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Top 15 College Wrestling Performances of the Week – November 25th, 2019

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photo courtesy of Cam Kramer

In most years, the dual season really starts to heat up when we get into the conference schedule. This wasn’t most years and it certainly wasn’t a typical weekend. In last week’s edition of the top performances of the week, we highlighted dual upsets by Virginia Tech, Illinois, Northwestern, Rider, and Stanford. This time we had an even bigger upset when Penn State went down for the first time in 60 duals. In addition to the upsets, there were just some really good dual meets that took place. To put things in perspective, Minnesota at Oklahoma State, a match that in years past would have been one of the highlighted events of the year, was maybe the fifth-best match of the weekend. To make things even better, we saw the “coming-out parties” for some of the best freshmen in the country. Wait, that’s not it… there’s more. Also, the dual meet debut of the lone DI program in Arkansas and a mat storming in Arizona. Needless to say, there’s a lot to talk about. So much that, just for this week, we expanded the top 10 performances of the week into the top 15. 

15) Joe Manchio (Columbia)

The sophomore Manchio started his west coast trip off with a 6-3 win over three-time NCAA qualifier Gabe Townsell (Stanford); currently, 13th ranked 125 lber in the nation. On Sunday, at the Roadrunner Open, Manchio captured the title by going 5-0. Before the finals, one of Joe’s most notable victims was CSU Bakersfield’s starter Alex Hernandez-Figueroa, who he shut out, 6-0. In the finals, Manchio edged Arizona State true freshman Nick Raimo, who, like Manchio, was a New Jersey state champion. With the 6-0 weekend, Joe is now 11-1 on the season with three falls. 

14) Devin Schroder (Purdue)

One of the surprise teams of the first month of the season has been the Purdue Boilermakers. Leading off the lineup for the Purdue has been eighth-ranked, NCAA qualifier, Devin Schroder, a winner in 12 of his 13 matches. Schroder blew through the field during the Boilermakers Quad and racked up two techs and a seven-point decision. Two of Devin’s three wins came at the expense of former national qualifiers in Jake Gromacki (Pittsburgh) and Bryce West (Northern Illinois). 

13) Heath Gray (Central Oklahoma)

The second-ranked 184 lber in DII, Heath Gray, showed on Saturday that he not just “good for DII” he’s a stud at any level. Gray entered the Lindenwood Open that was littered with top DII talent, as well as starters from a handful of DI teams and some stud redshirts. Heath’s tournament started with a pair of major decisions that placed him in the semi’s opposite SIU Edwardsville’s starter Ryan Yarnell. While no bonus points were scored, it was a decisive 10-5 win for the Bronchos All-American. To win the title, Gray downed Iowa State’s freshman Julien Broderson, a three-time Iowa state champion in high school. Broderson himself earned a spot in the finals after knocking off Iowa’s prized recruit, Cadet World bronze medalist Abe Assad. 

12) Mason Eaglin (Duke)

What an interesting first three tournaments of the year for Duke’s 174 lb freshman Mason Eaglin. Mason started the year off with a title at the Battle of the Citadel. He then suffered a pair of losses a week later at the Mountaineer Invitational, both of which came via fall to unranked opponents. At Sunday’s Keystone Classic, Eaglin was at his best again and brought home the title. In the process, Eaglin dropped a pair of returning national qualifiers. The first was Dean Sherry (Rider), who was fresh off a mention in last week’s top performances after he sparked the Broncs upset of Minnesota. The second upset came in the finals when Mason majored Neal Richards (VMI), the returning SoCon Wrestler of the Year, 11-0. 

11) Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh)

In the first month of the season defending ACC champion, Demetrius Thomas has faced some top-flight competition. Some of his results have been positive (Jere Heino – Campbell), while he has also suffered a pair of setbacks (Chase Singletary – Ohio State, Mason Parris – Michigan). It was more of the good on Sunday as Thomas toppled fifth-ranked Jordan Wood (Lehigh) 10-6. The win over Wood helped the Panthers win the dual, as a team, on criteria. For Pittsburgh, it was the first time since the 2013 season that head coach Keith Gavin’s team had defeated their in-state rival. 

10) Josh Heil (Campbell)

One of the tougher weights at the Navy Classic had to be the 141 lb class. Josh Heil notched a pair of wins in the tournament before facing off with national qualifier Mitch Moore (Virginia Tech) in the semis. Heil got by the 15th ranked Moore, 5-3, for a trip to the finals. For the championship, Heil had to get by a returning All-American in Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven). Though it wasn’t pretty, Josh was able to gut out a 2-1 win over Shoop, which should help elevate Heil in a 141 lb weight class that is deep, yet does not feature a definitive favorite. 

9) Nelson Brands (Iowa)

Last week when Nelson Brands assumed the spot at 184 lbs for Iowa and knocked off Matthew Waddell (Chattanooga), it looked like he was a nice fill-in for returning starter Cash Wilcke. On Sunday, it was Brands who got the nod again versus Iowa State. Nelson responded by tallying another win, this time over eighth-ranked Sam Colbray, 2-1 in tiebreakers. Now, instead of being a good spot starter, Brands could be “the guy” at 184 lbs for the Hawkeyes, despite a bit of a size disparity between him and his opponents. 

