Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!
Already a subscriber? Log In
The high school season has begun, which means it's time to roll out our previews for the nation's toughest in-season tournament: the Walsh Jesuit Ironman.
December 13-14 | 10:00 AM Eastern
Ironman sets the table for the high school season and always plays a huge role in determining the team national champs. The race between rivals Blair Academy and Wyoming Seminary will underscore the whole event.
The stars of Ironman today will be the future of college wrestling. Five years ago, Zahid Valencia and Spencer Lee won titles, Vincenzo Joseph and Myles Martin were runners-up, and CKLV champs Jack Mueller and Chas Tucker finished third. We're looking at Beau Bartlett, Victor Voinovich, Marc-Anthony McGowan, Trevor Mastrogiovanni, and others to fall in that category.
The tournament starts at 10 AM this Friday and Saturday. Below we preview the first seven weights and make top-four predictions at each weight. The pre-seeds, which all go 16 deep, are listed to start each bracket.
- Marc-Anthony McGowan: Blair Academy, NJ
- Mac Church: Waynesburg Central, PA
- Daniel Sheen: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Joe Fernau: Montini Catholic, IL
- Gabe Giampietro: Smyrna, DE
- Cael Keck: Park Hill, MO
- Pacey Najdusak: Mason, OH
- Marlon Yarbrough: Copley, OH
- Codie Cuerbo: Aurora, OH
- Pito Castro: Brecksville, OH
- Colin Noel: Elyria, OH
- Caleb Schroder: Troy Christian, OH
- Wyatt Richter: St. Edward, OH
- Brock Herman: Lake Catholic, OH
- Dominic Hoffarth: Louisville, OH
- Matt Eberly: New Kent, VA
Commentary: We’ve had some megastars make their high school debuts at Ironman’s lowest weight, legends like David Taylor, Logan Stieber, and Zahid Valencia, not to mention the likes of Kellen Russell, Vincenzo Joseph, and Dean Heil. That’s the legacy Cadet world champ Marc-Anthony McGowan walks into this weekend at Walsh Jesuit high school.
McGowan won Cadet worlds and enters this season #1 on the freshman Big Board. This isn’t meant to put any pressure on the 15-year-old, but rather alert the world to the fact that he can join some elite company this weekend. My main questions going in are threefold:
1 - Size, which I don't think will be an issue.
2 - Top work, only because most of his accolades are in freestyle right now, but how many Blair kids do you know that have mat deficiencies?
3 - Can he expand beyond his swing single, which was pretty much his only offensive weapon at Cadet worlds?
Mac Church has wrestled McGowan about a half-dozen times in the last year or so, and none have gone his way. That being said, the Young Guns star is part of a young and burgeoning Waynesburg team that should perform admirably this weekend.
Daniel Sheen, an intriguing sophomore prospect, transferred to Wyoming Seminary from Montini Catholic and also comes in with freestyle accolades but folkstyle questions.
Gabe Giampietro is a fun dark horse pick. He just won Ray Oliver, the toughest tournament in Maryland and placed at Beast of the East last year. However, I'm betting on Cael Keck to outperform his seed and improve upon his 4-2 performance at Super 32.
Excited to get a first look at Fernau and always enjoy watching Yarbrough. Herman was a middle school state champ in Ohio, while Hoffarth finished second a weight up.
Nomad's Picks: 1) McGowan, Blair 2) Chruch, Waynesburg 3) Sheen, Montini 4) Keck, Park Hill
- Brett Ungar: Notre Dame, PA
- Erik Roggie: St. Christopher’s, VA
- Gary Steen: Reynolds, PA
- Diego Sotelo: Marmion Academy, IL
- Jacob Moon: Clay, OH
- Peyton Fenton: Elyria, OH
- Cole Skinner: Cincinnati La Salle, OH
- Brennen Cernus: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Richard Treanor: Hough, NC
- Nasir Bailey: Thornton Fractional North, IL
- Sean Seefeldt: St. Edward, OH
- Kenneth Crosby: St. Vincent-St. Mary, OH
- Paul Garcia: Scottsbluff, NE
- Sergio Lemley: Mt. Carmel, IL
- Nick Gonzalez: Montini Catholic, IL
- Mason Brugh: Wadsworth, OH
Commentary: This is a weight for the high school nerds. The ranked guys and name power isn't there, which means you're finding diamonds in the rough, potential recruiting steals, and dark horse picks down the road in other majors.
There is tremendous length at top, with Ungar, Roggie, and Steen all very tall and rangy for the weight. Brett Ungar was an undefeated New Jersey state champ for Hunterdon Central, but transferred to Notre Dame-Green Pond, joining coach Matt Veres and top sophomore Ryan Crookham.
