The Ultimate Southern Scuffle Preview

Josh Conklin

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, starting with the lightweights. 

WATCH LIVE ON FLO

125 Pounds

Contenders

No. 5 Darian Cruz, Lehigh

No. 9 Louie Hayes, Virginia

No. 12 Jay Schwarm, Northern Iowa

Daton Fix, Oklahoma State

Nick Farro, Lehigh

Though not deep as some of the heavier weight classes, 125 packs a tremendous punch at the top of the Scuffle bracket, thanks to the entry of reigning NCAA champ Darian Cruz and reigning freestyle junior world champ Daton Fix.

Many a Lehigh fan has taken umbrage at Cruz being ranked at No. 5 in the top 20 for most of the year, due largely because of Cruz's loss to Nick Piccininni at the All-Star Classic, a defeat which does not count on Cruz’s official record. Those fans may have a point, and Cruz could very well go undefeated on the season and earn himself a No. 1 seed at NCAAs. However, to do that he’ll have to first maneuver his way through a bracket with a couple of talented young 125-pounders in Louie Hayes and Jay Schwarm, as well as the aforementioned world champion Fix, who will be wrestling unattached for Oklahoma State. 

Also keep an eye on Cruz’s teammate Nick Farro, who has cut down from 133. Farro owns a win over Luke Pletcher in a freestyle match at the world team trials last June. Pletcher is the current No. 3 at 133 pounds, so Farro down a weight class could be dangerous. 

Predictions

Spey’s Picks: 1) Darian Cruz  2) Daton Fix  3) Louie Hayes  4) Jay Schwarm

Nomad's Picks: 1) Darian Cruz  2) Daton Fix  3) Jay Schwarm  4) Louie Hayes

Willie's Picks: 1) Darian Cruz  2) Daton Fix  3) Jay Schwarm  4) Louie Hayes

All picks are purely for motivational purposes only. There is no disrespect intended to anyone not picked (or listed as a contender). It is all to provide inspiration to prove the pickers wrong. 

Watch Ethan Lizak and Jack Mueller battle in the finals of last season's 125 Southern Scuffle final:


133 Pounds

Contenders

No. 2 Scott Parker, Lehigh

No. 5 Jack Mueller, Virginia

No. 7 Austin DeSanto, Drexel

No. 18 Corey Keener, Penn State

Sean Nickell, CSU-Bakersfield

DJ Fehlman, Lock Haven

Rico Montoya, Northern Colorado

Fans could be treated to the match that they we were denied at the Lehigh Drexel dual, when a convalescent Scott Parker was held out of a scheduled match with Austin DeSanto. With the All-American Parker likely receiving the No. 1 seed, DeSanto will probably first have to get by his nemesis from the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Jack Mueller, who beat DeSanto twice with a dominant and unrelenting top game. 

We were also denied a DeSanto match versus Corey Keener in the semifinals of the Keystone Classic earlier this year, when Keener withdrew from the tournament after the quarterfinals. Whoever does toe the line against the true freshman phenom from Drexel will make for appointment viewing, as DeSanto’s attacks from neutral are a sight to behold. 

Rounding our our list of contenders are three unranked wrestlers just outside the top 20. Sean Nickell, Rico Montoya, and DJ Fehlman all qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, and all three have quality wins so far on their resumes this season. 

Predictions

Spey’s Picks: 1) Scott Parker  2) Jack Mueller  3) Austin DeSanto  4) Sean Nickell

Nomad's Picks: 1) Jack Mueller 2) Scotty Parker  3) Austin DeSanto  4) Corey Keener

Willie's Picks: 1) Jack Mueller 2) Scotty Parker 3) Austin DeSanto  4) Corey Keener

Watch Scott Parker and Kaid Brock go at in last seasons’ Scuffle final at 133:


141 Pounds

Contenders

No. 7 Josh Alber, Northern Iowa

No. 17 Luke Karam, Lehigh

No. 19 Russell Rohlfing, CSU-Bakersfield

Mike Pongracz, Chattanooga

Jared Prince, Navy

Kaden Gfeller, Oklahoma State

Nick Lee, Penn State

Brian Courtney, Virginia

Jared Cortez, Penn State

Nic Gil, Navy

Kyle Shoop, Lock Haven

Two unattached wrestlers help prop up a 141-pound weight class that otherwise only has one top 10 wrestler registered. Two-time NCAA qualifier and likely top seed Josh Alber is going to have his hands full with the unattached duo of Kaden Gfeller and Nick Lee.

Gfeller is a crafty yet powerful 141-pounder who’s been training lately with the likes of Dean Heil and about half a dozen All-American-caliber 149-pounders that Oklahoma State has in the room. Nick Lee is still a true freshman but spent his senior year in high school training with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, so he’s been preparing against DI-caliber competition for over a year. 

Luke Karam and Russell Rohlfing have both proven themselves capable of handling top 20 talent this year, whereas Jared Prince is a welcome addition to the bracket, as the Midshipman has been absent from competition so far this year. Prince’s teammate Nic Gil has been filling in admirably so far this season, but it was Prince who held down a top 20 ranking for most of last season while advancing as far as the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. 

Highly touted Virginia frosh Brian Courtney will be competing with his redshirt intact, while Jared Cortez will be wrestling varsity in the same bracket as his redshirted teammate Nick Lee for the first time this season. Kyle Shoop, an NCAA qualifier last season, rounds out a contenders list in a bracket that is as wide open as any at the Scuffle this year. Expect most picks to go horribly wrong. 

Predictions

Spey’s Picks: 1) Nick Lee  2) Jared Prince  3) Josh Alber  4) Kaden Gfeller

Nomad's Picks: 1) Josh Alber  2) Kaden Gfeller  3) Nick Lee  4) Jared Prince

Willie's Picks: 1) Josh Alber  2) Kaden Gfeller  3) Nick Lee  4) Jared Prince

Dean Heil and Joey Ward were last season’s Scuffle finalists at 141. Watch their match:


149 Pounds

Contenders

No. 1 Zain Retherford, Penn State

No. 6 Max Thomsen, Northern Iowa

No. 15 Ronnie Perry, Lock Haven

Matt Zovistoski, App State

Cortlandt Schuyler, Lehigh

Jamal Morris, North Carolina State

Jarod Verkleeren, Penn State

Tristan Moran, Oklahoma State

Requir Van der Merwe, Stanford

Sam Krivus, Virginia

Our second NCAA champion has entered the fray! The Zain Train of Pain and Migraines rolls into Chattanooga on a 72-match win stretch. Retherford’s last loss was nearly four years ago.

Looking to at least slow down the Penn State juggernaut are a pair of top 20 contenders. Alex Thomsen is an All-American who is most qualified for the task, followed by a 13-1 Ronnie Perry, who is in the midst of an excellent senior season. 

Making things interesting for the rest of the competitors are two unattached wrestlers who could make deep runs. Oklahoma State's Tristan Moran is stuck contending with an unbelievably deep middleweight bench in Stillwater, OK, but he’s shown himself capable of competing with the best of the division. Meanwhile, Jarod Verkleeren has a freestyle cadet world championship to his name. If either of these wrestlers gets on a roll it could be trouble for the rest of the 149-pound entries.

The rest of the bracket has a good mix of past NCAA qualifiers (Matt Zovistoski, Jamal Morris, Sam Krivus) and hungry wrestlers still looking to make their postseason mark (Cortlandt Schuyler, Requir Van der Merwe)

Predictions

Spey’s Picks: 1) Zain Retherford  2) Max Thomsen  3) Tristan Moran  4) Ronnie Perry

Willie's Picks: 1) Zain Retherford  2) Max Thomsen  3) Ronnie Perry 4) Tristan Moran

All picks are purely for motivational purposes only. There is no disrespect intended to anyone not picked, only inspiration to prove the pickers wrong. 

