incontrera over the weekend. These results shake up 174 pounds, leaving the No. 5 spot in these power rankings completely open for debate. One possibility would be Ethan Smith, who now has five losses on the year to Mikey Labriola, Carter Starocci, Chris Foca, Lenox Wolak and Mekhi Lewis. If you dismiss the Wolak loss as a fluke, those other losses all come against higher-ranked opponents. Or you could pick Demetrius Romero who has just two losses, but they came against O'Malley and Sam Wolf of Air Force. Oklahoma State's Dustin Plott also only has two losses against Cade DeVos and Peyton Mocco, while Mocco has three losses against Plott, Mekhi Lewis and Edmond Ruth.
To me, this comes down to Mocco or Smith. I'm going with Mocco with week because the Ruth and Plott are higher-ranked losses than Wolnak, but this is another one that I expect to change in the weeks to come.
The No. 1 spot in the weight continues to be occupied by Penn State's Carter Starocci, while Nebraska's Mikey Labriola, despite a scare from Ethan Smith of Ohio State, holds on after his two wins on the weekend. No. 3 Mekhi Lewis, who has wrestled a series of close matches as of late, turned up the offense against Michael Goldfeder, putting the Tar Heel on his back for a fall. This was Lewis' third fall of the year and suggests that he too could be looking closer to peak form as the postseason nears. Goldfeder is not ranked, but a pin is a pin, and bonus points from Lewis will be key for the Hokies if they want to compete for a team trophy at NCAAs.
1. Aaron Brooks, Penn State
2. Parker Keckeisen, Northern Iowa
3. Trent Hidlay, NC State
4. Marcus Coleman, Iowa State
5. Kaleb Romero, Ohio State
The story of 184 pounds all year has been the losses of each of the top-ranked athletes, and Parker Keckeisen created more rankings drama over the weekend when he beat Iowa State's Marcus Coleman 7-5 on Friday night. This loss marked Coleman's second of the season, with his first coming against Oregon State's Trey Munoz in December. Munoz, though, also has two losses, both of which came against lower-ranked wrestlers than Keckeisen. Ohio State's Kaleb Romero could move up as a result of this shuffle, but he took his fourth loss of the season on Friday night against Penn State's No. 1 Aaron Brooks. Romero's only loss outside of the top five came against Virginia Tech's Hunter Bolen who has four losses, including a recent pin loss against Pitt's Reece Heller. Because Coleman does not have any more losses than those immediately below him and the recent loss came against someone above him, much like Romero's loss, these shaky rankings hold steady.
Keep an eye out for Minnesota's Isaiah Salazar though. The Gopher sophomore has just one loss against Jacob Nolan of Binghamton back in November, and he's someone flying under the radar worthy of attention.
1. Nino Bonaccorsi, Pittsburgh
2. Michael Beard, Lehigh
3. Max Dean, Penn State
4. Rocky Elam, Missouri
5. Bernie Truax , Cal Poly
N.C. State's Isaac Trumble gave Pittsburgh's Nino Bonaccorsi all that he could handle on Friday night, but, in the end, the Panther held strong to earn the win and maintain his top spot in the rankings. He remains undefeated while Michael Beard remains at No. 2 with his only two losses on the year coming against Bonaccorsi and Cal Poly's Bernie Truax.
Penn State's Max Dean shifts into the third spot, jumping Rocky Elam, not because of anything Elam did but because Dean seems to have put his early season losses behind him and turned a corner. He's earned bonus points in his last four matches, winning by fall, fall, major decision and forfeit, with one of those wins coming against All-American Gavin Hoffman. Dean a returning national champ, and his bonus point trajectory slots him above Rocky Elam for the first time since his loss to Michael Beard of Lehigh back in December. Elam is 6-1 on the year but did not wrestle over the weekend, though he fits in at No. 4 this week.
Truax comes into the rankings at No. 5 after Illinios' Zach Braunagel continued his impressive season and beat former No. 5 Iowa State's Yonger Bastida, delivering him his third loss of the season. InterMat has Braunagel ranked No. 19, though his wins against Bastida and Iowa's NCAA finalist Jacob Warner show that he's capable of making a title run. With five losses on the year, Braunagel does fit into the power rankings this week, but expect him to be a bracket-buster come March. With Bastida out of the top five, Cal Poly's Bernie Truax sneaks in, as he holds a 9-1 record with his lone loss coming against Trumble. N.C. State's Trumble is another guy who could be a problem at this weight, and he currently sits at No. 8 in the InterMat rankings.
1. Mason Parris, Michigan
2. Greg Kerkvliet, Penn State
3. Tony Cassioppi, Iowa
4. Lucas Davison, Northwestern
5. Wyatt Hendrickson, Air Force
Last but certainly not least, Mason Parris fended off a tough Tony Cassioppi to stay undefeated on the year, keep himself in Hodge Trophy contention and maintain his spot atop the power rankings. Cassioppi's loss marked his second of the year, with his first coming against Greg Kerkvliet, but his win over Lucas Davison keeps him at No. 3 in the rankings. Davison, for his part, beat Aaron Terrese and Hayden Copass, while No. 5 Wyatt Hendrickson did Wyatt Hendrickson things and racked up two more pins over the weekend.The biggest threat to this order right now is Arizona State's Cohlton Schultz. Despite taking two early season losses to AJ Nevills and Dayton Pitzer, Schultz is still a problem for this ranked group. Like his teammate Kyle Parco, Schultz will have CSU-Bakersfield and Nebraska next weekend, though he's unlikely to face ranked opponents in those battles. If Schultz runs through the Pac-12 tournament, he could improve his seeding and cause issues for some of these Big Ten wrestlers in the national tournament.