If you follow National Preps, you might know who Roggie is, but if you don't, he comes from the same program that produced Joey Prata, who just got fourth at CKLV. Roggie made the semis at Super 32 but dipped to sixth. Steen was third last year in AA and just won the Erie McDowell tournament.
Sotelo was fourth here last year, losing both times to Steen; he was a big school state champ in Illinois. Moon had an excellent performance at Ironman two years ago. I really like Fenton, the D1 Ohio champ last year. He didn't place at Ironman, losing to Seefeldt, but avenged that loss in the state finals. That's a Round of 16 matchup, and I think Seefeldt ends up placing and outperforming his seed.
Skinner is a former Cadet world team member, and Cernus was a good get for Sem out of Ohio. Treanor just won his 100th career high school match, and Bailey is a freshman with very high upside. A deep weight overall.
Nomad's Picks: 1) Ungar, NDGP 2) Fenton, Elyria 3) Steen, Reynolds 4) Roggie, St. Chris
- Jordan Titus: Center Moriches, NY
- Kyle Rowan: Perry, OH
- Ryan Miller: Blair Academy, NJ
- Cooper Flynn: McDonogh, MD
- Christopher Kim: Germantown Academy, PA
- Dustin Norris: Cincinnati La Salle, OH
- Dayton Delviscio: Malvern Prep, PA
- Colton Drousias: Mt. Carmel, IL
- Cael Woods: West Holmes, OH
- Brennan Van Hoecke: Palmetto Ridge, FL
- Gregor McNeil: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Nain Vazquez: Montini Catholic, IL
- Rich Delsanter: St. Edward, OH
- Matt Mayer: Bethlehem Catholic, PA
- Brandan Chletsos: Notre Dame, PA
- Brandon Crowder: Christiansburg, VA
Commentary: This will be the major breakout party for Jordan Titus. He doesn't compete much on a national level, and his last three in season-high school losses are all to the same guy (Anthony Noto), who won't be in the field. This could be a make-or-break event for the #20 wrestler on the Junior Big Board to follow up his backside run at Super 32, beating Tristan Lujan, Nick Babin, and Dean Peterson in a row.
This is a weight that should get you excited to sit down and watch wrestling all weekend. Stanford commit Kyle Rowan was your Ironman champ last year down at 106 and has missed a few events as he's tried to put weight on. Ryan Miller and Cooper Flynn will have a match somewhere, just probably not on the front side. Those two have wrestled maybe a dozen times since their eighth-grade year.
Of note, Michigan commit and #5 seed Chris Kim just decked Miller in the Battle at Germantown final. The same fate fell to Purdue commit Norris at both Fargo and Super 32: making the quarters and then losing in the bloodround. Norris was your 113lb big school champ in Ohio last year.
West Virginia commit Drousias is one to circle, and it'll be good for a national audience to get their eyes on Van Hoecke. Vazquez is going to knock off someone seeded above him and folks in Ohio like Penn commit Delsanter as a darkhorse.
Nomad's Picks: 1) Titus, CM 2) Rowan, Perry 3) Flynn, Mcd 4) Norris, La Salle
- Trevor Mastrogiovnni: Blair Academy, NJ
- Ryan Crookham: Notre Dame, PA
- Nic Bouzakis: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Dylan Ragusin: Montini Catholic, IL
- Dylan Shawver: Elyria, OH
- Chris Barnabae: Mount St. Joseph, MD
- Vince Cornella: Monarch, CO
- Antoine Allen: Cincinnati La Salle, OH
- Jackson Cockrell: Broken Arrow, OK
- Logan Agin: Lancaster, OH
- Garrett Lautzenheiser: Louisville, OH
- Rocco Welsh: Waynesburg Central, PA
- Kyren Butler: Copley, OH
- Connor Williams: Lake Gibson, FL
- Landon Hacker: Wadsworth, OH
- Dy’Vaire VanDyke: Walsh Jesuit, OH
Commentary: This is the one — for my money the toughest and most important weight in the whole tournament. It’s not just your top three, which is juicy by itself; it’s also the depth of the bracket.
Mastro is going for his third Ironman title, which would put him in some elite company that includes Spencer Lee, Nathan Tomasello, and Bo Jordan. Crookham has a win over Mastro from Beast last year and several over Bouzakis, who just mowed his way through Super 32 two months ago. Mastro beat Bouzakis in last year's semis here, and teched Crookham for third in Akron in June of 2018.
Ragusin is seeded in a position to place for the third time here, getting seventh last year at 126 and third as a sophomore down at 113. The Michigan commit could see a future Big Ten foe in the quarters in Dylan Shawver, who is heading to Rutgers.
Barnabae isn't well known, but has a win over Mastrogiovanni (which was later avenged at National Preps). Cornella is committed to Cornell, which should make things easy.
