The next stop in the road to wrestling in the 2016 Olympics in Rio is the 2016 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Odds are that one or more of the elite young athletes in the field of talent athletes at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden will represent the United States on the wrestling mats of Brazil.
Scholastic wrestling tournaments determine a team winner through a byzantine system of point allocation which rewards wins, the manner of wins, and advancement. I won’t go into detail as to how teams earn the points, but I will name Penn State as the strong favorite to win the most team points and claim their fifth national title in six years.
I see two tiers of team title contenders behind the PSU Nittany Lions. The first tier consists of defending champ Ohio State, Iowa, and Oklahoma State, any of which could beat Penn State in what would comprise a medium-sized upset. The second tier features Cornell, NC State, Virginia Tech, and Missouri; these teams could conceivably win the tournament if all the planets and stars and asteroids and comets aligned.
I’ve named nine teams here, and these teams will likely make of the top nine in the standings, the last team to sneak into the top ten will either be Nebraska, Illinois, or Lehigh.
Future Olympic Team Threats
Some of the wrestlers in this tournament will make noise on the Senior freestyle (or in rare cases Greco-Roman) circuit. Future Olympians and Olympic medalists will take the mats in New York this weekend. I’ll pick one or two wrestlers per weight division whom viewers should keep an eye on as future representatives of Team USA.
I figure that Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello has a good shot at representing the United States at at least one Olympics, though probably not the one in 2016. I wanted to mention him specifically to talk about the fact that he has a twin brother who is five inches taller and who is an Olympic hopeful in figure skating. They came out of the same womb, ladies and gents.
Nico Megaludis of Penn State will also likely come close to a few world/Olympic teams, though I think Tomasello, who seems a bit more talented, will constantly thwart him every step of the way.
Cornell’s Nashon Garrett finally moved up from 125 pounds this year and has been magical. Though scuttlebutt pegs him as having little interest in international wrestling, I have already dubbed him my dark horse team to make the Olympic team at 57 kg, a weight that when combined with day-before weigh-ins is sized perfectly for him. The move up in weight has unleashed Garrett’s full potential almost like Manny Pacquiao’s move to lightweight.
Also at this weight, Iowa’s Cory Clark and Illinois’ Zain Richards will likely mix it up for national team spots at 57 kg.
This weight, largely due to it’s distance between the Olympic weights of 57 kg and 65 kg, sort of sits irrelevant to the Olympic discussion, though I think Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil is a future world teamer at the non Olympic weight of 61 kg, and a beefed up version of Stanford’s Joey McKenna has the pedigree to challenge for national spots at 65 kg in the future.
A couple years ago, Penn State’s Zane Retherford fell in devastating fashion in a Junior freestyle match to young phenom Aaron Pico. Since then, Pico’s light has faded a bit and Retherford has been on fire. Expect the Nittany Lion to dominate the field in New York, then come close to some of the USA’s best in the 2016 Olympic Trials in April.
Isaiah Martinez and Jason Nolf both deserve mention at this weight. Nolf is one of the more talented American wrestlers I’ve ever seen, but physically he is still a puppy and he will grow quite a bit. I’m not sure what weight he will eventually call home, but I’d be shocked if one day he isn’t striking fear into the heart of international competition.
Rumors (or actual reporting I can’t go looking at the moment) have Martinez sucking to 65 kg for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Martinez is a special talent, and if he can show up at the Trials in good form and with well-managed weight then he has a shot against anyone the USA has to offer.
The Jordan Cousins, Bo of Ohio State and Isaiah of Wisconsin, have heaps of talent, but neither will ever surpass Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer, who is the heir apparent at 74 kg to current American Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs.
Penn State’s Bo Nickal is a damned animal and once he muscles up a bit will dominate American Freestyle at 86 kg for a long time. However, 2016 is too close for him, I wouldn’t expect the Nickal era to flourish for another four years.
Cornell’s Gabe Dean is a Junior World medalist and will likely win three NCAA titles, this puts him firmly into the ranks of one of the greatest college upper weights of all time. Unfortunately, with reduction in weights and a glut of talent, Dean will face an uphill climb on his Olympic quest.
Missouri’s J’Den Cox is a rare talent and has what it takes to provide a strong challenge to wunderkind Kyle Snyder for national teams at 97 kg in the coming years. Meanwhile Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh, whom I believe has always been a bit undersized for 197, has the right build and technical know-how to challenge for future national team slots at 86 kg.
Three wrestlers at this weight stand poised for big international careers. Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder is the defending world champion at 97 kg and the favorite to represent the USA in Rio (and a medal favorite). Despite Snyder’s international accomplishments, he isn’t the favorite to win 285 pounds, that honor belongs to NC State’s two time defending champion Nick Gwiazdowski. Gwiazdowski is compact, powerful and unceasingly offensive- a package of skills very reminiscent of American GOAT freestyle heavyweight Bruce Baumgartner. After long-time stalwart Tervel Dlagnev hangs his shoes up, Gwiazdowski should own the domestic heavyweight scene in freestyle for as long as he wants it.
We shouldn’t fail to mention Michigan’s Adam Coon, whom I predict is Team USA’s heavyweight of the future in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Thursday, March 17 features two sessions of wrestling, one at 12 pm (all times EST), and one at 7 pm. The second day contains the quarterfinals in the morning, and the semifinals/blood round in the evening. Day 3 holds the placement matches in the morning and the championship finals in the evening. ESPN, in one form or another, will cover every match.
You can find brackets here.
For weird stats and other interesting discussion you won’t find anywhere else, I recommend you visit the site of blogger Jaroslav Hasek, you can go there here.
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