What's up, Wrestling Internet! I'm a huge Bloodround fan and an exceptional brown-noser, so Tommy & Kevin felt obliged to open up their little corner of the wrestlesphere for me to share a wee bit of takery, in a tried & true format. I'm a Pennsylvania boy living in Virginia (Commonwealths4Lyfe, I suppose), and the majority of my wrestling commentary has been tolerated by the good folks at Black Shoe Diaries. I've also been known to frequent just about any college wrestling dens irresponsible enough to open their doors to me, so it was really only a matter of time til I squeezed my way in here. And with the massive fight between Iowa & Penn State coming up quickly tomorrow night in Carver, this week is the perfect time to break out the phat mats and get a little blood on em.
In true blogistani form, Phat Mat Stats largely bites off the work of others. It grabs rankings from the most esteemed outlets and averages & charts them against the two fixed methods of point-scoring in NCAA individual tournament rules: Advancement Points & Placement Points. Well, Placement Points are fixed, in that you get them or you don't and the only variance in them results from your final landing place on the podium. But the bracketology of double-elimination that makes prep wrestling tourneys superior to the current iterations of Senior/International tournaments, imo, means Advancement Point totals can vary depending on a wrestler's path through either the Championship or Consolation brackets. So Phat Mats uses this path in its projection math:
Then it uses the charts as a backdrop for some dope commentary, which may or may not include discussion of reasonable Bonus Point possibilities and/or references to classic hip-hop.
Before we dive in, let's quickly talk about the rankings outlets. This week's charts use Intermat, The Open Mat, Flowrestling and Trackwrestling. I share a philosophy with the gentlemen here at Bloodround that the wrestling community is best served by an open, collaborative Wrestling Internet, as opposed to a closed, self-serving one. I understand business and competition and business competition, but as independent fans we're unimpeded by $$$ goals or old beefs that incentivize one outlet to totally ignore another in its published content. Give us a free space to spit some sooth, a couple cold beers and time to talk wrestling, and we'll be fat and happy to do so. About any of it. As such, this article will freely talk about, and link to, any content outlet that earns the words. As Kevin might say, you're welcome!
Intermat still publishes its rankings anonymously and I don't know any names behind its curtain, but it's been around a long while, and its rankings are pretty current & reliable. The Open Mat made a massive content upgrade this past year, when they hired Alex Steen to run its day-to-day operations. It sounds like Alex & Eric John & Bryce Villa all contribute to its weekly output, which includes a policy of removing wrestlers after two weeks of inactivity. This can sometimes be troublesome to phat mat projection goals, but I get it. The averaging with other outlets helps mitigate egregious projection outliers.
Christian Pyles does Flo's rankings and I appreciate the brief textual explanations of pertinent results that affect movement each week. Lastly, I added a relative newcomer to the rankings charts: Trackwrestling. Track also made some big upgrades this past year, selling to NBC and adding longtime Hawkeye beat writer Andy Hamilton. Its rankings are posted by Andy, but attributed to another of its contributors, David Mirikitani, who I don't know anything about. Except that I've found the past few weeks of his rankings quite reasonable.
I also need to mention Wrestlestat, easily the greatest free contribution to the wrestling community the past few years. I haven't seen Andegre publish his full name anywhere yet, so I'll stick with his mess board name, but the work he's put into his site is paying huge dividends for fans. Hopefully the clicks are paying some advertising dividends for him, although you can easily tell the site is a labor of love. The two biggest values to this me have been the continually improving UX of the software, and all the easy-to-find results. Anybody who's ever been frustrated trying to navigate the old NWCA database or Track to find results now has a fantastic alternative.
All that said, Andegre's rankings don't work for this exercise because of two policies. The continued appearance of wrestlers who are redshirting (now helpfully noted with an 'RS') and wrestlers who are out for the year. I get it; for the algorithms to work, all results must be considered, but the spaces taken up by those wrestlers make for too many outliers in my team point projection goals.
Here's a link to the full google sheet of the pasted charts below.
As my Aussie friends like to say: let's get amongst it!
