Complete Southern Scuffle Preview

Austin Bernard Kyle Crutchmer

The Southern Scuffle is set to kick off at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Sunday, Jan. 1, and Monday, Jan. 2. Here's a look at the complete all weights preview.

Brackets have been released. Check them out on FloArena!

Best Session One Match Ups Of Southern Scuffle


Sunday, January 1st
10:00 a.m: Pigtail Round
10:45 a.m: Championship Round of 32
1:30 p.m: 1st Round of Consolations
2:15 p.m: Championship Round of 16
4:00 p.m: 2nd Round of Consolations
5:45 p.m: 3rd Round of Consolations
7:30 p.m: Championship Quarterfinals & 4th Round of Consolations

Monday, January 2nd
9:00 a.m: Doors Open for Spectators
10:00 a.m: 5th Round of Consolation
12:00 p.m: Championship Semifinals, Consolation Quarterfinals
2:00 p.m: Consolation Semifinals:
7:00 p.m: Championship Finals & Medal Matches

125 Competitors

#3 Dylan Peters, Northern Iowa
#5 Darian Cruz, Lehigh
#7 Barlow McGhee, Missouri
#9 Ethan Lizak, Minnesota
#10 Sean Russell, Edinboro
#11 Jack Mueller, Virginia
#13 Nick Piccininni, Oklahoma State
#14 Nathan Kraisser, Campbell
#18 Vito Pasone, Appalachian St
Steven Polakowski, Minnesota
Taylor LaMont, Utah Valley
Rudy Yates, Northern Iowa
Trey Andrews, Northern Colorado
Aaron Assad, Missouri

This is perhaps the most wide-open weight of the Southern Scuffle. Dylan Peters, though he's ranked third, hasn't looked like the Dylan Peters from NCAAs last year. Whether he's still recovering from an injury or something else entirely, this group will feature a number or difficult tests for the Panther All-American.

With nine ranked competitors, there are a number of directions this weight could go. Darian Cruz has been solid all year long. His ankle picks and top game make him a threat to anyone in the mix. Barlow McGhee hasn't regained his stride that had him as a top six guy a year ago. He lost early to Nathan Kraisser, then missed a substantial chunk of time.

Two freshmen have caught my eye for this tournament. Virginia true freshman Jack Mueller has been sensational so far. What cannot be ignored is that the Texas native has not yet faced near the level of rigor that this tournament will present. We'll find out quickly how Mueller stacks up. That said, we've seen him compete with some of the best in freestyle, including a win over Darian Cruz when Mueller was just finishing his junior year of high school.

The other freshman is Oklahoma State's Nick Piccininni. The Cowboy is coming off a tough loss to Noah Baughman. What is very evident is that Piccininni can get to the legs against just about anyone. The question he will continue to have to answer is finishes. It gave him fits against Baughman, and against this group, there are plenty of wrestlers who could challenge him in this position.

I've been buying up all available Ethan Lizak stock coming into this year. Despite being suspended for the first half of the year, Lizak has had substantial mat time. Another great scrambler with a punishing top game, the Pennsylvania native is in the mix to win the tournament.

I'd love to get a sneak peak at those seeds. I feel like I'm starting my predictions on the wrong foot, as I'd like to have a more confident a grasp in the pecking order.

Cruz is the safest and most consistent performer of the bunch, so I'm going with him to navigate this bracket. He can win a few different ways, which is something I'll often refer to as "paths to victory." He can do it from neutral attacks, counter defense and top wrestling. This bracket could get turned completely on its head. If McGhee is on all cylinders, he'd probably be my pick, but his consistency issues and spotty offense have him down at six. That's how close I believe this field is in Chattanooga. The more I write, the more fired up I am for this weight!

Taylor Lamont and Rudy Yates are two redshirts with a high pedigree. I'm curious to see Yates down at 125. Lamont has been solid in early competition for Utah Valley.

Missouri's Aaron Assad would start for many DI teams. If McGhee isn't on point and Assad shines, it's possible the competition for 125 starts to really heat up for Missouri. That dynamic makes Assad a nightmare draw for many of the competitors entered at the weight.

CP's Predictions:
1. Darian Cruz, Lehigh
2. Dylan Peters, UNI
3. Jack Mueller, UVA
4. Ethan Lizak, Minnesota
5. Nick Piccininni, OK State
6. Barlow McGhee, Missouri

133 Contenders

#6 Kaid Brock, Oklahoma State
#10 Scott Parker, Lehigh
#12 Connor Schram, Stanford
#13 Kevin Devoy, Drexel
#15 Mark Grey, Cornell
Mitchell McKee, Minnesota
Mickey Phillippi, Virginia
Nathan Boston, Campbell
Josh Alber, Northern Iowa

Kaid Brock returns to the scene of the crime. A year ago the sensational true freshman saw his season come to an end during his semifinal match against Nahshon Garrett. Now he returns as the likely No. 1 seed at the Southern Scuffle. I'm not sure how anyone can have watched Brock this year and not think he's a runaway favorite to win this bracket. Brock has shown development on his feet from a year ago. He's hitting leg attacks more consistently, which complements his ridiculous pass-bys and upper-body attacks. Thus far, he's faced a few ranked opponents and had little issue. He hasn't faced any of the upper-echelon title contenders, and that will be true after this tournament as well. Still, I think Brock comes through unscathed with more than a couple "How'd he do that?" takedowns.

