At this point in the season we have already seen 2 National Champions go down with Shane Griffith and Austin O’Connor. I feel that this is a good time to mention the dark horses throughout the NCAA. The way this season is going I do not see anyone as a lock.
125 Pounds- Nick Suriano
A NCAA Champion as a dark horse sounds insane, however with all of this being said he might be the only one in the country with the chance to actually defeat Spencer Lee. He lost to Lee in the 2018 NCAA Finals and he has come back to college for one reason, and only one reason and that is revenge. He has righted all of his wrongs in college except Lee and Gilman. He is coming back to college for Lee and he will see Gilman soon enough on the senior level. Can he get it done? I guess we will find out.
133 Pounds- Sammy Alvarez
Yeah he got pinned against Binghamton, but that does not take away from the insanely close matches that he has had against NCAA Champion Roman Bravo-Young. He has been one of the top wrestlers in the weight class and if he gets his head back and keeps pushing he could definitely see himself on the top of the podium come March. He needs to stay poised in his matches and just compete if he is going to win it will have to be straight out and he cannot really bank on big moves for upsets. He should be an All American either way should he play his cards right but where he goes from there all depends on how well he can perform.
141 Pounds- Stevan Micic
Again not a dark horse ability wise, but definitely someone many people are counting out. Micic was an Olympian for Serbia in Tokyo and will be up a weight at 141 for his 8th year with Michigan and his final season. Yes this is technically only a one weight move up but he was competing down around 125 pounds in freestyle where in what I would call his best match held Olympic Champion Zavur Uguev to a 6-4 victory. Looking at 141 Nick Lee is not 100%, and I think he can beat Sebastian Rivera. Eierman and Lee look to be the only real threats here along with maybe Chad Red, Khizan Clarke, or Andrew Alirez. Micic is the most decorated out of all these guys but has yet to win a title, will this be the year?
149 Pounds- Ridge Lovett
Previously I would have had Bryce Andonian in this spot but Lovett in his day one performance at CKLV took out Jaden Abas, and he did this in dominant fashion. He also has a win over Zach Sherman, and he will face 2x NCAA Champion and World Team Member Yianni Diakomihalis tomorrow. How that match goes may just be the telling of how his season goes. He lost to Sasso last year in the Big Ten finals. Yianni however is up a weight and folkstyle is a weaker styl for him so who knows what could go down.
157 Pounds- Quincy Monday
I could very well say Ryan Deakin here but I feel that many people still have him winning the weight class even with his performance at the National Tournament last season. However I will go with Quincy Monday, in his most important showing this season he dominated Iowa’s Kaleb Young and the match honestly did not seem too competitive. If this man catches fire do not be surprised to see a National Title run.
165 Pounds- Carson Kharchla/Anthony Valencia
I could not just pick one guy for this one. We all know 165 is the “cursed weight” we have seen some crazy things in this weight class such as Vincenzo Joseph pinning Isaiah Martinez and Mekhi Lewis stunning Vincenzo Joseph. Kharchla is a freshman who I think many people forgot about since he did not wrestle for a while due to injury. He defeated Mekhi Lewis and he did that very handedly. Now onto Anthony Valencia who has been on the scene for a while and a few people projected to win last season but got injured. Valencia will be looking for his first NCAA Title in his final season along with Evan Wick and Alex Marinelli.
174 Pounds- Mikey Labriola
This is a very hard weight to pick a dark horse being that I feel Starocci has excelled from the pack. Maybe not in the sense that he will put up a ton of points, but more in the sense that I do not think anyone will really threaten him with a loss. Labriola has always been a very solid wrestler with a high attack rate and nice quick shots. Starocci did beat him last time they wrestled but with his offseason progression this could very well be a different story should Labriola do something crazy.
184 Pounds- John Poznanski
At this point in the season I believe that this weight class belongs to Olympic Medalist Myles Amine and for obvious reasons. Now Poznanski took 4th at the National Tournament in a year that many people including myself thought he would need to redshirt. He fell to Trent Hidlay in the TB 1 2-1. And Trent Hidlay went 3-2 with Aaron Brooks in the NCAA Finals. Poznanski was a true freshman and placed 4th, just a year ago before I had watched him pin and tech his way through the New Jersey state tournament in possibly the most dominant performance ever. He is going to be one to watch this season 100%.
197 Pounds- Max Dean
Is Dean a dark horse? I say yes for the sole fact that he has not wrestled since 2019 due to various reasons. Covid caused many problems as you can expect. He also transferred to Penn State from Cornell. People were talking about Amos being the one to beat Ferrari but that doesn’t look to be in the talks of happening at the moment. Max Dean however defeated Myles Martin back in 2019 to make the NCAA Finals where he fell just short to Drew Foster. He will be looking to claim his first National Title this season and he has looked fantastic so far.
285 Pounds- Greg Kerkvliet
I do not know if there is much to talk about in this weight with there being an Olympic Champion as the number 1 guy. If anyone has a chance of beating him it seems to be Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet should he be healthy. He was the only guy that Gable Steveson was not able to get a bonus point victory on and Gable won 9-5. Yeah that seems like ok whatever, but Kerkvliet was one of three people to take Steveson down from the college wrestling season to his Olympic Gold medal. The other 2 being 2x World Medalist Nick Gwiazdowski and 3x World Champion Geno Petriashvili. Would I say that Kerkvliet is a threat at the moment? No, not really but I do think that if he stays healthy it should be a very fun match just like their past ones have been. Kerkvliet seems to be the only one who can match Gable’s speed and quickness, and also the only guy who has been able to get in on his legs. Kerkvliet along with Parris, Cassioppi, and Schultz are going to be people to watch to see who can claim the bid to the NCAA Finals.