Penn State's lineup hasn't had a ton of turmoil this year, but we learned a few new-ish developments from Cael's Coaches Show (streamed audio only; no download available) last night. Here's a textual summary, if you prefer that. Apparently Cortez isn't recovering from his shoulder injury, had a tough week trying to practice through it, and is very likely out for the season. Surgery appears to be on his immediate horizon. Mat Rat George Carpenter has been his replacement the past few weekends, and now Triston Law is working to get down to weight to wrestle him off at some point. Sight unseen on Law, that chart above is probably kind to PSU in projecting 1.5 points.
Secondly, Anthony Cassar finally earned some public words from Cael! Those words were at times positive and at others cautionary. He's working hard, through shoulder surgery recovery, but they haven't wrestled him off against McCutcheon yet. McCutcheon made a very painful mistake getting caught up in a Studebaker spladle two weeks ago, but otherwise has looked every bit the All-American the rankings currently project him to, in a weirdly weak weight class.
As equal as history suggests Morelli & Rasheed are, Rasheed also hasn't been healthy enough to wrestle off again, and Geno keeps winning. I'd say his rankings are very fair, given his only L is to Rasheed, who kept him from a matchup with Preisch in the Lehigh dual, and Penn's Casey Kent didn't compete at their tourney in the Palestra. He still has a few chances to climb the rankings, with matchups vs Alex Meyer & Zac Brunson, but with Bo Jordan in a walking boot, Morelli's probably going to have to wait to Big Tens to make any kind of jump.
Elsewhere in the lineup, Gulibon joins Carpenter & Morelli as the only projected non-AA's, and I don't think anybody wants to hazard a guess as to what he'll do in the postseason. Two weeks ago, looked great in taking out Tommy Thorn on Friday, but two days later in Lincoln I cringed as I pictured Mark Manning & Brian Snyder coaching up Colton McChrystal in prep for Gulibon. "He's a head case, easily gets off his game, go out there and knock him around the head and neck and he'll go down like a feather." Ugh. I hate to even type that, but I had to get that off my chest.
Still, Penn State's top two tiers pack a ton of firepower. In Tier 1, Retherford, Nolf & Nickal continue to their season-long Bonus Point competition. Zain & Nolf are each 100% and have only had one bout last a full 7 minutes, and Nickal's now way behind with two that haven't, and one that wasn't even bonus. Gasp! How he didn't manage a final takedown against a visibly-quitting TJ Dudley a few weeks ago is still surprising, but such are the standards these bros are setting. All three get strong, compelling matchups against the Hawkeyes tomorrow night that could separate this race some. For Nationals, all three are fully capable of earning bonus in their first four bouts and if it weren't for Dabe Gean, you could easily add that fifth match. Say we gave them, conservatively and fairly, each 5 Bonus Points at Natty's. That's nearly the equivalent of another Finalist.
Still, the steady climb of PSU's Tier 2 is what could really help them hold off the Pokes, Hawks & brutus in STL. We've already talked McCutcheon, who could very fairly finish 8th-5th, but Suriano, Vincenzo & Nevills are all now ranked to project double-digit points. We'll see tomorrow if Suriano's possibly higher than Top-3, but he's proven he's not lower than that already, with dominant wins over Lambert, Lizak & Cruz. NDSU's Josh Rodriguez puts Suriano in a bit of seeding pickle, as his only loss is to Dance and he doesn't have any real challenges left. If he loses 2 to Gilman (at CHA & at B1Gs), he's probably the 4-seed at Nationals, where he'd meet Gilman in the semis. If they split, then Dance is probably the 1-seed, and Suriano is still the 4-seed, behind the two one-loss Seniors. If he sweeps Gilman, he could be the 1-seed (between two undefeateds, Suriano's wins over Gilman would probably get him ahead of Dance), but Gilman's two losses might put him behind Rodriguez's one loss and Gilman could get the 4-seed, meaning they still would meet in the semis! Admittedly, that's all a fair bit of jibberish, as I haven't yet taken the time to fully learn RPI & all the shit that goes into seeding, but the one thing I can pick for certain is the winner tomorrow night: the fans! (cheering yay cheers)
Vincenzo's still fairly unproven, beyond besting an improving Te'Shan Campbell and nicely controlling the Keystone Final against AA Chad Walsh, but he's been looking good. Cael noted last night that he's got a great gas tank, has been working a variety of attacks, has explosiveness & great hips, and is now managing his weight well (an improvement from last year when he missed the Scuffle). But 165's a minefield out there. He'll get chances to scout IMar & Ike Jordan in duals, but will have to wait for B1Gs to test himself against Massa. And increasingly-likely quarterfinal matchups at Nationals include Chandler Rogers, Daniel Lewis & Anthony Valencia.
