2017 Southern Scuffle Preview 174-285

Tony Rotundo Mark Hall

That's a wrap. Here is a look at the upper weights at the Southern Scuffle, which gets started in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Sunday, Jan. 1, and concludes on Monday, Jan. 2. You can watch every round live on FloWrestling.

Southern Scuffle Lightweight Preview
Southern Scuffle Middleweight Preview

Brackets have been released. Check them out on FloArena!

174 Contenders

#3 Casey Kent, Penn
#5 Brian Realbuto, Cornell
#6 Kyle Crutchmer, Oklahoma State
#8 Ethan Ramos, North Carolina
#10 Taylor Lujan, Northern Iowa
#14 Ryan Preisch, Lehigh
#17 Jim Wilson, Stanford
#18 Jadaen Bernstein, Navy
Sean Mappes, Chattanooga
Mark Hall, Penn State
Kimball Bastian, Utah Valley
Dylan Wisman, Missouri
Nick Kee, Appalachian St

174 Pre-Seeds
1. Casey Kent, Penn
2. Kyle Crutchmer, Oklahoma State
3. Ethan Ramos, North Carolina
4. Taylor Lujan, Northern Iowa
5. Ryan Preisch, Lehigh
6. Jim Wilson, Stanford
7. Jadaen Bernstein, Navy
8. Jordan Rogers, Oklahoma State
9.. Mark Hall, Penn State

The 141 weight class may have more high-end talent (it may not), but 174 is the weight to watch for this year's Southern Scuffle. The combination of showstoppers and elite talent make this weight alone a chapter in the 2016-17 DI season's story.

Even without Brian Realbuto, we'll have a chance to see some of 174's best duke it out. A year ago, Casey Kent announced himself here. While he can be up and down, Kent can be a tough pill to deal with when he's on top of his game. Leg attacks may not be his strongest suit, but his top game is prolific. Good luck taking him down, even if you get to his legs.

The ultimate wild card is Mark Hall. Prognosticating for a superstar talent with Hall's results so far is incredibly difficult. Part of me wants to go all in and pick him to win the tournament, because he's Mark Hall and a professional wrestling tournament winner.

Then the other part of me looks at his folkstyle skill set and results this year and wants to say "He's a true freshman, give him time." There's considerable evidence that that's the right way to go. Even superstars Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf weren't able to achieve Southern Scuffle gold as true freshmen. Yet a year later, they both dazzled their way to titles (to be fair, Nolf made the finals and beat Realbuto along the way). The way the seeding broke down, we are likely looking at a Hall/Kent quarter. Kent has only faced three DI opponents this year and his last bout was up at 184. There are too many questions right now with Kent. I think stylistically, he's a bad matchup for Hall. He can probably hold Hall to stalemates in scrambles and will have a decided mat advantage. For this quarter (provided Hall gets by a salty Jordan Rogers) I think Hall gets the win and gets by Lujan or Preisch (great quarter there). Lujan/Hall is going to break the internet if it happens. I think Hall will get the better of him as well.

Ethan Ramos, Taylor Lujan and Ryan Preisch will all three be in the mix with the Crutchmer/Hall/Kent trio. Ramos was second here last year, defeating Kyle Crutchmer before falling to Bo Nickal. Lujan is a lunatic, throwing all available kitchen sinks and other household appliances at his opponents. I think he's a tad too scramble-reliant, leaving his legs open too much. That just needs refining at this point. Preisch has quietly been very impressive. Like basically every Lehigh starter of the last five years, he's very sound in every position. On top he's a real problem, and I've seen leg-attack improvement from last year to now. I think he leaves the Scuffle with a little more respect and name recognition.

So I think we're looking at a Crutchmer/Hall final.

Hall has some the freakiest defense in the game, but Crutchmer is a fifth-year senior and among the most powerful wrestlers in the country. So maybe Hall is just not ready for that level of physicality. But what if he is? If he is, then I think Hall is at an advantage. Barring a power double from Crutchmer (which he certainly has in his arsenal), I'm not sure how he takes him down. We saw against Realbuto that Crutchmer can struggle to finish single legs against the better scramblers. That problem will certainly exist with Hall. I typically have a pretty good sense of how matches will materialize, but with Hall's limited track record at the Division I level, it gets really, really tricky.

Jadaen Bernstein and Jim Wilson have had their moments, but based on what I've seen recently, they're going to be a rung behind the best guys here.

Sleepers: I always like Dylan Wisman. He will have some nice moments in matches, but he struggles to put seven minutes together against the best guys. He's still just a freshman, and I think he'll be a good one eventually.

This is by far my riskiest prediction, but I'm going with Hall to run the gauntlet. It's not rooted in anything quantifiable. I just believe in his progression and the matchups. He could be sixth very easily and have a solid day.

