March MATness Preview

March+MATness+Preview

It’s been over 750 days since NCAA wrestling champions have been crowned, having their seasons stripped from them last year just before the most important tournament of the year. This left many athletes missing something, driving them to compete even harder this year. 

 

With the Championships starting this Thursday I decided to take a look weight by weight and give my insight on what’s to come.

 

125

Projected Champion: Spencer Lee, IOWA

This is pretty straightforward. It’s Spencer Lee’s weight to lose. Everyone is practically wrestling for 2nd-8th place. I, along with the rest of the wrestling world, don’t see this two-time national champ letting anyone come close to challenging him. 

 

Dark Horse: Robert Howard, PSU

The Junior Olympic champion is taking his first crack at Nationals. Coming in at the 23rd seed he has Malik Heinselman in the first round. Heinselman beat Howard in the Big 10 championships 5-2 a couple of weeks ago but I see Howard turning it around and possibly making a run on the backside of the bracket.

 

133

Projected Champion: Daton Fix, OKSU

Daton Fix has been on a tear recently. Ever since his comeback on Valentine’s Day, he’s been looking to dominate. Fix has beaten all his opponents by bonus points this season. His high-powered offense makes him a favorite to win the weight. But it won’t be easy: this weight, like always, is completely stacked. Having RBY, Desanto, and Phillippi all in the bracket it’s no cakewalk to the gold.

 

Dark Horse: Mickey Phillippi, PITT

Mickey is my personal pick to win the weight. He’s extremely tactical and smart with his neutral offense and a terror on top. He’s the only person in the field to clock a win over Daton Fix. He’s also not afraid to be in close matches, he actually thrives in them, winning most of his matches this year in the clutch. But this may also be his downfall, if he walks the line he might get caught and lose the close match instead. 

 

141

Projected Champion: Sebastian Rivera, RUT

This year is supposed to be a homecoming story for Sebastian, transferring to Rutgers in his hometown of New Jersey for his junior year, and now he’s looking for a championship to top it all off. Even though he lost a close one to Nick Lee in the Big Ten semifinals two weeks ago, SeaBass is not one to count out of this. This year 141 is stacked weight. With an undefeated Jaydin Eierman, last year’s no.1 seed Nick Lee, and Tariq Wilson, and not to mention my dark horse who has a REAL shot making a finals run. SeaBass has a bag of tricks second only to Eierman in this field. But SeaBass is much more disciplined in his wrestling so I project him to win a close one in the finals. 

 

Dark Horse: Real Woods, Stanford

Real Woods has probably faced the most adversity out of anyone in the field. He truly didn’t know if he was going to have a season this year. Stanford had cut the wrestling program last season after the world shut down due to COVID-19. But, luckily, Stanford let the team have one final season as a farewell and none of the athletes have taken it for granted. Woods comes into the tournament as the 20th seed but everyone knows he’s going to over-perform it. Woods’ first match is Dom Demas, an incredibly tough opponent but if Woods can put it together he might be able to make it to the semifinals and possibly further.

 

149

Projected Champion: Boo Lewallen, OKSU

Boo is an underdog coming into the tournament at the 4 seed. But throughout the season he has shown he’s not one to be overlooked. He’s the reigning Big 12 champion and now seeks the national championship. He was out a couple of seasons ago due to a knee injury but came back looking better than ever. He has an amazing defensive prowess, not allowing more than 6 points in any of his wins this season. His biggest challenge will come in the semifinals against the undefeated top seed Sammy Sasso, if he can get past Sasso he may be able to win it all.

 

Dark Horse: Josh Heil, CAMP

Even with the departure of head coach Cary Kolat, Campbell has been able to stay afloat. They’ve been able to dominate this season. They have several highly ranked and highly talented wrestlers coming into the tournament. One of these wrestlers is Josh Heil. He, in my eyes, is an All-American lock. But he has an incredibly tough path, facing Boo right out of the gate in the second round. But just a word of advice; Don’t be shocked if he’s able to knock out some big names this weekend. 

 

157

Projected Champion: Ryan Deakin

Ryan Deakin has had a good case to win the championship a few times. He’s a two-time Big Ten champion but at nationals, he’s never seen to put it together. This is his second season in a row staying undefeated so he should be able to win it right? Well not too sure. Hayden Hidlay stands in his way. Hayden made it to the finals his freshman year and fell short against three-time champion Jason Nolf, and his sophomore year he was unquestionably robbed of a finals berth. I see the finals being an extremely close battle between these two and can’t wait to see who comes out victorious.

