Andy Williams said it best: it IS the most wonderful time of the year. The weather brings friends and family closer together. The comfort foods, upbeat music and general goodwill of the Holiday season help to make the season bright. Tiny tots-Oops, sorry, Nat King Cole, AND Mel Torme’.(a) So, wrestling….
CKLV SEES CREAM, AND SCARLET, RISE TO THE TOP
Those would be the colors celebrated in a fight song for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who topped a tough field to take the title at the 38th Cliff Keen Las Vegas. The Huskers had a Champ, 165LB Isaiah White, defend his crown, and Nebraska led every round to pick up their 3rd Team CKLV Gold. The Huskers scored early and often. The whole team made the quarter finals and 5 won there to advance to the semis. While only White made the championships, 3 of the 4 Huskers who suffered semi-final losses fell to their weight classes eventual champion. Finishing 2nd, and almost doing the Saturday double-dip Championship Dance, Ohio State. The Buckeyes were the 3X defending champs, and their Silver showing in Vegas was just a few hours after Ohio State won yet another BIG10 football title. The Buckeyes found themselves one step and a few points back of their conference foe both days, but ahead in titlists as 141LB Luke Pletcher and 197LB Kollin Moore wore crowns(b) for Ohio State. It was Moores 3rd CKLV title. Also picking up a 3rd Vegas crown, undefeated 2X National Champ 184LB Zahid Valencia. Z_money97 blitzed the toughest weight class at the tournament with 2 pins, a tech fall and 2 majors. He wasn’t exactly flipping flounders around either, as Valencias victims included Top 10 wrestlers Sammy Colbray of Iowa State, Lou Deprez of Binghamton, and previously unbeaten Trent Hidlay of NC State. Valencia earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors and the Sun Devils took the Bronze team trophy. AA’s 165LB Josh Shields and 285LB Tanner Hall both took 2nd, and 3 more Sun Devils finished top 8. Hopefully, 133LB Josh Kramer and 197LB Kordell Norfleets injury defaults won’t keep them off the mat long. Fully healthy, this Arizona State team could seriously challenge for a Top 4 spot at Nationals. While UNIs 4th place CKLV finish featured no champs, it was a championship level showing by the SchwabMob. 6 Panthers placed, led by AA174LB Bryce Steierts silver. Both Steiert and 184LB Taylor Lujan, who finished 4th, are looking good at their new, heavier weights. Fellow CKLV placewinner 149LB AA Max Thomsen is another stellar Panther redshirt senior starter, as is pinning machine 125LB Jakob Schwarm. Schwarm took the Gorarrian award (most pins, least amount of time) home from Vegas. If and when UNI gets the Hog, AA197LB Jacob Holschlag, back, the Panthers will have 5 wrestlers in the starting lineup with a combined 30 years of being SchwabMob coached. The Big 12 Conference will be looking for a vaccine for that stuff. They will want better results than with that Rabbit Proof fence they tried to install in 2017. The 5th place team, Purdue, suprised a lot of folks not from West Lafayette when 5 Boilermakers made top 4 and the team jumped up 5 spots from their 2018 CKLV finish. Their one champ, 174LB Dylan Lydy, won his weight class by putting together 4 straight wins by 2 points, 3 in tie breakers and/or sudden victory. That showing and the overall work by the #AlwaysAggresive crew highlights a great wrestling truth: the smallest incremental improvements over a long period of time produce great results. Also great, the 2nd place showing by stellar Purdue senior 197LB Christian Brunner. A redshirt season was in the plans for Brunner, but factor(s) not fully specified led to the decision making this year Christians final go round for the Black and Old Gold. He’s headed for well over 100 career wins and that elusive All American finish come March in Minneapolis. Rounding out the Top 10, Iowa State, Minnesota, NC State, Northwestern and Oklahoma. The Sooners need big showings all season and they got one in Vegas highlighted by AA 141LB Dom