Lastly there's Nevills, who's been looking beastly on a number of fronts. One, he's shown a few different leg attacks. Two, he's won scrambles. If you haven't seen him yet, seriously, he fits in the new mold of Athletic Heavies. And three, my favorite, he's been mean on top. Hopefully Stoll's healthy enough to be able to confirm or deny Nevills is top-5. Kroells is a 2x AA and didn't have anything for him, but Stoll's Rockem Sockem Pushem Robot would be a new challenge. Then he's still got Medberry & hopefully Snyder in the duals, before B1Gs when they'll all go again. I can't tell what Sasquatch will do to his seeding after all that carnage, but at this point in the season, Nevills looks like a strong candidate to earn double-digit points in STL.
By way of summary, this lineup is projecting 99 non-bonus points. Take a little from Carpenter/Law and maybe from Vincenzo, but give a little to Morelli & Wildcard Gulibon and that looks pretty dang accurate to this pundit (Sidenote: I love referring to myself as a pundit). But then you add in Penn State's real wild card. I'm kicking myself that I still never charted last year's, but check out the first few years of the PSU Cael Era:
As noted, Retherford, Nolf & Nickal are just as capable of bringing mad bonus as David Taylor, Ed Ruth & Quentin Wright were. Earlier I estimated them at at least 15 between them. If conservatism is the projection goal here, maybe we should set the team at 20 and go from there. That's one Ace in the Hole.
Another is redshirting TRFR 2x Junior World Champ & 2017 Southern Scuffle Champion Mark Hall. "The Plan" all along has been for Hall to sit this year while getting acclimated to college life, but whispers around Lorenzo indicate he is 100% committed to wrestle this year, if Cael needs him. He beat Morelli in a wrestle-off this week (a 3-2 squeaker is one score I've heard) and is likely to weigh-in at Carver tomorrow night. Just. In. Case.
Now, personally, I like Morelli. I like his 3.9 GPA and the rapidity with which he continues to wash the Pitt stink off him on a team of offense-first super-studs, and I like the way he talks about and carries himself. The pundit in me looks at the numbers and sees that PSU is still in the drivers seat with him at 174, and I'd like to see him get another crack at natty's.
Buttttt, I love me big wrestling drama. I loved how many people appeared to tune in to Clark-Brock on Sunday, and if tomorrow night starts out with a Gilman decision, a Clark pin, a Carton win...followed by mere decisions for zPain, Nolf & Cenzo? Hawks leading 12 to 9 or so? I wouldn't hate it if Cael went for the buzzworthy move and trotted Hall out to face a finicky Alex Meyer. In any event, it's certainly interesting to learn that such an occurrence is viably in play.
As is, the lineup above projects 5 AA's, with Stoll just on the outside, and a team total of 80 points. Now, say you swap in TRFR Alex Marinelli at 165 and RSSR Nathan Burak at 197. Burak would easily be 3 and maybe 2, right? Add 13.5 to get to 93.5. As noted, 165's a bit of a landmine, but say The Bull navigates it to the Qtrs, then wins a consi match or two. Add 6.5 for 7th and the Hawks are up to 100.
Hypotheticals are easy, but lineup juggling is haaaarrrd. I went through this in 2015, post-facto, with a desperate attempt to tell myself PSU could have kept a title streak going if Cael hadn't redshirted Megaludis & Retherford. My new Ohio State bros @TheInsideTrip1 should get a kick out of this one. Tom Brands, of course, went with what is best for his wrestlers--in both the Burak & Marinelli decisions. And Cael's moves look like they're paying off individually as well: Nico finally won a title, Zain looks like a decent candidate to win 3, and a bunch of young studs get to keep Zain around for leadership for another year. A team title was definitely sacrificed that year, but with brutus' arrival, it would have been a tall order anyway. It's tough to legit argue for a chance at a team title, over the best interests of the individual.
