I have to admit this isn’t the midseason. In fact, we’re only about 35% into the schedule once you factor in the potential for B1G and NCAA matches, which could add an additional 10+ bouts. Which is what we want to do, so that’s where we are being graded from: The Podium.
We’ve had some turnover, so instead of individual grades, I’m going to hand out weight class grades instead.
***I’ll do my best to dish out constructive criticism from here on out. Also note the records are for varsity starts only***
125lbs (9-2): #2 Spencer Lee (9-1) // Perez Perez (0-1)
After the 2nd week of the season, our Terminator, Spencer Lee, just hasn’t looked right. He’s been battling illness upon illness or perhaps one long bout with sickness. He’s 2-1 against top 20 opponents. Either way, something has changed. He’s now vulnerable. He now looks human. So instead of being a T-1000 advanced prototype, mimetic polyalloy liquid Terminator, he’s more like your standard T-800. Which is still pretty damn good. Things will be fine, his CPU is still a neural-net processor, a learning computer, but he needs to learn quick, and he needs to learn to flip that mental gear and turn it on when the going gets tough. A part of me believes he’s bought into his own hype, which cannot happen with a target on your back.
#1 Sebastian Rivera and #12 Pat Glory have closed the gap. This is something I didn’t think would or could happen. I truly believed Lee would run the table this season and bonus everyone, now all of that is out the window. So is the Hodge Trophy. Now it’s time for him to rebound. It’s time to mount up and get to work. Lee is still the favorite to win it all again, but he has to prove it.
133lbs (10-1): #10 Austin DeSanto (10-1)
ADS is 3-1 against top 20 guys and was one throw away from being perfect on the season. He was right there with mega-freshman #9 Austin Gomez (ISU) when his aggression got the best of him and Gomez used that leverage and sent him for a ride. Gomez pulled that same move on #15 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) and stuck him, but he wasn’t able to stick ADS. Now everyone knows what his bread and butter is, now ADS knows what’s it’s like to go for an embarrassing ride, and I have to believe he’ll look out for it next time. With everyone.
DeSanto is right there where we thought he’d be: fringe All-American. He has the tank to stay with the best in this class, but does he have the mental game and technique to compliment it? After his showing at the Midlands and how smart he wrestled, for perhaps the 1st time all year, I say yes. He’s still on track to finish 6-8 on the podium and has been a pleasant surprise on the season. He’s aggressive, always on the go, and never ever quits. He has a heart the size of Sam Stoll, which I don’t know how it fits in his chest.
141lbs (9-2): #19 Max Murin (9-2)
Murin is a similar case study to DeSanto. A big-time recruit with loads of potential and a motor that doesn’t stop. The only difference is, Murin hasn’t had as many opportunities at top tier competition and the two chances he’s had, he’s lost. He now sits 0-2 against ranked guys, but he’ll have another shot when he faces #7 Mitch McKee (Minnesota) on January 13.
Murin has beaten the guys he should and (probably) lost to the guys he should. Unfortunately, that puts him in the R12 group come March and that’s not where he wants to be. He lost to #18 Ian Parker (ISU) earlier in the year on a severe mental lapse, something he will learn from. His other loss is to #10 Josh Alber (UNI) who is a 3x NCAA qualifier and as savvy as they come. Murin was dominated 5-2 in that loss to Alber, but his lack of offensive output or attempts is something he desperately needs to improve on.
Murin is going to get his chance at, by my count, four or five more ranked opponents before tournament time. We’ll know shortly as to whether or not he’s growing up before our eyes. He’s right there with them, now he needs to turn the corner.
149lbs (8-5): #16 Pat Lugo (7-5 ) // Carter Happel (1-0)
The expectations for Pat Lugo were exceptionally high starting the season. Not quite to the level of Lee, but certainly on par with the likes of Alex Marinelli. Last year Lugo pinned Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) and knocked off #5 Austin O’Connor (North Carolina), who was redshirting then, and narrowly lost to then ranked #4 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) all at the Midlands. This year Kolo has earned himself a #1 ranking and has proceeding to control Lugo in their two matches so far. Winning each 7-4. Furthermore, he started off the season with a loss to then unranked #15 Russell Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield), then proceeded to lose to #7 Jarret Deegen (ISU) and RS freshman Sammy Sassso (tOSU). Of is five losses, four are to ranked opponents. Lugo is 1-4 against ranked guys with his lone win being #9 Josh Heil (Campbell). Lugo was blowing Heil out of the water 6-0 before Heil injury defaulted out of the tournament. So there’s that I guess.
