For the past 14 seasons, the Southern Scuffle has been assembling one of the best college tournaments outside of the NCAA championship. Following the migratory paths laid out by the unladen swallow (not the African or European but the North American variety, naturally) as well as those of many sets of grandparents, college wrestling heads toward warmer climates every new year to battle it out at this annual classic at McKenzie Arena in downtown Chattanooga, TN.
We will ring in 2018 with a cavalcade of combatants, including six reigning NCAA champions. The action begins at 10 AM ET on Jan. 1, so shake off the champagne hangovers and join us online as we bring you all the action.
But first, prepare for the event with our previews, concluding with the upperweights.
No. 2 Mark Hall, Penn State
No. 4 Jordan Kutler, Lehigh
No. 7 Taylor Lujan, Northern Iowa
No. 8 Jadaen Bernstein, Navy
No. 12 Keaton Subjeck, Stanford
No. 18 Forrest Przybysz, App State
No. 19 Will Schany, Virginia
Hunter Bolen, Virginia Tech
Cody Hughes, Virginia Tech
Kimball Bastian, Utah Valley
With five entrants ranked in the top 12, 174 is going to be one of the most stacked weight classes in Chattanooga. Mark Hall and his NCAA title headline the group. His one loss on the season is to Zahid Valencia at the All-Star Classic, so he’s still on track for a No. 1 seed in March, as that loss doesn't go on his NCAA official record.
Jordan Kutler represents the stiffest competition from the challengers. He also only has one loss on the year, but it was to Hall in an official dual meet earlier this month. Kutler has otherwise adjusted splendidly up two weight classes from last season and will likely receive the No. 2 seed at the Scuffle after Hall.
At No. 7 and 8 in the top 20, respectively, Taylor Lujan and Jadaen Bernstein should get the next two seeds and are both worth keeping an eye on: Lujan for his otherworldly scrambling ability and Bernstein for his lightning-quick upper-body throws. If you’re signing up for FloArean Alerts (and you should — it rules!) then these are two names I recommend following.
Another funky 174-pounder I’d advise you keep an eye on is Keaton Subjeck. The Stanford senior made some waves at the beginning of last season when he took out future 165-pound NCAA champion Vincenzo Joseph in a wild 18-12 match.
Forrest Przybysz and Will Schany are unlikely to challenge for a Scuffle title this year, but they are dark horse All-American contenders who are worth watching next Monday and Tuesday. The same goes for Kimball Bastian and the two Virginia Tech hammers that are locked in an internal battle for the starting spot on the Hokies squad, Hunter Bolen and Cody Hughes.
Spey’s Picks: 1) Mark Hall 2) Jordan Kutler 3) Taylor Lujan 4) Jadaen Bernstein
All picks are purely for motivational purposes only. There is no disrespect intended to anyone not picked, only inspiration to prove the pickers wrong.
Watch Mark Hall make a statement as a true freshman while wrestling unattached in last season’s Scuffle final over All-American Kyle Crutchmer.
No. 1 Bo Nickal, Penn State
No. 9 Drew Foster, Northern Iowa
No. 12 Bryce Carr, Chattanooga
No. 18 Dylan Gabel, Northern Colorado
No. 19 Michael Coleman, Navy
No. 20 Nick Corba, Cleveland State
Nick Reenan, North Carolina State
Lehigh’s Ryan Preisch is still recovering from a minor injury and thus won’t be able to try and avenge his loss to the No. 1-ranked returning NCAA champ, Bo Nickal. That opens the door for one of five other top 20 wrestlers registered at 174 pounds.
The top contenders for a finals berth are Northern Iowa’s All-American Drew Foster and Chattanooga’s own Bryce Carr. Foster has taken a few losses already this season, but he avenged one of them already and is the most credentialed wrestler in the field after Nickal.
Bryce Carr did not reach the podium last season as a freshman but has an solid opportunity to do so this year. He’ll be looking to pick up some wins at the Scuffle to help his future NCAA seed. He’s 10-3 on the year, having only taking losses to the Nos. 2-, 3-, and 7-ranked wrestlers at 184.
Though he’s currently redshirting and therefore unranked, Nick Reenan has a win over No. 7 Zack Zavatsky this year and would surely join this salty group of seven Scuffle contenders in the top 20 should be be in the starting lineup for the Wolfpack right now.