 

Dark Horse: Johnny Lovett, CMU

Miami’s own Johnny Lovett has qualified for the NCAA tournament after winning his conference. Call me biased but I feel he’s going to be able to put a run together. He’s in no position to win it this year but I wouldn’t be surprised if he All-Americans as a freshman. His path isn’t easy but it’s doable. Hopefully, in the coming years, he’s able to win it outright. 

 

165

Projected Champion: Mekhi Lewis, VT

In 2019 Mekhi shocked us all as he beat not one, but THREE top 5 guys on his way to a championship. He beat that year’s no.1 seed, who is also this year’s no.1 seed, a three-time All-American and a two-time and, at the time, reigning National champion. The only thing that scares me is his injury. Mekhi suffers from a horrible shoulder injury right before his conference championship making him unable to compete in it, thankfully he received an at-large bid into the championships to defend his title. If he can push past his injury, I do not doubt in my mind he could win it. 

 

Dark Horse: Keegan O’Toole, MIZZ

Even though Keegan is a freshman, he’s a beast on the mat. He was college-ready out of highschool. Training under two-time champion Ben Askren, Keegan has a unique wrestling style. His fundamentals are as polished as they can be and his scrabbling skills are not to be overlooked. His most challenging match will be against Anthony Valencia in the semifinals, both, strangely enough, wrestle a very similar style with the “funkiness.” This match will be high-scoring and extremely interesting. 

 

174

Projected Champion: Michael Kemerer, IOWA

Ever since his return from injury last year, Kemerer has been a force to be reckoned with. He hasn’t lost a match since his close battle with NCAA champion Mark Hall last season. I see very few people challenging him for the title. The person with the best shot is Penn State’s own Carter Starocci, but even then, Kemerer just beat him two weeks ago. Kemerer should be a heavy favorite to win. He uses defense better than anyone in this field, letting the opponent attack first so he can create his counter offense from there. He has only let his opponents score more than 3 points on him once all season, that one exception being a 23-7 TF win in which he gave his opponents free escape points.

 

Dark Horse: Austin Murphy, CAMP

Murphy is undefeated on the season and has shown glimpses of what can be. He also thrives in the defensive position, not allowing more than 4 points all season, along with the offensive. Murphy is a well-rounded wrestler and while he might not make a finals run he can definitely All-American.

 

184

Projected Champion: Lou DePrez, BING

Lou has had another incredibly dominant season. He’s had a high percentage win rate throughout his career and this season has been better than ever. He’s had an undefeated season and has had over 50% of his wins coming by bonus points. But he’s not the only one, there are three total undefeated wrestlers in his bracket. If he sticks to his offense I see him making the finals against Sammy Brooks and beating him by decision. 

 

Dark Horse: Hunter Bolen, VT

If Sammy Brooks wasn’t on the top half with Bolen I’d probably pick him to win. Bolen has shown year in and year out to be a threat, but even with all his experience, I see Sammy as too much of a hand full for him. Hunter will be a top-five All-American this year no question about it. 

 

197

Projected Champion: Myles Amine, MICH

Myles is head and shoulders above the field. He’s wrestled at the senior world championships and is even qualified for the Olympics this summer. A National title is just one of his many goals and I just don’t see too many people here slowing him down. 

 

Dark Horse: Cameron Caffey, MSU

Caffey is coming up a weight from last year where he was the 2nd seed. His highly explosive offense poses a threat to everyone in the field. He wrestles a highly threatening upper body style with a quick double-leg paired with it. If he wrestles as he has shown in the past, his hair isn’t going to be the only thing making headlines this weekend. 

 

285

Projected Champion: Gable Steveson, MINN

This pick is a no-brainer. Just like Spencer at 125, this is Gable’s weight to lose. At Big Tens he showed the disconnect between him and the number two guy at the weight, beating Mason Parris 12-4. It’s going to take a lot to knock Gable off his throne. 

 

Dark Horse: Mat Stencel, CMU

As a three-seed, he’s not a “dark horse” but the disconnect between #1, #2, and #3 are so huge that he might as well be. No, he’s not beating Gable but he could shock the world and beat Mason Parris. Stencel is a pinning machine, collecting the most pins in the whole NCAA last season. He might be able to catch Parris in a move and stick him, allowing Stencel to move onto the finals.