But back to 'as-is.' The Hawks showed their vulnerabilities on Sunday in Stillwater, with unfortunate H2H matchups, stud-to-stud, with the Cowpokes of Oklahoma State. Clark & Sorenson dropped really close ones, while Kemerer squeaked one out and Gilman & Brooks dominated. Unfortunately in this year's national landscape, the same issue appears tomorrow night when PSU comes to CHA. Clark should dominate, but Sorenson, Kemerer & Brooks get equal or better studs across the mat from them. And Gilman gets his toughest challenge to date.
The winners? Again, the fans, who were pretty starved this past Fall due to a dearth of competitive duals and tons of disappearing high-octane matchups in the cool duals that were scheduled. But we're in the meat of the Dual Season, and we're gettin the good shit now!
For Team Projections, this week's Iowa chart looks pretty accurate. 165 & 197 have very low points prospects and if 141 weren't so deep & brutal, I'd think the rapidly-improving Carton might grab a few. For upside, the streaky former AA Meyer can certainly improve upon his current station, and Clark & Sorenson are proven former finalists. Although Sorenson's conservatism really bit him against Collica on Sunday, a loss that could land him in the semis with zPain after seeding fully shakes out. Brooks could get to 3rd, but we'll see tomorrow night if he's a Finalist contender. And, depending on health, Stoll is a push to make AA. I know you got that one!
While the team title looks at this point like it might be a bridge too far, the Hawks can still get back the team trophy that Virginia Tech denied them last year (given to the top four team finishers). And if they're going to do that, they'll do so on the back of their lifeblood, their machine, Thomas Gilman.
My wrestle bro over at BSD, bscaff, has taken to referring to wrestling duals and bouts as fights in his writing the past few years, and tomorrow night's likely opening bout is going to be just that. We know that Gilman is famous for his woofin. He's a woof national champion at this point. But the nation might not yet know how much fighting is in Suriano's nature. It was in this mat-side interview with him from the dude at True Wrestling, after the Keystone Classic title, that I first got the picture. Learned that MMA is definitely on his goal sheet. Here are my fave quotes:
"I'm doin what I love, comin in tough, thinking tough, never bowing down. It's an adjustment, better competition, some things that are different, but at the end of the day, it's all the same: it's wrestling. And it's what I do, what I do best.
Biggest adjustment for me was, I now had guys that did what I did: won 4 state titles, they've traveled the world and there's guys that are NCAA Champs that I train with. I wrestled...all the way up to guys like Zain Retherford, everyone I wrestled. Megaludis. Nolf, I warmed up with today. I'm just opening up my mind and getting better--throwin my ego out the door...and I'm ready to bang, and fight anybody, I don't care who it is."
Sup, Friday Night, where you at?!
Here's the thing about the Pokes: they don't have any holes. Look at that lineup! Preston Weigel's unanimously ranked #4--and it seems fair. Raise your hand if you had 'Austin Schafer bumps up from 197, opens up and goes HAM for 500, Alex' before the season began. Now put it back down, pop in some Slick Rick and stop lyin!
We all know better than to bet against Dean Heil at this point, and Anthony Collica has masterfully performed that annoyingly savvy improvement set wherein you tighten every last hole in your defense and squeak out the second tiebreaker win over a top-2 dude to secure avoidance of zPain til the finals. But here's the real fun surprise about this year's Pokes: the rest of them are fun to watch!
Nahshon deprived us seeing Kaid Brock last year after his stunning pin of Cody Brewer, but he's here now! He's got mad scrambles, varied neutral attacks and a bit of that gyroscope thing that always makes for entertainment. Piccininni was overmatched vs Gilman, but it's not hard to picture him on the podium. Joe Smith vs Kemerer, for a minute there, helped ameliorate the stench of Collica-Sorenson, and he's capable of showing us some fun wrestling. Nolan Boyd got matwiped by Sammy, but he's so uniquely looooonggg that it's fun to just watch his body do wrestling things. Then there's Chandler Rogers. Man, I wish he was at Bo Nickal's weight!