Check out this instant Scuffle classic as Lavion Mayes and Anthony Collica battle in last season’s 149-pound final:


157 Pounds

Contenders

No. 1 Jason Nolf, Penn State

No. 10 Mitch Finesilver, Duke

No. 14 Coleman Hammond, CSU-Bakersfield

No. 18 Ian Brown, Lehigh

Paul Fox, Stanford

Alexander Mossing, Air Force

Austin Kraisser, Campbell

Tyler Marinelli, Gardner-Webb

The second of five Nittany Lions NCAA champions headlines this bracket. Jason Nolf shows off both an indefatigable motor and an artist’s creativity every time he steps on the mat. He also very politely and precisely returns his ankle bands to the center of the mat after every match.

A trio of ranked wrestlers will stand in his way, plus an All-American who is right on the top 20 bubble. Mitch Finesilver has been steadily moving up in weight classes and up in the rankings over his career. This will be as good a time as any for the undefeated Duke junior to put his stamp on the 157-pound weight class.

Coleman Hammond has qualified for two NCAA tournaments and is due for a signature tournament performance. Ian Brown is also looking for his breakout tournament, though he does have a signature win this season with a decision over No. 5 Alec Pantaleo. And Paul Fox has stumbled a bit since his surprise seventh-place finish at last year’s NCAAs, but a high placement in this Scuffle field will put him right back in the mix and into the top 20.

Alexander Mossing, Austin Kraisser, and Tyker Marinelli are potential dark horses, but their competitors discount them at their peril. 

Predictions

Spey's Picks: 1) Jason Nolf  2) Ian Brown  3) Mitch Finesilver  4) Paul Fox

Willie's Picks: 1) Jason Nolf  2) Mitch Finesilver  3) Coleman Hammond 4) Quentin Hovis

Although they're both up at different weights, last season's 157 finalists, Joe Smith and Jordan Kutler, are both back this year. Check out their 2017 finals match: 


165 Pounds

Contenders

No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State

No. 11 Chance Marsteller, Lock Haven

No. 18 Lorenzo De La Riva, CSU-Bakersfield

Joe Smith, Oklahoma State

Bryce Steiert, Northern Iowa

Cole Walter, Lehigh

Drew Longo, Lehigh

Gordon Wolf, Lehigh

Keilan Torres, Northern Colorado

Mekhi Lewis, Virginia Tech

Andrew Atkinson, Virginia

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the Scuffle weights, 165 has a little something for everyone. We’ve got the top-ranked returning NCAA champ back in action for the first time since mid-November; we’ve got Chance Marsteller eligible and looking as good as ever; and we’ve got some of the toughest unattached wrestlers as you’ve find in any weight class in any tournament this season.

Joseph hasn't wrestled since PSU’s Binghamton dual in mid-November, although he did weigh in and was ready to compete a couple weeks ago against Indiana before receiving a forfeit. Meanwhile, Chance Marsteller has racked up 19 wins so far against zero losses. Those two should get the top two seeds and be set on a collision course with each other for the finals. 

There will be plenty of landmines, however, for both Joseph and Marsteller to negotiate., chief among them being two-time Oklahoma State All-American, Joe Smith, who is wrestling unattached and is moving up from 157 to 165 while taking a redshirt. Another unattached redshirt who could cause problems is Northern Iowa bloodrounder Bryce Steiert. 

Not to be overlooked is Virginia Tech’s true freshman Mekhi Lewis as well as Bakersfield’s No. 18 Lorenzo De La Riva. 

And then there’s Lehigh’s troika of troublemakers. Cole Walter is last year’s NCAA qualifier, but he’s been off to a slow start this season. Gordon Wolf qualified for the 2016 NCAAs up at 174. He’s trying to scramble is way into the lineup down a weight class and has looked solid so far. Then there is Drew Longo, a redshirt senior who started his career at 141. He is another dangerous scrambler, and any one of these Mountain Hawks could make a deep run at this year’s Scuffle.  