Lugo has shown he can wrestle with the best guys in this weight class, but wrestling at a high level consistently has been the problem. Actually, his biggest problem is finishing shots. From my amateur analysis Lugo fails to change levels and create angles. His attempts are straight on blast doubles and singles that more than likely end in stalemates or counter-points for the other guy. Against inferior opponents he can muscle his way to that TD, but against the elite they are just as fast and as quick as he is. He needs to find something else.
Also, his defense has been suspect to say the least. Often times when he’s taken down it’s because he was caught flat-footed and unable to sprawl out or use his quickness to laterally move and shake it off. It seems that he lets guys in on his legs and tries to overpower them to get his own points. That doesn’t work at this level.
Lugo has finally gotten over .500 on the season and seemed to turn it on before running into Kolo once again. Right now Lugo looks like a R12, with the potential of 5-8 podium finish. Which makes this all the more frustrating. He’s like a box of chocolates, we just don’t know what we’re gunna get. And regardless to what Gump says, there is candy out there we don’t like.
157lbs (11-1): #6 Kaleb Young (11-1)
Young has looked good, like really good. Coming into this season I thought he was the one that had the most to prove and so far he has. I’ve been very critical of him in the past, but he’s winning me over and making me a believer. If we handed out a “Most Improved Player” award not only would he win it, he’d be the only nomination.
KY has been impressive as he’s built his record up to 11-1 with seven wins coming by bonus point. According to Flowrestling he’s 3-1 against top 20 guys with wins over #7 Griffith Parriott, #11 Zach Hartman, and #19 Josh Humphreys. Young also throttled Army’s Luke Weiland, who is up to #15 on trackingwrestling.
He’s lone loss comes to #3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) at the Midlands Finals, 6-3. Deakin was ranked #2 at the time. Deakin lost a couple days ago to #2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) who has been on an absolute roll as he not only beat up on Deakin, but also #4 Hayden Hidley (NC State), last year’s NCAA finalist at 157lbs. But Berger does have a loss to Griffith Parriott, the same Parriott that KY stuck earlier in the season.
I’m not sure what this all means, but if it means anything, it’s that Young is right there in the mix and firmly embedded in All-American talk. As he rightfully should be. If he stays aggressive and discovers his offense, especially against the upper echelon guys, he’s going to surprise the field. Keep it up.
165lbs: (11-0) #2 Alex Marinelli (11-0)
We all know what The Bull is capable of all. We all remember his epic win over 2x NCAA champ Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) last year. And we also remember all too well his epic collapse and beat down by Evan Wick (Wisconsin) in the NCAA’s. And by beat down I mean 16-3 maj. decision.
Well Marinelli has put his redshirt freshman season behind him and has raced out to an 11-0 record this year. He literally obliterated anyone in his path through his first six matches (all by bonus), then the Midlands happened, and the competition got difficult. Like NCAA tournament difficult.
He finally ran into his first ranked opponents and beat them all en route to another Midlands title. In the process he knocked off #17 Jonathan Viruet (Brown), #5 Josh Shields (ASU) and then #2 Evan Wick (Wisconsin) in the finals. As I mentioned in the Midlands recap, he couldn’t use his strength to ruin someone’s day, instead he had to wrestle smart and strategically. And perhaps that’s his biggest improvement during the off season, the wrestling IQ has skyrocketed.
Everybody knows The Bull is a beast. Everybody knows not to go chest to chest with him, even #1 Vincenzo Joseph. And now that he’s added this element to his game he’s launched himself from #4 up to #2 in the rankings and is eyeing an NCAA championship.
Yes, he has a long way to go to get there and he’s going to have to knock off these top tier guys again. And again. But this is a hyper-focused Marinelli and that makes him dangerous. This is going to be a fun rest of the season so don’t blink or you’re going to miss it.
174lbs: (4-6) Mitch Bowman (2-2) // Myles Wilson (2-3) // Jeremiah Moody (0-1) // Michael Kemerer (0-0)
If there was ever a weight class to be FedEx’d straight to hell, it would be 174. 2x AA Michael Kemerer was supposed to come in and challenge for a high podium finish after moving up from 157lbs. Unfortunately, his season was done before it ever started.