CP's Predictions:
1. Mark Hall, Penn State
2. Kyle Crutchmer, Oklahoma State
3. Casey Kent, Penn
4. Taylor Lujan, UNI
5. Ethan Ramos, UNC
6. Ryan Preisch, Lehigh

184 Contenders

#1 Gabe Dean, Cornell
#5 Nolan Boyd, Oklahoma State
#14 Drew Foster, Northern Iowa
#16 Chip Ness, North Carolina
#19 Hunter Gamble, Gardner-Webb
#20 Dylan Gabel, Northern Colorado
Dakota Geer, Edinboro
Bobby Steveson, Minnesota

184 Pre-Seeds
1. Gabe Dean, Cornell
2. Nolan Boyd, Oklahoma State
3. Drew Foster, Northern Iowa
4. Chip Ness, North Carolina
5. Hunter Gamble, Gardner Webb
6. Bryce Carr, Chattanooga
7. Dylan Gabel, Northern Colorado
8. Dakota Geer, Edinboro
9. Jacob Holschlag, Northern Iowa
10. Max Dean, Finger Lakes Prep

Mr. Southern Scuffle himself, Gabe Dean, comes into this field as a humungous favorite. He's laid absolute waste to anyone across from him this year. It's a new year, but nothing will change in that regard. There are many guys I'm curious to see Dean wrestle, but there's nobody in this field that possess that threat -- even Nolan Boyd. Dean is looking for his fourth Southern Scuffle title. He announced himself here three years ago by taking out Ed Ruth. Perhaps the most famous Southern Scuffle match ever.

Nolan has done what few have: defeat Gabe Dean. But with each passing match, that is looking more and more like a one-time thing. Boyd tactically surprised me in the dual against Dean. Errant shots are punished at a rate of probably around 99 percent against Dean. If your head is low and you don't have a good lock on the leg, he's smashing and re-attacking. I thought Boyd took a few forced shots that put Dean right in his wheelhouse. Boyd is a volume attacker by trade, but he has to make an adjustment here and better pick his spots if he wants to keep this match respectable. I still believe it is scientifically possible to take Dean down, though it's looking less and less possible with each re-attack. Boyd has separated himself from this field, in all likelihood. For as amazing as 184 is nationally, it's almost bizarre to only see two top-10 guys in the mix.

Though we have four other ranked guys -- Drew Foster, Chip Ness, Hunter Gamble and Dylan Gabel -- I'm not sure they have a tremendous lead over the unranked sleepers. Look for some low seeds or even unseeded guys to pull some upsets over these ranked guys. Their resumés are all relatively thin.

Sleepers: I've had an eye on Dakota Geer this season. I think this is the tournament he steps up and gets himself ranked. He's a real talent and has been competitive in matches. True freshmen start to make their mark around this time of the season. Knowing what Tim Flynn and co. are capable of at Edinboro, look for Geer to turn heads and opponents this weekend.

CP's Predictions:
1. Gabe Dean, Cornell
2. Nolan Boyd, Ok State
3. Drew Foster, UNI
4. Dakota Geer, Edinboro
5. Hunter Gamble, Gardner Webb
6. Dylan Gabel, Nor Colorado

197 Contenders

#1 J'Den Cox, Missouri
#2 Brett Pfarr, Minnesota
#4 Preston Weigel, Oklahoma State
#13 Frank Mattiace, Penn
#20 Ben Haas, Lehigh
Derek White, Oklahoma State
Parker Hines, Air Force
Owen Scott, Cornell
Ben Honis, Cornell
Ben Darmstadt, Finger Lakes Prep
Danny Chaid, North Carolina
Josh Marchok, Stanford
Nathan Traxler, Stanford
Scottie Boykin, Chattanooga
Derek White, Oklahoma State

197 Pre-Seeds
1. J'den Cox, Missouri
2. Brett Pfarr, Minnesota
3. Preston Weigel, Oklahoma State
4. Frank Mattiace, Penn
5. Parker Hines, Air Force
6. Ben Haas, Lehigh
7. Derek White, Oklahoma State
8. Owen Scott, Cornell
9. Anthony McLaughlin, Air Force
10. Tanner Orndorff, Utah Valley

Preston Weigel is a confusing wrestler. This is a guy who was up 13 or 14-0 early in a match in which he was getting takedowns and turns at will. Then he proceeds to get ridden out and can't get the tech against Pitt. He's ridden an entire period and a half by Ben Honis before finally escaping and getting a clutch takedown to seal the win. If he is sharp for seven minutes, he can put himself in the Brett Pfarr/Jared Haught conversation. We just haven't seen that at this point. He's a great top wrestler, prolific with tilts and has clean leg attacks that he can finish on most.

