College Wrestling News

2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships Preview: 141 Pounds


photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com

The 2021 NCAA Championships are rapidly approaching and since brackets have been released, we now know everyone’s path to an NCAA title. Before the action gets underway from St. Louis, we will break down each bracket in detail. We’ll start with some historical facts for reference, break down who can win each weight class, who will contend for All-American honors, who are scary matchups for potential upsets, and how this bracket will affect the team race. Let’s move on to the 141 lbers!

Conference Champions

ACC: Tariq Wilson (NC State)

Big 12: Dom Demas (Oklahoma)

Big Ten: Jaydin Eierman (Iowa)

EIWA: Cody Trybus (Navy)

MAC: Dresden Simon (Central Michigan)

Pac-12: Grant Willits (Oregon State)

SoCon: Anthony Brito (Appalachian State)

Other Automatic Qualifiers:

ACC: Zach Sherman (North Carolina), Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh)

Big 12: Dom Demas (Oklahoma), Ian Parker (Iowa State), DJ Lloren (Fresno State), Clay Carlson (South Dakota State)

Big Ten: Nick Lee (Penn State), Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers), Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska), Parker Filius (Purdue), Colin Valdiviez (Northwestern), Dylan Duncan (Illinois), Drew Mattin (Michigan)

EIWA: Lane Peters (Army West Point), Connor McGonagle (Lehigh), Julian Flores (Drexel), Vinny Vespa (Hofstra)

MAC: McKenzie Bell (Rider), Allan Hart (Missouri), Saul Ervin (SIU Edwardsville)

Pac-12: Grant Willits (Oregon State), Angelo Martinoni (CSU Bakersfield)

SoCon: Anthony Brito (Appalachian State)

At-Large Berths:

ACC: Brian Courtney (Virginia)

Big 12: Chase Zollman (Wyoming)

Big Ten: Dylan D’Emilio (Ohio State), Marcos Polanco (Minnesota), Cayden Rooks (Indiana)

Pac-12: Real Woods (Stanford)

Performance by Seed; Last 10 Years (13-16 seed started in 2014–2020 excluded)

1: 10 AA’s, 8 finalists, 7 champions

2: 9 AA’s, 4 finalists, 2 champions

3: 7 AA’s, 3 finalists, 1 champion 

4: 9 AA’s, 2 finalists

5: 7 AA’s

6: 4 AA’s, 2 finalists

7: 3 AA’s

8: 6 AA’s

9: 2 AA’s

10: 3 AA’s

11: 4 AA’s

12: 3 AA’s

13: 2 AA’s

14: 3 AA’s, 1 finalist

15: 0 AA’s

16: 2 AA’s

US: 6 AA’s

Returning All-Americans

Nick Lee (Penn State) 2020 1st Team, 2019 5th Place, 2018 5th Place

Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers) 2020 1st Team, 2019 3rd Place, 2018 6th Place

Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska) 2020 1st Team, 2019 8th Place, 2018 7th Place

Dom Demas (Oklahoma) 2020 1st Team, 2019 4th Place

Ian Parker (Iowa State) 2020 1st Team

Real Woods (Stanford) 2020 1st Team

Zach Sherman (North Carolina) 2020 2nd Team

Dresden Simon (Central Michigan) 2020 2nd Team

Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) 2019 3rd Place, 2018 4th Place, 2017 5th Place

Tariq Wilson (NC State) 2018 3rd Place

Who Can Win? 

It’s hard to say. There’s an argument to be made that that top-tier of this weight consists of the top-four at the Big Ten. Jaydin Eierman (Iowa), Nick Lee (Penn State), Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers), and Chad Red Jr. have been ranked one-through-four, in that order, for the bulk of the year. Eierman emerged from that brutal Big Ten weight as the champion and looked better than at any point of his collegiate career. That speaks volumes when considering he owns a win over Yianni Diakomihalis. Lee scored a clutch win over Rivera in the semis and gave Eierman a run for his money in the finals. Rivera showed a little bit of rust at times, but with another week and a half of training, he is capable of reversing his result against the Nittany Lion and winning it all. Like Eierman, Red Jr, is extremely dangerous with his cradles and is capable of ending matches by fall, even against quality competition. All four are on track to become four-time All-Americans on Saturday. 

