Week three of the NCAA wrestling season featured outstanding performances from the Navy Classic, Wolfpack Open, Keystone Classic, Joe Parisi Open, Michigan State Open, and a long weekend on the road. Great performances could be found just about anywhere and from any number of wrestlers. We’ve got redshirts, NCAA qualifiers, backups who’ve moved into the lineup, and long time starters looking for their first trip to the big show. NCAA wrestling season rolls on and it seems to get better every week!
7) Ty Smith doubles up on Navy
Nicholas Gil (Navy) and Ty Smith (Bucknell) were both NCAA qualifiers a year ago. #17 Jared Prince (Navy), a freshman, is trying to take the starting spot away from Gil, but on Saturday they both lost to Smith as the junior won the 141-pound title at the Navy Classic. Smith began the day with a pair of bonus-point victories before edging past Gil, 2-1, in the semi-finals. He then used three takedowns to take out Prince in the final match. All three of these young men could do big things this season, but on this day Smith stood on the top step. Next up, Bucknell heads to the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational on the first weekend of December.
6) Ryan Christensen gets rolling at 174
Ryan Christensen’s (Wisconsin) move to 174 pounds is going well. The 2016 NCAA qualifier, at 184, beat #16 Connor Bass (Duke) twice in the span of three days, had a win over highly regarded true freshman Nick Reenan (NC State), and took the Wolfpack Open title. It was quite a weekend for the redshirt sophomore whose only loss on the season is to #18 Ryan Preisch (Lehigh). Coming up for Christensen and Wisconsin, just like Bucknell, is the Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational on the first weekend of December.
5) Zac Hall recovers after slow start
Zac Hall (Michigan) got off to a rough start this season, dropping a pair of matches at the Eastern Michigan Open. However, since then he has been much better and he got a pair of quality wins this week on the road. First, he knocked off #17 Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma), 9-3, on Friday night in Norman. Then, after the long trip to Corvallis, he opened up the score against #15 Joey Delgado (Oregon State) to put up a major decision, 14-4, on Sunday afternoon. If Hall can continue to wrestle like this, he’ll quickly climb into the top-12. Next up, he too heads to Vegas for the Cliff Keen.
4) Nick Nevills continues to climb
#11 Nick Nevills’ (Penn State) comeback story continues to be a triumphant one. He returned to the rankings this week and then put on a show at the Keystone Classic. Nevills opened the tournament with a couple of pins before booking his spot in the finals with a 9-1 major decision over 2016 NCAA qualifier Joey Goodhart (Drexel). That earned him a shot at eighth-ranked Denzel Dejournette (Appalachian State). Considering how close the two were in the rankings, it would have been fair to expect a tough, close match. Instead, Nevills put up two first period takedowns and cruised to an 8-3 victory to take the tournament title. Nick is projected to face ninth-ranked Doug Vollaro (Lehigh) the next time he takes the mat as Penn State and Lehigh meet in a dual on December 4th.
3) Jacobe Smith introduces himself
Two-time NJCAA champion Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State) is redshirting this season for the Cowboys, but he announced himself on the Division I level, pinning ninth-ranked Zac Brunson (Illinois) in the quarter-finals on his way to winning the Joe Parisi Open on Saturday. Smith took the lead with a takedown in the third period, caught Brunson’s arm in doing so, and converted that advantage into a fall. Smith capped his day by beating Xavier Montalvo (Illinois), 3-2, in the finals. We could see Smith again in mid-December when the Cowboys travel to the Reno Tournament of Champions.
2) C.J. Brucki is ready to win, a lot
C.J. Brucki (Central Michigan) won 30 matches a year ago as he waited for Mike Ottinger, who spent the year inhabiting the top-10 in the national rankings, to graduate. Ottinger is now gone and Brucki made a statement that he is ready to win, a lot, as a member of the starting lineup. After back-to-back 15-0 tech-falls, Brucki got by the redshirting Garrett Sutton (Michigan), a 2015 NCAA qualifier who missed the post-season a year ago due to injury, 9-6. That put him in the finals across from Junior world champion Mark Hall (Penn State). Brucki used a crucial four-point near-fall and some vital last second defense to defeat Hall, 8-7, and take the Michigan State Open title. Brucki and the Chippewa’s will join the crowd heading to Vegas in early December.