photo courtesy of Richard Immel
Each year my favorite column to write is my pre-NCAA facts and figures. With the aid of my trusty spreadsheets I will plug in the new national qualifiers and look for trends that have developed over the years or fun anomalies. This year was no different as I quickly added wrestlers into my sheets as each conference tournament concluded. From there I started researching for this article and actually put together more than half of the facts. I normally wait until after the actual brackets are released to finish the column and add in more tidbits relating to seeds and first-round matches.
Much to my surprise and everyone else’s in the wrestling world the tournament was cancelled. I had a whole handful of articles and previews that wouldn’t make it off the cutting room floor, so to speak. This one was going to be one of them, but as I thought about it more, why not? I would have released this before the tournament, so really we’re not missing out on any information. Even so, something feels off about it. However bittersweet it may be, try to have a little bit of fun with the interesting facts that we’ve uncovered while studying the 2020 NCAA Tournament.
Appalachian State’s six qualifiers is a new program record, eclipsing the five they had in 1984, 2001 and 2003.
Binghamton’s Louie DePrez captured the first EIWA title by a Bearcat since Tyler Deuel did so at 285 lbs in 2015.
DePrez was also Binghamton’s highest seed (4th) for Binghamton since Donnie Vinson earned the three seed in 2013.
Bloomsburg had multiple national qualifiers for the first time since 2014 when six Huskies went to Oklahoma City.
Troy Keller became Buffalo’s first two-time MAC champion since Desi Green did so in 2010 and 2011 at 149 lbs.
Campbell tied a program record with five SoCon champions. Their previous high was set in 2019 when they crowned five conference winners.
Russell Rohlfing qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championships after winning the 149 lb weight class at the Pac-12 Championships. He became the Roadrunners first four-time national qualifier since Riley Orozco did so from 2008-11.
Speaking of four-time national qualifiers, Brock Zacherl was Clarion’s first since 2010-13 when James Fleming qualified four times.
Talk about recruiting in your own backyard! Clovis is less than ten miles away from Fresno State and has some of the best high school wrestling in the nation. Since the reinstatement of the Bulldog program in 2017-18, head coach Troy Steiner has sent nine separate wrestlers to the national tournament. Of those nine, five of them hail from Clovis (AJ Nevills, Khristian Olivas, Josh Hokit, Greg Gaxiola, DJ Lloren). Expanding it 20 miles further, 2020 qualifier Jacob Wright is from Dinuba.
All seven (eight counting replacement Luke Luffman) of Illinois’ national qualifiers were Illinois natives. That was the most this year from in-state and they were the only school with more than six qualifiers that had all staying home.
On the other hand, none of Iowa’s ten national qualifiers were in-state products.
Iowa State’s David Carr became the first Cyclone freshman to claim a Big 12 title since Lelund Weatherspoon did so in 2014.
Michigan State’s six national qualifiers is the most since 2012 when Dan Osterman, Anthony Jones, David Cheza, Curran Jacobs, Ian Hinton, and Steve Andrus made the big dance.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers benefitted the most from the at-large selections. Brandon Eggum’s team had four at-large selections (Patrick McKee, Bailee O’Reilly, Owen Webster, and Hunter Ritter) which brought their total up to eight wrestlers.
Nebraska was the only school that qualified all ten of their athletes through their conference tournament. The last time that the Cornhuskers sent ten to nationals was in 2016.
North Carolina had three ACC champions for the first time since 2006. That year Jared Royer, Garrett Atkinson, and Alex Macaig all won the conference. All three of the winners from 2020 are sophomores (Zach Sherman, Austin O’Connor, Clay Lautt).
NC State’s Hayden Hidlay won his third ACC title in as many tries. He’ll have the opportunity to get #4 in 2021.
133 lber Cam Sykora became North Dakota State’s first conference champion since they moved to the Big 12 in the 2015-16 season. In addition, the Bison qualified six wrestlers for Minneapolis, their highest total since the 2015 tournament (Josh Rodriguez, Mitch Bengtson, Clay Ream, Kurtis Julson, Hayden Zillmer, Evan Knutson).
Northern Colorado’s five national qualifiers are the school’s most since 2007 when Tony Mustari, Kenny Hashimoto, Luke Salazar, Shawn Vincent, and Reece Hopkin went to the tournament in Auburn Hills. That year the Bears received two at-large berths, while this time all five wrestlers earned their spot at the conference tournament.
Northern Colorado’s eighth place finish at the Big 12 Championships and 72.5 points are the highest total for the program since they joined the conference in 2016.
Ohio State had two wrestlers (Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore) come home from the Big Ten Championships with titles. They are the only Big Ten team that has had multiple conference champions every year since 2012.
Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni became only the ninth Cowboy wrestler to win four conference titles.
With Larry Early making the NCAA Tournament for Old Dominion, it marked the seventh consecutive year that the Virginia school had at least one Illinois native qualify for nationals.
Oregon State’s two national qualifiers are the school’s lowest total since 1999 when Nathan Navarro and Ben Richards made the trip to NCAA’s.
Penn State’s seven national qualifiers are the lowest total for the school since 2015, which happens to be the last time they did not win a team title.
Pittsburgh has qualified seven wrestlers for NCAA’s for the first time since 2014. That year Anthony Zanetta, Shelton Mack, Edgar Bright, Mike Racciato, Tyler Wilps, Max Thomusseit, Nick Bonaccorsi, and PJ Tasser represented the Panthers at nationals.
Matt Kolodzik won his third EIWA Championship during his time with Princeton. He became only the fourth Tiger wrestler to win three EIWA titles and the first since Bob Eberle did so in 1939-41.
There was plenty to be excited about if you’re a Purdue fan. The Boilermakers finished fifth in the conference with 83 points which was their best finish since 1992. Devin Schroder and Kendall Coleman made the finals and became Purdue’s first Big Ten finalists since Colton Salazar accomplished the feat in 2010. It was the first time that a pair of Boilermaker teammates made the finals since 2004 when Doug Withstandley and Ryan Lange did so.
Purdue also had a pair of freshmen that qualified for NCAA’s in Kendall Coleman and Thomas Penola. The last time the school had more than one freshman qualify for nationals was in 2008 when Luke Manuel, AJ Kissel, and Logan Brown went to St. Louis.
Boilermaker head coach Tony Ersland’s coaching staff has been mining the midwest for talent. Purdue’s eight national qualifiers hail from five different Big Ten states Devin Schroder – Michigan, Griffin Parriott – Minnesota, Kendall Coleman and Christian Brunner – Illinois, Dylan Lydy and Thomas Penola – Indiana, Max Lyon – Iowa.
The Citadel’s Selwyn Porter is the first South Carolina-native to qualify for nationals for the Charleston, SC school since Ryan McClester did so in 2005.
Five of Virginia Tech’s nine NCAA qualifiers are from Virginia. The last time the Hokies had that many in-state national qualifiers was 2014 with Joey Dance, Dennis Gustafson, Devin Carter, Chris Moon and Chris Penny.
For the second consecutive year, Wyoming was aided by three at-large selections. Two of them (Hayden Hastings and Tate Samuelson) were chosen in both years.
The 197 lb weight class could have just been a Pennsylvania versus Illinois dual meet. 39% of the field at the weight class comes from one of those two states. Seven come from PA, while six are from Illinois.
The state of Indiana has 13 national qualifiers which is the most for the state in the last 20 years (at least). Last year they had 11 which was then a high, as well.
Cody Hughes (Virginia Tech) became the first national qualifier to hail from Maine (South Berwick) in at least 20 years. My national qualifier records date back to 1999.
The 16 national qualifiers from Minnesota is the state’s highest total in the last 20 years (or more).
Real Woods (Stanford) became the first New Mexico native to earn a top-five seed at the NCAA Championships since Scott Owen (Northern Illinois) was seeded fourth at the 2003 national tournament.
North Dakota had multiple national qualifiers (Jared Franek and Brandon Metz) for the first time since 2014 when Joe Latham (Oregon State) and Scott Schiller (Minnesota) made the tournament.
Ebed Jarrell (Drexel) became Rhode Island’s first two-time national qualifier in over 20 years.
After 2019 when only three Virginia natives made the trip to Pittsburgh, ten qualified for Minneapolis.
Iowa’s three #1 seeds at the 2020 National Championships (Spencer Lee, Pat Lugo, Alex Marinelli) were the most for the school since 2001 when Eric Juergens, Doug Schwab, and TJ Williams were all top seeds.
Northwestern had a pair of #1 seeds (Sebastian Rivera and Ryan Deakin) for the first time since 2007 when Ryan Lang and Jake Herbert were both undefeated Big Ten champions.
Ohio State had two #1 seed with Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore. They are the only school to have at least #1 seed every year since 2013.
Taylor Lujan was the first Northern Iowa wrestler to get tabbed as the #1 seed since Joe Colon had the honors in 2014.
The Panthers also had a pair of top-five seeds if you include Bryce Steiert. 2014 was also the last time UNI had two top-five seeds with Colon and #5 Dylan Peters.
Patrick Glory was Princeton’s highest seeded wrestler since Greg Parker also earned the second seed at the 2003 tournament.
