3rd Season, Column 23; Iowants it ALL; SoCon News; and Random ramblings from Coast to Coast

Darth Vader has returned from the dead, folks and he’s rocking the Black and Gold. The Iowa Hawkeyes have awakened from a decade long slumber and are taking dead aim and no prisoners this season at what could become their 24th National Championship. The 2019-2020 Hawkeyes may yet stumble on their way to the top of the team podium in Minneapolis in March, but missteps by this squad are unlikely. Every single starter is ranked in the Top 10. They shut out not 1, not 2, but 3 teams this year and nearly broke the 200 point barrier in winning the Midlands tournament mid-season. And then there was that small matter of the match against Penn State the last day of January. Tom and Terry Brands team made it a night to remember for their extended family as the #1 Hawkeyes upended the 4x defending National champion Nittany Lions 19-17 in front of a crowd of nearly 15,000. Heroes and heartbreak were front and center for the home standing Hawkeyes as Iowa won 6 matches to Penn States 4 while losing 133LB chainsaw Austin Desanto. The #2 ranked Hawkeye went down twice in the 1st period and injury defaulted to Roman Bravo-Young, whom Desanto was unbeaten against in college competition. Analysis in every media format is everywhere about this match, from here the opinion is the match was much ado about….not that much. AMAZING wrestling that changed nothing. Iowa is still #1, Penn State is still #2, and they’re way in front of everyone else this year. If they wrestled 10X it would be a 5-5 or 6-4 split. Hmmm, just like this match. So, fans, just love it for the love of it. And hope that we all get 2 more IA-PSU individual matchups in as many weight classes as possible. Any competition between guys from these teams in any round of the BIG 10 or NCAA Tournament will be (a) the cats meow (b) gee whillikers (c) cool, man (d) bomb-diggity (e) crunk (f) da shizzl. Select one or all. Iowa, or rather a small group of very serious alumni/fans, have decided all those descriptives and more should apply to the Hawkeyes wrestling digs. So some 5 out of a projected 17-20 MILLION dollars have already been raised to raise up a stand alone wrestling facility for the Hawks. Folks, talking about 35,000 square feet of “moving forward” for the Coaches Brands, staff and those repping the black and gold. Full details to be found in Chad Leistikows excellent audio/visual/print piece. Master Chad’s byline can be found both at the Iowa City Press Citizen and Hawk Central, always worth catching. Thank you, Chad.

SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON…..

APPALACHIAN STATE-MOUNTAINEERS MAKING 2020 ANOTHER “KNOW PEAKS, NO VALLEYS” SEASON

In the beautiful little mountain town of Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State is having yet another fine campaign. 4x4rs are probably as popular in Boone as they are in Texas, and the ‘Eers have either won the SoCon regular season title outright or shared it the last 4 years. They’ve also sent multiple wrestlers to the NCAAs 4 years running. BHH Head Coach JohnMark Bentley earned his 100th dual meet win this season. Hes won Conference Coach of the Year 4 times during his 10 year run. This Mountaineers team, a balanced squad with 4 seniors and 5 juniors, may be his best yet. It’s a safe bet multiple Mountaineers will be heading to Minneapolis. Their biggest barrier, though, wont be current conference kingpin Campbell or fellow SoCon force UTC. It’s going to be the lingering suspicion that the SoCon, as the only D1 conference with no consistent national power team/recognition, just doesn’t do enough to earn multiple at large bids. Sure, all 10 wt. class champs will be NCAA bound, that’s guaranteed. At this time and from this vantage point, the SoCon deserves an extra spot(s) at 125, 133, 149, 165, 174, 184, and 197. A weight class or 2 just might warrant 3 allocations. Don’t hold your breath on that one, though. Back to App State, because, well, here are some more Mountaineers notes you should know…their Senior leaders, 157LB Matt Zovitovksi and 285LB Cary Miller, are shooting for 100 win careers. Zovitovski (Homestates Homeboy SHOUT OUT, Paramus NJ, St. Joseph Regional), the 157LB rep in this columns All Overlooked and Underrated team, is looking to earn his 3rd NCAA trip. Miller and 133LB Codi Rusell (younger sibling of former Edinboro/Minnesota star Sean) are aiming at their 2nd trips. 141LB Bradley Irwin, the Mountaineers 3rd senior starter, is making the most of his last go round, stepping up for departed 3 starter Irvin Enriquez. As a team App. St. showed up and showed out at all 7, count ’em, 7 Tournaments/Opens/Invitationals they hit. 8 in the Top 3 at the WolfPack Open. 3rd in team points at the Keystone Classic. 3 semi-finalists and 6 podium spots (double last years haul) at the Southern Scuffle. After dropping a down to the last match dual meet to Top 10 ranked North Carolina and holding down unbeaten NC State in a close 12 point loss, the Mountaineers have run off 6 straight wins. Part 1 of the SoCon Showdown, regular season style, on the road against UTC, went the Mountaineers way big time to the tune of 27-12. It was App States 5th straight win over their bitter and highly respected rival and their biggest margin of victory over Chattanooga in nearly 2 decades. There were multiple rematches from late Januarys Appalachian Open action and all went the Mountaineers way. So what to make of these ‘Eers down the home stretch of the 2020 season? The roster is well structured, 31 strong, and young, with 16 freshmen or rs freshmen. Half the roster are North Carolinians but BHH HC Bentley and staff have mined wrestling gold from New Jersey to Alaska in building their squad. Half the team was ranked in the 1st Coaches poll that dropped the end of January, and 174LB Thomas Flitz will enter the next one if he continues his current pace. He’s 13-2 since the calendar turned over and his 25 wins are tied for 2nd best on a team with 7 starters at 20 or more victories. There’s remarkable retention with Coach Bentley and crews company to laud also, as only 2 wrestlers are missing from the starting roster through Februarys version. 3 duals left including a de facto regular season title decider vs. Campbell on the Camels home sand up on Buies Creek(1). Then a home season ending match with VMI(1), and the Mountaineers will host the SoCon Tournament for the 2nd straight year. Can Yousef and crew take the tournament title for the 3rd time in 5 years? Oh yes they can. Will they? Well, there’s somebody named Gaylord(2) who might put a Dromedarian sized dent in those plans…

