Here we are. We are on the precipice of the NBA Draft, which has me reading articles on what may happen, what people think could happen, what almost certainly isn't going to happen, and the only thing assured is that all of these people will inevitably be wrong. While filling my head with misinformation, I questioned what would happen if there was a Wrestling draft? This can get very complicated, so let's set some specific guidelines.
- We are only drafting NCAA D1 wrestlers. This gives us a large enough pool of wrestlers to create some debate, as well as throws the idea out there that someone younger, and therefore with more years of eligibility, becomes more valuable than someone who is a senior. Also, because of the one and done rule, no incoming Freshman will be selected in tonight's draft.
- We are only going to do the first round of the draft. I'd keep going, but I have things to do and I'M NOT A MACHINE!
- We are going to start with 30 teams. These teams will be the same as the NBA locations, but without team names, because I was going to make them up and found out that I'm not that creative.
- This is truly subjective. So try not to get butt hurt if your favorite wrestler doesn't get drafted in the first round.
- Freshman are eligible if they wrestled this last season. If they were redshirting their freshman year, not eligible. If they were redshirting their sophomore years and up, eligible. All the way through graduating seniors, all eligible.
- We are going in the draft order of this years NBA Draft because I say so.
- This is for a hypothetical league, where there is some combo of freestyle turns, and folkstyle rules. So I'm not simply projecting freestyle/greco scene success.
- Since I started writing this, Boston traded the first pick to Philly, but I'm not changing anything here.
- Lastly, please consider more team points are better than less team points, so someone more likely to get pins, tech's and majors inherently becomes more valuable than someone who won't.
With the first overall pick, Boston selects, Mark Hall, Penn State University.
This shouldn't be a BIG surprise, but regardless, let me justify. On the season, Mark Hall wrestled just over thirty matches. This was primarily open tournaments at the early part of the season, as most of us know, he officially started the varsity season off with the loss to Alex Meyer at Carver Hawkeye Arena. WIth that being said, he still had 15 pins or tech's on the year, I believe 13 of those wins being pins. That's a boat load of points, and it wasn't just chumps he was torching. He tech'd Zac Brunson (yes, the Zac Brunson who placed 6th in the country) 16-1. Anyway, Mark is one of the biggest recruits to enter the college wrestling scene in a long time, was a National Champion, has already been a Junior World Champ, and has three more years of eligibility and world beating for him to provide for his squad. (Do I care that he was just drafted and therefore eligibility whouldn't matter? NO WAY! I made the rules, so this is how it's rolling.)
With the second pick in the draft, the Los Angeles, Bo Nickal, Penn State University
One less year of eligibility than Hall, but this was closer than you'd think to Nickal going first overall. Homie had 28 matches, and 17 of them were pins... Not even including tech's. He pinned 61% of the people he wrestled last season. That's completely insane, so he gives a TON of firepower to LA entering next season, and allows them the chance to go finally solidify that 184 spot that they have been struggling at for so long. For LA, finding a 184 pounder is like the Cleveland Browns finding a quarterback, but they have finally locked up their future at 184, and assured themselves a couple more wins next season. Bo is going to have to put some of this signing bonus towards sun screen.
With the third overall pick, Philadelphia selects, Jason Nolf, Penn State University
Here's the thing. Sorry if you aren't a Penn State fan, but I don't have much of a choice here. These dudes are wrecking balls, and will continue to swing back and forth, taking things out of their path for a hot minute here. Nolf had a historic road through the season. Nolf had two total regular decisions the entire season, and they were both to Michael Kemerer. The other 26 matches were pins (14), tech's (8), or major decisions (3, 2 of which were NCAA semi's and finals), and one bye. Seems like a really solid competitor for the third pick in the draft. Unlike 184, Nolf really doesn't have any competition, so truly he could have found his way into the number 2 slot, but with slightly less pins, Bo goes 2 and Philly ends up with a monster at 3.