Austin O’Connor was North Carolina’s first top-three seed at nationals since TJ Jaworsky was the #1 seed in 1995.
West Virginia had their first top-two seed at the tournament since Greg Jones was #1 in 2005 when Noah Adams earned the second seed at 197 lbs.
Stanford had two freshmen seeded third (Real Woods and Shane Griffith). The last time a team had two freshmen seeded in the top three??? Not as long as you might think. 2018 was the most recent occurrence when Cornell had Yianni Diakomihalis (3rd) and Ben Darmstadt (2nd).
This year was the first time since 2014 where no freshmen had earned the #1 seed. Dalton Fix (2019), Hayden Hidlay (2018), Zahid Valencia (2017), Bo Nickal (2016), Isaiah Martinez (2015).
Purdue had a pair of top-five seeded wrestlers in Devin Schroder (#5) and Dylan Lydy (#4). It was the first time that a Boilermaker wrestler was seeded in the top five since 2006 when Chris Fleeger (5th) and Ben Wissel (3rd) did so.
Matt Stencel was seeded fifth at the 285 lb weight class. It was the first time since 2012 that CMU has a wrestler seeded in the top five. That year it was Mike Ottinger (#4) and Ben Bennett (#3) both had the honors.
The SoCon had three wrestlers seeded in the top ten (Noah Gonser #9, Josh Heil #8, Andrew Morgan #8) for the first time since 2007. They were Matt Keller (Chattanooga #5), Scott Ervin (Appalachian State #7), Aaron Martin (Chattanooga #8).
The true freshmen that qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championships were: 125: Michael Colaiocco (Penn), Jackson DiSario (Stanford) 133: Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers), Ridge Lovett (Nebraska), Mosha Schwartz (Northern Colorado), Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma State) 149: Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech), Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado) 184: Abe Assad (Iowa) 197: Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming), Cole Urbas (Penn), 285: Luke Luffman (Illinois). Others that are technically “true” freshmen but sat out or took HS post grad classes last season are 165: Phil Conigliaro (Harvard), 184: Aaron Brooks (Penn State), 285: Yaraslau Slavikouvski (Harvard).
Northern Colorado and Penn were the only two teams with more than one true freshmen who qualified. Along with Harvard, who also has an asterisk by their name.
Oklahoma State did not qualify a wrestler at the 285 lb weight class for the first time since the weight class was contested (1998 it was 275 lbs). Their big men during that time period were:
Derek White: 2018-19, Austin Schafer: 2017, Austin Marsden: 2012, 2014-16, Alan Gelogaev: 2013, Blake Rosholt: 2011, Jared Rosholt: 2007-10, Steve Mocco: 2005-06, Willie Gruenwald: 2003-04, James Huml: 2001-02, Dave Anderton: 1999-2000
The only schools with eight 2020 national qualifiers returning for 2020-21 are Iowa, Iowa State, and NC State.
With the new “super” MAC Conference in-effect for the first time in 2020, these schools crowned their first MAC champions (Jesse Dellavecchia – Rider, Jared Siegrist – Lock Haven, Greg Bulsak – Clarion).
After the the brackets were released, the only first round matchup between past All-Americans was set to occur at 174 lbs where #30 Brandon Womack (Cornell) would have met #3 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh).
The Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic (formerly the Dapper Dan) has long been one of the must-watch events on the high school calendar with handfuls of future All-Americans competing each year. The 2020 NCAA Tournament had a first round match at 184 lbs between Louie DePrez and Travis Stefanik (Princeton), which was a rematch of their 2017 match at the Classic. DePrez won the 2017 match 7-1. Despite being in the EIWA, the two did not meet this season. This was the only first round match between past Wrestling Classic opponents.
The 157 lb weight class was the “legacy” weight as it contained David Carr, Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State) and Quincy Monday (Princeton). The fathers, Nate Carr (three), Mike Sheets (two), Kenny Monday (one), combined to win six NCAA titles along with an Olympic gold (Monday), silver (Monday), and bronze medal (Carr).
The 2020 was set to feature these brothers:
Patrick and Mitch McKee (Minnesota)
Hayden and Trent Hidlay (NC State)
Quincy and Kennedy Monday (Princeton/North Carolina)
And these twins:
Daniel and Thomas Bullard (NC State)
Danny and Zac Braunagel (Illinois)
Gable Steveson’s Big Ten title was the first for a Minnesota wrestler since Chris Dardanes did so in 2015. To find the last time Minnesota had a drought that long without a Big Ten champion you have to go back to the 1930’s, as they did not have one between 1926 and 1936.