photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
You may notice a very large asterisk at the end of the top line. That is in large part to the fact that I have had to completely redo their projected lineup and after we add up the points, they will no longer be the second-ranked team in NCAA Division II wrestling. I am not saying I got everything wrong, but I certainly made mistakes on some things that will immediately impact their team point total. I take full blame for this, there were resources outside of the coaching staff I could have explored, but instead, I decided to soldier ahead on my own. With no guidance I was made my best guesses, which it turns out were wrong. That being said, I have made some changes.
What is going on at Notre Dame College? The early favorite to win the title in 2019-20, it seemed like it would take a miracle to unseat them. It turns out that miracle was the slow death of the Wheeling Jesuit wrestling team and the subsequent transfer of two national titles to the University of Pitt-Johnstown lineup. That should not have been enough though to seemingly knock Notre Dame out of the top five though. Whatever has happened since the promotion of Sonny Marchette to head coach of the Falcons, this much is clear, Notre Dame College is in trouble. It began with the defection of seventh-ranked Cornell Beachem to Division III to play football. Not the end of the world, but certainly creating a hole that needed to be filled. Then came the news that seventh-ranked Jashon Hubbard would be transferring and now suddenly Marchette’s team needed a 165 and a 174-pound wrestler. Ok, that is tough, but it is not like they do not have the depth to fill two spots on the roster. Then came strike three, three-time All-American Kam Teacher parted ways with Notre Dame College and drove north to rival St Cloud State University. We will probably not see Teacher as a Huskie this season, but the loss of his points meant Notre Dame was down a potential finalists points. I know what you are saying, what else could go wrong for Marchette in his first year at the helm? I am glad you asked. Rumors abound that not only is 2018 All-American Taylor Misuna ineligible until second-semester, they will also be without 2019 National Champion Jose Rodgriguez for the same reason. Both could return to the lineup after Christmas break, but that has to happen for the Falcons to have any chance at a team trophy. This cannot be the Summer that either Sonny Marchette or Falcon fans envisioned for this program.
We can all speculate as to what is possibly happening in the room. It could be that there is a clash in styles between what the student-athletes are used to and what coach Marchette is asking of them. It could be that Hubbard, Teacher, and Beachem had made their mind up long before the regime change. It could just be that more student-athletes are looking at the favorable transfer rules and seeing a chance to take their talents elsewhere. Whatever the case, what seemed like a team destined to battle for a team title suddenly looks like a team that is going to have to fight to finish anywhere near a trophy.
Here is a revised projected lineup for the Falcons.
125- #10 Robert Campos (R-Jr)
What I got right: everything. Robert Campos is back and he has a great shot to finish as an All-American. The team will need him to finish his season better than last year, just qualifying for the national tournament will not be enough.
133- #3 Hunter Bray (R-Jr)
What I got right: everything. The good news for coach Marchette is that he will return an All-American at this weight. Third-ranked Hunter Bray will man the spot and challenge for a berth in the national finals.
141- Kelan McKenna (Sr)
#1 Jose Rodriguez (Jr)
What I got right: I am going to give myself 25% credit here. Jose Rodriguez will be in the starting lineup if and when he is eligible. Of course it may not be at 141, Kelan McKenna was an All-American in 2018 and he can more than hold his own at this weight. In fact it might force Marchette to move Rodriguez up once he returns to optimize his lineup. I do not have confirmation on the status of Rodriguez from the coaching staff, but that is because I did not get confirmation on the lineup at all from them. McKenna was at 133 when he finished third, but he was a spot starter at 141 a season ago. He is an immediate All-American threat for the Falcons at this weight, but he is no Jose Rodriguez.
149- Sandro Ramirez (R-Fr)
Taylor Misuna (Sr)
What I got right: I think 25% is fair again. Once again, I have heard through sources that are not the Notre Dame College staff that Taylor Misuna is ineligible until at least the second semester. That means the Falcons could rely on redshirt freshman Sandro Ramirez. Ramirez turned in a 3-2 record wrestling in two open tournaments and the Wauseon High School graduate was a four-time Ohio state place winner, including two trips to the finals. It will depend on how he fares whether or not my brilliant idea to move McKenna to 141 and Rodriguez to 149 happens.
157- #12 Zach Kelly (Sr)
What I got right: everything. Zach Kelly will finish his career as a Notre Dame College Falcon. I am not sure if he will finish it at 157 or 165 though. The absence of Jashon Hubbard means that a spot has opened up at the weight above. If Kelly moves up and Misuna becomes eligible, Marchette could potentially have a lineup that from 125-165 all have a great shot at qualifying for the national tournament. I think the best thing for Kelly though would be to stay at this weight and show that his late-season struggles were an anomaly to a season that was otherwise pretty good against Division II foes.
165- Jack Rogan (R-Fr) or Ryne Lewis (R-Fr)
#7 Jashon Hubbard (R-So)
What I got right: nothing. Jashon Hubbard has left the Notre Dame College program and with him went his team points from this number seven ranking. I was expecting big things from Hubbard this season and now I turn my sights to another talented young man in Ryne Lewis. Lewis was a two-time state champion from Arizona who placed all four years. He excelled on the mat and in the classroom and could be exactly what this lineup needs. His redshirt season saw him finish 7-10, but he did manage a winning record against Division II wrestlers. If the Falcons do not do weight shuffle, he may end up the best option here.
174- Ryne Lewis (R-Fr)
#7 Cornell Beachem (So)
What I got right: nothing. I remember seeing something about Cornell Beachem transferring to Division III to play football and wrestle earlier this summer. For the life of me, I was unable to find it when I was writing my preview and since I did not hear from Notre Dame I just assumed I was mistaken. It turns out I was mistaken that I was mistaken and Beachum is gone.
184- #1 Tony Vezzetti (Sr)
What I got right: everything. Good news everybody, Tony Vezzetti will be in the lineup. This bodes well for the Falcons because more than just being a finalist, he is the favorite to win the national title at this weight. Notre Dame College is going to need him to not only win but rack up bonus points along the way.
197- Logan Hall (Jr)
What I got right: maybe everything. Listen, I am just throwing darts at the roster and writing down the name they hit. Logan Hall was the starter a season ago and despite a rough finish to his season at the regional tournament should return as the front-runner to lead this weight. He will need to improve on his 10-7 record against Division II opponents though, that will not be enough to get him through to the national tournament.
Hwt- Kawaun Deboe (Fr) #3 Kam Teacher (Sr)
What I got right: nothing. If it were not for a Facebook post of the exit on I-94 for St Cloud State University, I would still think Kam Teacher was about to finish his career at Notre Dame. It turns out though, that he will take his tremendous talents elsewhere, and not just to some random Division II program, but to the rival Huskies. I am not certain that we see Teacher wrestle this season, as he still has a redshirt available. What I do know, is that the Falcons will be without their two-time finalist. Who is going to step in and fill this very large hole in the lineup? How about freshman Kawaun Deboe from Erie Cathedral Prep. The four-time Pennsylvania state placer just won his first state title after finishing second the year before. He totaled 160 wins over his four years including a perfect 39-0 as a senior. Is he ready? Maybe. Is he the best option either way? Yes.
I know I was far from perfect on the initial lineup prediction and that is on me. I promise to do better. I want to thank everyone who reached out and helped me make the changes necessary to clean it up. And that they did so without calling for my head or calling me other names. Expect that the team rankings will change with the preseason rankings. The reason we will be rolling out early lineup looks over the next month is to be able to have accurate starters and weights to make the rankings better.