With the fourth overall pick, Phoenix selects, Zain Retherford, Penn State University
Would I draft Zain here? Probably not honestly. He's the returning Hodge trophy winner though, and very clearly destroys people on the regular. The issue is that he's only got one year left, so he's only going to be a human destroyer for another season. There is no denying the Zain Pain Train, and having only Sorensen as his main competition returning allows him to absolutely dominate his way through his last college season and score a boat load of points. Pure domination has earned Zain the 4th spot on the list, and the highest drafted spot by a Senior.
With the fifth pick in the draft, Sacramento selects Kollin Moore, Ohio State University
This is tough for me to do, but it's hard to deny the fact that Kollin Moore had an astounding season last year as a freshman. The other main point to think about is that he is the clearcut favorite returning at his weight class. Every draft has "potential" draft picks, and he certainly has plenty of potential, but on top of that, 4 of the All Americans graduated, including the two who placed above Kollin. Sacramento is going big on young guns, which could certainly yield them a 4x AA with 3 National Championships... Could.
With the sixth pick in the draft, Orlando selects, Logan Massa, University of Michigan
Massa had a tremendous season last year as a Freshman. entering the NCAA's, his only two losses were to iMar, and he had beaten almost all of the other top competition to solidify themselves as the top two 165 pound wrestlers in the country. That is until the 165 pound semi's where Massa lost by a point to the eventual champion, Vincenzo Joseph. So why does Massa go above Joseph? Well, being a homer comes with some advantages. One being that I can justify this pick based on the fact that Massa had less losses, more bonus point wins (22 for Massa, 11 for Joseph), I truly believe that he will win the next match that they wrestle (and every subsequent match thereafter), and the owner of the Orlando Magic is from Grand Rapids Michigan, so he's probably a homer as well. I imagine he also owns this Orlando wrestling franchise as well. Don't worry Penn State fans, you won't need to wait much longer to have some wrestlers finally drafted.
With the seventh pick in the draft, Minnesota selects, Zahid Valencia, Arizona State University
Zahid is a monster at 174 in both size and ability. He dispatched anyone who lined up across from him with the quickness and force of a thousand Brent Metcalf's. Everyone not named Mark Hall, this years number one pick. Minnesota was able to get someone with the 7th pick who could very well win the NCAA title this year, and who ended up with 26 bonus point wins on the season. Another solid point is that he'll have the ability to run through the Pac 12 like a hot knife through butter. Mark Hall doesn't have that luxury. Let's face it, despite Hall's head to head win over Valencia, Hall lost to worse last season, and Valencia still only has the one loss to Hall on his college record. This is a solid grab with the seventh pick in the draft.
With the eighth pick in the draft, New York selects, Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State Nittany Lions
Vincenzo Joseph is a returning NCAA champ, so why didn't he go earlier in the draft? Well let's face it, sometimes people fall in the draft, but as I mentioned earlier, he didn't have a whole lot of bonus points wins when compared to the wrestlers who went above him. He is still in a weight class that is returning iMar, and Logan Massa, so despite winning last year, will probably not be most people's favorite to win the title. Either way, he's planning on winning again, and will most definitely improve from last year (which is crazy to say). Being in that Penn State room where Iron sharpens Iron, it's hard to get worse. Getting VaJayJay (I'm really hoping this catches on) with the eighth pick is great for New York, and a homecoming for VaJayJay.
With the ninth pick in the draft, Dallas selects, Isaiah Martinez, University of Illinois
Dallas is in "win now" mode, and they snagged one of the most accomplished wrestlers in NCAA wrestling, and a destroyer of worlds. He's ready to avenge his loss from the finals last season, only the second of his career. Additionally, he is a bonus point machine! He's going to come in and you'd better believe be on a mission to finish his career the way he'd always planned. Dallas adding a 2x champ, and three time finalist, and one of the worlds most dangerous and explosive wrestlers is a strong move, although admittedly a bit short sighted.
With the tenth pick in the draft, Sacramento selects, Kyle Snyder, Ohio State University
Snyder may not have pinned many wrestlers during his time in college, but he will win every single match he has this season, even if he takes some time off for international competition, that's nice to be able to count on. Sacramento having picks 5 and 10 in this draft, allows them to take a wrestler like Snyder who will provide consistency if nothing else. He will be there, he will win, and I expect more tech's this year as well. Sac town doubling down on Buckeye's!