CAMPBELL-CAMELS PUTTING THEIR NOSE UNDER THE POWER 5 TENT

The defending SoCon Tournament champs have been laying waste to their conference foes this season, outscoring 3 SoCon rivals 140-8. Campbells 2 losses, to top 15 ranked Pitt and Top 5 ranked Arizona State (the latter by just 4 points) are well in the rear view mirror. The Camels will be favored the rest of the regular season against UTC, App State, VMI and Davidson. They’ve looked especially sharp in tournaments as well. Campbell had 3 placewinners at the Midlands and took two team 2nd place trophies, one from the Navy Classic and one from the Reno Tournament of Champions. The Camels have had lineup changes dictated by injury, international needs, and just plain competition/attrition. No es problema. 197LB Austin McNeil, a redshirt senior starter to begin the season, is out. In steps Chris Kober, last year’s 184LB SoCon champ. Multi year Hvt. starter Jere Heino stepped out of Campbells lineup and into his Finnish National Team singlet again this year. Heinos been 1st or 2nd in the conference every season since his sophomore campaign. Expect more of the same, with a strong chance at a podium spot come March in Minneapolis. 149LB Mason Smith, a transfer from Arizona State who began his career at Central Michigan, last saw the mat at the Midlands. He went 2-2 there and isn’t currently listed on the roster. Pull that redshirt off, young Jason Kraisser, brother of junior Austin, sibling of Camels All American Nathan, yet another scion of the Kraisser wrestling clan. No beat missed. Campbell has been searching for separation from their SoCon brethren and they’ve stopped sending starters to the Scuffle. They have upgraded their dual schedule as well. Returns are positive, with 2 top 14 finishes and 6 Midlands placers the last 2 years and a 14-3 duals mark from Nov. 2018 till now. “Almost BHH(3)” Head Coach Cary Kolat is one of the young Turks of coaching. Hes uber credentialed, a media savvy podcast star, and a relentless leader by example. 6 Camels went to the Nationals last year and as many as 8 could make that mark this season. Campbells excellent efforts outside of conference competition do nothing but help the SoCons bid for, well, more bids beyond those guaranteed to the 10 wt. class champs. As to roster size and makeup, the Camels follow the “more is more” mantra. Bring em in by the truck load, shake em up and see what develops. 50 grapplers hit the start of the season in the Orange and Black, and they’re a lean, mean 38 at last count, 28 of those Freshmen and Sophomores. Each of their last 2 recruiting classes eclipsed, in number, the current 5 year roster at a current conference rival. Strength in numbers indeed, with more states than not plus 2 countries represented on this years Camels opening roster. 6 Campbell wrestlers made the first set of coaches rankings, 3 in the Top 10. 4 duals in 2 weeks left to contest for Kolat and Co. Its advantage Camels as Campbell hosts both UTC, the only team to beat them last year, and App State before finishing with VMI and Davidson on the road. Campbell finished last year as SoCon Tournament champs with 8 on the conference podium and as noted, 6, count em, 6 Camels at the Nationals. They are odds on favorites to repeat that first listed triumph and increase at least one of the other 2. Camel All Americans? It can happen, and it just might happen more than once this time around.

