As I mentioned during our podcast, It's really hard to pick a couple of these weight classes. 149 is certainly one of those tough ones. Loaded doesn't seem to do it justice. You'd think that losing the two senior NCAA finalists would help, but it doesn't at all. We replace him with a Junior World Champion in Zain Rutherford of Penn State, and Anthony Colica of Oklahoma State, who is dropping down to 149 from 157 where he made the bloodround.
I am not concerned though that Tsirtsis isn't going to be able to rise to the occasion. He was able to win an NCAA title as a freshman, and was able to get through some difficult competition on his way to that title. It's easy to forget how tough the bracket was in 2014, but let me refresh your memory. Tsirtsis wrestled 4 All Americans in his 5 matches, and two NCAA Champs (Kendrick Maple and Drake Houdashelt) on his way to the finals where he was able to beat Josh Kindig in overtime. Please allow me to reiterate. His second match of the day was against James English of Penn State, followed by the NCAA Champs on his way to the finals. That seems decently tough to me. Also, I don't anticipate him being slotted in a 5 spot this next season as he was as a freshman.
I'll begin by admitting that I had some reservations about Tsirtsis going into this season. Those were pretty much dispelled as I began talking them out. Essentially I was concerned that he doesn't do enough to score points and win more matches by more points. Granted, all you need to do is win 5 matches in a row in March, but multiple OT matches or 3-2 tiebreaker don't leave you feeling the same way about a wrestler as the Dieringer-esque beat downs. However, I had to remember the great Kellen Russel, who had a Junior season that looked very similar. I always felt that he should be able to pull away from the competition and help his team with more points, but he still finished his Junior and Senior seasons with one loss and two NCAA Championships. Tsirtsis certainly has the skills and abilities to get it done and continue to improve. He's certainly smart enough to know how to maximize his talents and win as much as possible, but it's hard for me to believe that such a great talent can't score more points and sharpen up those offensive skills to go along with his steel curtain defense.
Finally, let's cover this most recent season. Jason finished the year with two losses. One during the regular season to Brandon Sorenson of Iowa in the second tiebreaker by a score of 3-2. That doesn't happen to him often, in fact Tsirtsis was on the winning side of OT matches 4 of 5 times this year, and won 16 of 18 matches decided by 2 points or less. He is by all accounts the king of the close matches, but that will only take you so far before someone comes out on the winning end of a close one, as Habat was able to in the semi's of the NCAA's last year. With that being said, of his two losses, he avenged one of them by beating Sorenson in the Big Ten finals, as well as for 3rd place at NCAA's. Sadly, he didn't have a chance to avenge his loss to Habat, however he did beat him earlier in the year. Also, it doesn't matter because Habat is gone forever anyway! Point being, the only one who is going to be at the weight who I don't have a frame of reference of him being able to beat is Zain Rutherford of Penn State, but as long as he is able to get out from bottom, which is quietly one of Jason's greatest abilities (it needs to be said that getting out from bottom is a hugely underrated skill, when you are the only one who has a SHOT at accumulating riding time, you will probably get it), he should be able to win the battle in neutral with his frightening, 03 Detroit Pistons style defense.
To sum up, Jason Tsirtsis can't be ridden, has ice water in his veins when it comes to close matches and high pressure situations, his defense is virtually impenetrable, and still has an opportunity to improve his offense. I believe 149 is going to be one of the more difficult weight classes this year, but it hasn't stopped Tsirtsis in the past, and I don't believe it will this year either.