Before the season began, we took a look at five seniors who have been excellent throughout their careers but have yet to become an All-American. As the season has moved along, we’ve kept an eye on these wrestlers as their final campaigns have unfolded. Now, as the Division I post-season unfolds, we wanted to check back in and see how these five are doing two weeks before the 2018 NCAA tournament.
5) Jadaen Bernstein, Navy, 174
The three-time national qualifier who has been to the round of 12 twice is 19-4 this season and enters the EIWA tournament ranked 11th in the country. He may get a chance to drastically improve his seed or, at least, get a good gauge of where he stands if he earns a showdown with fourth-ranked Jordan Kutler (Lehigh), who he has not met this season. An EIWA title with a victory over the Mountain Hawk would likely mean a top-10 seed which would be a drastic departure from the previous three seasons when Bernstein entered the national tournament unseeded. Even if he doesn’t beat Kutler, he should be in line for a seed if he wrestles well which would give him a leg up on past seasons.
4) Tyler Smith, Bucknell, 141
Smith cruised over 100 career wins this season with a 24-3 campaign to this point, entering the post-season riding a 14-match winning streak. He is ranked 11th in the country after the three-time NCAA qualifier reached the round of 12 from the 15-seed a year ago. At the EIWA tournament, he’ll be seeded second behind national number three Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) giving him a chance for a big upset, though he will be a decided underdog. 141 pounds has become an incredibly deep weight at the top which may leave Smith battling in the round of 12 once again in Cleveland. He’ll want to reach the finals, at a minimum, this weekend to ensure he gets the best seed possible in two weeks.
3) Dom Forys, Pitt, 133
Throughout much of the season, Forys looked to be squarely on the wrong side of the bubble in another talented weight class. However, recent wins over Dennis Gustafson (Virginia Tech) and Tariq Wilson (NC State) proved he was still in contention, then he beat 2017 All-American Scott Parker (Lehigh) in the final match of the regular season for his best win of 2017-18. The three-time NCAA qualifier who reached the round of 12 in 2016 is wrestling his best at the right time, entering the post-season 18-3. The ACC field is loaded at 133 pounds and the way the brackets look, Dom is likely going to face Jack Mueller (Virginia) in the semifinals with a win meaning a probable rematch with either Wilson or Gustafson in the finals. Forys is ranked eighth in the country and with an ACC title will secure a quality seed. More importantly, it would be yet another sign that he is in peak form.
2) Matt McCutcheon, Penn State, 197
Lost in the late season debate over whether Shakur Rasheed or Anthony Cassar should represent Penn State at 197 pounds is the fact that neither was supposed to be the guy coming into the season. McCutcheon battled into the NCAA quarter-finals twice during his three seasons in the lineup, including last season wrestling from the five seed. Health has been an issue for Matt throughout his career and it ultimately prevented him from challenging the other two down the stretch of his senior season.
1) Domenic Abounader, Michigan, 184
Abounader is on pace to earn a top-10 seed at the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in his career entering the Big Ten tournament ranked fourth in the country. He’ll be glad to know that Sam Brooks (Iowa) is no longer an obstacle after the Hawkeye beat him at nationals in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 edition occurred in the round of 12 when Brooks was the two and Abounader was the four. Dom redshirted last season and has looked strong upon his return, going 19-4 with each loss to one of the top three at this weight. With Myles Martin (Ohio State) and Bo Nickal (Penn State) in the same conference, Abounader will have a chance to earn big wins this weekend, but even if he doesn’t, expect him to be in the mix to finally become an All-American in Cleveland.