Six weeks into the college season, we’ve learned a lot about teams, wrestlers, and stories we’ll be following all year. However, there is still a lot we don’t know and a small group of wrestlers who have yet to wrestle a college match, though they could finish high in Cleveland if they come back as good as the last time we saw them. Last season, we saw Dylan Palacio (Cornell) debut in mid-January, then finished sixth in the country. In fact, Palacio didn’t wrestle before December 21st in each of his last three seasons in Ithaca. There is precedent for a late arriving talent to make an impact, but each of these men will be aiming higher than sixth. Here are the five wrestlers we have yet to see in college action this season that could do the most damage in March.
Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State, 125
The three-time NCAA top three finisher was injured competing in the Under 23 World Team Trials in October. He reached the finals of that competition before dropping two consecutive bouts to Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) in the final series. Fix is expected to make his season debut at the Reno Tournament of Champions this weekend but was not included here given he is likely to remain in redshirt. Tomasello spent the 2016-17 season up at 133 and his cut to 125, a necessary evil if Ohio State is to compete for a team title, is something the entire country will be watching. He did have to make 125.5 at the Under 23 Trials, but making it once under freestyle weigh-in rules is a little different than making it three days in a row in March. Missing the first part of the season isn’t ideal, of course, though it is unlikely we would have seen much of Tomasello regardless. I did spot him in Vegas working out with Joey McKenna between sessions suggesting he could return soon if necessary. When he does, he’ll be expected to contend for a title in a suddenly crowded weight class. Tomasello owns a career record of 84-6, won a national title at 125 as a freshman, and has entered the last two NCAA tournaments undefeated.
Anthony Ashnault, Rutgers, 141
While we knew Ashnault, who has finished eighth, fourth, and sixth at the national tournament during his career, becoming Rutgers first ever three-time All-American in wrestling, would miss the first part of his senior season as he recovered from injury, rumors that he could apply for a sixth year of eligibility have begun to surface. However, that typically requires an athlete miss two non-redshirt seasons due to injury which is not the case with Ashnault, even if he doesn’t wrestle this season. While decisions on such requests are made by a committee and it is impossible to say for certain what they would decide, I don’t like his chances there. That means we will likely see Anthony at some point in 2017-18 trying to become a four-time All-American at one of the deepest weights in the country. Just one All-American from 2017 was a senior and one other, Matt Kolodzik (Princeton), moved up. That leaves Ashnault and five other returning top eight finishers in a weight that added Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) and Chad Red (Nebraska), not to mention Jered Cortez or Nick Lee at Penn State. A healthy Ashnault can go with anyone, but it remains to be seen just how close to 100% he can get.
Pat Downey, Iowa, 184
With Iowa State’s fall commencement ceremonies set for this weekend, we should know soon if Downey has completed his degree and earned the right to become a Hawkeye. It appears that everything is set to proceed in that direction which would instantly upgrade the Iowa line-up. With Alex Marinelli (165) making his season debut last week, the addition of Downey, a 2016 All-American at 197 pounds, would complete the picture for now, though the speculation about Spencer Lee and Jacob Warner’s redshirts will continue. For Downey, graduating from Iowa State can be seen as nothing but a positive and he’d step into a 184-pound class where Bo Nickal (Penn State) and Myles Martin (Ohio State) look to be separating themselves from the field. Ever confident, Downey will no doubt expect to beat them both and should immediately be considered a top four threat. If we see him in black and gold, he’ll be one to watch every time he takes the mat.
Preston Weigel, Oklahoma State, 197
Oklahoma State head coach John Smith confirmed 2017 All-American Preston Weigel is set to see his first action of 2017-18 when the Cowboys take on Northern Colorado on Monday. He too was felled by injury before the season began, but he’ll have plenty of time to get back up to speed. The junior finished sixth in the country last spring, improving upon his round of 12 finish as a freshman the year before. With three of the five wrestlers who finished ahead of him in St. Louis being seniors, Weigel has a chance to finish even higher this season. His excellent top game makes him dangerous against any opponent and his ability on his feet has continued to progress throughout his career. When he returns to the Oklahoma State lineup it will push Andrew Marsden back down to 184 where he is expected to challenge Keegan Moore for the starting job.
Amar Dhesi, Oregon State, 285
Taking it slow after a major knee injury is smart, especially when it is your second one in three years. Dhesi was cut down before last season began after missing all of 2014-15 as well. He has yet to take the mat this season, leaving 285 pounds in the capable hands of Cody Crawford. Dhesi finished fifth in the country in 2016 behind an incredible group of heavyweights that included Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State), Adam Coon (Michigan), and Ty Walz (Virginia Tech). He also wrestles internationally for Canada and was a Junior world champion in 2014 at 120 kg. His on again, off again NCAA career has deprived him of a chance to develop into a true title contender, but he has had an impressive run when he has been on the mat. Barring any major setbacks, he should be back healthy sometime in the second semester, but until we see him, it is cause for concern.