The Division 1 NCAA Wrestling season starts this weekend. Oh my goodness that feels good to say. Kevin and I will be entering (and dominating) the Fantasy League created by the Inside Trip's Brandon. He has had some seasons to iron it out so we leaped at the opportunity.
I have several strategies in mind when it comes to who to draft. It's a real league where regular season and post-season points both matter. Oddly enough I believe my biggest struggle will be picking my personal favorites and rooting interests over what would be wise. With that in mind, here are ten fellas I'm rooting for this year for various reasons.
Rankings via Intermat
125: #17 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois)
Polish Power! As a true freshman last year, he took 4th at the Big Ten tournament and went 1-2 at NCAA's. He is a state champion from Crystal Lake, Illinois and is a hammer on top. He's fun to watch and should be moving up the rankings this season.
133: NR Dresden Simon (Central Michigan)
This is my homer pick of this article. We had Ben Bennett on the podcast a few weeks ago and he spoke about the committment and work Simon has put in to take the open spot at 133 (he was redshirted at 141 last year). I saw him at a tournament when he was a sophomore and was really impressed. He comes from a small town known as Dansville, Michigan. Their high school is listed to have a total enrollment of 264 students. I always hoped he would get into a good college room and thrive, and I will be rooting for him this year. Keeping in mind that he was a 2-time state champion, has wins over Kanen Storr & Ian Parker, and a 2016 FloNationals Champion.....he may have been successful anywhere.
141: #17 Chad Red (Nebraska)
Chad Red, the human highlight reel mega-recruit from Indiana, perfectly chose to go to Nebraska and continue to be molded by Mark Manning, Jordan Burroughs, and James Green. He will be fun to watch, and probably moving up the rankings rapidly. He was 183-0 in high school and was 4th in the Midlands during his 19-3 redshirt year. The sky is the limit here.
149: #16 Ronnie Perry (Lock Haven)
Lock Haven will be in the news this year based on a couple notable transfers and intrigue. Meanwhile, let's not lose sight that the senior Perry is up from 141 for one last NCAA season. He has qualified for Nationals twice, but is yet to hit the podium. He was 29-8 last year with an impressive 20 bonus point wins. He's a guy who's been hovering close to contender for his career, and it's easy to root for him to finally have the podium finish.
157: #6 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan)
Ok I tried to not pick my man, Alec Pantaleo, but the heart wants what it wants. The charismatic Canton, Michigan native is a hard-working and very likable guy. He also posts some crazy athletic achievements on social media. He's coming off a redshirt year when he was on the Junior Freestyle World Team and an NCAA All-American the year before. After a succesful freestyle campaign at 70 kg, he appears to likely be the only guy that can challenge Nolf this season and it would be fun to see the two battle several times.
165: #5 Chad Walsh (Rider)
Just like his brother, Taylor, Chad looks for pins and usually with unique and painful methods. He appeared to be hosed out of some nearfall in the Midlands finals against IMar proving Walsh can put anybody in predicaments. Walsh enters his senior year after a 5th place NCAA finish. He is one of the most entertaining guys to watch in college wrestling and incredibly fun to root for.
174: #8 Jadeen Bernstein (Navy)
It's always fun when the academies have good guys in the mix. Bernstein enters his senior year after losing in the bloodround at NCAA's. He avenged some losses as the season went on meaning momentum is on his side. He scores a lot of points as well making him an easy guy to root for. Editor's note: Annapolis is underrated as a town in general. If you are on a see the sights DC weekend, make sure to make it over to Annapolis.
184: #16 Steve Schneider (Binghamton)
The senior from Long Island, and former NY State Champion, will be looking to make his 3rd trip to the NCAA Championships this season. He was the 15 seed in 2017 finishing with a 33-10 record. It's a deep weight class, but Schneider is right in the fray for a podium finish this season.
197: NR Anthony Perrine (Gardner-Webb)
Our friends at Gardner-Webb appear to be starting right away as a true freshman, Ohio State Champion Anthony Perrine. He finished his prep career with a pin in 2:33 to claim his school's first state title since 1999. Perrine was a star in football, and Coach Elliott is elated to have him on the mats in Boiling Springs. Look for him to make an impact right away.
HWT: #6 Jacob Kasper (Duke)
There's not much to dislike about the Duke big fella. Jacob "the unfriendly ghost" Kasper burst on the scene after taking a redshirt year wrestling greco at the OTC. His throws on his way to winning the Southern Scuffle put the rest of the heavyweight field on notice. He's one of the best personalities in the sport and backs it up with constant action on the mats.