Season 5 Column 32: Shuffle Down to ScuffleTown, Part 2

More and more schools are releasing participant lists and with both unexpected competitors and suprising no-shows it looks like the team title and almost all the weight class crowns are total toss ups on Scuffle Eve.

Theres possibly no team coming in to the Scuffle hotter than the crew from the coldest clime in D1 wrestling, the NDSU Bison out of Fargo, North Dakota. They’re 5-1 in duals and have earned 11 titles across four tournaments so far, with four 2nd place finishes and two thirds at their own Bison Open, the 50th BTW. The irrepressible Associate Head Coach for the Bison, Obe Blanc, notes the Bison are feeling it right about now. “We are excited to compete at the Scuffle to better position our athletes for high-level performances at the end of the year. Looking forward to a very accomplished field as we will see many of these athletes at the NCAA Tournament. Six [of our wrestlers] are ranked between the various polls.” One notable exception in NDSUs approach as compared to some squads; all six of the Bisons big guns will be in Chattanooga. Look for 133lb Kellyn March, 141lb Dylan Droegemuller, 157lb Jared Franek, defending 165lb Big 12 Champ Luke Weber, 197lb Owen Pentz, and burly Bison 285lb Brandon Metz to wreak the kind of havoc only a herd of BIZZZZON (1) in a closed in space can cause. Probably best to stay in your seats.

Cal St. Bakersfield has a real been there, done that, don’t mind if we do it again attitude about the Scuffle. They show up, they show out, and they leave with smiles and shiny stuff while leaving frowns on the faces of those with the “who WAS that team anyway?” attitude. Now firmly ensconced as the Head RoadRunner Coach Luke Smith has been shepherding his squad through a near 2 year run of challenges damn near equal to Californias weather situation or its tax code. Maybe not the tax code. Still, Smith and squad have persevered this season, competing at six tournaments including the CKLV, the Reno TOC and now the Scuffle. What are the whys and hows of that, Coach Smith? “I learned last year you need to get in matches when you can because you never know what’s going to happen. [This season] we originally were supposed to wrestle Little Rock the weekend of Reno. The dual got canceled the day we were heading there. We tried to reach every D1 school within a seven hour driving radius of Little Rock to no avail. Then we called Reno to see if we could still get in and are very grateful they allowed us to. I was very happy with how the team responded to being thrown that big curve ball.” Smith sees steady progress this year, always a sweet sight in a coaches eyes. “We have been wrestling better every event [and I’m] excited to see how we compete at the Scuffle.” You’ll be excited by this columns All Overlooked and Underrated 141lb RoadRunner, Angelo Martinoni. Truth be told, a 141lb RoadRunner of the feathered variety WOULD be exciting…and scary (2). Look for 11 total RoadRunners in action this weekend, 125lb Eddie Flores, 133lb Aaron Ibarra, Martinoni and Luis Ramos at 141, 149lb Josh Brown, 165lb Auggie Garcia, 174lb Albert Urias and 184lb Josh Loomer along with freshman 285lb Blake Andrews. Martinoni, Urias and Loomer, a 2020 PAC 12 champ, wrestled at the most recent Scuffle in 2020 where Martinoni took 6th. Two RoadRunners, 157lb Jonathan Viveros and 165lb Braden Smelser, will compete unattached.

The Bellarmine Knights are:

A squad in year two of D1 competition. Light on numbers and low on experience. Sending a squad to Chattanooga because, well, they can, and they intend to show they belong. Just ask Head Coach Ned Shuck. “The significance of us attending the Southern Scuffle is this. It is one of if not the toughest regular season available and it will be a great challenge for our guys. We’ve been challenged plenty in our duals this year but I want our guys to experience a [win and advance] tournament. It prepares us for our future in qualifying for and competing at the NCAA tournament. It will definitely be motivating for all to see the high level wrestling on a big production stage. We are excited for the challenge.” It will be a challenge for any currently rostered Knight to get more than 3 matches over the 2 day event but there’s always a first time.

Stanford is finally settling their roster and the Cardinal will be flying high come 2nd semester. Rob Kolls crew has been in Chattanooga since Tuesday, prepping and soaking in the Scenic City sites. 10 Stanford wrestlers will compete including 2020 All American 141lb Real Woods, cleared after forfeiting out of the Reno TOC on December 19th. Watch also for 133lb Jackson Disario, “down from 125, consistently outstanding, a two handed tick on top and stingy on his feet” according to Coach Koll in his latest newsletter. To get the true flavor of the multi-decade superstar Coach, just appreciate this quote from Koll about the 184 class. “We haven’t had any one wrestler healthy for more than one week at this weight class. I can say with great certainty that I am certain I don’t know who will be representing the Cardinal on any given day.” There’s more but you get it. Several Cardinal stars will be forced to sit out the Scuffle. Defending 165lb National Champ Shane Griffith is a no-go as is AA 149lb Jaden Abas. The Cardinal will look to Disario, 125lb Logan Ashton, 157lb Charlie Darracot, 174lb Tyler Eischens, 197lb Nick Stemmet, and 285lb Seamus O’Malley and Peter Ming to make progress towards national competitiveness.

