The brackets are officially set for the NCAA DI wrestling championships, meaning all the wrestlers are seeded and the final countdown can begin. Only 10 of these athletes will leave Tulsa, Oklahoma next weekend as NCAA champions, while 70 additional others will pick up All-American honors.
Here's what you need to know about the leaders of each weight and the wrestler outside of the top-eight who could make a sneaky run to the podium next weekend.
125 pounds:Top title contenders: Spencer Lee, Patrick Glory
The 2022-23 college wrestling season has been all about the Spencer Lee Show. Since his return in the Cy-Hawk dual on Dec. 4 when he majored Corey Cabanban of Iowa State, Lee has been utterly dominant. He's earned first-period pins against No. 3 Liam Cronin No. 5 Michael DeAugustino, No. 6 Matt Ramos, No. 24, Reece Witcraft, 2022 NCAA qualifier Drake Ayala, Maximo Renteria and Damion Ryan. Plus, he has a second-period fall against No. 7 Eric Barnett and tech falls against No. 7 Patrick McKee, No. 16 Jack Medley, Charlie Farmer and Marco Vespa. Lee comes into the NCAA tournament chasing his fourth national title with a career record of 95-5, meaning that if he goes undefeated, he'll secure his 100th career victory on the Big Stage next Saturday night. If everything goes chalk, he'll have Medley in the second round, Anthony Noto of Lock Haven in the quarterfinals and Ramos in the semifinals. This is a path Lee is familiar with and a path that puts him on a collision course with Princeton's Patrick Glory.
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The 2022 NCAA finalist Glory is on a mission to stop Lee and make some history of his own. The Tigers have not had a national champion since 1951, and while Glory came close to ending that streak with his finals performance last year, he has yet to break through. Glory is 20-0 on the year and just picked up his third EIWA title over the weekend, bonusing Ryan Miller and Mike Manta before topping No. 19 Brett Ungar by decision. A healthy and strong Glory is a dangerous force at 125, and while he'll have to beat Ungar again, in addition to All-American Brandon Kaylor, and Big Ten finalist Liam Cronin if the bracket goes to chalk to have his shot at Lee, don't underestimate Glory as a threat.
All-American sleeper: No. 19 Braxton Brown, Maryland
Top title contenders: Roman Bravo-Young, Daton Fix, Vito Arujau
Much like Lee, Penn State's Roman Bravo-Young has been wildly impressive this year, posting a 16-0 record with a 75 percent bonus rate. The two-time NCAA champion from Penn State looks to be in peak form, and his biggest challenge will likely once again come from No. 2 Daton Fix, the undefeated Cowboy who has finished second in the NCAA tournament in his last three attempts.
While Fix and Bravo-Young have separated themselves from the field, Cornell's Vito Arujau could make things interesting. Arujau came into the season as a likely title threat, but his loss to All-American Sam Latona in early January lessened some of the hype around Cornell's 2021 Olympic Trials finalist. Nevertheless, Arujau just bonused his way through the EIWA tournament to earn his second career conference title, and his speed could be a tricky task for Fix to overcome. If the bracket goes chalk, these two will meet in the semifinals for what could be a barnburner of a match. Fix has the potential to slow down Arujua, and they've split their matches on the freestyle scene, but Arujua's savvy. He may be flying under the radar as a title contender more than he should.
All-American sleeper: No. 14 Jesse Mendez, Ohio State
Top title contenders: Real Woods, Andrew Alirez, Cole Matthews
At the start of the season, 141 pounds looked to be one of the most open weights in the country, and while much of that narrative held true, two wrestlers — Real Woods and Andrew Alirez — stand alone as the two undefeated wresters at the weight. Woods, Iowa's second Big Ten champion in addition to Spencer Lee, finished sixth at NCAAs last year after taking losses to Nick Lee, Sebastian Rivera and Cole Matthews. Rivera and Lee have graduated, leaving Matthews as one of just two athletes in the NCAA right now with a career win over the Hawkeye. The other athlete who previous beat Woods is Clay Carlson, and while Carlson will be fighting for a podium spot this year, his record suggests that Woods is a heavy favorite over the Jackrabbit, should they meet again.
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Matthews, though, remains a threat, as he's 19-1 on the year with his only loss coming against Jordan Titus of West Virginia. Matthews navigated a tough ACC bracket last weekend, notching wins over No. 5 Ryan Jack and No. 14 Tom Crook for his title, and while he's not undefeated and Woods does have the higher quality win following his Big Ten final over No. 4 Brock Hardy, Matthews should not be ignored in this conversation.
