2017 Southern Scuffle Preview: 149-165

Josh Conklin Palacio Smith

Live On Flo This Week: Dec 29-30: Powerade | Dec 29-30: Prep Slam IX | Jan 1-2: Southern Scuffle

The middleweights of this Southern Scuffle field will feature a whopping 22 ranked wrestlers with a fine collection of unranked talent and redshirts as well.  Yesterday, I outlined 125-141 for the Southern Scuffle. Here's an in-depth look at 149-165 heading into the Jan. 1-2 tournament at Tennessee-Chattanooga. 

Southern Scuffle Lightweight Preview 125-141

149 Contenders

#3 Anthony Collica, Oklahoma State
#4 Lavion Mayes, Missouri
#7 Pat Lugo, Edinboro
#9 Laike Gardner, Lehigh
#11 Max Thomsen, Northern Iowa
#15 Matt Cimato, Drexel
#16 Matthew Zovistoski, Appalachian St
Christopher Vassar, Gardner Webb
Joe Galasso, Cornell
Cortlandt Schuyler, Lehigh
Sam Krivus, Virginia
Fredy Stroker, Minnesota

1. Lavion Mayes, Missouri
2. Anthony Collica, Oklahoma State
3. Patricio Lugo, Edinboro
4. Laike Gardner, Lehigh
5. Max Thomsen, Northern Iowa
6. Matt Cimato, Drexel
7. Matthew Zovistoski, Appalachian State
8. Christopher Vassar, Gardner Webb
9. Joe Galasso, Cornell
10. Gary Dinmore, Penn State

This Lavion Mayes/Anthony Collica matchup has happened quite a few times at this point, and I think we'll be seeing it once again. Mayes was up against Collica at the All Star before Collica ran him down. Mayes is a dynamite neutral wrestler with incredible range. He's known for his double, but these days he's converting takedowns at a high rate from his single leg. All of their meetings have been nip and tuck, but I believe Mayes has had the neutral advantage over the long term. That's why Mayes is my pick to win this bracket. Collica looked as good as I'd seen him against Galasso, but Mayes is a different problem entirely.

Pat Lugo put a great Cliff Keen Las Vegas tournament together, downing Virginia Tech All-American Solomon Chishko. The issue with Lugo has been following up his strong wins and avoiding the let-down losses afterwards. I think we'll see that here. Lugo's positioning keeps him in most matches, and his quick attacks are good at least once a match against a tough competitor (see his Micah Jordan match).

Lugo Takes Out Solomon Chishko:

Laike Gardner has done a great job for Lehigh at 149. He's been able to methodically climb the rankings with several tough wins. Gardner is very complete and has the requisite skill set that most Mountain Hawks possess: dangerous top work and stifling scrambles. Laike has solid neutral offense as well, though it disappears against 149's elite. He'll be in the mix for the top four, but with young talent nipping at his heels, he could fall short of expectations.

Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, I'm still high on Fredy Stroker. The Minnesota freshman has had some odd losses this year, but he still passes the eyeball test for me. Anyone who can get to legs as consistently as Stroker cannot be discounted. It may take time, but like his teammate Mitch McKee, Stroker will eventually turn his season into a success. Also of note, he has had success against some of this weight's elite contenders. It was in high school, but for these young bucks, that wasn't so long ago. Stroker has previously beaten Max Thomsen and Lugo (Fargo final), though it can't be forgotten that Thomsen also beat Stroker.

Sleepers: Other than Stroker, I'm not sure I see much out of the unranked group. Perhaps Galasso makes a run? This is a tight group 1-6.

CP's Predictions
1. Lavion Mayes, Missouri
2. Anthony Collica, Oklahoma State
3. Pat Lugo, Edinboro
4. Laike Gardner, Lehigh
5. Max Thomsen, UNI
6. Fredy Stroker, Minnesota

157 Contenders

#2 Dylan Palacio, Cornell
#3 Joseph Smith, Oklahoma State
#6 Joey Lavallee, Missouri
#7 Jake Short, Minnesota
#13 May Bethea, Penn
#15 Jordan Kutler, Lehigh
#20 Andrew Atkinson, Virginia
Mitch Finesilver, Duke
Brandon Kingsley, Minnesota
Aaron Walker, Citadel
Joey Moon, North Carolina
Paul Fox, Stanford

1. Dylan Palacio, Cornell
2. Joe Smith, Oklahoma State
3. Joey Lavallee, Missouri
4. Jordan Kutler, Lehigh
5. Jake Short, Minnesota
6. Andrew Atkinson, Virginia
7. May Bethea, Penn
8. Aaron Walker, The Citadel
9. Mitch Finesilver, Duke
10. Joey Moon, North Carolina

I was hoping we'd catch this one at the Oklahoma State-Cornell dual, but I think this will be worth the wait. My question is: Will Joe Smith versus Dylan Palacio even happen? Palacio's layoff, combined with the construction of this field, gives me some concern that he could be upset before reaching the finals.  

Someone like Joey Lavallee could play spoiler to the final if he saw Palacio, but likely he'll be seeded on the opposite side of the bracket. He's made some real improvements during his redshirt year, and it has shown in his results. The crouching tiger makes few mistakes. Every point is earned against Lavallee.