Buffalo brings 15 wrestlers (no 184 or 285) to the Scuffle. The Bulls always schedule tough and stand at 5-5 but that’s deceiving. Three of their losses are to Michigan, Wisconsin and Clarion. There’s only 1 loss between those three teams, folks. The Bulls have a settled lineup, also, with 5 weight classes being held down by the same 5 wrestlers through all 10 duals. Four of them will be in Chattanooga. Two other weight classes have seen only 1 change. Consistency like that usually pays off and the Bulls will look to leverage it at the Scuffle. 165lb Noah Grover, 149lb John Arcieri and 141lb Ben Freeman, a Michigan transfer, lead the team with 30 wins between them.

Cornell passed on any team title chance when 2X National Champ Yianni Diakomihalis, Top 5 ranked Vito Arujau and Chris Foca, and award contenders Julian Ramirez and Jacob Cardenas were left off the Scuffle list. However, Cornell stars 157lb Hunter Richard and 285lb Brendan Furman get their first go of the season in Chattanooga. Half of Cornells starters will be in action, and the Big Red will land a high finish team wise but it’s difficult to see an individual Scuffle champ in their group.

NC State decided to go big and keep the small guys home as the Wolf Pack only entered wrestlers from 157lbs up. Multi year starters 165lb Thomas Bullard and 285lb Deionte Wilson could be tested by teammates as promising freshmen Donald Cates and Jake Null are entered alongside Bullard, although Null is rostered at 174. Both Owen Trephan and Tyrie Houghton will threaten Wilson, the scales and the podium as a veritable Cerberus of hvwts. hits the mats for Pat Popolizios WolfPack. While All Americans the Hidlay brothers, Hayden and Trent, along with podium threat Isaac Trumble remain in Raleigh along with all their lower weight starters, the Wolfpack could still find a Top 10 finish.

It takes a lot to feed a Tiger and Missouri must have been licking their collective chops when they saw the Scuffle field chock full of potential prey. Head Coach Brian Smith and his #TigerStyle crew, after dismantling a top flite Lehigh team to finish 3rd at the Collegiate Duals, are bringing a true ambush (3) of Tigers to Chattanooga. Nine out of Mizzous starters, 16 Tigers overall, will be ready and roaring Saturday morning. Bona fide National champion contender 165lb Keegan O’toole, Junior World Champ 197lb Rocky Elam, hot as a pepper sprout 125lb Noah Surtin, the BIG 12 wrestler of the week, on and on it goes. 184lb podium threat Jeremiah Kent will be ready. Even 3x AA Brock Mauller will compete, albeit unattached at 157. If you’re marking Missouri as a Scuffle title contender ink would be a viable choice.

South Dakota State is another team full of tournament experience, 6 so far with 12 finalists and 9 champs. All American 141lb Clay Carlson is undefeated and a threat to make the Scuffle and the National finals. His CKLV title was the first ever for an SDSU wrestler. As a team the Jacks are 4-1 in duals and are 2 deep in quality competitors at multiple weights. An interesting story is playing out at 197 where Nic Casperson, the Fresno State transfer up from 184, is keeping the starting spot warm and keeping it away from 3rd year star Tanner Sloan. Sloan had shoulder surgery and hasn’t yet seemed fully himself yet, and Casperson just keeps getting better. 165lb Tanner Cook pins to win with eight out of nine victories this year by fall. Note also two Jacks who went full feed this off season as 133lb Zach Price is now 149lb Zach Price, while Cade Devos went from 157 to 174 and is rocking it at 12-2. There’ll be a Jack for every weight class in Chattanooga and possibly more than one.

So, that’s a quick 2 part 2 day say hey to that fine wrestling institution, the Southern Scuffle. If late news arrives from host team UTC, the Citadel, Virginia Tech, or Drexel, it will be published for Saturday, as well as a thumbnail or two on any teams left out. In addition to all the coaches who volunteered their thoughts on the event and their respective teams, many thanks must go out to:

Bret Strelow, Appalachian State

Hailey Varga, Rider

Josh Manganello, Presbyterian

Daniel Sperl, Cal St. Bakersfield

Jason Hove, South Dakota State

Jonathan Fuller, Buffalo

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) The Zs are silent. Kidding.

(2) Scary like Yippee OH Ki YAY Mr. Falcon level scary. And you’d NEED a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.

(3) Tigers in a group can be an ambush (larger) or a streak (smaller). Animal group names along with movie references and historical side notes are regular features provided here free of charge.