photo courtesy of Cam Kramer
The first week of the unofficial dual meet season came and went and what a week it was. There were plenty of non-DI related happenings at the National Duals. The Virginia Duals took place and second-seeded Rider captured the title for the first time in school history. Top-ranked Iowa flexed their muscles on a pair of conference foes, while Arizona State hit it out of the park with their showcase quad, and a Badger dropped a couple of returning All-Americans. While there was plenty to talk about, we tried our best to narrow it down to the ten top performances of the week.
10) Grand View
The numbers seem like something out of a video game, but shockingly they’re real. The Grand View wrestling team crushed the competition at the NAIA division at the National Duals and won the title for a ninth consecutive year. The Vikings outscored their four opponents by a combined score of 157-9. In four matches, Grand View only dropped three individual bouts. During the National Duals, the Vikings tallied eight falls, and three tech falls. Head Coach Nick Mitchell’s team has now won 85 consecutive dual meets and has to be a considered heavy favorite to take home a ninth-straight NAIA National Championship.
9) Owen Webster (Minnesota)
On Friday night, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were victorious in their first Big Ten dual of the year after downing neighbor Wisconsin, 20-14. The dual started at 174 lbs and the Gophers proceeded to win the first five bouts of the evening. The second match saw 23rd ranked Owen Webster drop number nine Johnny Sebastian (Wisconsin) in sudden victory. Though the final score of the bout was 3-1, it was filled with good scrambles and lots of action. Webster earned the winning takedown after countering an errant Sebastian attack. The upset ended up being crucial as the Badgers rallied in the second half of the dual, but ultimately came up short. Owen has now won four of his last five matches as he recently earned three wins in late December at the South Beach Duals.
8) Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers)
The College Wrestler of the Week for the week of January 6th has done it against and cracked the top ten for a second consecutive week. Sammy Alvarez got his weekend started on Friday with a solid, 6-1 win over fellow true freshman Jordan Decatur (Ohio State). Decatur had a more heralded prep career that Alvarez and was deemed the #13 recruit in the Class of 2019. The Buckeye has already moved up to #15 in the rankings at 133 lbs. Next up, on Sunday, was 31st ranked Garrett Pepple (Michigan State). Pepple is the last opponent to have defeated Alvarez, which occurred in mid-November at the Navy Classic. While it was no easy task, Sammy turned the tables on his opponent from Michigan State and took the 5-3 decision in sudden victory. Alvarez’s winning streak now sits at ten matches and he sports a 17-4 record. He will undoubtedly get tested again this weekend with matches against #4 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) and #5 Chas Tucker (Cornell) looming.
7) Ryan Vasbinder (McKendree)
The top-ranked DII 197 lber in the land showed why he has such a lofty ranking at the National Duals. Vasbinder led a McKendree team to a 3-1 record at the tournament and they came up just a point shy of unseating top-ranked St. Cloud State. In the quarterfinals, Vasbinder logged a big 4-3 win over third-ranked Nick Baumler (Upper Iowa). Against St. Cloud State, in the finals, Vasbinder racked up a 12-1 major decision over #10 Noah Ryan (St. Cloud State). In his two other matches at the Duals, Vasbinder notched a first-period fall and a 15-0 tech fall. Ryan’s record for the 2019-20 campaign is now up to 18-1.
6) Brandon Courtney (Arizona State)
I love it when wrestling programs think outside the box and try to showcase their sport with special dual meets. Arizona State did this on Saturday as they became the first collegiate wrestling program to hold a dual in a Major League Baseball stadium. The Sun Devils, along with Campbell, Harvard, and Iowa State, competed in Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks. One of the stars for an ASU team that went 3-0 on the day was their leadoff hitter, 125 lber Brandon Courtney. Brandon had already started his week off nicely as he handled Ohio State’s national qualifier Malik Heinselman on Monday night. Courtney kept the momentum going by racking up 28 points in his first two matches against Nolan Hellickson (Harvard) and Korbin Meink (Campbell). In the finale, the 12th ranked Courtney pulled a slight upset when he knocked off #11 Alex Mackall (Iowa State), 5-3. Earlier this year, at the Cliff Keen, Courtney fell to Mackall 8-5 in the tournament’s fifth-place bout.