With the eleventh pick in the draft, Charlotte selects, Michael Kemerrer, University of Iowa
Kemerrer was an animal last season. Just need to make that very clear right away. He had one of the stronger Freshman seasons in college wrestling, he just so happened to be behind one of the most dominant forces in college wrestling, and during a season where we had a litany of strong freshman. Kemerrer did have 22 bonus point wins on the season, and placed third in the country. He's also the youngest returning AA for the weight class, so with the emphasis placed arbitrarily on seniority, that makes him more valuable than, say, a returning Junior NCAA Champ with only 12 bonus point wins and 1 year remaining eligibility. This is the point in the draft where you see a lot of "potential" picks, rather than proven resources with limited years of competition.
With the twelfth pick in the draft, Detroit selects, Gabe Dean, Cornell University
The first graduating senior is coming off the board. Similar drafts in other sports, younger athletes with "higher upside" tend to go before the 4 year guys. Well, it's kind of hard to deny Gabe Dean's greatness, especially with the bonus points that he accumulated in his time. Gabe Dean is more poised to be Tim Duncan than Roy Hibbert (sorry non NBA following fans for this analogy missing completely), and it's hard to deny his 20 pins. 20 pins is eight more bonus point victories than Dean Heil had all year (which subsequently is why he hasn't been drafted yet). To go with the 20 pins, he had 4 tech's and 5 major decisions. Detroit is getting some major horsepower here with the twelfth pick.
With the thirteenth pick in the draft, Denver selects, Stevan Micic, University of Michigan
Micic was 4th in the country last year at a loaded weight as a freshman. He's a third year freshman sure, but even so, freshman status. Hearing Eric Montoya, Nebraska AA say that he believes Micic (who dismantled Montoya) had made the leap and will win the 133 pound NCAA title next season is certainly a ringing endorsement, but what's most impressive is Micic's offensive repertoire and versatility. He can seemingly attack from anywhere, and has a slightly unorthodox style, so he never lets his opponents get comfortable. Micic had plenty of bonus point wins last year, but with a lot of seniors graduating, Micic will have plenty more bonus points wins by virtue of attrition alone, even if he doesn't continue to improve, which he will.
With the fourteenth pick in the draft, Miami selects, Myles Martin, Ohio State University
Myles Martin has officially grown into the 184 pound weight class. I watched him at University Nationals, and he legitimately looked larger than Pete Renda, who is a big 184. Myles had a great season last year, with plenty of bonus point wins, and he has what nobody else has, wins over Bo Nickal. I cannot underestimate how important it is that Martin has no fear of wrestling Nickal, who he now somehow has two wins over in college. Snagging Martin with the 14th pick in the draft is a big win for Miami, who is always a great place for free agents, and already has a solid lineup, just missing out on the playoffs. Martin will be able to immediately contribute to the teams success with high powered offense, pinning power, and being dangerous from all positions. Oh, and freakishly athletic. There's also that.
With the Fifteenth pick in the draft, Portland selects, Thomas Gilman, University of Iowa
Doesn't it just seem like Portland is the right place for Thomas Gilman? Hybrid cars and free thinking seem right up Gilman's alley. For real though, it's a solid pick at 15 to snag a world team member. The only reason he falls this far is because he's a graduating senior, and when you could get potential in younger dudes like Hall, you go for that. However, that's the first pick, and Gilman lands at 15. With this spot, you get a guy who didn't wrestle a full match until December 29th because he was pinning and tech'ing everyone up to that point. He's a hammer who will help Portland out greatly. Not to mention, Portland has 2 other first round picks in the draft, so they can roll with graduating senior without worrying that they are losing out on high upside guys. More from them to come.
With the sixteenth pick in the draft, Chicago selects, Myles Amine, University of Michigan
Myles Amine started the year not ranked and unknown. He finished the season by taking 4th in the country behind Mark Hall, Bo Jordan, and Zahid Valencia. He pinned Brian Realbuto (5th) and tech'd Zac Brunson (6th). He had a ton of bonus point wins on the year, and at no point seemed like there was a moment too big for him. Sadly, all of the guys who placed ahead of him are returning, but it's hard to turn down a tough Freshman with plenty more upside.