In a dual against Penn State, they've got issues similar to what the Hawks had against them: studs matching up against bigger studs. But in a tourney format? Their breadth could make up for it: OkSt sports a lineup that projects 9 AA's, 7 of whom are top-5, two projecting to Finalists & one to Champ. That's 2001 Minnesota dirty.
Next up is Brutus, and they're more similar to Penn State, than OkSt or Iowa: top-heavy, but with a few more holes. I pathetically still haven't gotten to peep the Buckeyes in action yet this year, but I learned a lot listening to Ep7 of The Inside Trip, a new podcast hosted by a couple OH boys. Was I surprised to hear NaTo destroyed Zane Richards, starting first with some outside singles, then moving on to his patented L-Hi-C's? No, I was not. Last summer one of the PSU mess boards hosted a Bold Predictions thread; mine was: Nathan Tomasello has already lost the last D1 match he ever will.
Micah Jordan sounds like there's no reason to believe he's unable to beat any of the non-Zain top-4, and I can't wait to get a look at young Kollin Moore. I was sad to hear The Inside Trip boys' tale of road trip woe, only to see Bo Jordan on the bench in a walking boot, but I did rather enjoy the Bloodround boys joking about his failure to pull out. My only hope for Kyle Snyder is that his superstar schedule allows him to compete in the big matchups. Was really bummed he missed the Medberry battle.
Looking at their chart, you'd have to guess that Myles Martin has a lot of upside, against his current projections. It sounds like he bounced back from a disappointing Midlands to maul Emory Parker in the dual on Sunday. But Jose Rodriguez might not have much left from his weight cut to improve on his current R16 projection. Luke Pletcher might--he's got a lot of deep tough PA HS experience to draw from, although the depth & toughness of 141 has been duly noted. Let's keep a close eye on him ahead of B1Gs with tough matches against Carton, Gulibon, Ashnault, McChrystal & Thorn and check back later.
But it's been pretty clear that Tom Ryan probably can't count on much of anything at 157 or 165. Really, brutus' 2017 national hopes hinge on Bo Jordan's health. Their current team total projects to 81, pretty tight with Iowa, but a fair bit behind OkSt & PSU. We could credit them with some decent bonus from NaTo & Snyder, and maybe even the young Moore, but if BoJo can't go...fo sho brutus' title hopes--and even maybe their trophy hopes--can go blow. (sorry).
If anybody's gonna bump Iowa or Brutus out of a trophy, it's probably going to be Virginia Tech. They've got virtually the same lineup that did it last year, but with a healthy Joey Dance instead of the graduated Nick Brascetta. Their prospects also took a hit this past week when Kevin Dresser announced that TRSO AA David McFadden would retain the redshirt he's been eligible for all year as he's rehabbed a surgically repaired knee. Their other late (recent-ish) lineup change saw the return of the previously-retired Kevin Norstrem to 141 and the drop of Dennis Gustavson back down to 133. There remains a pretty big gap between those moves this month and their ability to count on any team points in March. There's a lot of time and a fun #GoACC schedule to find out.
The non-holes in their chart look pretty accurate. At this point most of the tea leaves point to Dance getting matched up in the semis against the one guy in the top-4 he's already beaten, which would postpone a battle with the other two mostly-unknown-to-him studs until the finals. Is this Joey Dance's year to finally get a title, in his last chance? He's wrestling well enough, he's healthy, and we haven't heard Dresser hint at any head or focus issues for awhile, so maybe!
Chishko fits perfectly at #7 at 149, and could even have a little upside, and 157 is continuing to clear out so much, that maybe Sully Mastriani could as well. Then their gauntlet from 174-HWT all look really consistent. With as good as Zahid Valencia has looked, and if either or both of Bo Jordan or Mark Hall go, it's hard to see Epperly maintaining his 2-spot, but both of those ifs are pretty dang iffy at this point.
That's pretty much what's keeping them in the Top-10. They had a very nice showing at Midlands, but 8 of their 10 starters are Seniors, so it might be that savvy veteran thing that has propelled them to their current rankings, despite a relative lack of collective career achievements from those 8 guys. I tell you what, though. They do fight hard! I really enjoyed their pugnaciousness in the PSU dual.