Then in stepped Myles Wilson who was 2-2 and looking to wreck Marcus Coleman’s (ISU) day before his leg buckled and gave out. He injury forfeited/ lost. Now he’s done.
Jeremiah Moody volunteered to bounce up a weight in the Lehigh dual against #7 Jordan Kutler. That didn’t go well as Moody was not competitive and got routed by a 12-3 maj. decision.
Mitch Bowman (4-2) was bouncing around from 184 to 197 and fun knocking off a ranked opponent, but with Cash Wilcke and Jacob Warner locking down those spots, Bowman was on the outside without a weight to call his own. Then all these injuries piled up and Bowman took the cutting-plunge to 174lbs. After about 4 weeks of weight cuts he made his long-awaited debut at The Midlands.
He went 2-2 and did not place.
This lighter, leaner, version of Bowman didn’t look anything like the energized, scrappy, opportunistic Bowman that knocked off #9 Christian Brunner (Purdue) at 197lbs. This version struggled with everyone and his two wins came in sudden victory against unranked opponents. His losses were also to unranked opponents.
Perhaps the extended weight cut for nearly a month drained his tank. Perhaps he just needs some time to acclimate himself to a weight he hasn’t been at in nearly four years. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Either way we’re going to find out soon if Bowman can strike lightening at this class. Coming up on January 13 he faces #12 Devin Skatzka in the Minnesota dual. By my count he faces at least five ranked opponents before the B1G’s. Three are in the top 10. Bowman has his work cut out for him if he even wants to be an NCAA qualifier. The only thing keeping this weight out of the sinkhole is Bowman. Let’s see what he’s made of.
184lbs: (10-2) #18 Cash Wilcke (10-2)
After beating Bowman out in the wrestle-offs this has been Wilcke’s weight all year and for the most part he’s been ok. Not great, but ok.
Flowrestling hasn’t given Wilcke much love as they have him checking in at #18 nationally. He hasn’t moved much so far during the season and quite frankly, he hasn’t done much to earn a higher ranking.
So far he’s 0-1 against top 20 opponents with that one loss coming to #5 Drew Foster (UNI) at the Midlands finals. Wilcke was right there with Foster, but if I recall, he didn’t take a solid shot the entire match and ended up losing 3-2. Foster is a solid guy, but he’s far from a world beater, which is concerning.
If we expand our horizon and look at some other rankings, TheOpenMat has Wilcke up to #11 and trackwrestling has him #17 and 1-1 against the top 20 with his lone win coming against #19 Mason Reinhardt (Wisconsin). Reinhardt doesn’t make an appearance in any of the other rankings.
To this point in his career Cash Money is still a bit of an enigma. He has the look, size, and speed of a 184lber. He has the skill set when he decides to use it, but he seems to have a mental block that kicks in when he’s faces quality, but not great, opponents. He does his best Brandon Sorensen impression and tries to grind out matches and win them late.
That’s all fine and dandy when you’re Sorensen. After all, you’re a 4x AA that’s proven you can get it done late. But that’s not ideal when you’re Cash Wilcke and a 2x NCAA qualifier that routinely struggles to get to your offense and break guys early.
As I mentioned, he has the size and speed to stay with anyone, but more often than not he keeps the score close when he’s expected not to. I’m afraid these aren’t outlier performances, and this is becoming the norm. This is becoming the Cash we should expect to see regularly on the mat, which makes it all the more frustrating, because he’s so freakishly athletic it should only be happening against the top tier guys.
He still has to square off with at least five ranked guys before the B1G’s including #2 Emery Parker (Illinois), #4 Taylor Venz (Neb), and #11 Jacobe Smith (OK St). By knocking off one or two of these bruisers he can put himself back into the AA talk and out of the R12 expectations.
197lbs: (8-4) #5 Jacob Warner (5-2) // Mitch Bowman (2-0) // Connor Corbin (1-1) // Steven Holloway (0-1)
Outside of Bowman’s brief stint at this weight, it’s been a mixed bag ranging from great to awful results. Once Bowman made the official drop to 197 this became Corbin and Holloway’s weight for a few weeks. They collectively went 1-2.
Warner had a preseason ranking of #11 when he burst onto the scene and upended then #5 Willie Miklus (ISU). What’s more impressive is that he gutted out the win with a banged up ankle. Unless Miklus falls apart this year, he will be a 4x AA when it’s all said and done. Warner now owns two wins over the beast from Ames.