RANDOM RAMBLINGS……

Wonderful to see Army West Point honor their late teammate C.J. Morgan by moving their dual against Lehigh to Morgans high school gym in West Orange, NJ. It was Senior Night for the Black Knights and would have been Morgans last home match. Morgan died in a tragic, and disturbing, off season vehicle accident (3rd Season, Column 6) with still many more questions than answers, at least to the general public. Unquestioned was his support, respect and love for his teammates, and they for him. GO ARMY. None better to guard our gates, all of them.

What happens when you lose 20% of your starting lineup, 33% of your National qualifiers, and 39% of your wins from last season? When you were expecting more this season? You get Utah Valleys season. OUCH. Gone, UVUs 1st Big 12 champ, 165LB Demetrius Romero, 28-5 and a Round of 12 wrestler at last years NCAAs. Gone, 149LB Matt Findlay, 17-4, a fellow R12 participant last season. Factor in the missed time by 2018 R12 qualifier and Olympic Greco Roman hopeful Taylor Lamont, and youve got a Green and Gold mess out Orem, Utah, way. To the tune of a 1-9 record, and that is no hit single, folks. There are 4 duals left for the Wolverines to sharpen their claws before the Big 12 Tournament, but from here only the tilt with Northern Colorado looks winnable. Romero, Findlay and Lamont will all attempt a comeback for their senior or 6th year season in 2020-2021. They, along with current Top 10 ranked Hvt, sophomore Tate Orndorff, will give #GangGreen and their great fan base (1100 plus for a dual meet in the midst of a dismal season in mid-winter?) something to look forward to.

Talk about burning the ships..it was an AMAZING All Academy Championships the last weekend of last month. For the first time ever The Air Force Academy had all(4) its military academy brethren over for a days worth of bonding. If you can call it that. In what will probably go down as the tournament tickdown of the 2020 season the Naval Academy took the All Academy title…by 1 point over the host Air Force Falcons, 117.5 to 116.5. YO, Yeoman. Navy, who ended up with 5 champs, trailed AFA, with 3 titlists already, by 6.5 points heading into the last two finals. Stud Navy Freshman Jacob Kocer did the thing, that thing being a 16-0 tech fall win over VMIs tough Zach Brown, at 197. And THAT set up a winner take all big man battle between seasoned, nationally ranked AFA 285LB Kayne Hutchison and freshman Navy big boy John Birchmeier. Score it 10-4 for the Navy young’un as The Midshipmen had 2 freshman All Academy champs for the first time ever. Do NOT overlook Navys 13 bonus point wins out of 25 victories. OR their 4-0 record in championship bouts versus Air Force opponents. Kocer, Navys 197LB star in the making, went extra points earning mode in all 3 of his wins and was named MOW, most outstanding wrestler. That that award did not go to 174LB champion Neal Richards of VMI is, really, much more about Richards extended senior season blahs than anything else. The Scribe and everybody else who knows anything about college wrestling would have put cashseriousmoney down on Richards rolling through most every event this year rarely beaten and less challenged. Hasn’t happened that way, and its a mark of the uber high regard Richards is held in that his 30-6 season so far seems vaguely disappointing. Richards 4-3 win over Navys Spencer Carey was his 2nd straight title triumph over the Midshipman, as they met in last years finals. the Keydets continue to grow the Jim Gibson way, as the 2nd year coach helped move them from 5th to third in the team totals with 6 medal winners. Coast Guard had a great showing, just a half point back of VMI and well in front of the Citadel. Merchant Marine and Norwich finished 6th and 7th, respectively, as our Nations finest honed their physical skills. Yes, in this modern, techno deadly world, threats can come from anywhere, at anytime, by any means both known and unknown. War is the state of humanity. Always has been, always will be. These young men will help us win them. By any means necessary, including hand to hand.

See you next week!

Ted Carreras

(1) outstanding individual matchups across the board in the App St/Campbell clash, highlighted by the hvts, App States Cary Miller and Campbells Jere Heino, #straightouttaHelsinki,Finland. The Mountaineers 174LB Thomas Flitz will find his hands and his face full when he faces VMIS defending conference and 2X All Academy titlist “Nasty” Neal Richards.

(2) Internet sources credit the name of Campbells Camel mascot as honoring famous alum Gaylord Perry. That this homage owes somewhat to lubrication generally associated with both is probably just hearsay.

3. As you know by now, BHH stands for Bald Headed Hero, a near necessity in coaching cache these days. There IS hair on Coach Ks head. But NOT much.

4. Oh Army West Point, where art though? I see, doing the “we see em enough already thing” that Campbells doing to the Southern Scuffle. The Camels scheduling will help the whole SoCon in the long run. So theres that. Armys helping the Academies? Hmm.

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