After Fargo, I dubbed myself the conductor of the Ben Darmstadt hype train. To properly conduct said train, you cannot dabble with logic or rationale thought. You'll say, "CP, he got pinned by Rocco Caywood, who you don't even have ranked!" And I'll say, "Shut up." I think Darmstadt will be a title contender next year at 197, in all seriousness. His top game is just sick, and he's at Cornell, where 184s and 197s light the world on fire. Also, going to Cornell is like starting the match with a minute of riding time and at least one swipe. He is a perfect fit for the Big Red. Though he's not attached this year, I'm still sure he's making considerable improvement in the Big Red Room. He's not just a top wrestler; the guy can attack legs well. For his height he can change levels and get to legs consistently. Though it must be acknowledged that the head/hands of collegiate 197s are different from the Fargo semis, I think Darmstadt's neutral game translates.

I'm not going there. Dan may think Pfarr will beat J'den Cox. His reasoning may be sound, but I just am not ready to go there. Cox is the superior being and superior wrestler. While he hasn't "gotten up" for matches like we've seen him do in the past, the Southern Scuffle finals will elicit an elite version of J'den Cox. Pfarr may have a few nice moments and scramble well with Cox, but I think he comes up empty for offensive points. Cox will control the match and may have a slight advantage on the mat. We know he's the better neutral wrestler. I love Pfarr. He's one of the three or four most impressive wrestlers of the first semester, and he's all but a shoo-in for the NCAA finals this year. But give me J'den on Monday night.

I think it's a tight top four with Cox, Pfarr, Darmstadt and Weigel. I'm going to pick Darmstadt to upset Weigel for third (because hype train), though I acknowledge it's a tough matchup with Weigel's head hands and power. It's a real clash in body styles between those two as Weigel is more compact and powerful.

Sleepers: Scottie Boykin has been out of the mix for Tennessee-Chattanooga while redshirting, but he's got some top notch wins over the course of his career. I also think Derek White, who transferred to Oklahoma State, could put some real pressure on his teammate Weigel. Though Preston is No. 4 in the country, I'm sure White is not conceding the spot as of yet.

CP's Predictions:
1. J'den Cox, Missouri
2. Brett Pfarr, Minnesota
3. Ben Darmstadt, Finger Lakes
4. Preston Weigel, Ok State
5. Derek White, Ok State
6. Frank Mattiace, Penn

285 Contenders

#4 Michael Kroells, Minnesota
#8 Nathan Butler, Stanford
#9 Billy Miller, Edinboro
#10 Denzel Dejournette, Appalachian St
#12 Austin Schafer, Oklahoma State
#13 Doug Vollaro, Lehigh
#14 Jared Johnson, Chattanooga
#19 Jacob Kasper, Duke
Mike Hughes, Hofstra
Boyce Cornwell, Gardner-Webb
Carter Isley, Northern Iowa
Rylee Streifel, Minnesota
JJ Everard, Northern Iowa

285 Pre-Seeds
1. Austin Schafer, Oklahoma State
2. Michael Kroells, Minnesota
3. Nathan Butler, Stanford
4. Denzel Dejournette, Appalachian State
5. Jacob Kasper, Duke
6. Jared Johnson, Chattanooga
7. Billy Miller, Edinboro
8. Joey Goodhart, Drexel
9. Doug Vollaro, Lehigh
10. Mike Hughes, Hofstra

The 285 weight class has the potential to be among the most competitive and wide open weights of the Southern Scuffle. With eight ranked wrestlers who possess similar skill sets, there are more than a handful of potential champions out of this field.

The top-seeded Austin Schafer has had a quick rise up the rankings. His head-to-head win over two-time All-American Mike Kroells earned him the No. 1 seed. Schafer, who was a 197-pounder last year, has given the Cowboys an athletic option at 285 pounds. He's got solid foot speed and leg attacks and is a tough top wrestler. He's looked the best of anyone in this field, yet is still largely unproven over the course of a year.

Mike Kroells is the most consistent performer over the last few years at this weight. He typically beats whom he should. He's got a great motor and athleticism. He had a reputation as a high-volume attacker, but I think he's departed from that to a degree recently. A return to that more wide-open style could yield a higher finish.

The group of Mike Hughes, Billy Miller, Denzel Dejournette, and Doug Vollaro, among others, likely represents the second tier of this weight. That said, they all possess the tools to jump into the top tier and knock off a Kroells or a Schafer.

Hughes has been out of the spotlight since he's redshirting but will be a factor in this tournament.

Sleepers: It will be fun to watch Northern Iowa freshman Carter Isley. I liked him coming out of high school and am curious to see his development since arriving at UNI. Boyce Cornwell is not the biggest 285. In reality, he may be among the smallest. He has some very fun matches and upside. He'll have the potential to pull an upset or two for Gardner-Webb.

CP's Predictions:
1. Austin Schafer, Oklahoma State
2. Mike Kroells, Minnesota
3. Billy Miller, Edinboro
4. Denzel Dejournette, App State
5. Mike Hughes, Hofstra
6. Jacob Kasper, Duke

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