photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
I knew when I made my decision to tackle Division II rankings that it would cause some reactions. The rankings have been up for a few days now and I have received all kinds of feedback from them. Thank you to the coaches who have caught my errors and omissions. Thank you to the coaches who were less than enthusiastic in their responses. Thank you to the fans who were also on both sides of the fence.
I did not plan on writing an explanation up for these rankings when they were published, but it appears it is important that I do so. For the rankings released during the season, I will be breaking down the rankings each week. I have decided to extend that to these Way Too Early Rankings.
If you follow TheOpenMat rankings system for Division I, you understand that we take a “snapshot” view of things. I am not attempting to predict how this season will end, I am looking at this week. Keep in mind this week is very early. It is also the starting point for the rest of the season. I expect to make adjustments to weight classes, redshirts, and even what teams wrestlers are competing for. This is just the first brick in the wall. Please be aware that during the season there could be times where there are more ranked wrestlers in a Super Regional than there are qualifying spots. For now, that is less likely because I used the last national tournament as the starting spot.
I have already had to make some adjustments from the first edition. Due to confusion over what year of competition certain athletes were, roster changes, and a few other shuffles some athletes have moved up or down since that release.
For every weight class, I began with the top finishers. Athletes that finished in the top eight are ranked in order only moving up over graduating seniors. For example, at 125 Marcus Povlick (McKendree) finished fifth but is ranked fourth because Brett Velasquez (St Cloud State) graduated. From there I looked at the round of twelve wrestlers and then on to wrestlers who won matches at the tournament. After that, I reviewed the rest of the national qualifiers and the last two coaches rankings for Division II. That is where you may see a wrestler who did not qualify ahead of a wrestler who did. Not all six Super Regionals are equal and I understand that, but you have to start somewhere. For me, that is in Cleveland.
This may just create more questions than answers, but for now, here is a quick look at why the weights are the way they are.
This may have been the easiest weight class to go from start to finish. There are seven returning All-Americans including the top-ranked Carlos Jacquez (Lindenwood) who returns in 2019 as the champion. Nick Daggett (UNC Pembroke) was a victim of an absolute murder’s row at this weight class. He lost to the wrestlers who finished third and fifth. Right after him comes Jonathan Andreatta (Adams State) and Robert Campos (Notre Dame). All three fell a match short of AA status but for my money are the best of the qualifiers left. Rounding out the top 12 are to wrestlers who did not wrestle at nationals, but had records and late season rankings that showed they should jump into the first rankings. Matt Wilde (Kutztown) was the victim of a late-season injury that derailed a season that saw him in and out of the coaches rankings. Andrew McFall is another wrestler who was in the late season rankings who missed out on a trip to Cleveland but who I felt was ranking worthy. It will be interesting to see where or if he lands at another program now that he is no longer a member of the MSU Mankato roster. If Andrew McFall were on a roster right now, he would possibly be ranked in the 12th spot, but Melvin Rubio (Queens) takes the last place with his win over Maleek Williams at nationals.
Let’s start with D’Andre Brumfield (CSU Pueblo) and Ana Abduljelil (Indianapolis), they both came into nationals as All American threats but fell short. Tanner Hitchcock (Lindenwood) has some quality wins over other ranked wrestlers and he stays ahead of Austin Hertel (Gannon) and Sha’mun Smith (Limestone). Airk Furseth (Wisconsin Parkside) does make a jump into the top 12 for much the same reason as Matt Wilde. His body of work during the regular season warranted it despite not landing in the top three is his ridiculously loaded Super Regional. If he had, there is an excellent chance that he would have been an All-American.
Jose Rodriguez (Notre Dame) had an incredible tournament and after upsetting Joey Calderone (LIU Post) and Isiah Royal (Newberry) and holds the top spot. Louis Sanders (MSU Mankato) and Nathan Keim (Central Oklahoma) finished in the round of 12, they return ready to get the job finished this season. Jonathan Killingsworth (Nebraska Kearney) had a monster season in and out of the coaches rankings and that jumps him into the ranking despite no nationals trip. The ranking of Kolton Smith (Northern State) over the last returning qualifier at the weight seems to be causing some debate, but I feel like his body of work before the injury (like Matt Wilde) warrants the inclusion.
