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NCAA Championship Wrestling: Tiger Style Preview

Mizzou Wrestling travels back to Tulsa to compete for a National Title! How do the weight classes shake out for the Tigers in this year’s NCAA Championship?

Phoenix Mercury v Tulsa Shock - Game Two Photo by Shane Bevel/NBAE via Getty Images

Brian Smith and the Mizzou wrestling team will be making the journey back to Oklahoma for the third time this season to take on college wrestling biggest stage, the NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS! Mizzou has found itself qualifying all ten wrestlers this year with only one missing an allocation and receiving an at-large bid. The Tigers have seven top-fifteen-seeded wrestlers in this year’s contest and have been set up with more favorable draws than not. After a top finish at the conference championship, we can expect the momentum to keep on going with a return back to Tulsa. Here we run through weight-by-weight to see how they stack up inside their bracket and who to watch out for. (BRACKETS)

NCAA Championship Schedule

Thursday, March 16 (ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN+)

  • Session I: (Pigtails and First-Round Competition) - 11 a.m. CT
  • Session II: (Wrestle-Back Prelims, Wrestle-Back First, Second, & Cons. Round) - 6 p.m. CT

Friday, March 17 (ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN+)

  • Session III: (Quarterfinals, Wrestle-Backs Second & Third Rounds) - 11 a.m. CT
  • Session IV: (Blood Round, Consolation Fourth Round & Semifinals) - 7 p.m. CT

Saturday, March 18 (ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN+)

  • Session V: Medal Rounds (3rd, 5th, & 7th Place Matches) - 10 a.m. CT
  • Session VI: National Finals - 6 p.m. CT

125lbs: #14 Noah Surtin (16-5)

While falling shy of an individual conference title, Mizzou’s Noah Surtin moves into the NCAA Championship with a 16-5 record. Of his sixteen wins this season, only three have come by less than a major decision. Noah Surtin continued his path to the podium with a solid showing to round out his season. Surtin is now a 3x NCAA qualifier looking for his first All-American finish.

He lines up as the fourteen seed in the lower half of the bracket. His opening-round matchup belongs to the #19 Braxton Brown (MD). Brown is a second-year freshman coming off a red-shirt season. He holds a 24-6 record on the season and reached the Championship with an at-large bid.

At 125, the front runner and top seed sitting atop the bracket is undefeated and 3x NCAA Champ, Spencer Lee. The Hawkeye wrestler makes his return back to the NCAA Championship after missing the previous season due to a season-ending injury. Out of the seventeen matches he has competed in this season, fifteen have come via bonus win including eight by fall.

Dropping in behind, there are a number of potential contenders looking to take on Lee. The most picked wrestler to work his way into that bout is the returning finalist from the previous season, #2 Patrick Glory of Princeton. Glory is one of two undefeated wrestlers at 125 this season. Behind Glory is a group of five different wrestlers all with four or fewer losses this year. One wrestler to watch out for is second-year freshman #6 Stevo Poulin (UNC). He enters the NCAA Championship for the first time and is fresh off an impressive conference title.

133lbs: #27 Connor Brown (11-9)

After missing the postseason the past four seasons, Connor Brown has finally reached the NCAA Championship for the black and gold. Now a 2x qualifier, he enters two wins above .500 on the season with an 11-9 record. After having to bow out of the conference championship, Brown will be battling through injury to reach the podium.

This year Brown sets up inside the 133 weight bracket as the twenty-seventh-seeded wrestler. In his opening bout, Connor Brown will face off against 3x Qualifier and 1x All-American #6 Sam Latona. Latona has a prior track record against Brown earlier this season with a 6-4 win by decision.

Headlining 133 for a third year in a row; #1 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) and #2 Daton Fix (OKST) enter the tournament undefeated looking to reach the finals and square off once again. RBY, a 3x All-American (2x Champ), currently controls the series over 3x NCAA finalist Daton Fix 2-0. Setting quietly behind these two is Vitali Arujau out of Cornell. Arujau is a 2x All-American with one loss on the season.

The rest of the field at 133 is anyone’s game after the front three wrestlers. With the exception of Michael McGee (ASU) who could be listed above, there are a couple of wrestlers to keep an eye out for, #9 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) and #8 Aaron Nagao (Minn). Phillippi enters with three losses and a 4x qualifier just missing a medal in the past three tournaments. Nagao reached the Championship for the first time in his career and enters after a tough 5-2 loss to RBY during the Big Ten Finals.

