2023 NCAA Championships Watch Party

Season Long Title Paths For All Ten 2023 NCAA Wrestling Champions

Season Long Title Paths For All Ten 2023 NCAA Wrestling Champions

Tracing the season-long journey of every title winner at the 2023 NCAA D1 Wrestling Championship.

Apr 3, 2023 by Andrew Spey

We know how every 2023 NCAA champ finished their NCAA journey -- by winning their finals match Saturday night -- but with the benefit of our NCAA rankings archive (which is free to view here), we can also see how their journey throughout the 2022-23 D1 season progressed. 

Sidenote: to see where the champs (and the rest of the All-Americans) started their collegiate journeys, check out our very own James D. Rader's nifty look at the Big Board ranking of every 2023 AA

Now back to blogging about the topic at hand. 

2023 did not offer much in the way of Cinderella stories, at least for the champs. Seven of the NCAA champions in Tulsa entered the tournament ranked #1. Two more were ranked #2 and one was ranked #3, the lowest rank of any of the champs at the start of the tourney. 

Those ten champs and their FloWrestling rank and NCAA seed are listed below.

The Flo rankings (first number) match the seeds (second number) for everyone except Brooks (whose RPI hurt his seed) and Alirez (who's win over Cole Matthews at the NWCA All-Star Classic was not factored into his seed). 

The Wire-To-Wire Number Ones

The story for the entire season is also a very simple one for Yianni, Starocci and Brooks. All three were returning NCAA champs and all three went wire-to-wire ranked #1. Yianni and Brooks both took regular season losses but never dropped in the rankings. 

The Consistent Undefeated Winners

Andrew Alirez started the year #4, then moved up to #1 after he beat Cole Matthews at the NWCA All-Star Classic. That match did not count for NCAA seeding purposes, hence Alirez receiving the #2 seed. However, the Greeley, Colorado native spent all but a couple of weeks ranked at the top of the 141-pound rankings as he went undefeated on the season. 

Hodge Trophy winner Mason Parris has a similar season, going undefeated only he spent slightly less time at number one. Parris was #3 to start the season, having lost to Cohlton Schultz and Greg Kerkvliet at the 2022 NCAAs and placing below both on the 2022 podium. Schultz then lost at the CKLV in early December of the 2022-23 season, which moved Kerkvliet to #1 and Parris to #2. Parris then beat Kerkvliet in the PSU vs Michigan dual meet, which flipped the two spots.

That's where Parris and Kerkvliet stayed for the rest of the year, as Parris would defeat Kerkvliet two more times, in the finals of both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. 

Pat Glory started the year #2, behind Spencer Lee, who won the 2021 NCAA title but then missed 2022 due to knee surgery. Glory missed 2021 due to Ivy League rules and covid. The two did meet all the way back in 2018, twice in the fall of the 2018-19 season, with Lee winning both matches. Covid canceled the 2020 NCAAs, keeping a potential rematch off the books. 

Glory never got a shot at revenge in 2023, as their paths would never cross again collegiately thanks to Matt Ramos upsetting Lee in the semifinals. Glory did finally boost his ranking from #2 to #1 by dint of his 4-1 decision over Ramos in the finals.

The Nearly Undefeated Winner

Like Parris, Vito Arujau started the year at #3, with the 2022 NCAA finalists (Roman Bravo-Young and Daton Fix) ranked ahead of him. Vito was bumping up from 125 were he placed third at the 2022 NCAAs. 

Aruaju would go undefeated, picking up wins over Fix and RBY in the 2023 NCAA semis and finals to end the year ranked #1 (winning an NCAA title helps with that). 

The Wild Rides At 157 And 197

Now for the fun paths, O'Connor and Nino, and a chance to finally break out some graphs. 

Below is a graph that charts the rank of every 157-pound All-American at the 2023 NCAAs. It's interactive so you should be able to hover over the lines and see who is who and where they are in the season.

Just note that for the purposes of making this chart look right, their "ranking" is subtracted from 26, so being ranked number one win represented. by 25 (the max). 

The ranking of the eight all-Americans at the end of the year (also the 8 guys who's season we charted below) are #1 O'Connor, #2 Levi Haines, #3 Josh Humphreys, #4 Jared Franek, #5 Peyton Robb, #6 Ed Scott, #7 Bryce Andonian, and #8 Will Lewan.

Everyone finished ranked where they placed except that Robb placed 6th and Scott placed 5th as Robb medically forfeited his medal match and so Robb, who defeated Scott in the regular season and was ranked ahead of him all season long, stayed ahead of Scott in the final rankings of the season.

Evident from the chart is Haines' meteoric rise once the true freshman was tapped as the Penn State starter. Also, Will Lewan's gradual decline before he made a big push in the postseason, earning himself a place on the podium. 

As for the cham, Austin O'Connor started the season ranked 8th, owing to his 8th place finish at the 2022 NCAAs, and then steadily climbed his way up to the top. 

197 was an even bigger jumble of All-American journeys, as that weight class was as wild and entertaining as any we've seen in recent memory. 

Here everyone finished ranked where they placed except for #8 Max Dean and #9 Jacob Cardenas, who both finished behind #7 Silas Allred, who did not reach All-American status but did beat Dean in the quarterfinals (and at Big Tens) and only lost to #1 Nino Bonaccorsi and #5 Jacob Warner at NCAAs, hence his ranking in the top 8 despite not making the medal round. 

The other All-Americans (to help you decipher the graph) are #2 Tanner Sloan, #3 Rocky Elam, #4 Bernie Truax, and #6 Ethan Laird. 

As you can see, 197 was quite a conundrum for college wrestling rankers. Nino started the year ranked 9th, having missed All-American honors by a single match in 2022 (though he was a runner-up in 2021). Nino didn't drop a match all season long, but he also didn't wrestle a 2023 197-pound All-American until the semifinals of the NCAA Championships. 

Once Bonaccorsi got a hold of that number one spot late in the season, the local Pittsburgh area native never let go, completing a historic run and winning the first NCAA title for Pittsburgh since current Panther head coach Keith Gavin won in 2008. 

Then there's Tanner Sloan's inexorable march to the finals. Sloan didn't even break the top 10 until February. It was also Sloan's first AA honor, notching a second-place finish on his first match on Saturday of NCAAs. 

Overall, December and March were particularly tumultuous months for the light-heavies. But that's what makes the NCAA Tournament so compelling, everything gets sorted out on the mat and the rankers finally catch a break!