Demas 3rd place finish. All 4 Sooner placewinners were underclassmen and 26 of 30 rostered wrestlers in Norman are Freshmen and Sophomores. This is a team headed in the right direction, slowly, probably about where Purdue was 2 seasons ago. Tony Ersland was given the time to long term build the Boilermakers and that paid off for Purdue. Hopefully Sweet Lou Roselli gets the same leeway in reloading the Sooners. No such option was either available or requested in Ames, where Kevin Dresser took the big paycheck, BIGGER challenge option in returning to his home state 2 years back to reset the Cyclones. Reset, redirect and reload he has, this seasons home arena beatdown by “that school from Iowa City” notwithstanding. Notable for ISU; a half dozen Cyclones placed 6th or better. They start 7 upper classmen but only 1 senior, and the other 6 jr. and sr. Non-starters probably won’t be putting up many points this season. Also of note: the 4-8 mark of the 4 Iowa State wrestlers who didn’t find the podium in Las Vegas.(c) The Cyclones missed those wins and points and they’ll need to find them for the season they and their fans want. Bet here is they will (shameless fanplug alert) in beautiful, mild winter weather downtown Chattanooga come Jan. 1st and 2nd at the Southern Scuffle. Chattanooga is NOT where Minnesota will be come years end. the Golden Gophers will be hanging with Nando down at the South Beach Duals in Ft. Lauderdale. It was a 1 slot lower showing for Goldy and company at the CKLV this year, 7th with 1 finalist and 4 place winners. The muscle was in the middle for Minnesota as AA 141LB Mitch McKee, 149LB Brayton Lee, 165LB Bailee O’Reilly and AA 174LB Devin Skatzka made their way to the podium. The über-talented Lee, a redshirt freshman, earned the Gophers their only CKLV crown this time around. He beat rs freshman rival Sammy Sasso of Ohio State in a 6-4 thriller. It was Lee’s 3rd st. W over Sasso after stopping Sammy in 2 straight matches for a USA Junior World team spot this Summer. Folks, this age group/college team mano a mano meet up is going to be good like fine red wine. For, oh, barring weight changes, about a decade or so. BTW, did you notice a large presence on the Gophers roster again? Around the Hvwt. class? Name of Steveson? No, not Bobby. Sad that “he who is not to be named”(d) isn’t currently wearing the Maroon and Gold, glad he’s trying to wear the Red, White, and Blue. Trust in the process. 1 other semi sad note-quiet, cool Gophers senior Carson Brolsma did not win a 4th straight backside match to place at the CKLV. Which means CB probably didn’t get to indulge in his go to meal, a big ole cheeseburger with a banana-chocolate malt. Darn shame. Next time, Carson, next time.(e) NC States 8th and Northwesterns 9th place finishes were well off predicted marks, the WolfPacks low, the Wildcats high. A head to head match between the two teams currently rostered Alpha males went the Wildcats way as AA 157LB Ryan Deakin controlled previously unbeaten and previously #1 ranked 2XAA Hayden Hidlay of NC State 6-2. And, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND PRONOUNCIATION, ITS HIDE-LAY, PEOPLE. Should you continue the butchery, may you be forced to Karaoke “Tiptoe thru the Tulips” at a biker bar. AND to defend the decision to ban Russia from the Olympics. To Vladimir “friendly eyes” Putin AND his GRU Spetsnaz bodyguards. “Do you HEAR me? Are you LISTENING to ME?!?” Deep breath. OK, we’re good here. The WolfPack in Vegas, not as much good. The authors expectations of 7-8 placewinners and an NC St. spot on the podium were Gone, Baby, Gone before the first day was over. Only half the Pack survived to fight on day 2 and only 4 placed overall with 1 less champ than a dead team. Give State an “A” for first month results, a C for CKLV, and an S for what’s big next: a TarHeel State Survivor series dual with App State and then either South Beach or the Scuffle. One State schedule published early said Ft. Lauderdale, the current one lists Chattanooga. Let’s hear it for recency