2017 NCAA WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
By Jim & Tony Nordland
The 87th annual NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships could be a very tight team race amongst a group of four elite teams. The top two favorites appear to be defending team champion Penn State and runner-up Oklahoma State (NCAA leader with 34 mat titles). At the 2016 NCAA meet, the Nittany Lions outpointed the Cowboys, 123 to 97.5. Other front runners that have firepower are Big Ten champion Ohio State (2015 NCAA team champion) and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Also to watch are conference tournament champions: Virginia Tech, Missouri and the Big Red of Cornell.
There are seven defending champions and one former winner in the field, along with eight finalists and a plethora of returning All-Americans. Penn State points to champion Zain Retherford (23-0, 90-3 career) and silver medalists Jason Nolf (22-0) at 157 and pinner Bo Nickal (21-1,14 falls) at 184. The Nittany Lions also a pair of talented freshman: Nick Suriano (125) and Big Ten runner-up Mark Hall (26-3) at 174. Oklahoma State returns champion Dean Heil (27-0) at 141, three AAs, Anthony Collica (20-2) at 149, head coach John Smith's son Joe at 157, Nolan Boyd (184) and a talented group of underclassmen including Ward Melville's four-time NYS champion and Big 12 titlist- 8th seeded Nick Picccininni (22-6) at 125. The Cowboys won the Big 12 tournament handily and crowned eight champions, they have 10 NCAA qualifiers.The Buckeyes have two reigning titlists OSW and Olympic champion junior unbeaten Kyle Snyder (12-0, 52-4) at 285 and NCAA winner Myles Martin (26-7) at 184, along with 2015 winner Nathan Tomasello (19-0) now in the 133-pound class. Other stalwarts are: two-time AA Bo Jordan (14-1) at 174 and Big Ten champion Kollin Moore (28-3) at 197 pounds. Iowa boasts a trio of finalists, the lightweight tandem of top-ranked Thomas Gilman (27-0) at 125 and Cory Clark (133), along with Brandon Sorenson (26-4) at 149, and red-shirt freshman Michael Kemerer (27-2), a Big Ten runner-up at 157. Another possible Hawkeye NCAA finalist is tough Sammy Brooks (24-2), a returning AA who recently won the Big Ten gold medal in the loaded 184-pound class.
Other returning NCAA champions are two-time winner junior Isaiah Martinez (27-0, 94-1) of Illinois at 165, the Big Red's two-time champion unbeaten Gabe Dean (30-0, 148-6) at 184 and Olympic bronze medalist J'den Cox (23-0, 125-6) of perennial power Missouri at 197 pounds.
Cornell recently captured their 11th consecutive EIWA team title and crowned four champions: returning All-American Dylan Palacio (8-1) of Long Beach at 157, Brandon Womack (30-8) at 165 and 2015 NCAA finalist Brian Realbuto (23-1) now in the 174-pound class, along with the aforementioned Dean. Dean is two wins shy of the Big Red career mark for wins, set by former Cornell great Mack Lewnes (150-12 career). Congratulations to Ohio State head coach and former Wantagh HS native Tommy Ryan (now in his 10th year) for being named the Big Ten Coach-of-the-Year and the Buckeyes for winning their third Big Ten team title. Other highly-regarded NCAA wrestlers that will in the medal mix are: a pair of 141-pounders, two-time AA Anthony Ashnault (27-3) of Rutgers and Kevin Jack (29-1) of NC State, Pac-10 MOW Zahid Valencia (33-0) of Arizona State and Zach Epperly (Virginia Tech), both at 174, Brett Pfarr (27-2) of Minnesota at 197 and Wisconsin's Connor Medbery (25-1) at 285. Four wrestlers will seek their fourth NCAA medal: Cory Clark (5-2-2), Issac Jordan (7-7-2), Gabe Dean (3-1-1) and J'den Cox (1-5-1).
Other native New Yorkers that will vie for AA honors are: Buffalo's Bryan Lantry (20-5) at 133, Binghamton teammates Dylan Caruana (141) and Steven Schneider (32-8) at 184, along with Sam Speno (22-8) of NC State at 149. Also representing the Empire State will be: Mike D'Angelo (16-9) of Princeton at 157, Cornell's Ben Honis (27-13), Jacob Berkowitz (22-9) of Northwestern, both at 197 and Youssif Hemida (20-11) of Maryland at 285. That group, along with the field of the nation's top 330 wrestlers will be seeking to reach the NCAA podium at the 2017 NCAA meet held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on March 16th -18th.
Isaiah Martinez (27-0)
Penn State's defending NCAA champion, unbeaten Zain Retherford at 23-0.
Jason Nolf (22-0)
Dean Heil (27-0)
Bryan Lantry (20-5)
2017 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
Nate Tomasello (Ohio St) Dean Heil (Okla State)
Zane Retherford (Penn St)
Isaiah Martinez (Illinois)
Myles Martin (Ohio St)
Gabe Dean (Cornell)
J'den Cox (Missouri)
Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)
March 16th - 18th
St. Louis, Missouri
NEW YORK STATE
NCAA DIVISION I QUALIFIERS:
Nick Piccininni (125-Oklahoma St)
Bryan Lantry (133-Buffalo)
Dylan Caruana (141-Binghamton)
Sam Speno (149-NC State)
Mike D'Angelo (157-Princeton)
Dylan Palacio (157-Cornell)
Brian Realbuto (174-Cornell)
Steven Schneider (184-Binghamton)
Jacob Berkowitz (197-Northwestern)
Ben Honis (197-Cornell)
Yousiff Hemida (285-Univ of Maryland)