2016 D-1 nationals...... S'cuse me if I've already said this recently, but......
There isn't any question this is the most exciting and engaging wrestling tournament every year -- it's what everyone aims for, looks forward to, kills themselves in practice for, endures injuries, ugly workouts, self-deprivation, and -- well, sidelining everything else in your life as you try to all american (obviously, being a national champ is the loftiest goal, but realistically, there's a limited group of guys capable of attaining that -- in some weight classes, maybe 4-5 guys have the potential, in others 1-2, in others just one -- rare, but pretty much at least one per year); so, being top 8, all american, is attainable to anyone pretty much in the top 20, and if and when, depends on how on you are, and what happens in your bracket.
For those of us who are serious wrestling spectators, it's 3 days of super bowl excitement -- if you need a football analogy, but aren't a wrestling fan, yet need an idea of what it's like. And even though I say this, I don't really think there's any super bowl that compares - -how could there be? You get to see 3 days of guys you thought were unbeatable, either continue to provide you with performances that support that thought, or awesome, mind boggling upsets that totally wreak havoc on your psyche!! -- Your hero goes down! It doesn't seem possible. But some 16th seed just beat him! And your guy was #3. Eiiigh!
How about this wreckage: at 174, 3 of the top seeds were out the lst day! Realbutto, the 157, 2nd placer last year from Cornell who eased his way up to 174 ths year, was seeded 2nd there (yes, two weights up...) -- he went 0-2 for the weeken...I mean day. Since that was it for him. (157 last year, 2nd place; 174 this year, 0-2; what happens next year? -- )
At 141 last year there was an unheralded kid from NC state, not seeded, ok record, who was essentially an unknown.....he worked his way thru 3 seeded guys to place 5th. He suddenly became a phenom, and entered the nationals this past week seeded 3rd. Not bad. Until the 2nd round, when he met his old teamate, Bryce Merideth, who had transferred to Wyoming; he couldn't make the team at NC -- because of Jack. So Bryce beats Jack; Jack goes down in the blood round (do or die, last chance to place) Bryce proceeds into the finals against Heil from OK state. (placed 2nd)
125 lbs -- 2nd Joey Dance from V Tech goes down second round, then loses lst wrestlback, and he's out ....Terao, from American --an artful mixture of judo and wrestling from Hawaii -- very unorthodox, but like just short of nothing seed! (14th maybe,...not sure). He heads onto the semis, loses, then loses to Tomasello in consi finals, from OH state, in close match, and gets 4th....Tomasello, btw, was kind of the pre-ordained champ. Listening to Ohio state head coach Tom Ryan, who was being interviewed as his semi finals match was happening, I figured he couldn't ever get beat, by anyone, and that this semi was just a little step until he grabbed his lst place trophy -- I got the absolute impression that all Tommy did was work out, 26 hours per day, and he's even a boxing champ. Gilman of Iowa had other ideas. I had totally forgotten about him -- and can you blame me? I didn't even think Tommy had to wrestle in the finals, so why would I pay any attention to potential opponents! Well, Gilman took him down and pinned him in OT. These things happen. But but not to this guy! But it did. Can reality seriously deny the absolute path of a preordained giant? Huh, I guess it can. I think Ryan protested, but a pin is a pin. And a takedown in lst OT minute ends it. All that stuff, all that build up....what a crash. I guess next year's workouts will be harder, longer...maybe pick up some judo....
133 -- I was kind of really hoping Brewer, from Oklahoma U, who won last year, after being seeded poorly (13th...maybe???) , would be the man at the end of the day. He was seeded 4th this year, after losing twice all year. Once in finals of Vegas against Garrett (cornell). Pretty close match as I recall -- but Garett's fast doubles prevailed. No big deal. Early in season...slow starter....and then he wrestled Kaid Brock, true freshman, from Okie state, in dual meet. Got slid by, scramble occured, he came out of it...well he didn't. 40 some seconds into match, Brock pinned him....o frigging ouch!....but ok....fuel for a huge end of season comeback. Things were working pretty well, but 4th seed meant Garrett again...in semis. But what single thing would you learn from lst experience? Garrett has deadly, fast, shots. Don't let him take you down in 6 seconds...dah! And it was kind of a Kaid brock match all over again, only faster....last year's national champ, down in 30 some secs of lst period....OMG -- how bad can things get? I was thinking he might want to ask Tomesello, but he probably didn't think of it. He, like Tommy, came back for 3rd. And I'm sure as heck he didn't spend day and nite wrestling, lifting, and boxing to get there. Don't get me wrong: 3rd place is an incredible achievement at the D-l nationals. But some of the glory goes away when you are a returning champ and get pinned in 30 secs or so...I mean how wonderful can it be after that? Brewer, I am told, did achieve this distinction: He's got the two fasted times of any prior national champ for getting pinned in the year following his championship! I wonder if Cody, his coach, will have a special trophy made for him? Isn't this horrible? Probably, but too bad.
I'm writing this 2 hours prior to finals on Sat....so I don't know who won yet. I'll probably have something to say when I know....
Meanwhile.....the finals occured...
And since I don't want to make this thing book length, I'm going to continue from that perspective. But in no particular order. In this national's finals, there were two incredible matches taking place, one at 157 and one at heavyweight. Having one at heavyweight was just awesome, since usually I am snoring by that match, or maybe because of it.
But let me skim thru a few of the other matches lst. Garrett, local Cornell 133 lber, who bumped up from 125 last year, has been on a relentless tear this year. The move to 133 seems to have allowed him blossom into what he was trying to be, and should have been. He's strong, fast, not losing a ton of weight -- and it shows. His athleticism and speed is awesome. His lst period attacks on Iowa's Clark were frightening! But Clark managed to escape into period 2 with a l pt. deficit -- which shows his great defensive abilities. Garrett managed a 7-6 win, despite the ref's ridiculous stalling calls that cost him enuf points -- meaning 1 more, and he would've lost the match, in which he was the clear aggressor for the lst two periods. Clark did manage to control Garett's super speed pace, but it was hardly like he was stalling. I guess you can put the blame on the overly aggressive collegiate rules now -- you back out, and if it isn't obviously in the heat of warfare, you get hit with stalling. The huge initial battle with Martinez/Nolf this year was certifiable proof of that; Martinez slowed down, and did back out, but he was hardly stalling. Sorta overkill rules guys -- maybe back off a bit>
At 141, Okie state's Heil is one of the nation's top scramblers, and funk dudes. His opponent from Wyoming, Meredith (mentioned above) seemed to deliberately seek these positions! -- and he was spooky good at them! This was an awesome match if you love funk, and it made funk fun to watch. So best funk match of the tourney! Heil squeaked out a l pt. win.
149--has what I regard as one of the nation's most aggressive, dominant wrestlers. Penn State's Retherford. He doesn't stop. He's not sloppy. He is good at every position. And his final's match was pretty much uncontested by Sorenson, from Iowa -- who is the 2nd best 49lber in the country: even though he lost 10-1. These guys are pretty much indisputably the top two. But there is a huge gap between them. This outcome was inevitable, because (zain) Retherford is that much better and that much more aggressive. Sorensen is tough, but he's typical Iowa plodding, low action, clubbing...Christ, last year watching him and Tsirtsis wrestle was like watching mud dry; non-stop Zain is much more exciting!
149 was a little goofy this year. Missouri's Lavion Mayes was 3rd; he's tough, has super strong doubles from the outside -- and that's about it. He doesn't seem to have any other ammunition, at least that he shows. He's very strong. His moves are pretty basic. Very one dimensional. And he was third place. The 5th seed, Panteleo, from Mich U, ended up 6th -- that's fine. He's a tough wrestler -- but he has one thing he does off bottom: a standup. So what? you say, that's all a lot of wrestlers have. Sad, but true. But he can't get off his belly once busted ( I know, most HS wrestlers have this same trouble, which is the problem: he's a high level D-l wrestler, mostly). Kent's Depalma dismantled him for 5th place -- Depalma is a tough top man....which is a good thing to be obiously, especially against a weak bottom man! -- Depalma chose top, and pinned him after halting his one move. It's hard to measure this class. Tsirtsis, national champ 2 years ago, 3rd last year, went 0-2. But he's had some serious issues this year, which would help to explain that. If he (Tsirt) manages to recover well next year, retherford will be an insurmountable obstacle. Unless Rethford gets run over by a mack truck, he'll continue to win. He's ruthless (not mean ruthless...just wrestling ruthless). The 4th seed, Cimato, from Drexel ended up pretty much nowhere -- I couldn't figure that seed out. I don't recall hearing much about Cimato doing anything of significance all year.
157 --Gannt, 2nd seed -- ahead of Nolf. Anyone in the wrestling world other than Gannt's coach might have thought this was ridiculous. He finished 8th, which is where his seed should have been. You see, wild cards and seeds in NY states aren't the only thing that are absolutely mindboggling sometimes. Then there's the other side of things: guys like Dance from VT, 2nd seed, going out in two rounds. Hell, there's a kid who could have given megaludis fits in the finals! -- he loses physically, then spiritually. VT could have used his points, he could have forged ahead, getting over the horrible loss, and redeeming his nationals experience. This is probably one of the most important things about having a devastating loss: getting over it and putting it behind you. There isn't anything at nationals more impressive than a highly ranked wrestler losing first round, then recovering and storming his way into the placement round, and maybe even 3rd place -- that's a heroic achievement, forever remembered by everyone who witnessed it. (Bing.U. Vincent, Edinboro's Schopp...two instances that won't be forgotten).
So the really big matchup almost didn't happen, the one between nolf and martinez: Kent's Ian Miller nearly hijacked it in semis.
As an aside, I do have to confess something: a few weeks back, I was sitting in the weggies coffee shop reading paper Sunday am., and local Thomas coach Neil Cook is strolling around the vegie bins collecting oranges and cantelope and stuff like that, when he spots me and comes over to say hi and have a brief wrestling confab. Of course, nationals and 157 lbs pops up and he throws Ian Miller out there as a potential in the mix, with nolf and martinez. I pooh hooh that, saying he's just not going to compete with those guys, hasn't really wrestled anyone all year, doesn't have their work ethic...Neil stooped and picked up one of the cantelopes he dropped, and asked me if I wanted bet on it, "maybe the cantelope?" he offers, holding out the roundish thing with a flattened side. I declined the offer, thank god! -- and Neil was correct, and I was wrong. Ian Miller provided one of the best matches of the tourney, better than Nolf/martinez. He just does stuff that if he had been in better shape, and just plain tougher, he would have won, for sure. His style is perfect for martinez. He just couldn't quite muster up enuf stuff to make the final move stick, and lost. His limping around holding his leg in between tussles didn't help, and he defaulted the rest of his matches, finishing 6th, since that's what you get if you make it to the semis, and lose all your matches beyond that. His bad leg didn't seem to hurt him on his attacks....only in between. I don't know if he was really hurt or not. But limping around grabbing your leg like that is like being a wounded animal out in the wild.
Nolf didn't look that sharp in finals frankly. Martinez had adjusted whatever needed to be adjusted, and wrestled a great match. Whatever energy he wasted in their lst meeting, where he got pinned, he learned, and conserved, and spent it wisely. His final takedown was incredible, with 13 secs left in match.
O man...I gotta end this.....so,
let's just skip some matches: I used 184 as break time. I'm not a huge Dean fan, and honestly haven't even watched any of his matches this year. About halfway thru his finals match with Dudely, I remember why: this is just boring -- like watching a football player wrestle (which it really is). Dean reaching for leg, but not even lowering level, Dudely just sloppy....had to be the worst match of the finals and I just couldn't get into it, not with all the much better, higher level matches on either side of it. I know Dean was mainly a football player in Michigan, and wrestling was his second choice, but is 184 really this weak? Dean is a 2 x national champ, potentially 3 next year -- it's just hard to match him up with the other really skilled national champs -- since he just isn't>
Right onto heavyweight: wow, what a super match -- absolutely the best, and one I stayed awake to watch. I would normally just ignore it, since for many years it was just a gigantic push fest, boring, uneventful, sleep inducing. Pretty much whoever dared to shoot, lost. Not so in this one. Gwaizdowski and Snyder are two superb wrestlers, who really wrestle, like 65 lbers! Gwaiz was the better wrestler, doing stuff Ididn't think was possible at that weight! He was doing funk! And it was good funk. I figured for sure he was going to win....but then at the end, Snyder took him down and they went into OT - I could see the way Gwaiz didn't defend or react as well, he was tired, and it showed again when Snyder took him down in OT. Gwaiz had faded a bit, and that's all it took. I understand why 285 lbers don't do this stuff. But Gwaiz is living proof that 255 lbers can, and should!! Snyder was about 30 lbs. lighter -- that's pretty impressive. Great match.
Ok, so how about this: 3 years ago, Gwaizdowski stole Minnesota's Tony Nelson's chance at a 3rd heavyweight championship his sr. year. And now, Snyder has done the same thing to him. Nelson, btw, defeated a reigning national champ to win his sophomore year. Maybe it's better to wait until your jr year to start winning -- ugh! too late for Snyder!