After some bracket changes, the Division 1 NCAA National Wrestling Championships are officially set to go down on March 16-18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Penn State comes in as a heavy favorite to win their 10th national title in the past 12 years, however outside of Penn State there are a number of different squads who can earn themselves a team-trophy.
Weight classes such as 149, 157, 197, and 285 have been a toss up all season long, and it is finally time to answer the number of questions regarding who will finish on the top of the podium.
Here is a breakdown of each weight class and my predictions for this weekends frenzy:
Iowa’s Spencer Lee is on the hunt for his fourth national title and could solidify himself as one of the best, if not the best Hawkeye to wear a singlet. Lee has battled multiple serious injuries throughout his career, yet has a very good chance to join the prestigious club of 4x NCAA Champions, and Iowa’s first wrestler to do so.
However it hasn’t been easy for Lee to rack up the three titles he already owns, as he has had to go through Nick Suriano, Jack Mueller, and Brandon Courtney all while battling through significant injuries.
This year, it won’t get any easier with Princeton’s Patrick Glory as the second seed in the tournament, and has been dominant all season long with a perfect 20-0 record. Outside of Lee and Glory, the 125-pound bracket consists of two more Big 10 wrestlers in the top four seeds, with Nebraska’s Liam Cronin at third and Purdue’s Matt Ramos at fourth.
My Prediction: Spencer Lee (1st), Patrick Glory (2nd), Matt Ramos (3rd).
For the third straight season, the 133-pound bracket looks ahead to another RBY and Dayton Fix final. Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young is in search of his third NCAA title, and it sure seems like he will have to beat Oklahoma State’s Dayton Fix for a third time to claim his title.
In 2021, RBY defeated Fix in sudden victory with a takedown within the first overtime period, then in 2022 RBY hung on to a 3-2 lead in the third period to once again beat Fix for the title.
In 2023, both RBY and Fix are unbeaten, and look to run it back for a third straight time in what should be a very entertaining final at 133-pounds.
Although, Cornell’s Vito Arujau has been a hammer throughout his career for the Big Red, and could definitely be the one to prevent a third matchup between Fix and RBY. Arujau and Fix are set to hit in the semi-finals, which will be a thrilling match and could go either way.
My Prediction: Roman Bravo-Young (1st), Daton Fix (2nd), Vito Arujau (3rd)
The 141-pound bracket has been interesting all year, as many fans have been debating who should be the number one seed going into the NCAAs.
Iowa’s Real Woods sits atop of the bracket, however Northern Colorado’s Andrew Alirez is right behind Woods with the second seed, potentially setting up the match many have wanted to see since the beginning of the year.
141-pounds doesn’t lack depth either, with Pitt’s Cole Matthews, NC State’s Ryan Jack, Nebraska’s Brock Hardy, and Penn State’s Beau Bartlett cementing a tough weight class.
Just a season ago, Matthews knocked off Woods which was the biggest win during his 5th place finish at the NCAAs. Matthews will have a much tougher road to reach the finals this year, having to go through guys like UNI’s Cael Happel, Bartlett, and then Alirez to reach the finals.
My Prediction: Andrew Alirez (1st), Real Woods (2nd), Beau Bartlett (3rd)
149-pounds has been one of the most exciting weight classes throughout the entire season, with many of the top-5 wrestlers getting knocked off at least once since the beginning of the year.
Although Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis comes in as the clear favorite at 149-pounds, the rest of the weight is filled in with a ton of high-talented scrappers. So much so that some of the very talented guys in the weight might not even reach the podium on Saturday afternoon, here’s a look how everything might play out.
Round of 16 highlighted bouts:
The round of 16 on Thursday night should highlight a bout between Arizona State’s Kyle Parco and Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez. Gomez didn’t quite have an impressive performance at the Big 10’s just a week ago, and now comes into the NCAA’s as the #14 seed. Regardless, Gomez is one of the best wrestlers in the country and this match should have everyone’s attention on Thursday night.
Another very intriguing bout set to go down in the round of 16 on Thursday is a rematch between Penn State’s Shayne Van Ness and Iowa State’s Paniro Johnson. Near the end of December, Van Ness and Johnson squared off at the Collegiate Duals, and Johnson squeaked away with a narrow 3-2 victory. Van Ness comes in at the #12 seed, and will look to get revenge over the #5 seed Johnson.
My prediction: Yianni Diakomihalis (1st), Austin Gomez (2nd), Sammy Sasso (3rd)
157-pounds might be the most open weight class regarding who has the best shot to win it all, and it has been a tough time deciding who will walk home with a national title.
North Carolina’s former NCAA Champion Austin O’Connor is back to his winning ways. O’Connor placed 8th last year in a season that was riddled with injuries, but the 2021 National Champ has looked great all season long in hunt for his second title.