With the seventeenth pick, Milwaukee selects, Ethan Lizak, University of Minnesota
And another 125 pound wrestler comes off the board. Lizak took second in the country as a sophomore, which is pretty solid. The reason he comes off the board in the first round is because he had a TON of bonus point wins. He is a hammer on top, and has shown he can win the close matches against top competition by riding, or avoiding escape points by having wrestlers choose neutral. Additionally, he destroys people who aren't in that top tier, even earning a major decision over eventual champion, Darian Cruz. Lizak has room to improve with regard to his offense, and when that happens, he will be very difficult to stop. Lots of upside and points from the 17th pick to Milwaukee.
With the eighteenth pick. Indiana selects, Seth Gross, South Dakota State
Seth Gross seems like a nice guy. Unless you watch him wrestle, you know, when he's making grown men cry. Gross had 28 bonus point wins on the year, and lost the NCAA title by 1 point to Cory Clark who wasn't going to be denied by anyone. Gross also accumulated 12 pins in there. 34 matches, and only 6 were within the 8 point window means that Indiana landed a point scoring machine in the latter parts of the first round.
With the nineteenth pick, Atlanta selects, Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State University
Everyone knows how touch NaTo is, so I don't need to really dive into that. However, why is he coming off the board so late? Well he didn't get nearly as many bonus point wins as you'd think. He has 10 that show up in the records from last season, and he's going into his senior season. Sure he's a true senior, but the greatest ability is availability, and he didn't wrestle very often last year. With that being said, he's going to win almost all of his matches, with the exception of 1-2 on the year, maybe. Good grab for Atlanta at 19.
With the twentieth pick in the draft, Portland selects, Dean Heil, Oklahoma State University
The first cowboy comes off the board at 20? Surprisingly enough, that's the case. Dean had only 12 bonus point wins on the season, but he won all of his matches, so there is that. He's made it very difficult to pick against him at this point. Again, with Portland having three picks in the draft, they are simply loading up on talent, not necessarily high upside. They snag a two time NCAA champ with pick 20.
With the twenty first pick, Oklahoma City selects, Nick Piccinnini, Oklahoma State University
Here's the thing about Piccinnini. He started off strong, then in the heat of the college season, he had a string of losses, and kind of lost favor in the public eye. Three of those loses were to all americans (Lizak, Gilman, and Sean Russell), and the fourth was to Gabe Townsell of Stanford, who is a stong competitor at 125. Sure, he had that one weird match where he was stuck by Baughman of Cornell, but other than that, he was a monster. Not bad finishing 4th in the country as a freshman, and for that reason, and the fact that he's a monster on his feet, he's going here in the first round. Also, it's OKC, so seemed like an obvious choice.
With the twenty second pick, Brooklyn selects, Dariun Cruz, Lehigh University
Cruz went on a tear through college wrestling after being major'd by Ethan Lizak mid season. In interviews afterward, Cruz essentially said that he had made the decision not to lose anymore, and to show up completely prepared mentally and physically to his matches (I'm paraphrasing). Well shit, if that's all he needed to do, and he's got that part down, then he's going to be a force moving forward. Hard to shy away from one of the underclassmen (he was only a Junior last year) with a national title this late in the first round. Brooklyn, another team with more than one first round picks as well, so youth isn't their main prerogative here.
With the twenty third pick, Toronto selects, J'den Cox, University of Missouri
Of course it's ridiculous that J'den fell this far in the draft. Here's the thought process behind it. First of all, J'den just suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury, and I'm not sure what the diagnosis is at this point. Secondly, this was a guy who we weren't certain was going to come back to wrestling for a while after the NCAA tournament. Anyway, Toronto goes big here and tries to land an Olympic Bronze medalist, who may have found the fun in wrestling again. After all, Toronto is not typically a big free agent destination, so they need to go for big moves in the draft and with trades. Well done here.
With the twenty fourth pick, Utah selects, Matthew Kolodzik, Princeton University
Kolodzik had a freaky freshman season. It didn't quite end on the note he had wanted, but I know I wasn't the only person out there who predicted that he win an NCAA title either. He finished the year 7th in the country, but he had such a strong freshman year, along with his presence on the scene for so long, that Utah is absolutely going to take a shot on someone with such a high upside to be their next superstar. Utah, also tough to lure free agents, so find your studs in the draft!