141lbs: #8 Allan Hart (15-5)

For the third straight season, Allan Hart has reached the NCAA Championship. Coming off of a second-place Big 12 finish, Hart will be in search of the first All-American finish in his career. Over the past two Championships, he has seen himself knocked out of the tournament by the 7th and 8th-seeded wrestler in the consolation rounds. Looking for a different result this year, now as the eighth seed himself, he has positioned himself for a medal run.

In the opening-round contest, Allan Hart will step to the line against #25 Carmen Ferrante out of Penn. Ferrante is a fifth-year senior with a 20-11 record who is fresh off a second-place finish at the EIWA Conference Championships.

141 is the first weight class that could be anyone’s game moving throughout the tournament. The current favorites to reach the finals belong to #2 Andrew Alirez (UNC), #1 Real Woods (Iowa), and #3 Cole Matthews (Pitt). All three are multi-NCAA qualifiers but have just two All-American finish among them no better than fifth place.

Behind these three, there is a long list of whose beat who. A couple considered most dangerous that could make some real noise are #6 Beau Bartlett of Penn State and #4 Brock Hardy of Nebraska. Yes, both are top-ten wrestlers and out of dominant Universities but they are trending up after bounce-back seasons looking for their first trip to the medal stand. The race at 141 will be exciting to watch but these two could find the extra move they have been searching for and turn the corner to knock off the favorites.

149lbs: #6 Brock Mauller (16-2)

Brock Mauller is welcomed back to the big dance for the first time since the 2021 season where he walked out with a 5th-place finish. After a rough and souring end to the Big 12 Championship, Mauller will be fighting his way back to the podium on the lower half of the 149 weight bracket.

Tagged as the #6 wrestler, Brock will take his first-round bout against #27 Nate Higley of George Mason. Higley is a second-year freshman with a 24-15 record coming off a red-shirt season. He makes his way to the Championship off of a second-place finish at the 2023 MAC Championships.

The 149 lbs weight class is one of two classes with no undefeated wrestlers. The man to beat here is Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell. Yianni, a 3x NCAA Champ, steps into Tulsa with a 16-1 record having his sole loss come from #15 Austin Gomez in his first bout of the season. Since that loss, he has gone on to win sixteen straight bouts including twelve via the bonus.

Those looking to make a run at Yianni are on a list of many different wrestlers. 149 is a deep class with much potential. The names I have circled on my sheet are #7 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern and #13 Shayne Van Ness of Penn State. Thomas is a 3x qualifier with a third-place finish during the 2021 season. Van Ness is a 19-6, second-year freshman looking to make a name in the early portions of his collegiate career.

157lbs: #17 Jarrett Jacques (17-5)

Jarrett Jacques has qualified for the NCAA tournament every year he has stepped on the mat for the Tigers but has yet to walk out with a medal around his neck. After a disappointing conference championship, a major bounce-back is in store for Jacques.

He will begin his Championship tour with a first-round match-up against #16 Anthony Artalona of Penn. Artalona is a fifth-year senior with a 26-6 record. He is now a 3x NCAA qualifier and makes his way to Tulsa this season off of a second-place finish at the EIWA Conference Championship.

Standing on top of the 157 division is 4x qualifier, 3x All-American, and former 149 National Champ, #1 Austin O’Connor of North Carolina. With an unblemished record, O’Connor steps in looking to redeem his eighth-place finish from the previous season. He makes his way to Tulsa after winning his third individual ACC Conference title.

Talk about a stacked field, the 157 lbs weight class consists of seven different wrestlers with two or fewer losses on the season. The one name I intend on following in this weight class most is #2 Levi Haines of Penn State. Another Nittany Lion to watch dominate over the next however many years is making his presence felt in his first division one season. He holds on to a 23-1 record and recently knocked off top contender #3 Peyton Robb (Neb).

165lbs: #2 Keegan O’Toole (15-2)

Keegan O’Toole has two losses on the season to the same individual, David Carr (ISU). Sitting on the opposite side of the bracket, we can expect this series to continue on the finals stage. There is no news beyond what is expected to happen at the 165 weight class and all eyes will be on these two throughout the tournament.

O’Toole opens with a familiar opponent in #31 Wyatt Sheets of Oklahoma State. Now a 3x qualifier, Sheets made his way to the big stage after earning an at-large bid. O’Toole’s route to the finals won’t get murky until a potential semifinal match with #3 Dean Hamiti of Wisconsin.