bias!!! As to Northwestern, kudos to their year so far. They put the Fear of the Cat into VT, barely falling to the Hokies by 3. Then they won the Cat Scratch Fever fight 24-20 over UNI and for good measure ran the NDSU Bison off the cliff 28-18. That was a sweet one for Coach Matt Storniolos crew as the Bison have trampled the ‘Cats in recent meetings. The 10 point W was accomplished with a 6 point forfeit loss at 125 to boot. The truly troubling losses for Northwestern occurred at the CKLV, though, where despite their 3 top 4 finishers and 4 overall, question was what happened at 197? Unbeaten brawler Lucas Davison went down, then out with a 1-2 tournament showing. Then his tournament results weren’t showing on the schools recap. Seems like somethings always in the air up there in Evanston. The 4 squads highlighted in last weeks preview, Cal Poly, Clarion, Edinboro, and Hofstra had middling results. Easily the best showing from the featured 4 was Cal Polys 197LB Tom “Terrific” Lanes 4-1 mark and 3rd place finish. His unexpected(f) semi final showdown with #1 ranked Kollin Moore did not go well, but Lane more than made up for it. His bronze was the highest Mustang individual finish since 2012. Two other Cal Poly wrestlers, both freshmen, 141LB Jake Ryan and 165LB Bernie Truax, made it to the 2nd day of competition before being eliminated. Of Clarion last week it was said that things were not clear. Clearly they’re not currently as good as they expected. A middle of the pack CKLV finish, only 4 Golden Eagles making it out of the first round, and just 2 place winners. 6th yr senior 149LB Brock Zacherl came back for this? Don’t think so. 197LB Greg Bulsak had some nice wins and a 6th place finish (Zacherl took 7th) but somebody somewhere dumped a load of salt on these Eagles tail feathers. A circle the eyrie dual with fellow PA mid-sized power Lock Haven looms large. If that one gets out of hand, things might go South, and that won’t be to South Beach, Coach Ferraro. As to mid size PA schools not quite having the tournament they expected, we give you Edinboro. After a flashy 5-1 start to the season and a Top 8 finish at the tough Navy Classic, the Scots and the author had high hopes for Vegas. And you know what happens you hit Vegas with high hopes. The succinct and proper post-mortems already been written by SID extraordinaire Bob Shreve. Read it and weep. Then buckle up, ‘Boro, because hard charging George Mason and a 4 team meet at West Virginia, all before Christmas, will rock your world if you’re not ready. And not in a good way. Hofstras part of that 4 team get together, and the Pride tried in Sin City. Not expecting much, Hofstra delivered and was done on Day 1. 174LB Sage Heller was the only Pride grappler to get 2 wins. Theyll look to equal that in team wins in that upcoming West VA. quad 3 days before Christmas.
WHOS ON FIRST, WHATS ON SECOND, AND NOBODY WANTS TO BE 3RD
“There was an idea. To take a team of extraordinary wrestlers. To somehow find a way, to get them to come together. To fight the battles we never could.” Apologies to Nick Fury, but NOBODY in the wrestling world wanted, expected, or visualized the ClusterFoxtrot that’s slowly evolving across the wrestling landscape. The Transfer Portal was/is/may yet be a más grande idea for the betterment of wrestlers, coaches, schools, and fans alike. Right now, though, it kind of looks like the California Gold Rush with everybody stampeding after every available nugget. Are Superteams the next big thing on the wrestling horizon? Some would say they’ve already existed since, oh, say, the 2018 and 2017 Penn St Nittany Lions. Or the 2005 OK St. Cowboys. Or the 1997 Iowa Hawkeyes. So what’s the problem with a transfer or 3? Well, for the biggest of the big boys, probably not much. For everybody else trying to grow an RTC less team, or start a new program, well, guess there’s always D2, D3, NAIA. You know, options. What comes of all this will probably play out fairly swiftly. That’s good. Remains to be seen if the end results are as well.
SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON
Remember what was said about over scheduling by the Citadel last week? Well, it happened in Vegas, but something good came out of it. That would be the 3-2 CKLV tournament mark of 165LB Dazjon “Cheese” Casto. The Citadel mat man looked at his first round opponent and saw defending CKLV Champ, 165LB AA Isaiah White of Nebraska. And didn’t blink. While Casto lost the match, it was just by decision, and he then proceeded to rip off 3 straight wins. That run set up a place or go home match with NC States Thomas Bullard on Day 2. Bullard placed and Casto went home with his head held high, having only lost to the champ and the eventual 3rd place winner. As to the team placement, it was one spot better than their showing at the Navy Classic. Incremental steps. In other action 3 SoCon teams rolled into Fairfax, VA, this past weekend and had a go at the George Mason Patriot Duals. Davidson and VMI finished 1-1 on the day while Gardner-Webb found the going tougher, ending the day 0-2. For the Wildcats, senior 197LB Connor Fenn went undefeated on the day, helping to salt away the 24-18 win over LIU. Fenn was Davidsons lone winner in the loss to the host Patriots. VMI also fell to George Mason as the Patriots proved to be a bit much for the Keydets. Sr. starters 174LB Neal Richards and 197LB Chris Beck had two of the ‘Roos 4 wins in the 27-16 defeat. They were VMIs only double winners on the day as each recorded major decision wins in the 29-12 triumph over LIU. Gardner-Webb, well, you got some ‘splainin to do after their 0-2 showing Friday included a 24-18 loss to first year D1 team LIU. The Runnin Bulldogs shook off the bad Friday showing and picked up a couple of podium placements at the Patriot OPEN on Saturday. Same location, different day, different format, mostly different teams. C’mon, we went over this last week. Anyway, 165LB RJ Mosley and 197LB Roderick Davis headed back to Boiling Springs, NC with a 4th place finish each. Of these 3 SoCon teams, G-W is next in action with a dual against Franklin and Marshall on the 18th. VMI is in Morgantown on the 22nd for that quad meet mentioned in the Hofstra paragraph earlier. Davidson will join them both in Chattanooga the 1st of the year for the Southern Scuffle. Presbyterians womens team split a pair of duals over the weekend. The Blue Hose wacked Limestone 38-11 and dropped a 26-21 nailbiter to Life University. Presbyterian has no currently rostered 191LB wrestler, and giving up 6 before you start is tough on almost any established D1 team. Kudos for both showings, especially to double Blue Hose winners 109LB Cassandra Lopez, 116LB Jaslynn Gallegos, 143LB Morgan Norris and 155LB home girl Adelyhda Perez. SHOUT OUT, AP, Uvalde Coyotes 3X State Champ. Appalachian State, Campbell, and UTC were all in prep mode. The Mountaineers have a date with NC State Friday. UTC heads to Ames, Iowa to tangle with the Cyclones on Saturday, and Campbells headed to Renos Tournament of Champions 3rd weekend of the month.
ITS A WONDERFUL WORLD
When you find something you enjoy, you should do it. No matter what time, or circumstances, or place in your life that you find yourself in, if you find something that’s special to you, nurture it. This column is one of those things to this author, and for it to have been recognized adds unexpected sweetness to a full cup. Thank you, Jason Bryant, for noticing.
See you next week!
a. The greatest performer of, and the lyricist for, the greatest Christmas song of all, “The Christmas Song.” “I saw 3 Ships” by Sting is greatly undervalued, BTW.
b. And some bitchin Black singlets. But no pin chain.
c. Steely-eyed statistical observation from Cody Goodwin of the Des Moines Register, Takedown Radio and TV, etc. The reigning heavyweight wrestling writing champ misses nothing. Especially not his AM 5K family fun runs. BLEH. Hate you, your fitness, and your precious grammatically impeccable sentence structure, Goodwin.
d. Not G.S, not the Prophet, but rather that haunter of the Dark, the winged terror from beyond the stars in H.P. Lovecraft’s and August Derleths horror stories, H _ _ _ _ R the Unspeakable.
e. Love a wrestler who knows how to properly celebrate a victory.
f. By many, but not all.