photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
Head coach Joe Simcoe 9th season
Previous Team Previews
The Tiffin University Dragons produced two All-American a season ago when Trey Grine and Nick Mason both made the finals of the NCAA Division II national tournament. They were the eighth and ninth All-Americans in the nine years of Joe Simcoe’s reign as the leader of the Tiffin Dragons. The team’s eighth-place finish bettered the previous program’s record of ninth. Tiffin just added a women’s program as well, adding to the opportunities available for athletes at the University. This is a program headed in the right direction that sees not only the growth of this sport on the men’s side but the exponential potential of the women as well. Located in a hotbed for college wrestling, this Ohio school continues to find diamonds in the rough like Mason while landing big recruits like incoming freshman Chris Donathan. If Simcoe can start landing quality transfers from the Division I and junior college ranks look out!
This season the Dragons return two All-Americans as well as senior leaders like Richard Screptock and Hayden Bronne. This will be an important season for coach Simcoe with his lineup losing quite a bit of experience to graduation this coming May. Even with the returners, there are question marks in the lineup. It appears that returning finalist Trey Grine will be out until the second semester and that there will be a bit of weight class shuffle around him. Even if this team can duplicate their double finalist tournament of last year, they will need more help to remain in the top 10 when the teams all get together in Sioux Falls. Simcoe will be asking to see more consistency from some athletes while others will need to show a jump in level. There will be true freshmen in this lineup as well, how they perform to start the year will go a long way to building the confidence they need to succeed. There is one thing for certain, though, Tiffin wrestling has the most adorable team mascot. 12 out of 10 people would say he is a good boy.
125: Rico Puente (Sr) Fremont, OH
Cam Dickman (Fr) Oak Harbor, OH
Rico Puente will return for his senior season as the perceived starter at 125 for the Dragon lineup. If he struggles again this season in that role though, he could find himself splitting time with incoming freshman Cam Dickman. Puente was just 2-7 during the dual season for coach Simcoe and his season record of 6-17 leaves plenty of room for improvement. I wonder if the move to 125 will be a difference-maker for him. Cam Dickman is a two-time Ohio state placer finishing third twice. He may need some seasoning, but the early season opens on Tiffin’s schedule will show who’s going to take over the starting spot once the dual season begins.
133: Matt Zuckerman (Fr) Elyria, OH
Ashton Moody (Fr) Chillicothe, OH
A freshman from Ohio will be the starter at 133 for the Dragons this season. This lineup is looking to build experience to fill in for the graduating seniors after this season and sometimes that means growing pains. Ashton Moody and Matt Zuckerman are headed to campus with hopes of being the man at 133. It is more likely that we see them split time unless someone emerges as the clear frontrunner. Best case Zuckerman takes control of this weight and Moody can take a redshirt to develop as well. Zuckerman was a quarterfinalist last season in Ohio state Division I tournament and comes from the powerful Elyria High School program.
141: Collin Adkins (Jr) Bellevue, OH
Jordan Keegan (Fr) Milan, OH
Two seasons ago Collin Adkins won 14 matches for the Dragons and he will need to regain that form to hold off incoming freshman Jordan Keegan. Keegan is coming off a fifth-place finish at the Ohio state tournament and when you pair him with freshman Chris Donathan looks to be the future of the middle of the Dragon lineup. Adkins never really hit his stride last season, but maybe knowing exactly where he will be in the lineup all season will help him build consistency. He will not be called upon to jump between 141 and 149 this year.
149: Hunter Langeloh (Sr) Columbia City, IN
Hunter Langeloh continues the trend of Ohio wrestlers staying in state and wrestling for Joe Simcoe. He was a two-time Ohio state placer and won his conference three times. He’s been solid and shown that he can score a win over one of the best wrestlers in the country. Quick, name one of the last two wrestlers to beat national champion Jose Rodriguez (Notre Dame). That is right, Hunter Langeloh handed him a 3-2 loss at the Ohio Intercollegiate Open last year. Langeloh is in his final year of collegiate wrestling and the clock is running out him finally earning a trip to nationals. There is an outside chance we see Trey Grine back at this weight second semester, and the returning national finalist would immediately come in as a wrestler who could win it all.
157: Sam LoFaso (Fr) Padua, OH
#2 Trey Grine (Sr) Fremont, OH
The big question mark in this lineup is if we will see Trey Grine in the second-semester and if it will be at 149 or 157. The Dragon lineup would be stronger with him at 157 which would allow Langeloh to move up. If he is not coming back until then, that means a freshman will have to hold down the spot until then. It appears that the wrestler to get that call will be Sam LoFaso out of Padua, Ohio. He would benefit from a redshirt, but you need to have someone to be here and LoFaso is going to be the best option. With Trey Grine, Tiffin could battle for a top 10 spot again, without him they are going to struggle to finish in the top 30.
165: Mateo Lybarger (Sr) Mount Vernon, OH
Garrett Wilson (Fr) Tonasket, WA
Garrett Wilson is a freshman from Washington state where he was a three-time champion. He is going to push to be an immediate starter for the Dragons. Wilson may be the most college-ready wrestling coming in for Joe Simcoe. The only thing that he may struggle with is the distance from home, you never really know how a college freshman will react to being so far from home. The man tasked to keep him out of the starting role is senior Matteo Lybarger. The Mount Vernon, Ohio native, was out of the lineup last season, but in 2018 he was 7-8 in a season that saw him as a spot starter. The two-time Ohio state qualifier has never finished a season above .500, but he has shown he can score on his feet and with Simcoe as a coach this could be the year he breaks through. If he does not, then I am excited to see what Wilson can do.
174: Richie Screptock (Sr) Oregon, OH
Richie Screptock has won 44 matches for the Dragons over the last three seasons. He made a big jump last year not only with his consistency but in scoring bonus points as well. He finished the Super Regional tournament with a 3-2 record just missing out on his first trip to nationals. He could get over the hump this season in a weight class that returns six All-Americans, but only 11 national qualifiers. He wrestled some of the top wrestlers at this weight last season to close losses and it just takes a little confidence to get him over the top. His brother Mike was an All-American for Simcoe and now it will be Richie’s turn to put his name on the wall.
184: Hayden Bronne (Sr) St Paris, OH
Hayden Bronne has won fifty matches over the last two years becoming the most improved wrestler in this lineup. In each of the previous two seasons he has just missed out on a trip to the national tournament and I think that this year will be the season he makes that journey. If you want exciting, Bronne has finished 35 of those matches early with a pin! When he wins, he wins big, and that is a difference-maker in any lineup. Last season he beat Brandon Sloop (Pembroke) by fall, Kelly Bailey (Maryville) by fall, and Dan Fillipek (McKendree) by major decision. Those three wrestlers were all national qualifiers. Let that sink in and tell me that I am overestimating his ability.
197: #1 Nicholas Mason (R-Jr) Shelby Township, MI
My favorite wrestler in Division II may be Nick “Curly” Mason. The returning national champion will be back in the Dragon lineup for his junior season after finishing the season on a 12 match win streak that included upsetting the consensus number 197 in the nation in the national finals. Curly pinned his way into the finals and then secured a third-period takedown and ride-out to bring Tiffin its second-ever national championship. Mason has won 48 matches over the last two seasons and if he can match that pace, he could become just the third wrestler in Dragon history to break the century mark. At the very least he would find himself third on the all-time wins list. I am not sure there is a true challenger to him when he is wrestling his best, but this weight has some very talented athletes returning which will push him to be at the top of his game.
Hwt: Kian Thompson (Jr) Oak Harbor, OH
Austin Winegarner (Jr) Delaware, OH
Tiffin wrestling may find themselves using a heavyweight by committee approach this season. Juniors Kian Thompson and Austin Winegarner are both still looking to hit their stride in collegiate wrestling. Between the two last season, they won just nine matches. Kian finished his year 7-8 with his best win a pin over Nate Panagakis (Newman) at the Midwest Classic. Austin was able to put a mark in the “W” column just twice with both wins coming against Urbana heavyweight Thomas Baker. It seems unfair that a lineup that will be so explosive at 184 and 197 will be looking for a bookend that can at the very least be competitive. One of these athletes needs to take control of this weight and benefit from the coaching of three-time All-American Joe Simcoe.