So, who is going to be battling it out for third place? There’s #3 Hamiti, a returning All-American, #4 Julian Ramirez (Cor) a returning NCAA qualifier, or #5 Quincy Monday, the returning 157 lbs NCAA finalist. The list runs on and on but the name I’m interested in watching is #6 Patrick Kennedy of Iowa. Kennedy enter the Championship for the first time in his career off of a second-place finish at the Big Ten Championship where he was knocked off by Dean Hamiti by a three-point decision.

174lbs: #7 Peyton Mocco (20-4)

Each year Peyton Mocco has made the next step to an All-American finish. 2021 ended in the round of sixteen, and 2022 ended in the round of twelve (Blood Round), so 2023 is the breakthrough time to get that medal!

Mocco will be taking on #26 Sal Perrine (Ohio) to start off the Championship. Perrine is a 22-7 wrestler making his way to the Championship after a fourth-place finish in the MAC Championships. He reached the NCAAs for the second time in his career as a sophomore.

Topping out 174 is Nittany Lion and returning 2x NCAA Champ #1 Carter Starocci. Starocci has now gone undefeated in back-to-back seasons having won forty-seven straight matches dating back to the 2021 season where he lost in the Big Ten finals match. He sits at 19-0 this year with fourteen of them coming by a major decision or better.

Continuing down the line after top seed Starocci is a trio of one-loss wrestlers all of who have lost to one another along the road. #2 Michael Labriola (Neb) is a 3x All-American, #3 Mehki Lewis (VT) is a 2x finalist and 1x Champ, and #4 Chris Foca (Cor) returns to the NCAAs for the second time.

184lbs: #22 Colton Hawks (17-10)

Colton Hawks has begun to figure out the college wrestling scene and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After sitting in a rotation to begin the season, Hawks jumped into the starting role and never looked back. He ended his Big 12 Championship with a top-four finish and a trip to the big dance!

Hawks will get his first Championship opportunity against #11 Gavin Kane of North Carolina. Kane is a returning 184 qualifier from the prior season. He enters the Championship with a 21-6 record and a second-place finish at the ACC Championship.

The race to the finals is going to be interesting in this weight class. 2x NCAA All-American and top seed Parker Keckheisen, is the early out favorite to take home the title. Standing in his way for a potential semifinal match will be 2x qualifier, #4 Trey Munoz of Oregon State. Sitting on the opposite side are returning 2x Champion #3 Aaron Brook (PSU) and 2x All-American #2 Trent Hidlay.

While there are many to choose from at 184, I still believe Colton Hawks will be a huge catalyst for the Tigers this go around. For those who don’t think he has found a groove, rewind a couple of weeks to his semifinals bout against #1 Keckheisen at the Big 12s. Although he lost, there was something to build off of in that match and if he keeps that same tenacity returning back to Tulsa, we could see a breakout performance.

197lbs: #3 Rocky Elam (10-1)

Since his opening match of the season, Rocky Elam has looked the full part of becoming a 197 lbs finalist. While he has only competed in a career-low eleven matches, Rocky has looked ready for this time of year. Rocky enters the Championship with one blemish to his season and setting at the three seed. Rocky steps on the mat looking to take on #30 Andrew Davison of Northwestern. Davison is now a 2x qualifier and holds a 19-13 record this season.

Setting at the top of 197 is the lone undefeated wrestler, 1x All-American Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburg. Falling in behind him are seven wrestlers with three or fewer losses this season in a jumble of a mess of whose beat who. 197 is a weight class where any one of nine to ten different guys could match up in the first-place bout. You can look for returning NCAA Champ #9 Max Dean (PSU) to prove his seeding wrong and fight for a title defense.

285lbs: #10 Zach Elam (18-3)

Rounding out the squad for the Tigers we have 4x qualifier, Zach Elam. Elam, like many other teammates, will be looking for his first podium finish for the black and gold. Elam comes in looking to break that next step after falling out of the tournament during the blood round contest in the previous season. Elam will be taking on the #23 Jacob Bullock (IN) to open his tournament. Bullock is 21-6 Junior reaching the Championships for the first time in his career.

Looking to run the show at the top of 285 is undefeated and 2x NCAA All-American Mason Parris of Michigan. Parris makes his way to the Championship off a Big Ten individual title and has defeated the #2, #3, and #4 seeded wrestlers in the 285 Championship bracket this season. Those three wrestlers are #2 Wyatt Hendrickson (AF) a 2x NCAA qualifier, #3 Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) a 2x All-American, and #4 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa) a 2x All-American.

One name to look out for that may be overshadowed is #9 Lucas Davison of Northwestern. Davison returns to the championship after a 6th place finish in the previous year. He stands in with just four narrow losses this season looking to move up on the medal stand.