The All-American Panther though will likely meet Northern Colorado's Andrew Alirez in the semifinals, if the bracket goes chalk, and Alirez has had quite the breakthrough season this year, picking up 23 wins with a 73.9% bonus rate. He claimed his Big 12 title with ranked victories over No. 7 Allan Hart, No. 10 Carter Young and No. 21 Titus and will now meet Wisconsin's Joe Zargo in the first round of the NCAA tournament. A win over Zargo would give Alirez the winner of Tom Crook vs. Frankie Tal Shahar, both wrestlers with fewer than 10 losses on the season. Alirez will be expected to push for the finals, but there are some dangerous landmines in this bracket.
All-American sleeper : No 25 Casey Swiderski, Iowa State
Top title contenders: Yianni Diakomihalis, Sammy Sasso, Paniro Johnson
The story of 149 pounds is Yianni Diakomihalis' quest for a fourth title, and while Wisconsin's Austin Gomez delivered Diakomihalis a loss earlier this year, Gomez has struggled with injuries since his match against Northwestern's All-American Yahya Thomas in late January. The Badger comes in now with the No. 15 seed after needing a wildcard to qualify for the tournament, and he'll have No. 18 Quinn Kinner first, while No. 1 Diakomihalis will meet the winner of the pigtail match between No. 33 Isaiah Delgado and No. 32 Anthony White.
At the No. 2 seed is the always tricky Sammy Sasso, the two-time Big Ten champion Buckeye who finished second at this tournament in 2021. Gomez beat Sasso in the All-Star match, but Sasso's conference tournament win propelled him to the second seed on the opposite side of Diakomihalis, an ideal spot. Sasso will have Air Force's Dylan Martinez in the first round, but his potentially bigger test could come from Gomez again the second round, if Gomez can ward off Kinner. To see these two potential title contenders meet so early is one of things that will make this tournament so wild. If Gomez was 100% healthy, he'd be favored not only in this match, but he'd be a clear title contender in the tournament as a whole. If he gets by Sasso, he's back in the title mix. If Sasso survives Gomez, he could meet another familiar Big Ten foe in Yahya Thomas in the quarters, and then see No. 4 Caleb Henson, the wrestler who delivered Sasso his first loss of the season, in the semifinals if everything goes chalk. Sasso deserves massive credit for earning the No. 2 seed, but his path is full of danger all the way to the finals.
Diakomihalis' path isn't a breeze either, as he could meet Iowa State's Paniro Johnson in the semifinals if Johnson upsets Virginia Tech's Caleb Henson. Johnson took Diakomihalis to overtime earlier this year, while the Cornell senior is a huge favorite, Johnson should be mentioned on this list of contenders.
All-American sleeper: No. 13 Shayne Van Ness, Penn State
Top title contenders: Austin O’Connor, Levi Haines, Peyton Robb
North Carolina's Austin O'Connor, the 2021 NCAA champion at 149 pounds, is back in the top spot at the NCAA tournament, at least in terms of seeds, as he heads 157 pounds with his undefeated 18-0 record. O'Connor finished eighth last season after a gritty Blood Round performance, but he'll now come into this tournament as the favorite, with a series of other contenders looking to take him down, starting with Penn State's No. 2 Levi Haines.
True freshman Haines put himself in the title conversation after his Big Ten finals win over then-undefeated Peyton Robb, and the win earned him a spot on the opposite side of the bracket as O'Connor. His seed does mean he'll see All-American Bryce Andonian in the quarterfinals, if all goes chalk, and he'll be set up for a rematch with Robb in the semifinals if they both navigate their first three matches.
