What: Eastern Michigan Open
When: Saturday, November 11th beginning at 8:00 CST
Where: Convocation Center, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Follow Along: TrackWrestling
How do you plan to spend your Saturday? Now, I know that college football is in full swing and many fans are forced to split their attention between the gridiron and the mat. Be sure not to sleep on the Eastern Michigan Open though while you are armchair quarterbacking your football team to victory or defeat. Early season opens are often a crapshoot of who will or will not show up, but we do know for certain that no less than 14 NCAA DI schools are sending at least one wrestler to this event. That means there will be some serious talent taking to the mat in Ypsilanti, Michigan on Saturday that you do not want to miss. While you follow along on Twitter or on Trackwrestling take notice of these Five Things to Watch.
1) Made you look
Who is going to turn heads? Invariably this early in the season at least one wrestler at the tournament will go on a run that will make us wonder, “Who is this guy and where did he come from?” A year ago Javier Gasca (Michigan State) stormed to the 141 title and set himself up for a strong season. Kollin Moore (Ohio State) showed that the hype following him into college was to be believed as he topped one of the best DIII wrestlers ever in Wabash College’s four-time national champion Riley LeFever. With wrestlers from 14 different DI colleges making the trip, almost certainly someone is going to turn our heads as the results pour in. I would keep my eye on 141 for that surprise as there are currently no ranked wrestlers entered at that weight. Someone will have to come out of the scrum and whoever does can put themselves on the map.
2) Down, but not out
The tournament may be down, but it is not out. Last year Michigan and Ohio State sent their starters to Eastern Michigan. That made for some very exciting wrestling as some very good wrestlers put on a show. This year both teams have opted to forgo sending their starters and send only a few wrestlers overall. Do not worry though, #17 Central Michigan, #19 Pitt, and #20 Edinboro in the latest TOM tournament rankings will be picking up the slack. Central Michigan has not entered any of their ranked wrestlers on the most current release, leaving Edinboro and Navy as the strongest lineups. Edinboro is sending four while Navy has three ranked wrestlers slated to compete this weekend. Overall, there will be ten different wrestlers in the TOM top twenty taking part.
3) Has anyone seen the Chippewas?
Where is Central Michigan? Last week Central Michigan placed 15 wrestlers at the Michigan State Open, and this week not a single starter seems to be listed at the Eastern Michigan Open! Not a single ranked member of the Chippewas is on the most recent release with their teammates. That means no Mason Smith, Justin Oliver, Collin Heffernan, CJ Brucki, or Jordan Ellingwood. The Chips are currently ranked as the 17th best tournament team and apparently, they have no desire to put that to the test against the likes of Pitt (19th) and Edinboro (20th). That or this was already scheduled to be an event they would send backups to, but it is still disappointing to miss out on some great matchups at 157 and 174. Hopefully, when they take on Michigan State next Friday they are all back in the lineup and raring to go.
4) Introducing Keith Gavin
Welcome to the show Keith Gavin. This will be our first chance to see the new head coach take his team out for competition. Hired last April, Gavin has a chance to begin building a strong team in the ACC. Currently ranked in the top 20, this will be the first test for the Panthers. Gavin was hired after the ouster of Jason Peters and has quickly made changes to strengthen the program. While this is his first head coaching experience, Gavin returns to his alma mater after assistant stints at Oklahoma and Virginia. The additions of Jordan Leen and Conor Youtsey to the coaching staff brings a new fire to the staff that also kept Drew Headlee on. Pitt is on a run of four straight top 25 finishes at the national tournament and Gavin will need to push them to maintain that streak. Good luck coach, a strong program in Pittsburgh is important to the sport of wrestling.
5) Moving Day Already?
There could be some movement in the rankings after this weekend. The Journeyman Classic is taking place farther East and with multiple top twenty matches shaping up in Ypsilanti, Michigan websites may have a fun set of arguments ahead of them before the next set of rankings are out. The Eastern Michigan Open could see a matchup between sixth-ranked Sean Russell (Edinboro) and 18th ranked Brock Hudkins (Northern Illinois) at 125. The 133-pound class could also see a top 20 battle between 15th ranked Korbin Myers (Edinboro) and 19th ranked Noah Gonser (Eastern Michigan). Obviously, that would be a fun one for the home crowd and a bit of an upset possibility. The final head to head matchup possible for our ranked wrestlers could be at 157, no Heffernan sets 15th ranked Taleb Rahmani (Pitt) and 20th ranked Andrew Shomers (Edinboro) on a collision course. This, of course, says nothing about the possible upsets that could happen along the way. Three different Navy Midshipmen need to avoid an unexpected loss if they want to remain ranked. Jadaen Bernstein (8th @174), Michael Coleman (11th @184), and Steban Cervantes (16th @197) will all need to be ready to go or risk being passed by wrestlers behind them. Billy Miller (Edinboro) may be the 13th ranked heavyweight in the nation right now, but we all know how crazy that weight is. Just a week ago American University’s heavyweight Brett Dempsey went from unranked to 17th after two upset wins against top 20 ranked big men.