photo courtesy of MSU athletics
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Baseball season is over (and the Dodgers have lost again), college football is in full swing, the NFL is still unwatchable thanks to the rules, the leaves are changing, pumpkin spice is only a week away from its return to hibernation, and college wrestling season is kicking off! You can keep your Christmas, your midnight madness, your birthdays, or whatever days you think are better. For me, nothing signals the return of the world’s oldest and greatest sport like the first open tournaments of the year.
The early season opens are some of the most fun to watch. There are always upsets and wrestlers who seem to come out of nowhere. The waiver wires in all of the fantasy wrestling leagues will be alive with action come Sunday night as players scramble to snatch up the steals that we overlooked. Who is going actually show up? Who will avoid an injury that derails their season? Who is going to lose to their backup turning the whole lineup on its head? I love early season tournaments! You can have your CKLV or Midlands, have fun at the Scuffle and Reno, but for me, it is the MSU Open or bust.
There will be a lot of action across the nation this weekend, here are five things to look out for as you follow the teams in East Lansing.
The Michigan State Open
Where: Jennison Field House
East Lansing, Michigan
When: Saturday, November 3, 2018
I only have one question, who’s coming with me?
There eight Division I wrestling teams with the MSU Open on their schedule, but what does that really mean? Will each and every one of them be bringing their entire squad? In a perfect world with no financial restraints, I would like to think so. Almost certainly Michigan State will fill the brackets with their team, and I expect Michigan to send most of the wrestlers they have on the roster as well. They just had their wrestle-offs, and honestly, they have some questions still to answer which is not what you want to be saying when you are ranked fifth in the nation. The Central Michigan Chippewas will be there, and I would expect Northern Illinois and the University of Ohio to send a full team. The wildcards will be Oklahoma, Edinboro, and Penn. Edinboro and Penn have young teams and sending as many as possible to an early open could pay dividends as the season builds. This is a long trip for an Oklahoma team that will head to the Northeast next week for the Journeyman Classic. Keep an eye out for who makes this trip, it could signal the weights that are still up for grabs. Eight DI teams is a respectable number for an open, but we will have to see who actually attends.
The door is wide open, but here is your shot to kick it off its hinges.
The exciting weights to watch might actually be 149 and 184. Neither of them have a ranked wrestler expected to attend. Maybe we will get lucky, and Myles Martin (184) will just show up and compete, I mean he has done it before with disastrous Midlands results. I am not going to hold my breath though. This is a chance for a wrestler to really storm onto the scene, tear through the bracket, and suddenly you are on the national ranking radar of our very own Earl Smith. At 149, it could be Nolan Baker (NIU) or a healthy Davion Jeffries (OU). If you are looking for someone to turn heads at 184, look no further than Michigan freshman Jelani Embree. His redshirt season saw him post a 15-2 record in opens and hey guess what this tournament is.
It’s gonna be a war on the shore! If East Lansing was actually on Lake Michigan.
I am a fan of the lightweights and not just because I fondly remember my time as a 125 in college. Not because I was any good, but because at that point in my life I still could see my abs. This weight class could be all kinds of fun if everyone shows up. Three wrestlers ranked in the TOM Top 20, and if you use Wrestlestat rankings, there could be six wrestlers from the top 30. Six of the eight teams that are attending are bringing an outstanding wrestler at this weight. Headlining will be #11 Shakur Laney (Ohio) and #13 Drew Mattin (Michigan), but they will be challenged early and often. Rayvon Foley (MSU) is ranked 18th, and if Oklahoma sends Christian Moody, the semis could be all sorts of fun. Brock Hudkins (NIU) is a two-time NCAA qualifier, and Drew Hildebrandt (Central Michigan) had quality wins last season. Be sure to find these teams Twitter accounts, so you do not miss any of these battles.
There is something different about you, but I just can’t place it.
In what will be a sad reunion, former teammates will be back together on Saturday in East Lansing. Mason Kaufman (NIU), Zac Carson (Ohio), and Kayne McCallum (OU) will all be together on the mat for the first time since the end of the Eastern Michigan University wrestling program. All three transfers have found new homes, but saying goodbye to brothers in arms is always difficult. I want nothing but good things for the wrestlers who were so grievously *insert profanity* by the administration of EMU and wish them well in their new homes. Anthony Tutulo (MSU) is another transfer who has joined the Spartans at 133 after his departure from Kent State. This tournament will also mark a new chapter in the Kanen Storr saga as he will start at 141 for Michigan after his contentious departure from Iowa State. No reason to rehash it, but the “he said, he said” of the entire thing was almost good enough to create a plot for the new season of Riverdale.
Twitter, if you don’t have one, get one!
I can admit that without Trackwrestling following tournaments would be much more difficult. Unfortunately, I have yet to reach Barstool status and am still forced to work a mundane job on weekends. My phone is great for a lot of things, but trying to open up a tournament in its browser is a nightmare. Thankfully, Twitter comes to the rescue. If you have a Twitter account be sure to add as many wrestling programs as you can. More and more teams have dedicated social media accounts that will update throughout the day. It is a great way to show support because you are immediately counted as a “follow.” It is also a great way to actually know what is going on. Don’t just follow the teams at DI though. Nearly every program at every level now has a Twitter handle, and they are not hard to find. Just Google “-insert team- Twitter” and a result will be waiting for you. Too often it is hard to quantify how many fans of a sport exist, this at least sets a baseline. Twitter, do not just be a lurker, follow them. And follow us @theopenmat and me @bvilltheopenmat for all your wrestling needs.