Outside of the Big Ten, is fourth-seeded Tariq Wilson (NC State). I’m sure Wilson supporters will contend that he could have earned a second or third seed based on his undefeated record, primarily coming in a deep ACC weight class. After the Wolfpack senior, three other ACC wrestlers made the tournament and were seeded in the top-20. Wilson is no stranger to seemingly unthinkable NCAA runs. He was an unseeded freshman in 2018 and made the semis after upsetting the fourth and fifth seeds. Even there, he had the eventual champion, Seth Gross, on the ropes before falling in sudden victory. Tariq’s potential quarterfinal opponent Dom Demas (Oklahoma) is also a contender. Demas is deadly with his series of inside trips. They fall into the “opponents know it’s coming but can’t stop it” category. The Sooner wrestled a 2-0 match with Eierman in the 2019 NCAA third-place bout, so it would be compelling to see how far he’s come since. 

Upset Special

This is a little bit of a technicality as most would consider a 21st seed a longshot to earn All-American honors. But most 21st seeds are not a returning first-team All-American that dropped a single bout during his freshman year, like Real Woods. Woods could not compete in the regular season due to a variety of issues in this COVID-year, but competed at the Pac-12 Championships for the first time. He certainly didn’t look like the wrestler seeded third at the 2020 national tournament, when he advanced to the finals and was pinned by #12 Grant Willits (Oregon State). Woods and Stanford arranged for a couple of bouts after the Pac-12 Championships with CSU Bakersfield, so he could obtain four total matches and be eligible for an at-large berth. If Woods is able to move closer to his 2020 form, he could totally upset the balance of power in the top half of the bracket. As luck would have it, Woods is paired with Willits right off the bat. The two met in 2020, with Woods owning major decision victories on both occasions. While plenty of attention has been paid to Woods, credit Willits for his improvements and he could also be considered a darkhorse AA candidate. 

The race for the top-eight

One of the unexpected All-American contenders this year has been Allan Hart. Hart qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2020 by finishing second in the MAC. He flew up the rankings this year after knocking off Willits, #9 Dresden Simon (Central Michigan), and #7 Ian Parker (Iowa State) within the first three weeks of the season. Had he not stumbled at this year’s MAC Championships, Hart had an argument for a top-four seed. Nonetheless, he’s seeded sixth and still in good position for a spot on the podium. Parker has multiple wins over Demas in his career and is responsible for his lone loss in 2021. He’ll certainly wrestle deep into this tournament. The same can be said for ACC runner-up, #10 Zach Sherman (North Carolina). The Tar Heel junior could be on a collision course with Parker in the second round. The loser of their clash will have a much more difficult path to the top-eight. 

There are two other second-round matchups to be mindful of. Red Jr. has #9 Dresden Simon, who has the loss to Hart as the only hiccup on his 2021 resume. He had a breakout year in 2020 and came away with second-team All-American honors. An undefeated grappler failed to mention thus far is #11 Cody Trybus (Navy), the EIWA champion. Trybus had three wins over wrestlers in this field during the regular season and another two in the conference meet. He’ll present a problematic matchup for Hart in the second round. 

Team Race Implications

The most apparent team race implications at 141 lbs comes from the top-two seeds, Eierman and Lee. For the Nittany Lions to shock Iowa, a title from Lee looks like a logical start. One that’s doable and not too far-fetched. Eierman’s potential quarterfinal match with Red Jr. could be a turning point for the Cornhuskers. An upset by Red Jr. may start a chain reaction that ends up securing a trophy for Nebraska. Missouri is a team that should be in the mix for a trophy too. Hart’s performance at this weight could be pivotal for Mizzou’s fortunes. 

Round of 12: Tariq Wilson (NC State), Grant Willits (Oregon State), Zach Sherman (North Carolina), Dresden Simon (Central Michigan)

Semifinals: Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) vs. Dom Demas (Oklahoma), Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers) vs. Nick Lee (Penn State)


1st – Nick Lee (Penn State)

2nd – Jaydin Eierman (Iowa)

3rd – Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers)

4th – Dom Demas (Oklahoma)

5th – Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska)

6th – Allan Hart (Missouri)

7th – Ian Parker (Iowa State)

8th – Real Woods (Stanford)

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