Another potential bracket buster could be Duke's Mitch Finesilver. Though he's redshirting and up a weight, his skill-set mustn't be forgotten. Recall he downed Jason Tsirtsis a year ago along with a few other elite wins. He's strong on top and in scrambles. A Palacio/Finesilver match could be a scrambly treat.

Joseph Smith will have just one match under his belt as he looks to make his second Southern Scuffle final. His collar and ankle looked strong, though Taylor Simaz won't present the same challenges that this field will. I've incorrectly predicted Smith to beat Palacio not once but twice now. Maybe I'm embodying the definition of insanity, but I'm picking Smith, again. If he loses, I'll probably still pick him come NCAAs -- deal with it. I think Palacio presents very unique challenges. 1) You're certifiable if you try to ride him. Palacio is one of the only guys in the country who can consistently hit a Peterson on tough competition. He's not just a Peterson aficionado, but he also hooks and rolls about 10 different ways, finds his way on top and rides tough. 2) He's great from a two on one. 3) Smith will be out of his element if he tries to scramble with him.  

Lehigh's Jordan Kutler is the real deal. With a win over Jake Short already, the Mountain Hawk freshman has been quietly climbing the NCAA rankings. He's got a strong knee pull single leg as well as elite turns from the top position. His variety of methods to score makes him a threat to nearly everyone in this bracket.

These problems will still exist this weekend. As I predicted for McKenna over Heil, I think Smith will craft a plan to keep his finishes quick and clean and avoid the things that make Palacio a nightmare. I'm erring on upside and offense. Give me Smith for the Scuffle title and the No. 2 ranking.

Sleepers: Keep your eyes on Joey Moon and Paul Fox. Both have had some really nice moments but struggle with consistency.

CP's Predictions:
1. Joseph Smith, OK State
2. Dylan Palacio, Cornell
3. Joey Lavallee, Missouri
4. Jake Short, Minnesota
5.  Mitch Finesilver, Duke
6. Jordan Kutler, Lehigh

165 Contenders

#4 Daniel Lewis, Missouri
#5 Mitch Minotti, Lehigh
#9 Chandler Rogers, Oklahoma State
#9(at 174) Nick Wanzek, Minnesota
#13 Keaton Subjeck, Stanford
#14 Bryce Steiert, Northern Iowa
#15 Tyler Marinelli, Gardner Webb
#16 Brandon Womack, Cornell
Keilan Torres, Northern Colorado
Forrest Przybysz, Appalachian St
Drew Longo, Lehigh
Cole Walter, Lehigh

1. Daniel Lewis- Missouri
2. Mitch Minotti- Lehigh
3. Chandler Rogers- Oklahoma State
4. Nick Wanzek- Minnesota
5. Jake Faust- Duke
6. Bryce Steiert- Northern Iowa
7. Austin Matthews- Edinboro
8. Brandon Womack- Cornell
9. Drew Longo- Lehigh
10. Keaton Subjeck- Stanford

Daniel Lewis enters the Scuffle as maybe the biggest favorite at the Southern Scuffle outside of Gabe Dean.  The cradle-happy Sophomore will use his leg attacks and punishing top game to separate himself from this field.  

Things get interesting for me from two on.  How healthy is Mitch Minotti?  How effective will he be at 165 after placing at 149 and 157? If he's the Minotti of old, he could cement himself as a top 5 guy.  A ranking that, at this point, is a bit flimsy.  

Over the last two seasons Chandler Rogers has defeated Daniel Lewis, Kyle Crutchmer, Ethan Ramos, Casey Kent, Michael Ottinger (twice), Keaton Subjeck, Brian Harvey and Jacobe Smith (twice),   He's really, really good. Nobody collects that many years in their first two seasons and isn't.  He's got a pinning mentality and a combination of attacks that keep everyone guessing.  His consistency is the issue.  Match to match, it's tough to say what you'll get.  For the most part, you get good results, but occasionally he'll suffer a loss you wouldn't expect. I think he makes the finals here before falling to Lewis.   I think he'll face Mitch Minotti in the semi's.  He can't try to scramble with Minotti.  Mitch has made a living on being a very crafty leg attacker and scrambler.  Rogers can't try to out--Minotti, Minotti.

Though Lewis has lost his only meeting with Chandler Rogers, a lot has changed in two years.  He's very consistent and I'd view another loss to Rogers as a real upset.

Nick Wanzek at 165 is an interesting prospect.  He's climbed to the 9 spot at 174. Now he's cutting down to 165.  Like Rogers, he's had some great wins, including one over Zac Brunson.  Also like Rogers, he has had some questionable losses.  I don't view his upside quite as highly as I do Rogers'.

Brandon Womack put his scrambling skills on display against Rogers in their dual in December.  Now we'll get to see him with a chance to follow it up and show it wasn't a fluke victory.  I like Womack's upside and pinning potential.  With Faust and Matthews as likely scratches, I think he pulls off a nice placement along with UNI's Bryce Steiert.

Sleepers: I've always liked Lehigh's Drew Longo.  Though 165 may or may not be his ideal weight, he is tough enough to make life difficult for many of the 165 contenders.

CP's Predictions:
1. Daniel Lewis, Missouri
2. Chandler Rogers, Oklahoma State
3. Mitch Minotti, Lehigh
4. Nick Wanzek, Minnesota
5. Bryce Steiert, UNI
6. Keaton Subjeck, Stanford

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