174lbs has been an interesting weight class last year with freshman Carter Starocci winning his 1st of a possible 5 national titles when he defeated Iowa’s Michael Kemerer in overtime. Now since then there have been many big changes to the weight class. 2 National Champions could possibly be moving up a weight class in 2019 champ Mekhi Lewis and 2021 champ Shane Griffith. How much implication this will have is really unknown being that none of these guys showed a level of dominance like Bo Nickal moving up a weight class in 2019 or anything that would resemble them to be the clear favorite at the new weight.
Another very interesting weight change that has been announced is NC State’s Hayden Hidlay who is a national finalist will be moving up to 174 also but all the way up from 157. We have seen this change before in Iowa’s Michael Kemerer when he took a year off and he looked amazing at 174 in his first year at the weight most notably with a win over NCAA Champion Mark Hall of Penn St.
Kemerer even though he lost in the finals should not be overlooked this season for the sole fact that he already had a dominant win over the champion Starocci at Big Tens before dropping the finals match in overtime. Iowa has seemed to be very hard with their training in the offseason as we saw by the whole Tony Cassioppi transformation thing that was going viral a while back. So Kemerer’s return will be interesting also because this will be his last chance to win a national title.
Griffith of Stanford seems to be the most interesting case in my eyes mainly because he has the size and height to fill out the 174 weight class fairly easily and you can understand why he would make the bump up a weight. 165 now is going to be kind of watered down with the exception of Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, and Logan Massa so who knows if any of these guys change their mind on the topic.
Mekhi Lewis is going to be a wildcard no matter which way I try to look at it. The main reason is that the last time we saw him wrestle it was not a good showing due to his injuries he ended up pulling out of the tournament ending up with a blood round finish which is what it is at this point.
Now we all know who the favorite is in defending NCAA Champion at 174 pounds Carter Starocci. For good reason also since winning a national title he has been beyond impressive in freestyle. Not winning anything crazy obviously with the Olympic Trials and World Team Trials taking place. His performance has been kind of overshadowed by Gable Steveson who has had all NCAA wrestling fans eyes on him. Starocci wrestled team mate Bo Nickal to a 6-1 match up a weight class up at 86kg, and defeated Jason Nolf 4-3 in what I would consider to be the biggest win of his career.
Overall this 174 weight class in my opinion will be one of if not the hardest weight class should all of these guys follow through with the weight class changes.