Season 5 Column 34: What went down in ScuffleTown

Two days of dynamic competition saw BIG 12 teams take the top two spots, 5 in the Top 10, at the Southern Scuffle.

The Missouri Tigers Veni, Vidi and Vici’d their way to a Southern Scuffle title, putting 5 wrestlers in the finals. a 20 plus point first day lead was a nice start for Brian Smith’s crew. Then, 141lb Alan Hart, 149lb Josh Edmond, 165lb Keegan O’Toole, 174lb Peyton Mocco, and 197lb Rocky Elam blew up the team race. Every Tiger semi finalist advanced to the championship round with O’Toole and Mocco getting back to back pins. After that points avalanche it was, as Rick Bragg once wrote, all over but the shoutin (1). To put some impressive cherries on top of that Scuffle shake, 4 more Mizzou men raced up the backside of the brackets to earn 4 more podium spots. Yowzers. 125lb Noah Surtin, upset in the semis, took 4th. 133lb Trey Crawford finished 5th. Both Mizzou men at 157lb burned bright as starter Jarrett Jacques finished 3rd and 3XAA Brock Mauller, currently redshirting, took 5th. Finally, 184lb Jeremiah Kent, also the victim of a semi suprise (maybe) pushed through to finish fourth. If you’re counting, that’s a Tiger scoring points in every weight class and LOTS in all but one of them. Formula for success, #TigerStyle.

The Bison of North Dakota State, as noted in Part 2 of the Scuffle preview, were coming in hot to Chattanooga. Boy, did they ever stay that way. While only 1 of the Bisons 3 semifinalists advanced to the championship round, Head Coach Roger Kish and crew just swung the herd around to the tournaments backside. There NDSU scored in every weight class except at 125 and 141. Since stud 141lb Dylan Drogemueller did not wrestle that can be overlooked. Leader of the Herds efforts this weekend, 157lb Jared Franek, 2X National qualifier and now Southern Scuffle champ. The “Franimal” turned them every which way but loose, winning by 1 and 2 points, working a 6-0 shutout, and slamming home a 26 second pin to start his championship run. He capped it with a 6-3 victory over #4 seed Chase Saldate of Michigan State. Heroes for the Herd were everywhere. Biggest Bison Brandon Metz secured 2nd place for NDSU in day ones last match, and while nobody was catching Missouri, the Bison took that runner up spot and ran away with it. Metz muscled his way to 3rd. 149lb Gaven Sax and 174lb Austin Brenner took 4th. Defending BIG 12 165lb champ Luke Weber suprisingly suffered two losses but fought back for 5th, and 184lb D.J. Parker ended his run in 8th place. NDSU has now finished 5th and 2nd at their last two Scuffles. While conference rival Missouri tuned them up in a dual meet earlier this season keep a sharp eye on this herd of Bison. Their 4 BIG 12 duals in 10 days stretch starts the 14th in Orem against Utah Valley. From there it’s Wyoming, Northern Iowa and Iowa State. ALL on the road. YO, Bison, GO.

Like that classic Jimmy Cagney Cold War comedy, it was simple as 1,2,3 for Michigan State. They took individual Gold, Silver and Bronzes, in addition to a 5th place, as the Spartans finished 3rd in only their 2nd trip to Chattanooga and 1st in quite some time. Michigan State may also have been the only team with 4 or more wrestlers who performed above their pre-seeds. The only Spartan exception, 133lb Rayvon Foley. You can’t do better than first and Foley did that thing, shutting out Minnesotas Aaron Nagao. Foley was saddled with an extra pigtail round match and needed six Ws, not five, for a title. No esta problema. Score those wins a major decision, tech fall, tech fall, then 9-3 and 10-5 wins before his shutout Finals victory. Foley, a 2020 U.S. Senior Freestyle All American and 2019 collegiate AA at 125 for the Spartans, was one of eight MSU wrestlers in the race to place on day two. 157lb Chase Saldates 2nd place finish will fit in next to his Michigan State Open crown. ALWAYS sweet to get a title in front of the home crowd. 197lb Cameron Caffey was pre-seeded fourth but decided 3rd suited him better, getting the best of a resurgent SDSU Jackrabbit Tanner Sloan. 184lb Lane Malcziewski pinned and majored his way into the quarters where he dropped an epic O/T match. Resetting on the backside he picked up two more wins before an injury default loss to Virginia Tech AA Hunter Bolen, finally getting a forfeit win for 5th.