Missouri may have missed their window two years ago when Alan Waters & Drake Houdashelt were still there. Even J'Den Cox struggled to a 5th place finish that year. Was it too much pressure, in front of the 'home' fans in St. Louis? Maybe they'll be more relaxed this year in STL, but they also appear to maybe be having some weight management issues. Eierman just bumped up a few weeks ago, which bumped Matt Manley, a 5-seed last year, from the lineup, and Barlow McGhee's record doesn't match his historical promise.
The lack of a heavyweight threat, and the season-ending injury to Willie Miklus didn't help, but their middle weights look like very probable podium finishers. And Cox looks untouchable, to the chagrin of men everywhere.
I was psyched to be able to add Minnesota back to the charts when Lizak & Thorn came off of suspension, but I've been sad to read that Brandon Eggum couldn't keep/grow top recruits Fredy Stroker and Larry Early III. Right now, they're only projecting 3 AA's, but Thorn & Short should have considerable upside from their current projections, and Mitch McKee should benefit from tournament weigh-ins and weight allowances.
I get the history & tradition between Lehigh & PSU, but truthfully I wouldn't mind the 'rivalry' disappearing. They're really un-fun to watch duel in a dual, and there are all sorts of non-B1G teams Cael could replace them with for more fun. Start with Tim Flynn & Edinboro, if you wanna keep it PA. Or go back to Brandon Slay's area and wrestle Penn. I could get into a regular every-other-year trip to the Palestra. After that, check out the ACC, please Cael!
But not Pitt. Until they grow up and begin to properly represent Western Pennsylvania wrestling.
Anyway, they do 'wrestle tough.' They sure took advantage of PSU's absence at the Scuffle this year. FR Jordan Kutler knocked off Joey Lavallee & JoJo Smith to win the 157 title, and Ryan Preisch nearly beat Mark Hall (must be nice to have a completely reliable cement mixer in your back pocket for emergencies). Their chart is mostly accurate, with the possible exception of Randy Cruz. I'd guess he, Scotty Parker and Mitch Minotti, if he gets healthy, have a fair bit of upside. It won't be exciting, but the Lehigh bros are gonna make the consis really annoying for anybody trying to make it through the....wait for it...bloodround.
Man, following Cornell's lineup changes through a season, which is annoying enough with the Ivy Way of taking semesters off, always makes me more pissed about the big stink Rob Koll made about duals and duals tournaments and duals matter, back in 2012. I used to be really bummed that Cael wouldn't wrestle Cornell, but if he did, I could totally picture getting all psyched for a big battle, driving to Rec Hall, then watching Rob Koll send out a bunch of sacrifices at all the most anticipated matchup weights.
Thankfully Gabe Dean is there to put a big red smile on the otherwise gloomy Big Red. Man, how cool is that guy!
Look at their chart, tho, and what do you see? I see red. Cuz now I'm mad that I've continued to chart that weird lineup, and I'm here on my Michigan bros' site and didn't even chart the Wolverines. Now there's a team I can get behind! Redshirt 4 dudes and look like you're taking a year off, and BAM!! Allow me to introduce you to Miles Amine and Salvatore Profaci.
I really enjoyed Tommy & Kevin's exploration of the highest point-scoring FR duos this year. They're advocates of Logan Massa & Stevan Micic, and I'm struggling to find another that can compete with that. Vincenzo & Suriano are mentioned, but Massa's been on another planet. Luke Pletcher & Kollin Moore? The Valencias? Should be a fun one to watch unfold.
Summary, of Sorts
We've all known this year was gonna be a 4-team race and, with apologies to the Hokies, it still largely looks that way. Ok State's breadth is stunning. PSU's top-end firepower is a story again this year. Iowa's got Senior leadership, some up & coming fighters and The Machine. And tOSU's got returning National & Olympic Champs.
If you're any kind of wrestling fan, which we both know you are, if you're here reading this badass wrestling website, the next two months are going to be exceedingly dope.
Dope af, you might say.
And starting with tomorrow night in the living, breathing wrestling monument of Carver Hawkeye Arena, it might also get a little bloody.