Gavin Londoff (Lindenwood) defeated Trey Grine (Tiffin) during the regular season, but at nationals, Grine was able to navigate his half of the bracket and make it to the finals. His runner-up finish sets him ahead of Londoff for now. I want to apologize to Chadron State fans, I totally missed that the university already updated the roster for next season and thought Chase Clasen was graduating. A big thank you to coach Brett Hunter for bringing it to my attention. From there though I struggled to decide where to rank him, in the end, he slots in behind Damien Penichet (Newberry) who was an All-American in 2017-18 for Upper Iowa. From there things get murky, 149 has more national qualifiers than spots remaining. A few wrestlers did not make the cut. This will sort itself out quickly during the season though.
Why is a wrestler who did not qualify for nationals ranked in the top eight? Efe Osaghe (Fort Hays State) not making it to the national tournament was a huge surprise. He had a season that made it look like he was headed to the national finals. Skyler Lykins (CSU Mines) is the highest ranked national qualifier that did not All-American after falling just one win short. I set Tyler Makosy (UNC Pembroke) ahead of JoJo Gonzalez (American International) despite JoJo’s 30 wins this season because when you compare their wins, Makosy is the clear leader. Chad Haegele (Kutztown) sneaks into the rankings despite his rough Super Regional because of his excellent season.
This weight was interesting because there are only three returning All-Americans. Devin Austin (Pitt-Johnstown) becomes the top-ranked wrestler as the highest returning All-American. Two wrestlers fell just short of All-American finishes and I gave them the nod over Jashon Hubbard (Notre Dame) who should return to the lineup after missing Super Regionals due to a suspension. He looked like an All-American before that and I believe he returns right back to it. I dug into the previous coaches rankings to fill out the rest of the rankings after the national qualifiers, Max Schneider (San Francisco State), Wyatt Jordan (Central Oklahoma), Aryus Jones (Fort Hays State), and Hunter Mullins (Western State) all jump into the rankings on the strength of their regular season and how much this weight class clears out.
This may have been one of the easiest weights to fill out. Obviously, there is blowblack over ranking wrestlers who qualified out of a Super Regional that may not have been as difficult as another one, but again, I started with national qualifiers. Andrew Sams (Bellarmine) had a body of work that earned him the one opening in the top 12 for wrestlers not in Cleveland. Zach Johnston (Mankato) is the first wrestler out, but I expect that to change during the season.
Konnor Schmidt (Western State) and Brandon Sloop (UNC Pembroke) both failed in their All-American bids, but they deserved of their top eight rankings. This is a time that two wrestlers who could have broken into the top 12 were held out. Dalton Hahn (Upper Iowa) and Colton Clingenpeel (Lindenwood) will be in there soon enough, but for now, they trail the likes of Brody Conner (Indianapolis) and Billy Bowlen (Seton Hill).
It is crazy to think that there are just four returning All-Americans to this weight class, but there are seven other national qualifiers. This is going to be an entertaining weight class on the national level this coming season. A major change here was the inclusion of Wade French (Chadron State). I ran into the same mistake with him that I did with Clasen at 149. I had to put him into the lineup with dropped some guys down. French won his Super Regional defeating wrestlers like Dylan McBride (Western State), Haszell West (CSU Pueblo), and Khalil Gipson (Adam State). The tough thing was that Gipson defeated him heads up at the national tournament and McBride also finished just one win short of being an All-American. French struggled, finishing 0-2. His inclusion knocked out Job Ayala (Wisconsin Parkside) and made West the last wrestler in.
It is crazy how much this weight class clears out, but that Kameron Teacher (Notre Dame) will be back one more time. He is still searching for that elusive title and this year he starts in third behind returning finalists Andrew Dunn (Kutztown) and Jarrod Hinrich (Kearney). Dunn defeated Teacher in a thrilling semifinal that showed incredible preparation and vaulted him into the finals where he carried his team into the top 10 of the team standings. There were 10 heavyweights who made it to the national tournament that have eligibility remaining. I was forced to do some jumbling and bumping that found Daniel Bland (Limestone) and Jordan Magnusson (MSU Moorhead) outside the top 12. That made it tough to slide guys like Triston Westerlund (Upper Iowa) and Luke Diener (McKendree) in. They will not be held out long once the season starts though.