Minnesota only brought 8 wrestlers, with Gable Steveson and Brayton Lee not present. Most squads would most likely fair poorly minus an Olympic champ with 3 AA awards and a 2X AA with a win earlier this season over the eventual Scuffle champ. Minnesota, not so much. The eight Gophers who showed up were in 8th place after day one. Then they reeled in App State, West Virginia, South Dakota State and Cornell to finish fourth, a half point ahead of the Big Red. Patrick McKee, like 2017 Gopher Scuffle champ Ethan “backpack” Lizak, owned the 125lb class. A hellacious showdown between McKee and West Virginia AA Killian Cardinale, undefeated this yr, sadly did not occur when Cardinale forfeited out of the finals. Gopher 133lb Aaron Nagao had an impressive run highlighted by a big semifinal upset victory over #2 seed and 2x SoCon champ Codi Russell of App State. Nagao also knocked off 3rd seed Kellyn March of NDSU and stuck ostensible Missouri 133lb starter Trey Crawford in 56 seconds. Not too bad for a redshirt freshman backup who’s down a weight class from his rostered listing. Another up and coming Minnesota star is 165lb Cael Carlson. The heritage Gopher (2) is now four for four for tournaments this year. He took third at the Scuffle in a loaded weight class. He was 3rd at the Bison Open, 5th at the Daktronics, and 2nd at the UNI open earlier this season. Carlson’s 11-4 quarterfinal loss to eventual Scuffle champ, #3 in the nation undefeated Keegan O’toole of Missouri, had a lopsided score but was contested ferociously. Folks, those boys GOOOOD. You knew that about O’Toole. The author and you are getting up to speed on Cael C. Also good, 174lb Bailee O’Reilly storming up the tournaments backside with four straight wins to take 3rd. 184lb Isaiah Salazar and 197lb Garrett Joles finished 6th and 8th respectively. So far this season only mighty Oklahoma State has crimped Minnesota’s style and when this group/herd/pack/drove of Gophers puts their 40, uh, 20 best feet forward, look out.

Cornell took the “we want to find out about these guys” approach to the Scuffle. Like Minnesota, NC State and Oklahoma State the Big Red left the biggest of their big guns at the home armory. Didn’t stop them from snagging a Top 5 finish albeit without any champs and only two finalists. Cornell’s 184lb Jonathan Loew and 285lb Lewis Fernandes both made the finals and 6 Big Red wrestlers climbed the Chattanooga podium. Like Minnesota, Cornell had 8 wrestlers looking to advance on day two, holding 5th as a team and eventually finishing there. Kudos out to 141lb Josh Saunders for winning 3 straight on the backside after a 1st round loss, eventually taking 8th. 174lb Andrew Berreyesa did that one step better, also losing in round 1 but rebounding for a 7th place finish. 157lb Hunter Richard surely emerges from his 4th place finish as the primary challenger to starter Colton Yapoujian to the dismay of all “All Name Team” compilers everywhere. At 125 Greg Diakomihalis had a fine for any freshman not named Diakomihalis 7th place finish. The view from the early preseason to now on Cornell, from this viewpoint, has NOT changed. This team in full is fully capable of challenging for a Top 8 finish. Where in there is a matter for health, the brackets and several great/crap/lightning/ molasses speed calls to decide.

Rounding out the Top 10 were South Dakota State (1 champ, their first, 174lb Cade Devos, 3 placers) West Virginia (0 champs, 2 finalists, 4 placers) Appalachian State (0 champs, 4 placers) Duke (1 champ, 149lb Josh Finesilver, 2 placers) and Northern Colorado (0 champs, 3 placers). GREAT job by 197lb Alan Clothier, the Kansas native who is now a four time Scuffle placewinner! He was an App St. Mountaineer, for years now he’s been a Northern Colorado Bear. Man KNOWS how to climb things.