5) Michael Kemerer (Iowa)
The top-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes kept their foot on the gas this weekend and blew through the state of Indiana, winning a pair of duals by a combined score of 82-0. The Iowa wrestler with perhaps the biggest win of the two duals was 174 lber Michael Kemerer. In Sunday’s match with Purdue, Kemerer was pitted against undefeated Dylan Lydy, a champion at both the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the Midlands. The difference in the bout was three-third period takedowns for Kemerer in his 8-4 win. Coming into the match, the notoriously stingy Lydy had only given up one takedown in his 21 contests this year. That win came two nights after Kemerer downed Indiana’s returning national qualifier Jacob Covaciu, 9-6. Kemerer’s record now moves to 6-0 and he has earned bonus points in all four matches before this weekend.
4) James Pleski (St. Cloud State)
The DII dynasty that is St. Cloud State wrestling kept rolling over the weekend as head coach Steve Costanzo’s squad won the NWCA National Duals for a fourth consecutive year. Their four wins at the event brought their winning streak to 58 straight matches, breaking a run they had from 2011-2014. One of the standouts for the Huskies was 149 lber James Pleski, who is currently ranked second in the nation. Pleski’s first win saw him take out ninth-ranked Tyler Stegall (Maryville), 4-3. Things got no easier in his second bout when he edged fifth-ranked freshman sensation Chris Donathan (Tiffin), 3-2. In the semis and finals, James needed sudden victory to get by Zachary Moore (Central Oklahoma) and Juwon Edmond (McKendree). The win over Edmond helped St. Cloud State prevail 17-16 over McKendree for the championship. Pleski’s season record is now bumped up to 11-3.
3) Henry Pohlmeyer (South Dakota State)
While we’re mentioning Henry Pohlmeyer, this could very well go out to all of Damion Hahn’s South Dakota State team after a 2-0 weekend that saw the Jackrabbits take out Northern Iowa and Wyoming. Pohlmeyer was one of three South Dakota State wrestlers that came away from both dual with a pair of wins. In Friday’s matchup with UNI, Pohlmeyer was faced with the prospect of opposing sixth-ranked Max Thomsen. While Thomsen is a former All-American and holds a higher ranking that Pohlmeyer, Henry did win both of their 2018-19 meetings. That trend continues as Pohlmeyer was never in danger and actually got a bonus point during his 9-2 major decision. When the Jacks faced Wyoming, Pohlmeyer was tasked with the dangerous Jaron Jensen. At the South Beach Duals, Jensen handed then-second ranked Brock Mauller (Missouri) his only loss of the year. Once again, it was all Henry as he prevailed 6-2 over Jensen.
2) Tristan Moran (Wisconsin)
What a weekend for the Badger 141 lber Tristan Moran! Tristan took out a pair of returning All-Americans to run his season record to 15-2. On Friday night, Moran faced #2 Mitch McKee (Minnesota), an opponent that ended his 2018-19 season in the NCAA Round of 12. In their dual last season, it was Moran who prevailed with a fall at the end of regulation. This time, McKee jumped out to a 4-2 lead after the first period. Moran kept his composure and used a locked hands point and a reversal to grab a 5-4 advantage after two. In the third, after a McKee escape, Moran got the go-ahead takedown and held on to win 7-6. Two days later, Tristan was tasked with facing two-time AA Chad Red (Nebraska). Once again, Moran was down early. This time he put the Cornhusker on his back twice to break open the match and eventually won by the score of 9-4. Moran’s win helped Wisconsin hand Nebraska their first dual loss of the season.
1) Lucas Davison (Northwestern)