Lehigh's Scott Parker put the country on notice with his dominant win over Penn State's Jered Cortez on Dec. 4. Parker was someone I'd often regarded as a physical and positional wrestler, but he showed his leg attacks as well in that match.

Connor Schram is back up at 133 and will have an opportunity to solidify himself as an All-American contender at this weight as well. His top game and scrambling keep him in matches, but he'll need to hone some neutral offense if he wants to go over the top.

Mitch McKee, Josh Alber, Nathan Boston, and Micky Phillippi. Of this group, McKee has proven he's in the mix with some of the tougher 133s. At some point this year, maybe it will be late in the season, he'll start to put it all together and win matches. He is a pinner at heart but still makes big mistakes and maybe leaves his legs a tad too open. Over time, it will all come together. Maybe we start seeing signs of that here at the Scuffle? Boston will be back in the mix but for a different team this time as he is now competing at Campbell for coach Cary Kolat.

CP's Predictions:
1. Kaid Brock, OK State
2. Scott Parker, Lehigh
3. Mitch McKee, Minnesota
4. Connor Schram, Stanford
5. Josh Alber, UNI
6. Mark Grey, Cornell

141 Contenders

#1 Dean Heil, Oklahoma State
#2 Joey McKenna, Stanford
#4 Randy Cruz, Lehigh
#7 Matt Manley, Missouri
#8 Joey Ward, North Carolina
#9 George DiCamillo, Virginia
#9 (at 133) Jaydin Eierman, Missouri
#12 Thomas Thorn, Minnesota
Boo Lewallen, Oklahoma State
Tristan Moran, Oklahoma State
Will Koll, Cornell
Jared Prince, Navy
Nic Gil, Navy
AC Headlee, North Carolina
Mike Pongracz, Chattanooga
Zach Synon, Missouri
Ryan Pomrinca, Lehigh

I went on the record this fall and picked Joey McKenna to win NCAAs -- no turning back now. Dean Heil and Joey McKenna are two of the most consistent performers in NCAA wrestling. Match-to-match, week-to-week, you know what you're getting with each guy. McKenna is oh-fer against Heil but has gotten to legs in each match and was simply unable to finish. Heil's scrambling is perhaps some of the best in the nation.

The key for McKenna will be getting to his double leg. His swing single is lethal against 99.9 percent of the opponents he'll face. I just don't have confidence in anyone finishing that attack on Heil. It's been two OT bouts between these guys. We are probably headed for another.

Heil vs. McKenna, part 2:

It's pretty clear those two are separated from the field, yet someone like Joey Ward (who has beaten Heil several times) cannot be discounted. Ward took a loss to Army's Logan Everett this year but has been solid otherwise.

Two Missouri Tigers are major wildcards at 141 for entirely different reasons. For Matt Manley, he's been off the mat for some time. How will he look against a field this tough? Recall Manley was the No. 5 seed at NCAAs a year ago. On the other hand, you have Jaydin Eierman. The flashy freshman is having some difficulty making 133, so he is headed up to 141 pounds. What does that mean for Missouri moving forward? I'm not sure. However the Scuffle shakes out will likely have a huge impact on the Tigers' lineup going forward.

Like Ethan Lizak, Tommy Thorn will make his return to the Gophers varsity lineup after serving a first-semester suspension. Thorn has very solid offense but struggles against the better scramblers. I'm curious to see how much he's developed from his freshman year.

Randy Cruz will be contending as well. He has been great this year, only falling to Matt Kolodzik, while notching a win over Kevin Jack. Cruz has a strong single leg, but his top work and countering ability are where he makes his money. It's a double-edged sword. He can play things too close and drop a match to someone he's better than (see his wrestle-off against Ryan Pomrinca). Conversely, his stuff has worked on some of 141's best.

This Oklahoma State duo of Boo Lewallen and Tristan Moran will be throwing a massive monkey wrench into the works as well. Lewallen sent shockwaves when he won the Reno TOC over Bryce Meredith. Moran looked game as well, taking out a ranked Javier Gasca.

This weight is absurdly deep. I'd actually be surprised if one or more of our top 10 guys didn't finished outside the top six. There's way too much talent.

Jared Prince, Nic Gil and Mike Pongracz could make waves here. Prince didn't have the start to the season he probably expected. That said, he's got that pinning mentality and big moves that make any opposing coach sweat until his athlete's hand is raised.

CP's Predictions:
1. Joey McKenna, Stanford
2. Dean Heil, OK State
3. Randy Cruz, Lehigh
4. Joey Ward, UNC
5. Jaydin Eierman, Missouri
6. George DiCamillo, UVA

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

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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