Scuffle All Missing in Action Team

This was a BIG get together folks, with pre tourney action showing some weight classes with more than 50 entries. It’s not suprising a few wrestlers didn’t hit the mats. Still, these fine athletes were surely missed.

133-Chance Rich of Cal St Bakersfield has battled a “lower body injury” all season, missing a hyped 1st match dual showdown with Michigan buzzsaw Dylan Ragusin. Chirping ensued. Rich also stepped away from the CKLV after an opening round win and wasn’t available to defend his #2 seed here. At this point every wrestling fan just wants him to be healthy. If that takes till a “Last Chance” event, ok. The post-season will be richer with him. (3)

141-NDSUs Dylan Drogemueller was 8-2 and had a great shot at placing even in a loaded 141lb field, but he was taken off the seed chart prior to the brackets being released. Why, not sure. His presence would have had no effect on the final team standings, but you have to hope DoubleD (4) will be good to go again soon.

149-A big M.I.A. here was AA Jonathan Millner of App State, the #2 pre seed. It was known prior to seed release that #1 Jaden Abas wasn’t coming, but Millners absence prevented several potential high level inter-conference showdowns. Millner, the SoCons only 2021 All American, and Campbells Josh Heil can help themselves ONLY by sweeping their dual meet and conference matches against each other. Split two high quality contests, a quite likely occurrence, and they will BOTH drop in the rankings. Sadly, you can book that.

174-Appalachian States Thomas Flitz and Drexels Mickey O’Malley, both seeded, didn’t break a Scuffle sweat. A source outside the App. St. program said Flitz was a medical issue scratch, depriving the SoCon title contender a great chance to improve his national standing. O’Malley, ranked #15 nationally at 10-2, was seeded 3rd.

197-Michail Foy of Minnesota, pre-seeded 5th, is a transfer who had already placed at two events and would have added serious pizzaz to a loaded group. In addition, though it was known they would be absent, fans were sad to not see NCAA qualifier Logan Andrew of UTC or App States Mason Fiscella competing. Fiscella suffered an apparently gruesome “event” in the dual with Bellarmine, with source information indicating a season-ending torn meniscus injury. Personal knowledge: they can really hurt! The Mocs Andrew has not seen action yet this year. Injury is strongly suspected but uncomfirmed.

The Scuffle through the SoCon Lens

What is there to say except thank you? When you are, rightly or wrongly, perceived as the 7th out of seven Division One wrestling conferences you look for any and all ways to adjust that perception. The Southern Scuffle presented by Compound Sportswear with multi media presentation by FloWrestling has been THE significant regular season marker for the SoCon. It starts at the conference office where Athletic Director Dr. Jim Schaus is a cross media proponent of the sport. It comes from the athletic departments of all nine SoCon schools who have taken varied steps to advance awareness, appreciation, and financial viability for the sport. More than one or two, we will say with certainty, well in advance of the efforts given by more than 1 or 2 dozen so called “major” athletic departments/communities. It comes from the coaches, the staffs, and the athletes who perceive a deep and inherently honorable opportunity to pursue academic and athletic excellence at these nine institutions. The alumni are enthused, the fan base expectant, the observers and commentators, writers and broadcasters grateful for how this conference presents itself through this sport AND this event.

That’s the briefest of recaps on the Southern Scuffle, folks. Hope you enjoyed the three part preview and this summary. See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) The Pulitzer Prize winning author, who helped usher in the “Age of the Memoir” in modern American writing, uses this phrase for the title of his life story.

(2) Carlsons father Chad and Uncle Carl wore the Gophers singlet back in the day, cousins Colton and All American Clay rep the SDSU Jackrabbits currently. HAVE to add the following small note: Cael lettered 11 times between wrestling, track and cross country while making the honor roll EVERY.SINGLE.QUARTER. at Willmar (MN) High. Go Cardinals!

(3) If the Scribe didn’t write it, you probably would have, right?

(4) Drogemuellers rich family wrestling heritage and lots of good Bison stuff can be found in this seasons column 16.