The emergence of Penn State’s true freshman Levi Haines has made this weight class very interesting, and Haines has been on a tear ever since he entered the lineup for the Nittany Lions. Last weekend, Haines won his first Big 10 title over Nebraska’s Peyton Robb, and could very well carry that into this weekend.
My Prediction: Levi Haines (1st), Austin O’Connor (2nd), Bryce Andonian (3rd)
165-pounds is another loaded weight class, and will look forward to a battle between two former NCAA Champions in Iowa State’s David Carr and Mizzou’s Keegan O’Toole. The two just faced off a week ago, and Carr won that by a narrow decision.
Outside of Carr and O’Toole, the bracket is stacked up with former NCAA Champs, All-Americans, and freshman buzzsaws.
Stanford’s Shane Griffith has looked pretty good this year, and definitely holds the ability to run through a bracket like he did back in 2021, and followed that in 2022 with a second place finish. Princeton’s Quincy Monday is also in the bracket after bumping up to 165-pounds early in the season, and will look to get back into the national finals.
Other high-level contenders such as Wisconsin’s Dean Hamiti, Cornell’s Julian Ramirez, Iowa’s Patrick Kennedy, Michigan’s Cam Amine, and Oregon State’s Matthew Olguin round up the bracket.
My Prediction: David Carr (1st), Keegan O’Toole (2nd), Dean Hamiti (3rd)
Penn State’s Carter Starocci is searching for his third straight NCAA title, and has a great shot to be the first ever wrestler with 5 NCAA titles. However it won’t be easy as he’ll have to go through either Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis or Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola.
Starocci won’t have an easy route to the finals either, as Cornell’s Chris Foca, Oklahoma State’s Dustin Plott, and Illinois’ Edmund Ruth are all on the same side of his bracket.
If it is Starocci and Lewis in the finals again, I would expect it to come down to the wire as it already has twice before. Starocci beat Lewis in tie-breakers in the 2022 National Finals, and they ran it back at the All Star Classic at the beginning of this season, where Starocci won again 2-0.
My Prediction: Carter Starocci (1st), Mekhi Lewis (2nd), Chris Foca (3rd)
Penn State’s Aaron Brooks should be the clear favorite to win his third NCAA title, however he sits at the third seed coming into the tournament. UNI’s Parker Keckeisen is the first seed, and NC State’s Trent Hidlay comes in at the two seed.
Brooks and Hidlay should meet again in the semi-finals and run back their very entertaining 2022 NCAA Finals matchup. Brooks won his second title last year over Hidlay in sudden victory by a score of 6-4, and I would expect a similar outcome this year as well.
Other contenders include Iowa State’s Marcus Coleman, Oregon State’s Trey Munoz, Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero, and Virginia Tech’s Hunter Bolen.
My Prediction: Aaron Brooks (1st), Parker Keckeisen (2nd), Trent Hidlay (3rd)
197-pounds has been impossible to predict all season long, and will be the same for the NCAA tournament. Penn State’s returning champ Max Dean is the ninth seed coming into this weekend, and he will have a brutal stretch to the finals if he can make it. Dean will most likely rematch Nebraska’s Silas Allred from a week ago, where Allred claimed his first Big 10 title. Dean will then have to go through Pitt’s top seeded Nino Bonaccorsi in the quarters, and then possibly rematching another loss from this season in Rider’s Ethan Laird.
Outside of the returning champ, Cal Poly’s second seeded Bernie Truax holds down the bottom half of the bracket with Mizzou’s Rocky Elam at the third seed.
Michigan State’s Cam Caffey and Iowa’s returning NCAA finalist Jacob Warner will match up in the opening round of the tournament, which shows how much of a crapshoot this 197-pound bracket is.
My Prediction: Nino Bonaccorsi (1st), Jacob Cardenas (2nd), Ethan Laird (3rd)
Heavyweight has also been an insane weight class with top-ranked guys getting knocked off weekly, but it seems the consensus favorites to reach the finals are Michigan’s Mason Parris and Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet.
Surprisingly, Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson comes in as the second seed in the tournament. Hendrickson is set to have a tough opponent in the quarters, where Mizzou’s Zach Elam could make some noise. Either way, one of them will be set to square off against Kerkvliet in the semi’s, while Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi will have to defeat Parris in the upper half of the bracket.
Parris and Cassioppi had a wild barn-burning match in the Big 10 finals, where Cassioppi nearly had the win before Parris came storming back. Regardless, 285 should be a very entertaining weight class to keep an eye on this weekend.
My Prediction: Greg Kerkvliet (1st), Mason Parris (2nd), Wyatt Hendrickson (3rd)
Team Title Prediction: Penn State (1st), Cornell (2nd), Iowa (3rd)