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O'Connor, Haines and Robb are likely the top tier of title contenders, but Humphreys also comes into the tournament as an undefeated EIWA champion, and while he's never finished on the podium in his career, he sits at the No. 5 seed now, a decent spot that could give him a quarterfinal match against North Dakota State's Jared Franek, another former Blood Round wrestler who won his conference. Franek's only loss this year came against Robb, and while he won't have a chance to avenge that match unless he and Robb pull off enough upsets to advance to the finals, his 22-1 record gave him the comfortable No. 4 seed. He'll meet No. 29 Corbyn Munson in the first round as he chases a podium finish for the first time in his career.All-American sleeper: No. 14 Cobe Siebrecht, Iowa
Top title contenders: David Carr, Keegan O'Toole
The 165-pound weight class is the deepest weight in the country. With three returning NCAA champions — David Carr, Keegan O'Toole and Shane Griffith — in the mix along with NCAA finalist Quincy Monday, Big Ten champion Dean Hamiti and All-Americans Cam Amine, Carson Kharchla, Peyton Hall and Wyatt Sheets, this weight has the potential to be chaos. Yet, given all of those well-known names and highly credentialed wrestlers, two stand out as the most likely title contenders: David Carr and Keegan O'Toole. Objectively, Carr is the favorite even among these two. He's beaten O'Toole twice in a row, most recently pinning him for the Big 12 title, and he's so quick on his feet that he poses a problem for anyone in his way.
Watching O'Toole in that conference championship though, it is clear that the Tiger is smart. He's defensive, he has stellar body awareness, and his focus is undeniable. He remains a title contender, though he's no longer a favorite. As the No. 2 seed, O'Toole has a good shot to make the finals, but he'll have No. 7 Michael Caliendo in the quarters in the bracket goes chalk, and Caliendo has a win over 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith, so he's not someone to overlook.
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Griffith comes in at the No. 9 seed, on the opposite side of Caliendo, but he's on track to meet some roadblocks of his own. The 2021 champion Cardinal will have Gardner-Webb's Rodrick Mosley in the first round and then could meet Matthew Olguin, the wrestler from Oregon State who beat him twice this year, in the second round. If Griffith flips that result, he could get No. 1 Carr next, if everything goes chalk. Griffith reversed losses to Evan Wick from the Pac-12 tournament last year, so this wouldn't be a shocking turn of events if he beat Olguin, but, for now, Olguin is the favorite in that bout.
Speaking of conference rematches, Cornell's Julian Ramirez comes in at No. 4 after his EIWA championship win over No. 5 Quincy Monday, but these two could see each other again in the quarterfinals, if they both wrestle to seed.
On the other side of the bracket, Wisconsin's Dean Hamiti will be set to make some noise from the No. 3 seed. Despite his losses to Quincy Monday, Cam Amine and Carr, Hamiti is the mix to be a contender, and he'll have No. 30 Evan Barczak of Drexel first round. A win there would put him in a match against the winner of Dan Braunagel and All-American Peyton Hall, and then the winner of that second-round match makes the quarterfinals against Caliendo, if everything goes chalk.
All-American Sleeper: No. 11 Cameron Amine
Top title contenders: Carter Starocci, Mekhi Lewis, Mikey Labriola
Of the next four weights, 174 pounds has perhaps the least amount of suspense. Penn State's Carter Starocci leads the way with a 19-0 record, and the Nittany Lion has separated himself from the pack, particularly after his 6-1 win over No. 2 Mikey Labriola in the Big Ten championships. The excitement around Starocci's path to the finals again this year potentially comes in the second round, assuming he beats his pigtail opponent. DJ Washington of Indiana, the only active wrestler in the NCAA with a win over Starocci, has No. 16 Sam Wolf of Air Force in the first round, but if he upsets Wolf, he could have Starocci again. Starocci buried Washington in their last meeting, but the animosity between these two makes that match fun.
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Other than that, the intrigue really comes on the bottom half of the bracket, where No. 2 Labriola and No. 3 Mekhi Lewis could be on a fast track for a rematch in the semifinals if they each survive their opponents up to that point. Labriola will have Tyler Stoltzfus of Lock Haven in the first round while Lewis will have No. 30 All-American Jackson Turley. Ohio State's Ethan Smith at the No. 6 could be a problem for Lewis too if Smith beats Stanford's Tyler Eischens and Lewis beats Turley and if they both win their second-round matches. Lewis beat Smith 3-2 in their last meeting, but the Buckeye wrestles everyone tough, and he could make an even deeper run than his seed suggests if he can find a way to reverse those narrow results.
