This weekend 15 teams from six conferences will travel to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland to compete in the 40th annual Navy Classic. The field this year is beefed up from previous seasons and will include two teams (Oregon State, Princeton) in the top 25 for tournament strength. With plenty of ranked wrestlers slated to compete, the Navy Classic is worthy of fans attention despite taking place on a weekend filled with great wrestling action. Here are five things to watch based on entries submitted to TOM:
1) Just how good are the young Boilermakers?
The question could have been titled “How Good are the Boilermakers”, but it was their youngsters that stood out most to me after watching their performance at the Journeymen Northeast Duals. Purdue signed an excellent 2016 recruiting class and after redshirting most of them last season, the coaching staff’s patience is being rewarded. Redshirt freshman Griffin Parriott and true freshman Max Lyon both went 3-0 during their first dual competition. Lyon majored all three of his opponents. Fellow freshman heavyweight Shawn Streck earned a victory over NCAA qualifier Cory Daniel of North Carolina. Classmate Christian Brunner, the only member of the 2016 class to start last year, also went undefeated and upset 2017 Round of 12 finisher Dan Chaid. Though Purdue is currently unranked, I will still call them the favorites among the field this weekend.
2) De facto Navy wrestle offs
The Midshipmen always have one of the largest rosters in DI wrestling, if not the largest. With a sizable roster comes plenty of depth and plenty of competition for a coveted starting spot in Navy’s lineup. This year is no different. We could see head-to-head meetings with national implications on the line at multiple weights. At 157 lbs most fans would assume that blue-chip recruit Quentin Hovis, a four-time state champion between California and Arizona, would take over the weight. Blocking Hovis is 2016 NCAA qualifier Zach Davis, now a senior. When Davis qualified for NCAAs, he did so down at 133 lbs. In the Blue-Gold Challenge matches, held in early November, Davis shut out Hovis 5-0.
The highest ranked Navy wrestler is 174 lber ninth-ranked Jadaen Bernstein, twice a round of 12 finisher at the NCAA Championships, who is seemingly ready to breakthrough and get onto the podium in his senior season. Bernstein’s first hurdle will come in the form of teammate AJ Alford. AJ was victorious in their Blue-Gold match with a 6-3 decision. There also appeared to be another solid matchup in the making at 141 lbs for the Midshipmen, but #11 Jared Prince will not be competing this weekend. Behind Prince is 2016 NCAA qualifier Nic Gil, currently 5-0 on the young season.
3) Oregon State’s missing bookends
Although Oregon State enters this weekend as the highest ranked team in the field, they will be without two of their biggest guns. 125-pounder Ronnie Bresser and 2016 All-American 285-pounder Amarveer Dhesi both missed the Beavers season-opening dual meet against Eastern Oregon and will not be available for the Navy Classic. It could be another month before either sees action for OSU. While the Beavers will not have an entrant at 125, they are fortunate enough to have the services of the best backup big man in the country Cody Crawford. Twice an NCAA qualifier and the #10 seed at the 2017 NCAA Championships, Crawford will likely compete for a title in Annapolis.
4) Heavyweight Shakeup
The deepest weight class will be 285 lbs with eighth-ranked Michael Hughes of Hofstra, #14 Garrett Ryan of Columbia, #18 Brett Dempsey of American and #20 Jere Heino of Campbell all expected to enter. Of course, that doesn’t include the aforementioned Cody Crawford and unranked NCAA qualifier Zack Parker of Ohio. Purdue’s Shawn Streck will also be a dangerous draw, as he will most likely be a low seed or unseeded. Dempsey is an interesting darkhorse, as he spent the bulk of his career competing at 197 lbs, before moving up to 285 last year and compiling a sub .500 record. He started off his senior season defeating a pair of NCAA Qualifiers, Heino and Eastern Michigan’s Gage Hutchison. In most tournaments, heavyweight is the class where the brackets are most commonly busted, so one can assume that this group will make next week’s rankings more difficult.
5) The Lone All-American
With Amarveer Dhesi out of action, Princeton’s Matt Kolodzik will be the only returning All-American entered in the event. He is also the highest ranked wrestler that will be in action, currently sporting a number five ranking at 149 lbs. Kolodzik will make his official debut for the Tigers at 149. Two weeks ago, Matt did wrestle at 149 at the All-Star Classic and lost a narrow, yet unofficial, decision to Northern Iowa’s Max Thomsen. During the 2016-17 season, Kolodzik finished seventh at nationals while wrestling at 141. Saturday at the Navy Classic, Kolodzik will be one of the heaviest favorites. Only one other wrestler at 149 is currently ranked, #20 Jacob Macalolooy of Columbia. Don’t be surprised if he racks up bonus point throughout the tournament.
125: #19 Luke Welch (Purdue) over Elijah Oliver (Indiana)
133: #15 Josh Terao (American) over #19 Cameron Kelly (Ohio)
141: #10 Jack Hathaway (Oregon State) over Alex Madrigal (Old Dominion)
149: #5 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) over Corey Wilding (Navy)
157: #13 Larry Early (Old Dominion) over #17 Justin Staudenmayer (Brown)
165: #16 Jonathan Schleifer (Princeton) over Jacob Morrissey (Purdue)
174: #9 Jadaen Bernstein (Navy) over Devin Skatzka (Indiana)
184: #11 Michael Coleman (Navy) over Max Lyon (Purdue)
197: #14 Corey Griego (Oregon State) over Christian Brunner (Purdue)
285: #8 Michael Hughes (Hofstra) over Cody Crawford (Oregon State)