The conference championships have come and gone and what a group of tournaments they were. As expected the Big Ten was a meatgrinder that produced plenty of highly-ranked grapplers facing off and also a handful of upsets. The same can be said for the other seven tournaments that took place between Friday and Sunday. All in all 80 conference champions were crowned while 285 wrestlers punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh.
Here are the top ten DI performances of the week. Since the DII and DIII national championships were held this weekend, there are plenty of wrestlers from those tournaments that need to be mentioned, which will happen in a separate article.
In reviewing Buffalo’s performance at the 2019 MAC Championships, there were a lot of “first since’s…”. Head Coach John Stutzman’s crew automatically qualified five wrestlers for the NCAA Championships which is the highest mark for the program since the 2011 season. Two Bull wrestlers took home individual MAC titles, which is the first time the team has crowned multiple champions since 2011, also. Neither one of Buffalo’s winners, Troy Keller (165) and Brett Perry (197), were the top seeds at weight classes where only the winner would earn a berth in the national tournament. Two other Buffalo wrestlers, Derek Spann (133) and Bryan Lantry (141) were finalists, as well. Lantry’s qualification for the NCAA Tournament makes him the first four-time NCAA qualifier in school history. The last qualifier for the Bulls was Alex Smythe, who finished fifth in a very tough 157 lb weight class. There is also an excellent chance that 285 lber Jake Gunning receives an at-large berth which would bring Buffalo’s total qualifiers up to six which would be a program high at the DI level.
9) Willy Girard (Bloomsburg)
Bloomsburg’s 125 lber Willy Girard became the first wrestler to win an EWL title for the Huskies since 2014 (Richard Perry) when he survived a battle in the finals against top-seeded Luke Werner (Lock Haven) 9-8 in tiebreakers. Willy also becomes the first Bloomsburg wrestler since 2014 to qualify for the NCAA’s. Working from the three seed, Girard jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in his first-round match before Gavin Park (Clarion) had to default via injury. In the semis, Willy avenged a regular season loss to Jonathan Tropea (Rider) when he pinned Tropea, late in the third period while up by 11 points. The finals win over Werner is certainly no fluke, as it marked the third time during the 2018-19 season that Girard has been able to down the Bald Eagle grappler.
8) Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley)
In each one of Demetrius Romero’s three bouts at the Big 12 Championships, he needed a rally in the third period just to win. Each time, Romero who was propelled by a huge gas tank, was able to do so and became the first Utah Valley wrestler to win a Big 12 crown. The first win of the tournament made the most headlines when he came back from a 7-3 third-period deficit to defeat two-time All-American Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State). Trailing by two points late in the third, Romero hit a huge double leg which took Smith to his back where he held him for a four count and kept him there for the remainder of the match. In the semi’s a takedown of 12th-ranked Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) broke a 1-1 tie in the third period and sent him to a finals meeting with the 2018 Big 12 runner-up Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State). Trailing 5-3 in the third period, Romero used an escape and takedown to tie the match at six and send it into sudden victory where he used his trademark sweep single to earn the 8-6 win and more importantly a Big 12 Championship.
7) Jaydin Eierman (Missouri)
The two-time All-American from Missouri kept his hot streak alive and bonused his way to his third MAC Championship, in one of the conferences most dangerous weight classes. Heading into the tournament, Eierman has pinned five straight wrestlers. He would have that string snapped after “only” getting a tech-fall in the first round, yet he would start another in the semis by pinning All-American Sa’Derian Perry (Old Dominion) in the first period. It was the second time this year Eierman has pinned the Monarch. It was more of the same in the finals where Jaydin pinned 15th-ranked Bryan Lantry (Buffalo). This time he needed: 27 seconds of the second period to secure the pin. For the season, Eierman has 16 falls in his 23 wins.
6) Patrick Glory (Princeton)
The Princeton freshman makes the list after winning an EIWA title at 125 lbs. In the conference finals, Glory was tasked with facing seventh-ranked Vito Arujau (Cornell), who entered the tournament undefeated at 125 pounds and had pinned him almost a month ago, to the day. Not only did Arujau pin Glory, but he was also able to register multiple takedowns against him and looked simply dominant. Patrick was able to turn the table this time by jumping out to an early lead after earning a takedown less than 30 seconds into the match. The match was broken open in the second period when Glory earned four nearfall points which gave him an 8-5 lead earning the final stanza. He would go on to win 10-8. The win, along with other results nationwide, should guarantee Glory a top-ten seed when the brackets are released on Wednesday.
5) Malik McDonald (NC State)
Malik McDonald earned his second trip to the NCAA Championships after he won the conference’s 197 lb title Saturday night. Coming into the tournament, McDonald was given the third seed, behind a pair of wrestlers ranked in the 13 nationally (#8 Jay Aiello – Virginia and #13 Tom Sleigh – Virginia Tech). Malik’s 3-2 semifinal win over Sleigh not only guaranteed his trip to Pittsburgh, but it also was a pivotal moment in the Wolfpack’s team race with Virginia Tech. McDonald then completed his second upset of the day in the finals when he knocked off Aiello by the score of 13-6. Last year, McDonald was behind eventual NCAA Champion Michael Macchiavello, so he moved up to 285 lbs where he accumulated a 20-4 record, competing alongside NCAA qualifier Michael Boykin.
4) Dom Demas (Oklahoma)
In a Big 12 tournament that was dominated by Oklahoma State and featured the resurgence of the Iowa State team, it was Dom Demas’ performance that stole the show in the championship finals. Demas was facing two-time All-American Kaid Brock, an opponent that he narrowly defeated 7-6 earlier in the season. This time Dom insured there would be no close calls, as he put Brock to his back early with an inside trip. To Brock’s credit, he fought hard off of his back and bridged all the way to his feet, where Demas was waiting with a second inside trip, again to his back. This time Demas was able to put his in-state rival away by fall, in only: 54 seconds total. Earlier in the tournament, the three-seeded Demas got by NCAA qualifier Sam Turner (Wyoming) and Ian Parker (Iowa State) in the semis. Parker had the two seed after defeated Dom in late January.
3) Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern)
Sebastian Rivera vs. Spencer Lee was one of the most anticipated matches of conference weekend and a rematch of the Midlands final that was dominated by Rivera. Since Lee did not wrestle in the dual meeting between the schools, it only fueled the hype for their possible Big Ten finals match. Unfortunately, due to a long-running regular season basketball game on the Big Ten network, many fans were not able to see the match live. This time around it was Lee who struck first with a takedown and held a 3-2 lead, with a riding time advantage, late in the third period. Rivera would get a takedown of his own to send the match into overtime, once Lee was given his riding time point. In the sudden victory period, Lee looked to be well on his way to getting the winning takedown when he was stuffed by Rivera, who turned the situation into two points of his own for a 6-4 win. It was the first conference title by a Northwestern wrestler since the 2014-15 season.1
2) Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
During the last half of the year, Alex Marinelli has been a frequent mention on the top performances of the week. There’s even a strong argument to be made that he could be number one. Marinelli remained undefeated and captured his first Big Ten title with a dominant showing against the defending two-time national champion Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State). On two separate occasions, Marinelli stymied an inside trip attempt from Joseph and tossed the Nittany Lion to his back. When it was all said and done, Marinelli got his hand raised after a 9-3 win. It was his second career win over Joseph. The win over the formerly undefeated Joseph will guarantee that Marinelli sits atop the 165 lb brackets as the one seed when they are released on Wednesday. If that wasn’t enough, Alex also got by 2018 NCAA third-place finisher Evan Wick (Wisconsin) for the third time this season, in the semifinals.
1) Anthony Cassar (Penn State)