Dylan Gabel, Michael Coleman, and Nick Corba round out our list contenders. While they are long shots for a Scuffle title, they could make a deep run in this season’s New Year tournament.
Spey’s Picks: 1) Bo Nickal 2) Ryan Preisch 3) Bryce Carr 4) Nick Reenan
Watch Mr. Scuffle himself, Gabe Dean, take on Nolan Boyd in the 2017 184-pound final:
No. 9 Anthony Cassar, Penn State
No. 11 Matt Williams, CSU-Bakersfield
No. 14 Scottie Boykin, Chattanooga
No. 16 Nathan Traxler, Stanford
No. 17 Jacob Holschlag, Northern Iowa
No. 18 Jacob Seely, N. Colorado
No. 20 Jake Jakobsen, Lehigh
Chris Weiler, Lehigh
Matt McCutcheon, Penn State
Shakur Rasheed, Penn State
Stephen Loiseau, Drexel
Steban Cervantes, Navy
There are heaps of 197-pound contenders but few elite wrestlers at the top, making this year’s Scuffle a microcosm of the weight class in general. With the title up for grabs, the smart money is on one of Penn State’s three entries to claim the prize.
Anthony Cassar has been starting all year for the Nittany Lions and appeared to have solidified his starting spot when he defeated his teammates, then-No. 4 Matt McCutcheon at the Keystone Classic in November. McCutcheon hasn’t seen any action since, but the three-time NCAA qualifier will be a force to reckon with in Chattanooga. As will Shakur Rasheed, who looked for a starting spot with Penn State anywhere from 165 to 197 over the course of his career. The cradle-savvy junior is dangerous at any weight.
The Lehigh duo of Jake Jakobsen and Chris Weiler may have something to say about Penn State taking over all the top spots in the 197-pound bracket. Jakobson has a win over No. 15 Frank Mattiace and Weiler defeated No. 10 Jeric Kasunic, so they are both capable of pulling off upsets.
Of the five remaining top 20 entries not yet discussed, Bakersfield’s Matt Williams has gone the furthest in the NCAA tournament, reaching the round of 16 in St. Louis last March. He’ll have is work cut out for him at the Scuffle, as besides six other ranked wrestlers, there are the Penn State's and Lehigh's backups to worry about, who are all arguably rankable, as well as bubble guys such as Steban Cervantes and Stephen Loiseau. Whoever emerges from the carnage of this bracket will have earned his trophy.
Spey’s Picks: 1) Anthony Cassar 2) Matt Williams 3) Matt McCutcheon 4) Chris Weiler
The 2017 Scuffle provided a preview of last season's NCAA finals. Watch J’den Cox and Brett Pfarr wrestler in the previous final at 197:
No. 3 Nick Nevills, Penn State
No. 5 Jacob Kasper, Duke
No. 7 Mike Hughes, Hofstra
No. 10 Jordan Wood, Lehigh
No. 11 Thomas Haines, Lock Haven
No. 14 Nathan Butler, Stanford
Jere Heino, Campbell
Joey Goodhart, Drexel
Dustin Dennison, Utah Valley
Nick Nevills split matches with Jacob Kasper at the 2017 NCAA tournament, losing in the quarterfinals but winning in the fifth-place match. Nevills then won the rubber match in the finals of the Keystone Classic this November. Both wrestlers should get the top two seeds, setting up round four in the finals. That is, if they both make it there.
Standing in the way will be the gargantuan Mike Hughes of Hofstra. Hughes is undefeated on the year but still looking for a match against his first top 10 opponent, something he should be able to find in Chattanooga.
Jordan Wood picked up this season right where he left off from his redshirt freshman campaign, which is going toe-to-toe with the best heavyweights in the nation. That group would include the streaky Thomas Haines and Nathan Butter, who are both looking to notch some major wins to help their seeding case in March.
Top 20 bubble guys Jere Heino, Joey Goodhart, and Dustin Dennison complete our very competitive heavyweight Scuffle bracket. We’re looking forward to it and hope you all are too. See you in 2018!
Spey’s Picks: 1) Nick Nevills 2) Mike Hughes 3) Jacob Kasper 4) Jordan Wood
Jacob Kasper won it all last year. Watch his match with Michael Kroells: