photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
There was a lot happening today in the Division II wrestling world in Louisville, Kentucky and if you were not in attendance or if you were there but had to brave a ridiculous line to try and get in, I have you covered. Check out what you might have missed as we look at how the rounds played out.
Things played out pretty close to how I imagined it. Maryville, Limestone, and Parkside all advanced. Parkside’s dynamic duo of Arroyo and Furseth delivered and helped push them into round two. Radik (Maryville) was able to challenge Robb (Mercyhurst) at heavyweight and in case you didn’t already know, Logan Grass (Mercyhurst) is super tough. He went four and 0 on the day, giving up a grand total of four points, all escapes. Limestone needed all six of the win they earned to take out a tough Mary squad. Oh and Ivan Drago, who you might know as Matt Rudy went 4-0 on the day scoring all majors.
The action started off fast and it didn’t slow down until the lights shut off. St Cloud State broke its own record for consecutive dual wins with a total dismantling of Maryville. Big win for true freshman Ezayah Oropeza over returning All-American Logan Radik to finish the dual off in style. Tiffin looked very good in a win over Newberry College. Chris Donathan continues to impress with a win over 2018 All-American Damien Penichet. Also, I am 98.7% certain that I am spelling his name right when I spell it Isiah Roya and not Isaiah like Trackwrestle has it. Just saying. I did not expect that Central Oklahoma would win eight out of 10 matches against Colorado Mines. Hey, Tanner Cole did not give up a point, I wonder if that will continue tomorrow when he takes on “spoiler alert” St Cloud State. The Falcons officially have a dual roster that I can use for the rest of the season. After finding a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a thrilling fall to finish off the dual, Notre Dame is back in the quarterfinals. For Lindenwood, Colby Smith and Danny Swan are already paying dividends, but it was not quite enough to pull the upset. Pitt-Johnstown won every match you would expect them to against Limestone and two-time returning All-American Chris Eddins did what two-time returning All-Americans do, he dominated.
We almost had a number one go down today, Brandon Lucas (Bellarmine) gave Josh Portillo (Kearney) everything and more and in an 11-10 loss. After that, though, it was all Lopers, and by the way, Anthony Mancini is already upgrading the lineup at 184. Upper Iowa benefited from a forfeit and 125 and was able to ride that lead to a dual victory. In the negative for the Peacocks, Brock Benitz had a bit of a rough day going 0-2 against Alex Farenchak (Gannon) and Nick Foster (McKendree). The Bearcats had their own big round, taking eight of 10 matches against Parkside. We saw a new wrestler at 174 for them, Josh Jones, a sophomore seeing his first action this season in place of Qiante Wagner.
Speaking of McKendree, what a super match between Ryan Vasbinder (McKendree) and maybe the second strongest man on the planet, behind Drago, Nick Baumler (Upper Iowa). Seriously he may be the strongest peacock ever to take flight and he put up a crazy good battle with the top-ranked Vasbinder. No one has been that close to the Bearcat this season and we may see this fight again at the national tournament in the semifinals or even the quarterfinals. Nick Foster notched his second quality win of the day with a victory over Brock Benitz. A big win for Caleb Gossett over Triston Westerlund, the Northern Illinois University transfer has notched some good ones this season.
I maintain that Pitt-Johnstown will be a much better tournament than a dual team and Nebraska-Kearney showed why. They won all the matches they should have against the Mountain Cats plus a couple of more. Anthony Mancini upset the higher-ranked and returning national champion Connor Craig 3-2, assuring himself of a ranking jump. Kearney will meet McKendree tomorrow in the semifinals with the winner almost assuredly taking on St. Cloud State in the national finals.
Central Oklahoma earned their chance to end the streak after drubbing Notre Dame in the quarters. The Broncs won seven matches, including the marquee one versus two between Heath Gray (Central Oklahoma) and Tony Vezzetti (Notre Dame). Last season Vezzetti won their match in the national semifinals and finished as runner-up. Gray showed that his jump over the senior was not premature with a 4-1 decision. Ty Lucas picked up a big win over Taylor Misuna for the Broncs and showed that he is truly an All-American threat.
Holy crap St. Cloud is good. Every win from now until they finally lose rewrites the record book. Trey Grine (Tiffin) and Jake Barzowski (St Cloud) did not disappoint, the battle between the two top wrestlers at the weight went into SV-1 with the Dragon senior ending victorious. Kolton Eischens has allowed only two points so far, both escapes. Good luck Central Oklahoma, they may be one of the few teams with depth to challenge, but the Huskies have a ton of power.
Lindenwood was a match away from the quarterfinals before losing, and then they met up with a Mary team that was trying to battle back after a tough round one loss as well. After a fast start by Lindenwood, Mary was able to wrest control of the dual back and upset the Lions by running off wins from 157 on to advance. In what might be the biggest individual upset of the day, Jared Campbell followed up his win over a ranked Voss Morrow by pinning the second-ranked Jacob Robb (Mercyhurst).
Damien Penichet (Newberry) may have more rust than expected, but keep in mind he has not competed in a year and a half. Zebrandon Gant scored his second quality win with a 14-8 decision over Bailey Kelly. Pernevlon Sheppard (Parkside) may be the most frustrating wrestler on the planet to rank. He wins then he loses and then he wins. He is fun to watch, though. Brandon Lucas (Bellarmine) was upset after that great battle with Portillo by the talented James Sass (Limestone). I’m sure there were more I will find when I break down the rankings this week.