With the twenty fifth pick, Orlando selects, Alec Pantaleo, University of Michigan
Orlando snags to beasts out of Ann Arbor to be their future. Pantaleo has had one hell of a redshirt year. First of all, he looks to have added some extra pounds of pure muscle. Second, he shows up to the US Open and starts it off by kicking the shit out of Jason Welch. It's okay Jason, I'm a huge homer and I didn't see that coming either. Before you know it, Jason Chamberlain's feet are flying through the air, and Pantaleo is in the semi finals of the US Open. Turns out that 70kg's was tough at the world team trials, but Pantaleo was there, which is saying a ton, and competed well considering he will be entering his Junior year at Michigan this year. With Pantaleo projected to be at 157 this year, that gives Orlando a solid 1-2 punch with their 6th and 25th picks in the draft.
With the twenty sixth pick, Portland (again) selects, Kaid Brock, Oklahoma State University
Kaid Brock began his college career with some big wins. He beat Corey Brewer even, before tearing his ACL and losing his freshman season. Thankfully, he was able to use that as a medical redshirt, and was able to finish this year, his freshman eligibility season, by placing 5th in the country. He showed times this season though where he beat Cory Clark, the eventual NCAA Champ, and was tough against everyone he wrestled not named Seth Gross. Brock being young, and proven, makes for a great person for Portland to get for their future to go with their picks of Gilman and Heil... Holy shit Portland has had a good draft.
With the twenty seventh pick, Brooklyn selects, Lavion Mayes, University of Missouri
Ever since I can remember watching Lavion wrestle for the first time, I was terrified that his blast double was somehow going to come through the screen and hit me in the chest, subsequently breaking every bone in my body. Thankfully, that's impossible, but like many nightmares, I was still afraid. Turns out not only is the dude really nice, and gave a great NCAA interview after his semi final win, but he should translate well into the next phase of wrestling. Strong leg attacks seem to do well at the next level, so I see this being a sneaky good pick for Brooklyn this late in the draft. Remember, he did get the first takedown in their NCAA finals match against Zain. Don't worry about the rest.
With the twenty eighth pick, Los Angeles selects, Jaydin Eierman, University of Missouri
Late in the first round, you see teams go for some of the vets that have established themselves, or you go with youth. Eierman is the youth angle, but homie had a terrific season. Started the year at 133, and wrestled tough, but ended up bumping to 141, which was clearly the right move for him and his body. He ended up placing fifth at the NCAA tournament as a freshman, and wrestled well at University Nationals as well. He's a hard nosed wrestler with a TON of upside, and a funky fun style to watch, which will fare well in LA.
With the twenty ninth pick, San Antonio selects, Chandler Rogers, Oklahoma State University
Here is the thing with Chandler. He can pin anyone, anywhere, at anytime, from any position, using any move. I feel 100% confident in that last statement. When you can get a sophomore that is THAT dangerous, and still has room to improve, holy cow you go for it. Sometimes you win the draft this late, and sometimes you lose it, but like Chandler Rogers, San Antonio is going for it.
With the thirtieth pick in the draft, Utah selects, Cory Clark, University of Iowa
He's the only remaining national champ from last season to not be picked in the first round. It's really only because of the shoulder. Although the dude is an absolute beast, fought through everything to come out on top with that win. Got creative enough to pull away some big wins to get that title, and did it at an estimated 80%? If you are telling me that you can have young Kolodzik, and draft Clark with the last pick in the first round and wait for him to get better and step in the lineup, then yeah, you do that.
Welp, that's the first mock draft in the first ever Wrestling Draft. I'm tired. I started this last Friday, and am just finishing it the following Wednesday. I tell you what though, I had fun doing it. Of course there is a boat load of talent still available. THIS WAS THE FIRST ONE!!! When professional wrestling finally does come back though, and our clubs start drafting out of college like this, it's going to be great! Jake Herbert! Make your billions quickly and get this thing off the ground!