Unfortunately, with Warner’s high, high upside, is his low downside and that reared its ugly head in the Midlands as he got smoked by a 19-3 tech fall to UN Tanner Sloan (SDSU). Oh, Sloan is also redshirting. Unless your name is Cael Sanderson, at one point or another, everyone takes a loss. Sometimes a bad loss. But for the greats it’s usually from a failed throw that results in a pin and therefore is explainable. In Warner case, he just got annihilated without rhyme or reason. Sloan turned him at will and Warner made him look like a 200lbs version of Spencer Lee.
After that beat down he’d rebound for two more wins and then go on to lose to then ranked #6 Rocco Caywood (Army) and now sits at 1-1 against the top 20. The most concerning issue is that he had the lead in both of his losses. Therefore, he could be undefeated and my criticism would be unfounded.
Perhaps I’m being unfair but our expectations are sky high. Perhaps it’s time we temper them? Warner is a big time recruit with big time potential, but he still wrestles like a freshman and that can’t happen from here on out. He needs to cut down on the mistakes and be smart on the mat. Somehow he still sits at #5 on Flowrestling, but he only has two more chances to knock off ranked guys before the B1G’s. #11 Eric Schultz (Neb) and #13 Dakota Greer (Ok St) are all that stand in his way.
285lbs: (7-4) #1 Sam Stoll (1-0 / 3-0 overall) // Aaron Costello (6-4)
For the most part, Costello has been our starter this year. He’s been respectable as he’s built his record up to 6-4. He’s beating the guys he should, but getting hammered by the elite. And by hammered, I mean he’s 0-3 against the top 20 with two falls and a major. He’s only a redshirt freshman so I expect him to get better, but his window is quickly closing. Stoll should be nearing a complete return and next year we have Tony Cassioppi waiting to take over.
Stoll is technically 3-0 on the season, but his two wins in the Midlands didn’t count for team points because he medially forfeited out in the quarterfinals. Costello was our official heavyweight starter.
Stoll is still ranked #1 on Flowresting and The Open Mat, somehow. If he doesn’t go this week against #2 Gable Stevenson (Minnesota) I expect that to finally change and in fact it already has on a few of the other sites.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about our oft-injured All-American. Much like Spencer Lee, Stoll just hasn’t looked himself. He’s a big boy, yes, but he looks slower than normal and seems to be lacking in strength as well. It could be he’s still struggling to catch up on his conditioning, but only the coaching staff knows. Tom Brands has been on the Q.T. and very hush hush about the alignments, so we’re left guessing.
I hate to say it, but if this is how it’s going to be, Stoll is going to struggle to reach the podium. I’m worried that they’re going to keep holding him out and hope for a magical run through the B1G’s that continues into March. The problem is, if he falters in the B1G’s, he may not even make the NCAA tournament.
I don’t know the details so I’m only speculating here, but a part of me thinks they may be using him sparingly because if they have to pull the plug on his season, they can keep the hope of a medial hardship waiver alive and possibly another year of eligibility.
Either way, we have roughly six more top 20 guys left before we hit tourney time. If Stoll can get going he can prove he belongs, but if not… well.. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Coaching: 6-0 Team Record and a Midlands Championship
There are several different directions I could take this. On one hand, they’ve done an amazing job handling all the injuries and illness to remain undefeated and still be in the driver’s seat. They’ve gotten creative with their lineup and showed the depth of this team. On the other hand, several of their big guns (Lee, Warner, Stoll) don’t look right and aren’t wrestling to either their full potential or simply aren’t wrestling at all.
They made several questionable coaching calls during the Midlands: Lee not choosing up and Warner and Cassioppi choosing down, among others. All of these calls directly related to an ass-kicking.
Also at The Midlands Tom and Terry both lost their composure and were heard yelling at officials/ coaches/ parents from opposing teams. Regardless of how warranted their tongue lashings may have been, they can’t do that. It just doesn’t look good and I expect more from the faces of our program. Once again we’re undefeated, but we can do much, much better.
That gives us a cumulative 2.88 gpa. That’s certainly passing, but that doesn’t make me content.
So there you have it, my brutally harsh and honest grades. What did I miss or overlook? Probably nothing. What do you guys think of the season so far and where are we going from here?