Disclaimer: I am no journalist, expert, or Jack Ryan-like analyst. I’m simply an overzealous wrestling fan that is way too eager for the season to start. Take everything I say with a block of salt. So let’s light this fuse and get going!
I feel like I keep saying, “Oh boy, oh gees, this weight class is deeeeeep,” in every single inaccurate prediction I ramble up, but this one is. There is very little margin for error and a whole truck load of parity between 1st and 6th place.
Summon Up The Past:
Kaleb Young struggled over the first month or so wrestling up a weight giving Alex “The Bull” Marinelli the precious time he needed until he was ready to go. Then the bonfires were lit, the signals were spread, and the orcish hordes knew The Bull was free.
He officially recovered from a knee injury, he was officially unleashed, and he officially kicked ass. Opening up his Iowa career he immediately saw the blood red of the Rutgers singlets as he downed 2017 U23 World Champ #9 Richie Lewis 6-4 in sudden victory. He would win 2 of 3 against Lewis on the season.
He didn’t slow down as he won his first 14 matches. While he continued to climb the rankings he knocked off #8 Chandler Rogers (Okie St.), #4 Logan Massa (Michigan), and the biggest of all against #1 and eventual champ, Vincenzo Joseph (Penn St.). The Bull charged up to a #2 ranking, but it was a shit-show from there. He would go on to be 5-6 through tournament time, which is less than ideal.
He was sluggish in the B1G’s and saw his seed plummet to #5 for the NCAA’s. He looked to have recovered as he planted #12 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) and #4 Chad Walsh (Rider) before falling apart again in the quarterfinals. He would lose his next three straight and finish 6th. Overall a good year for anyone, especially a redshirt freshman, but it was a poor finish and one he would like to redeem this year.
Our Other Bulls:
This is without a doubt Marinelli’s weight, but I’d be remiss not to mention a few guys waiting in the wings if an injury were to occur or rest is needed.
Since the wrestle-offs started Nov. 1 the only real competition is true freshman Nelson Brands. That’s right, the son of one of our Overseers, Terry Brands. Little Brands isn’t so little, obviously, and he can’t get any more local than being from Iowa City. He’s a 3x state champion and holds the school record for most takedowns in a season with an obscene 485 and 1,250 in his career. Brands went 55-1 his senior year… he averaged almost 9 takedowns a match. Bah-whaaat?!
Tristan McDonald has dropped down from 174lbs, but got teched by Brands in the wrestle-off 28-12. It was an impressive showing with 13 TD’s, but I don’t think he’s ready to seriously contend at 165lbs. Even with Brands redshirting it’ll be a fun couple of years between these two.
The losers at 157lbs will be the likely candidates to step up and in if needed. As things are shaping up it’ll probably be Jeren Glosser or Jeremiah Moody. I really like both these kids, but let’s hope we don’t see them at 165lbs at all. If this happens we’re in trouble.
Currently Flowrestling has Marinelli ranked #4 to open the season.
#14 Cole Walter, Lehigh: 12/8
UN Joey Gunther, Illinois: 1/25
#9 Isaiah White, Nebraska: 2/3
UN Bryce Martin, Indiana 2/15
#2 Evan Wick, Wisconsin: 2/17
#6 Joe Smith/Chandler Rogers*, Oklahoma State: 2/24
*Not sure who is going for Okie St. quite yet. Rogers is ranked #8 at 174lbs.
Okay… that is a bit of a lackluster schedule I know, but it truly is a deep class. Unfortunately, the B1G isn’t well represented overall at this weight. There are still a couple key guys, but of course they’re the key guys we don’t get to face such as: #1 Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) and #5 Logan Massa (Michigan).
Other notable goobers we could bump into at the Midlands includes #7 Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa), #11 Anthony Valencia (Arizona St.), and #19 Jonathan Viruet (Brown).
With the immortal Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) graduating and David McFadden (Virginia Tech) moving up to 174lbs the weight does clear up a bit. Those are two AA’s that are suddenly vanishing. The only other guy that returns that I did not mention is #3 Chance Marstellar (Lock Haven) who also AA’d last year.
Other than the dates with Smith, Wick & White (sounds like a law firm), the schedule is a weakish one for The Bull. It’s imperative that he does well and keeps his seed high. One misstep and he won’t have many opportunities to fix a mistake before March. Of course, if he wins especially through the B1G’s, it’ll take care of itself. It’s just sad we don’t have the regular season schedule to consistently challenge him throughout the year. He’s going to have long stretches without facing elite competition, so he needs to stay on it and keep the pedal to the medal.
Honestly, there’s no reason why Marinelli can’t be a serious finalist contender, BUT he needs a #2 or #3 seed to do it. I don’t see Joseph relinquishing the top spot all year and I pity anyone on his side of the bracket. I truly believe The Bull could knock him off again, but it’s a roll of the dice and a roll I’d rather have in the finals instead of the semis. With that said I’m looking at that Feb 17 dual with #2 Wick as being the biggest of the season until we hit tourney time. If he takes that match and holds par through the B1G’s he’s going to set himself up for a stellar finish.
If this doesn’t happen he’s going to have to run the gauntlet like he did last year and that more than likely means he’ll have to face the Top Dog before he wants to. Which also could mean a brutal stretch in the consolation rounds and we all remember how that experiment ended last year.
Marinelli has mentally and physically matured and he’s ready to rock n’ roll. He’s going to wrestle smarter and not just rely on his hulkish strength to bull rush his opponents. He’s an All-American again this year and comes home in 2nd place.