If ever a championship ran true to form it was this past weekends NCAA Championships as contenders, pretenders and would be usurpers, with a few noticeable exceptions, fell before the onslaught of Penn State and their brawny BIG 10 brethren.
Penn States 9th title in 11 years was a classic Nittany Lion showing as Coach Cael Sandersons crew went a perfect 5 for 5 in title matches, easily outdistancing sentimental favorite and host Michigan and defending champion Iowa. The final team scores from the Top 10 had the BIG 10 holding five of the spots. Congrats all round to the Lions, Wolverines, Hawkeyes, the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Northwestern Wildcats. More on all of them and the BIG 10 at every other website blog, podcast, media snippet and fanboy/girl post in existence. Let’s check in on the teams that made unexpected stories come true, good and bad.
The Arizona State Sun Devils get short shrift compared to other national powers and, make no doubt, that is EXACTLY what they are. Zeke Jones and company have now engineered consecutive Top 4 finishes, earning 11 All American honors the past two seasons. 5 of them were repeaters from 2021, and all five are back for next year as well. Brandon Courtney, Michael McGee, Kyle Parco, Jacori Teemer and Cohlton Schultz could easily be expected to repitame, por favor for next season. There’s a super crew of young stars ready for their own shot at Sun Devil stardom as well, starting with Cael Valencia, the latest of the heralded Valencia family to don the Maroon and Gold. Then there’s Richie Figueroa, a consensus top pound for pound recruit nationally. One interesting upper weight point: the status of 4X PAC 12 197lb champ Kordell Norfleet. “Kordell is 50/50 whether he’ll be back next year with a medical [redshirt]” (1) was the word from Coach Jones immediately after the Championships concluded. Norfleet was one match away from placing last year but had a sub par Championships this time around and may want a little redemption. It’s a salty bunch of Sun Devils lining up for next year, no doubt. They only lose 1 super senior and, while we’re at it, let’s give a West Coast shout out to the Oregon State Beavers as well. 2 years into Coach Chris Pendletons tenure, they are two time PAC 12 runners-up and had four All Americans. The Beavers will see only two of their championship tournament participants leave and 3 of this years All Americans will return next season. With Stanford under the masterful hand of Rob Koll, the Cardinal took home 2 All American finishes as Real Woods and Shane Griffith repeated the honors.(2) All five Cardinal wrestlers who were in action at the NCAAs are eligible to compete next season. Cal Polys Evan Wick earned a 4th All American accolade and teammate Bernie Truax a 2nd as the Mustangs will be missing only Wick from next years squad. Bakersfield extended their astonishing streak of sending competitors to the Nationals for an amazing 48th year. While both Chance Rich and Jacob Seider completed their RoadRunner careers in Detroit, Bakersfield continues to grow and go forward with Coach Luke Smith. They’ll be a threat to extend their streak next season and possibly take a top four spot at the PAC 12 championships. As to the conference’s newest affiliate member, Little Rock will reset for 2022-23 with an only underclassmen roster. The Trojans, with Coach Neil Erisman, seem happy as the Midwest member of the PAC 12 and will look to Tristan Wills and a pair of brothers, the Bianchis and the Carsons, to make progress towards national competitiveness.
More to come over the next two weeks with a look at the SoCon and ACCs NCAA results plus a season summary from as many coaches as the Scribe can request/badger/plead into responding. Feel free to circle the correct choice.
See you sometime soon!
(1) Interview clip from USA Wrestling.
(2) Both Woods and Griffith were named NWCA All Americans after the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 Nationals, making Woods a 2XAA and Griffith a three timer heading into 2022-23.