No NCAA wrestler will enter the 2016-17 season with more fanfare and attention than Ohio State's Kyle Snyder. A number of talented big men will attempt to dethrone Snyder, but they ultimately will battle for second place. As we come down the home stretch, this is another weight that could dramatically shift the team race.
Kyle Snyder, Ohio State
There's only a handful of people in the world who can go with Kyle Snyder, and none of them are in this field. It is interesting to note that Snyder was taken down by Ty Walz last year. However, one takedown isn't going to get the job done. Neither will two (ask Nick Gwiazdowski). Connor Medbery and Walz would be strong title contenders in many years. Their timing is just a bit unfortunate.
1. Kyle Snyder, Ohio State
2. Connor Medbery, Wisconsin
3. Ty Walz, Virginia Tech
4. Amar Dhesi, Oregon State
5. Sam Stoll, Iowa
6. Michael Kroells, Minnesota
7. Nick Nevills, Penn State
8. Tanner Hall, Arizona State
Round of 12: Denzel Dejournette, Appalachian State; Nathan Butler, Stanford; Brooks Black, Illinois; Billy Miller, Edinboro
The biggest question for me coming into the season for Snyder is how much we'll see him. Will he travel with the team? Or will he do a modified season as he did last year, ramping up at the end of the season for a few duals, Big Tens and NCAAs. Last year, he went to the Yarygin and Medved to wrestle freestyle overseas. In addition to having the best and safest leg attacks in the game and incredible head/hands, Snyder has an impressive gas tank and strength. Not many heavies can handle his seven-minute pace. He won't be a bonus machine like Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, etc., but he's not going to be touched. He will be an undefeated champ.
Choosing between Medbery and Walz was the toughest decision of this weight. Medbery won the last meeting, and though Walz has improved substantially, I still lean Medbery. He is as athletic as anyone in this weight, with ability to fire strong attacks from ties and space. I think Medbery is a takedown better than Walz, and that will ultimately be the difference.
Walz made huge leaps from his sophomore to his junior year. His high crotch is one of the best in the country, and his snatch and low single are also very strong. Outside of Snyder, I'm not sure any heavy has Walz's variety of leg attacks.
Ty Walz takes down Kyle Snyder but ultimately loses:
Maybe Amar Dhesi should be in the conversation with Walz and Medbery. He's as athletic as anyone in this field. I just haven't seen the elite wins and losses with him compared with a Medbery and Walz. Dhesi fell to Joseph Fagiano and Tanner Hall last year, and though Dhesi came on strong at the end, he placed without notching a real confidence-instilling win.
If Sam Stoll is back and healthy, he will be right in the mix for a top-five finish. He was squarely in the top eight or so toward the end of the year but hurt his knee against Gwiazdowski and wasn't the same. He doesn't have the go-to leg attacks you'd like to see, but he's good for one really clean shot per match. Combining his foot speed and size, Stoll could have a good year for Iowa. He knocked off Michael Kroells last year along with Billy Smith. Any errant shots against Stoll get punished as he can get to the corner very quickly.
Michael Kroells has kept the tradition of quality Minnesota heavyweights alive with back-to-back All-American finishes. Kroells is as active as any heavy in the field. He fires off a high volume of attacks and relies on his speed/athleticism to earn wins. I don't think he'll reach the upper echelon with Snyder/Medbery/Walz, but he's good for another podium finish.
Despite his injury history, I still think good days are ahead for Nick Nevills. His skill and athleticism are still present, and he's in a great training situation at Penn State. While there are still questions if he can be healthy for an entire season, I think he's due for some regression back to the mean in that area. If it happens, he can skill for skill compete with a lot of the best heavies. He's someone with the upside to potentially place higher than this. I'm just not ready to go there until we see him on the mat in one piece.
For being off the mat for several years, Hall came back and wrestled quite well. The Arizona State heavy fell to Walz and Dhesi (who he beat earlier at Midlands) to not place at NCAAs. With a full year under his belt and well-documented talent and pedigree, Hall is one of the toughest top-eight wrestlers in the weight.
I could see any of the four wrestlers in the round of 12 predictions in the No. 7 or No. 8 spot. Brooks Black came on hot late, and Denzel Dejournette has been knocking on the door the past two years. Billy Miller is a little out of nowhere, but a talent like him with another year of experience could yield some improvement.
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