8) Quincy Monday (Princeton)

For the second straight year, Princeton has knocked off Lehigh, a feat that has not been accomplished at the school since 1937! Saturday evening in their home gym, Chris Ayres’ crew dropped the Mountain Hawks, who came into the match ranked fifth in the nation, 18-14. One of the turning points of the contest, for the Tigers, was at 157 lbs when Quincy Monday took out eighth-ranked Josh Humphreys, 8-6. Monday broke the match wide-open with a headlock in the third period. This marks the second time in the 2019-20 season that Monday has defeated Humphreys. 

7) Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa)

One of the bright spots for Northern Iowa in their dual meet loss to Nebraska was the performance of 184 lber Taylor Lujan. Taylor was in one of the marquee matches of the dual, as he had to contend with third-ranked Taylor Venz, a 2018 All-American. Lujan used a pair of first-period takedowns to jump out to a lead on the Husker. The second takedown came after Taylor escaped from a potent cradle attempt, one of the most dangerous moves in Venz’s repertoire. Lujan continued to attack in all three periods and did not let up until the final buzzer when he secured a 15-6 major decision. The win is Lujan’s second over a ranked opponent in his first five matches. 

6) Collin Purinton (Nebraska)

While Nebraska has generally has a strong team, 149 lbs has been a bit of a problem for coach Mark Manning over the past three years. Twice in that span, the Huskers have not sent a rep at that weight to the NCAA Tournament. That should not be a problem in 2019-20 with the way that redshirt senior Collin Purinton has wrestled. Purinton maintained his perfect record on the year with a sudden victory win over 2017 All-American Max Thomsen. Thomsen came into the match with an unblemished record himself and ranked fifth in the nation. The victory helped Nebraska hold off the Panthers 23-19. Not only did Collin defeat Thomsen, but he also earned a major decision on Friday as Nebraska handed Wyoming their first loss of the year. 

5) Little Rock

One of the most important debuts of the week was not a freshman, but an entire team. Sunday’s dual with the University of the Ozarks was the first dual meet in the history of Little Rock wrestling. The addition of Little Rock for 2019-20 made the school the only one in the state of Arkansas that offers wrestling at the DI level. The Trojans ended up taking eight of ten bouts from their new in-state rival. Jayden Carson (125), Paul Bianchi (133), Jose Champagne (157), Will Edgar (165), and Dylan Johnson (197) all earn bonus points for Little Rock as they handed Neil Erisman his first victory as head coach. 

4) Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)

Badger big man Trent Hillger put an exclamation point on Wisconsin’s sixth dual meet win of the year as he closed their 31-13 win over Utah Valley with a fall. Of course, it wasn’t just any opponent that Hillger pinned, it was Tate Orndorff who entered the match 6-0 and ranked fourth in the country. The third-ranked Hillger needed extra time to earn the pin, as the match was knotted up at 1-1 after regulation. Last year, these two squared off and it was Hillger who got a takedown to win the bout and clinch the dual for Wisconsin. The fall was Trent’s second of the young season. 

3) David Carr (Iowa State)

The weekend’s most anticipated individual matchup in our Dual of the Week featured highly-touted redshirt freshman David Carr taking on second-ranked Kaleb Young (Iowa), a fifth-place finisher at the 2019 NCAA Championships. Carr broke open a tie match, late in the third period, when he locked up a cradle while attempting to finish a takedown. Not content with the two points, Carr rolled across his back to put Young in danger for a pair of near-fall points. When it was all said and done, David put together a 6-1 win. He’ll be sure to move up in the next set of national rankings from his current spot of number ten. 

2) Arizona State

While we had Iowa versus Iowa State as our featured dual of the week, it was overshadowed by Penn State/Arizona State on Friday night. The Sun Devils maintained a perfect dual record by edging Penn State 19-18 on criteria. It marked the first dual loss for the Nittany Lions since 2015, a streak that lasted 60 duals. Brandon Courtney started the dual off with a bonus-point win at 125 lbs for ASU. Their next victory came at 149 when Josh Maruca won a narrow decision over fellow Western Pennsylvania native Jarod Verklerren. In the next match, at 157 lbs, Jacori Teemer logged a solid, 8-4 win over Bo Pipher. A forfeit at 184 pounds for two-time NCAA champion Zahid Valencia ended up being the deciding factor once criteria was needed. Also, at 197 lbs, Kordell Norfleet got his first win of the year and it was in impressive fashion over 2018 NCAA third-place finisher Kyle Conel. Zeke Jones’ team is now 5-0 on the year with wins over Purdue and Virginia also on their resume. Next up is the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and then they start the new year with another dual against a Big Ten power, Ohio State. 

1) Trent Hidlay (NC State)

TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week – November 25th, 2019

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