Predictions

Spey’s Picks: 1) Chance Marsteller  2) Vincenzo Joseph  3) Joe Smith  4) Gordon Wolf

Willie’s Picks: 1) Vincenzo Joseph 2) Chance Marsteller   3) Joe Smith  4) Mekhi Lewis

Don’t blink or you’ll miss last year’s shocking 165 final between Daniel Lewis and Chandler Rogers:


174 Pounds

Contenders

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. 

Predictions

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.


184 Pounds

Contenders

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.

Predictions

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:


197 Pounds

Contenders

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.

Predictions

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:


285 Pounds

Contenders

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!

Predictions

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:


Nahshon Garrett vs Joe Colon: 3 Match Series

Josh Conklin
Nahshon Decided to Let It Fly

Nahshon Garrett saved his best performance for last as he earned a spot on the Men’s Senior Freestyle World Team with a lightening quick showing in match three.

Final X - Lehigh Match Notes

Josh Conklin
Gwiazdowski And Coon Will Scrap At Final X

Ladies and gentlepersons, we have arrived at the final, Final X. Can you believe it!? 

Adam Coon Beat Robby Smith Twice Yesterday

Tony Rotundo

Adam Coon had struggled to even keep it close with USA stalwart at 130kg, Robby Smith.  Yesterday at the Greco World Team Trials, Adam Coon took out Robby Smith in two straight matches, stunning wrestling fans around the country.

Everything You Need To Know For Final X: Lehigh

Tony Rotundo
Final X - Lehigh Men's Press Conference

Today's the day!  The last stop for the Final X is Bethlehem, PA in historic Grace Hall (AKA Snakepit).

J'den Cox's Remarkable Hit List

Tony Rotundo
197lbs Finals Jden Cox (Missouri) vs. Conner Hartmann (Duke)

Three-time NCAA champion J'den Cox is a proven performer. He's made the last two world teams and earned a bronze medal in both years, first at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and last year at the Paris World Championships. 

Flo Predicts Final X - Lehigh

Tony Rotundo
Get Pumped For Final X Lehigh

On Saturday evening, the third installment of Final X takes the stage. Six world team series, as well as a handful of true third matchups, will take place at historic Grace Hall on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

Tech Notes: Haley Augello vs. Sarah Hildebrandt

Tony Rotundo
Final X Lehigh Hype

Sarah Hildebrandt will obviously make adjustments to how she wrestles Haley Augello this time around. Hildebrandt may own a victory over Augello from their 53kg finals bout at the U.S. Open back in April, but winning a match doesn’t always equate to a perfect performance. 

Tech Notes: Victoria Anthony vs. Whitney Conder

Tony Rotundo
Final X Lehigh Hype

Whitney Conder punched her ticket to Final X Lehigh by taking out Victoria Anthony in the finals of the U.S. Open, and now they will go at it once again in the best-of-three series for the 50kg spot on the world team this Saturday at Grace Hall in Bethlehem, PA.

FRL 297 - Stoll's Gunshot Wound, New Transfer Rules And Final X

Richard Immel
FRL 297 Stoll Ramifications And New Transfer Rules

FRL 297 discusses the gunshot wound to Sam Stoll, what the new transfer rule means, 2020 Olympics thoughts and Final X Lehigh predictions.

2018 Greco-Roman World Team Trials Preview

Tony Rotundo
77kg Semis - Kamal Bey, Sunkist Kids vs Jon Jay Chavez, NYAC/FLWC

Today marks the beginning of the 2018 Greco-Roman World Team Trials in Tulsa, OK. Athletes competing in the classic style will finish out the challenge tournament today to determine who will wrestle in Friday's finals. Wrestling starts at 10 AM Central.