All-American sleeper: Rocky Jordan, Chattanooga
Top title contenders: Aaron Brooks, Parker Keckeisen, Trent Hidlay Marcus Coleman
All-American Sleeper to watch: Lenny Pinto, Nebraska
For the second year in a row, two-time NCAA champion Aaron Brooks of Penn State did not earn the No. 1 seed in the tournament, though he'll certainly still be a favorite to take home gold next Saturday night. Brooks' loss to Iowa State's Marcus Coleman, and Coleman's loss to Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen gave Keckeisen the No. 1 seed, while NC State's Trent Hidlay, a wrestler who has split matches with the top-ranked Panther, is down at the No. 2. Brooks comes in at the No. 3 seed, meaning that he could see Hidlay in the semifinals for the second year in a row. Hidlay always wrestles Brooks tough, and their last two matches have been decided by one point and by a sudden victory takedown. Could Hilday put himself in the semifinals, pull off the upset and advance to the finals for the second time in his career? Absolutely, but Brooks is a veteran as well, and he's someone who knows how to win on the big stage.
Fortunately for Brooks, the only active wrestler to have a win over him in the field, Coleman, is on the opposite side, meaning that Coleman and Keckeisen could have a Big 12 finals rematch in the semifinals if Coleman beats Jacob Herreira of Hofstra, tops his second-round opponent and pulls off an upset over Trey Munoz, assuming Munoz holds seed. Munoz is tough, however, and the Beavers, as a team, have been wrestling extraordinary well. Head coach Chris Pendleton will have his team ready to go, and the quarterfinal, if everything goes chalk, between Munoz and Coleman will be fun, given that Coleman majored him last year at this tournament but Munoz beat him last year. With an automatic All-American honor on the line in that potential match too, emotions will be high.
Top title contenders: Nino Bonaccorsi, Bernie Truax, Silas Allred, Max Dean
2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith and 2022 NCAA champion Max Dean both come into this tournament as the No. 9 seed, a shocking but fair position for both returning champs. Dean has taken losses to Lehigh's Michael Beard, Rider's Ethan Laird and Nebraska's Silas Allred this year, pushing him down to his current spot in the bracket. Laird earned the No. 4 seed by way of his MAC title, Beard secured the No. 5 seed following his second-place EIWA title while Allred got the No. 8 spot after his Big Ten title over Dean. Holding down the top two spots are undefeated 2021 NCAA finalist Nino Bonaccorsi and All-American Bernie Truax. Cal Poly's Truax has just one loss on the year this season to NC State's always tricky Isaac Trumble, though Trumble now sits at the No. 6 seed, setting up a potential semifinal, if Truax can upset No. 3 Rocky Elam, whose only loss came against Oklahoma State's Luke Surber, the No. 15 seed.
With NCAA finalist Jacob Warner down at the No. 14 seed, potentially on a collision course with Elam if he beats 2020 Big Ten finalist Cameron Caffey again, there's no doubt this bracket is stacked. Ohio State All-American Gavin Hoffman is also down at the No. 26 spot, giving him No. 7 Tanner Sloan first round, so get ready for action early in this weight.
All-American sleeper: No. 18 Tanner Harvey
Top title contenders: Mason Parris, Greg Kerkvliet, Wyatt Hendrickson, Tony Cassioppi, Cohlton Schultz
Michigan's Mason Parris was expected to be the No. 1 seed, but the wrestler who makes this bracket really interesting is No. 2 Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force. A dangerous pinner who picked up another Big 12 title last weekend with an 8-2 win over Iowa State's Sam Schulyer in the finals, Hendrickson is funky and so fun to watch. The Falcon veteran has yet to end up on the podium, finishing in the Round of 12 and the Round of 16 during his last two tournaments, but let's put him on the title contender list because of his No. 2 seed and dominance during the year.
Highlights from Greg Kerkvliet vs Mason Parris match last night pic.twitter.com/dat6tCVjJp— Heavyweight Nation (@hwtnation) January 22, 2022
If Hendrickson is on the list, Iowa's Tony Cassioppi should be on there, too, given that Cassioppi is a two-time placewinner and does have career wins over Penn State's Greg Kerkvliet, though the Nittany Lion has the last several wins over his Hawkeye foe. Kerkvliet comes in at the No. 3 seed, while Cassioppi picked up the No. 4 seed, putting him on the same semifinal path as Parris, a wrestler who has yet to lose to Cassioppi. The Hawkeye will also have No. 5 Cohlton Schultz, last year's NCAA finalist, in the quarterfinals, if this bracket goes chalk, and that's a tough bout for both athletes.
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Parris has really separated himself from the pack in this bracket, but the battle to see who advances to the finals will be a key storyline here, particularly given the absence of two-time NCAA champion and Olympic champion Gable Steveson, who retired from the sport last year.
All-American sleeper: AJ Nevills, South Dakota State