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Top 10 College Wrestling Performances of the Week – February 8th, 2021

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photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com

Though the “Big Game” on Sunday night was kind of a dud, the most highly-anticipated dual meet of the season took place last week and it didn’t disappoint. Ninth-ranked Virginia Tech hosted number four NC State in the dual of the year, thus far. We’ve already described that dual meet and the facts associated with it in our “College Wrestler of the Week” feature, so we won’t rehash that here. Suffice to say, that dual meet set the tone for a strong weekend’s worth of action. Some of the notable occurrences include the first #1 going down, the Bedlam Dual, the regular-season SoCon crown being decided, and much more. We’ve got all of this week’s happenings in the “Top Ten College Performances of the Week.” 

10) Campbell

For the third time in as many years, the Campbell Camels finished as the SoCon regular-season champions. The Camels locked up their latest title with a pair of dual wins on Friday afternoon. Campbell took nine out of ten bouts from Bellarmine as they cruised to a 47-3 win. Next up was traditional conference power Chattanooga, which presented a more formidable challenge. The Mocs held a commanding 15-3 lead after the first six weights, but Campbell’s big men came through in a big way. #32 ranked Austin Murphy got the ball rolling in the Camels favor at 174 with a first-period fall. One match later, #32 Caleb Hopkins knocked off #26 Matthew Waddell, 5-2. Chris Kober followed with a 4-3 win at 197, setting the stage for the big men. Taye Ghadiali clinched the win for his team with a 4-1 victory over Grayson Walthall at 285 lbs. Campbell’s latest title comes in their first year under head coach Scotti Sentes.

9) Dresden Simon (Central Michigan)

Central Michigan had been off the mats for the past two weeks, but they returned to competition in style with three wins over the weekend. Against Cleveland State, Edinboro, and Buffalo, the Chippewas outscored the opposition 91-12. While many CMU grapplers had strong showings, Dresden Simon was perhaps the best. Simon tallied a pair of technical falls over Joseph Caprella (Cleveland State) and Ryan Burgos (Edinboro), before his first-period fall over #30 Derek Spann (Buffalo). Derek was a 2019 MAC runner-up and is a two-time national qualifier. The wins bring Simon’s record to 5-1 for the year, four of which came with bonus points. 

8) Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa)

Another week, another mention in the top performances for Northern Iowa redshirt freshman Parker Keckeisen. Parker extended his unbeaten mark in the 2021 season to seven as he downed another ranked opponent. Last week it was All-American Dakota Geer (Oklahoma), while this time around, it was #16 Brit Wilson (Northern Illinois). The Husky 184 lber, Wilson, held a three-point lead in the second period before Keckeisen made his move. Parker grabbed a pair of takedowns in the final two periods and tacked on a riding time point to take an 8-5 decision. The win over Wilson gave Keckeisen a third win over a past national qualifier in seven matches. He started the weekend ranked 11th in the nation, but will likely move up. 

7) Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley)

Aside from the top-ranked 125 lber Spencer Lee, the top of the 125 lb weight class has been difficult to read. One of those who have shined has been Taylor Lamont, who moves his 2021 mark to 6-0. LaMont’s Utah Valley team went on the road and saw him square off with a pair of returning national qualifiers, Jackson DiSario (Stanford) and Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State). Despite some quality competition, LaMont was able to tally 31 points among the two contests. He rolled to a 19-5 major decision over Kaylor before a 12-8 win over DiSario. Four of LaMont’s six matches have ended with bonus points. Taylor is not out of the woods in the regular season just yet; he is slated to compete in a quad next weekend containing two ranked wrestlers (Danny Vega – South Dakota State and Cody Phippen – Air Force).

6) Austin O’Connor (North Carolina)

It was busy-as-usual for the top-ranked 149 lber in the land, Austin O’Connor. Austin moved his season record up to 5-0 after scoring a pair of bonus-point wins this weekend. In five matches this year, O’Connor has only been held to a regular decision once. His first victory came in a conference dual against Pittsburgh’s #32 Luke Kemerer. O’Connor scored a fall in just over four minutes after seemingly taking Kemerer’s head off with a gigantic headlock. A day later, the Tar Heels traveled to Lehigh, where Austin was pitted against #25 Jimmy Hoffman. O’Connor’s 16-4 major decision led UNC to a 26-6 romp over the Mountain Hawks. Austin carries a 19-match winning streak into the final weekend of the regular season, where he has a date with Virginia’s Denton Spencer. 

5) Liam Cronin (Nebraska)

Seventh-ranked Nebraska logged a pair of wins on the weekend against Big Ten foes Indiana and Michigan State. The tone-setter for the Huskers was their 125 lber Liam Cronin, who improved his 2021 record to 6-1. His only setback of the year came to two-time national champion Spencer Lee (Iowa). Liam started the day with a 14-13 shootout win over 2019 All-American Rayvon Foley (Michigan State). Foley had been ranked as high as #2 in the country earlier in the 2021 season and Liam now has two wins over former national qualifiers. Cronin closed the day by facing his former team, Indiana. There he held on to down the Hoosiers Jacob Moran, 4-2. 

4) Jaydin Eierman (Iowa)

Another top-ranked wrestler gets mentioned this week. The number-one 141 lber in the country, Jaydin Eierman, had some solid competition on Sunday and responded with a pair of pins. Eierman has not pinned his last three opponents and is now 5-0 for the year. His weekend started when Iowa took on Purdue and their 141 lber Parker Filius. Jaydin used some smothering top-game and a nasty bar to complete the fall over the Boilermaker. Later in the afternoon, Eierman faced Ohio State’s highly-touted freshman Anthony Echemendia. While holding a 2-0 lead in the third period, Eierman locked in a cradle and rolled Echemendia to his back for the pin. He has one of the biggest matches of the year on the horizon as he’s slated to meet #2 Nick Lee (Penn State) on Friday night. The two met in the third-place bout in the 2019 NCAA Championships and Jaydin won by major decision. 

3) Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)

On Saturday, the first #1 ranked wrestler of the year was upset. West Virginia’s Noah Adams went down at the hands of Wyoming sophomore Stephen Buchanan, 8-7. Buchanan didn’t have long to celebrate his big win, because #5 Kordell Norfleet was waiting in the wings. The Cowboy wrestler was trying to create action in a flurry and got pancaked to his back by Norfleet. Kordell was able to keep him there to pick up his second fall of the season. It was also his second win over a ranked opponent. The two-time Pac-12 champion started the weekend ranked fifth in the nation at 197 lbs, but will likely move up based on his win and others above him that fell. 

2) Ethan Laird (Rider)

A surprising Rider team got their third straight win and knocked off Lehigh largely because of an upset from their 285 lber Ethan Laird. Ethan improved his 2021 record to 5-0 with an 8-5 win over fifth-ranked Jordan Wood. Holding a 6-5 lead with under :20 left in the bout, Laird stuffed an offensive attack from Wood and took a reshot of his own. He was able to convert, which locked up the bout for himself, as well as his team, 17-15. It was the first win for Rider against the Mountain Hawks since December of 2014. Laird is in his first year at 285 lbs after making the national tournament in each of the last two years at 197. The move has paid dividends as Ethan has been an offensive machine racking up at least 12 points per match in his four previous bouts. He started the week ranked 19th in the country, but will surely move up. 

1) Sam Latona (Virginia Tech)

TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week – February 8th, 2021

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