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2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships Preview: 157 Pounds

Deakin_Ryan

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 157 lbers!

Conference Champions

ACC: Hayden Hidlay (NC State)

Big 12: David Carr (Iowa State)

Big Ten: Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)

EIWA: Holden Heller (Hofstra)

MAC: Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider)

Pac-12: Jacori Teemer (Arizona State)

SoCon: Cody Bond (Appalachian State)

Other Automatic Qualifiers:

ACC: Justin McCoy (Virginia), Connor Brady (Virginia Tech), Josh McClure (North Carolina)

Big 12: Jared Franek (North Dakota State), Justin Thomas (Oklahoma)

Big Ten: Kaleb Young (Iowa), Brayton Lee (Minnesota), Chase Saldate (Michigan State), Kendall Coleman (Purdue), Brady Berge (Penn State), Caleb Licking (Nebraska), Will Lewan (Michigan)

EIWA: Nick Palumbo (Sacred Heart), Andrew Cerniglia (Navy), Luca Frinzi (Lehigh), Parker Kropman (Drexel)

MAC: Jarrett Jacques (Missouri), Johnny Lovett (Central Michigan), Michael Petite (Buffalo)

Pac-12: Hunter Willits (Oregon State)

SoCon:

At-Large Berths:

Big 12: Jacob Wright (Wyoming), Cade DeVos (South Dakota State)

EIWA: Markus Hartman (Army West Point)

MAC: Justin Ruffin (SIU Edwardsville)

Pac-12: Requir van der Merwe (Stanford)

SoCon: Ben Barton (Campbell)

Injury Replacement

Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State) for Justin Ruffin

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

1: 10 AA’s, 8 finalists, 6 champions

2: 9 AA’s, 4 finalists, 1 champion

3: 8 AA’s, 5 finalists, 2 champions

4: 10 AA’s; 1 finalist, 1 champion

5: 8 AA’s

6: 6 AA’s

7: 8 AA’s, 1 finalist

8: 3 AA’s

9: 2 AA’s, 1 finalist

10: 1 AA

11: 3 AA’s

12: 3 AA’s

13: 1 AA

14: 1 AA

15: 1 AA

16: 0 AA’s

US: 6 AA’s

Returning All-Americans

Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) 2020 1st Team, 2019 6th Place

Hayden Hidlay (NC State) 2020 1st Team, 2019 4th Place, 2018 2nd Place

David Carr (Iowa State) 2020 1st Team

Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider) 2020 1st Team

Kaleb Young (Iowa) 2020 1st Team; 2019 5th Place

Brayton Lee (Minnesota) 2020 1st Team

Kendall Coleman (Purdue) 2020 1st Team

Will Lewan (Michigan) 2020 2nd Team

Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) 2020 2nd Team

Markus Hartman (Army West Point) 2020 2nd Team

Who Can Win? 

Most would agree that this weight class has the potential to be one of the most intriguing three-horse races, with #1 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern), #2 Hayden Hidlay (NC State), and #3 David Carr (Iowa State) all undefeated and having that national champion look. This trio also earned the top-three seeds at last year’s tournament, in this order. Deakin hasn’t lost since the 2019 NCAA Championships and carried a 27-match winning streak into St. Louis. One of his notable wins during that span was a 6-2 victory over Hayden Hidlay in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational finals. A match earlier, he downed Carr, 9-3. Deakin’s season got off to a late start in mid-February, but he hasn’t missed a beat outscoring the competition 28-1 at the Big Ten Championships. The losses to Deakin at the CKLV Invitational accounted for Hidlay and Carr’s only of the year. Hidlay recently became a four-time ACC Champion and is the first wrestler to achieve that feat in a decade. However this tournament plays out, he’ll be viewed as one of the top wrestlers in Wolfpack history, with a national final and three All-American honors already under his belt. Hidlay’s career record is 86-7 and this year he’s pushed his bonus point percentage up over 75%. Carr has two Big 12 crowns to his name in only two years of competition at Iowa State. David also has earned bonus points in over three-quarters of his 2021 matches. His “closest” bouts of the year were a pair of four-point wins against past national qualifiers. 

Upset Special

True freshman Chase Saldate (Michigan State) could be a tough matchup out of the #15 seed. He has a solid opening match against another freshman Cade Devos (South Dakota State). Though upsetting Hidlay may be a stretch, Saldate could be a formidable opponent on the backside. Chase picked up a win the Big Ten consolation semifinals over 2020 first-team All-American. He has the look of a young kid that is putting it all together at the right time. Undefeated #19 Holden Heller (Hofstra) could be an upset candidate right off the bat. He’ll face #14 Will Lewan (Michigan), who was a second-team All-American honoree last season. Lewan medically forfeited out of the placement match at the Big Ten tournament. If he’s banged up, it could be a prime opportunity for Heller to pounce. The Pride 157 lber started his undefeated campaign by pinning another returning second-team AA, Markus Hartman (Army West Point). The limited 2021 schedule has prevented us from seeing just how good Heller could be at this weight.

The race for the top-eight

We neglected to mention #4 Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider) in the “Who Can Win” category, but he is certainly a contender as well. This is the second consecutive year that the Bronc 157 lber has earned the fourth seed at nationals. During that time, Dellavecchia is 37-2 overall. Dellavecchia is unbeaten in 2021 with three falls and two techs. He notched his most significant win of the season by edging #7 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri) in the MAC Championship bout. Jacques is a podium threat. His only two losses of the year came to undefeated wrestlers, with Carr being responsible for the first. Steady Kaleb Young (Iowa) is the fifth seed and could be on a quarterfinal collision course with Dellavecchia. Young held off a tough, young set of competitors in the Big Ten to earn a spot in the finals. Though he fell to Deakin, 6-0, he is responsible for the Wildcat’s most recent collegiate loss. 

This list of possible contenders for the top-eight is lengthy as 157 lbs is a deep weight. Big 12 runner-up #8 Jared Franek (North Dakota State), 2020 AA #9 Kendall Coleman (Purdue), #10 Justin Thomas (Oklahoma), Pac-12 champ #11 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State), and #12 Brady Berge (Penn State) are all game and capable of cracking the top-eight. Aside from the senior, Thomas, the other four are sophomores, so they’ll do battle plenty of times in the future. 

Team Race Implications

For NC State to win a team trophy, they would probably need to count on a finals appearance from Hidlay. If Young wrestles up to or above his seed, it could spell a blowout for the Hawkeyes. Any chances of a team title from Penn State probably rely on Young missing the podium and Berge finding a way to wrestle into the top-eight. Berge has shown flashes during his career and is a Junior World bronze medalist, but he has missed significant time due to injuries. Jacques and Lewan are also two contenders that are competing for school’s in the trophy hunt. Both will be needed to take home some hardware. 

Round of 12: Jarrett Jacques (Missouri), Kendall Coleman (Purdue), Brady Berge (Penn State), Jacori Teemer (Arizona State)

Semifinals: Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider), David Carr (Iowa State) vs. Hayden Hidlay (NC State)

Predictions

1st – Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)

2nd – Hayden Hidlay (NC State)

3rd – David Carr (Iowa State)

4th – Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider)

5th – Brayton Lee (Minnesota)

6th – Justin Thomas (Oklahoma)

7th – Kaleb Young (Iowa)

8th – Justin McCoy (Virginia)

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