We're finally getting Rocco Welsh's high school debut, and two-time OAC middle school champ Dy’Vaire VanDyke will be wrestling in his home gym. Jackson Cockrell was a good get for Maryland and it's great to see Oklahoma competing with the best.
Nomad's Picks: 1) Mastrogiovanni, Blair 2) Crookham, NDGP 3) Bouzakis, Sem 4) Barnabae, MSJ
- Alejandro Herrera-Rondon: Seneca Valley, PA
- Chris Rivera: Lake Highland Prep, FL
- Drew Munch: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Ethen Miller: Park Hill, MO
- Jimmy Carmany: Brecksville, OH
- Ethan Turner: Troy Christian, OH
- Casey Wiles: Cincinnati La Salle, OH
- Davin Rhoads: Louisville, OH
- Noah Mis: Mt. Carmel, IL
- Ethan Stiles: Montini Catholic, IL
- Cole Homet: Waynesburg Central, PA
- Evan Buchanan: Atlee, VA
- Scott Richter: St. Edward, OH
- Wyatt Yapoujian: Byers, CO
- Logan Ours: Beaver Local, OH
- Daniel Wask: Blair Academy, NJ
Commentary: Oklahoma Sooner fans will have their eyes locked on Alejandro Herrera-Rondon, a returning finalist but up three weights and currently unranked. A two-time Pennsylvania state champ, Herrera-Rondon started off his season by winning the Cumberland Valley Kickoff Classic.
I'm not sure what to make of the Munch/Rivera final, but I'm leaning toward Munch right now after Rivera didn't place in Greensboro. I'd like Miller better if he were bottom side, but I think he'll impress some people this weekend and prove his Fargo wasn't a fluke.
Rhoads has upset potential out of the eighth seed, but I think Herrera-Rondon is extremely difficult to pick against in folk, though the score will look close. Stiles is one to learn. The Montini freshman was the 52kg champ at U15 worlds, went up to 126 and placed in Fargo, and is now up at 132. So there are questions if he can go up a weight or two and still look good.
Jimmy Carmany has been fourth the past two years in state big school, while Ethan Turner was in the finals of small school. Daniel Wask is up quite a bit in weight.
Nomad's Picks: 1) Herrera-Rondon, SV 2) Munch, Sem 3) Miller, Park Hill 4) Stiles, Montini
- Beau Bartlett: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Justin Rivera: Lake Highland Prep, FL
- Mick Burnett: Elyria, OH
- Kenny Herrmann: Bethlehem Catholic, PA
- Wyatt Henson: Waynesburg Central, PA
- Frankie Tal-Shahar: American Heritage, FL
- Nick Moore: St. Paris Graham, OH
- Drew Roberts: Coeur d’Alene, ID
- Jake Niffenegger: Cincinnati La Salle, OH
- Cody Chittum: Blair Academy, NJ
- Gavin Brown: Legacy Christian Academy, OH
- Kal Miller: Park Hill, MO
- Zack Witmer: St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, PA
- Sincere Bailey: Thornton Fractional North, IL
- Cole McComas: Beaver Local, OH
- Joey Miller: Musselman, WV
Commentary: Beau Bartlett has some unfinished business to attend to in his final appearance at Ironman. The Penn State commit’s placements have fallen each year in Northeast Ohio, winning it as a freshman, getting third as a sophomore, and fifth last year as a junior. His main competition will come in the form of a pair of Super 32 runners-up in Justin Rivera and Kenny Herrmann.
The potential matchups at this weight are excellent. You've got a potential quarter between Herrmann and Henson, which was an overtime semi at Super 32. To get there, though, Henson has to beat Kal Miller (Henson was in Missouri last year), and Herrmann might have to take out a PA foe in Zack Witmer.
Then you've got returning finalist Tal-Shahar at the six seed with a possible quarter coming against Super 32 finalist Burnett. Tal-Shahar, a Northwestern commit, has some of the most up-and-down results out there, also having made an Akron final. Burnett continues to look rock solid and finally got his state title last year.
Nomad's Picks: 1) Bartlett, Sem 2) Burnett, Elyria 3) Henson, Waynesburg 4) Tal-Shahar, Heritage
- Victor Voinovich: Brecksville, OH
- Lachlan McNeil: Wyoming Seminary, PA
- Manzona Bryant: Western Reserve, OH
- Fidel Mayora: Montini Catholic, IL
- Matt Lackman: Bethlehem Catholic, PA
- Blake Saito: Perrysburg, OH
- Jackson Dean: Caesar Rodney, DE
- Dustin Morgillo: Genoa, OH
- Aaden Valdez: Pueblo East, CO
- Luke Geog: St. Edward, OH
- Travis Ragland: New Kent, VA
- Gavin Quiocho: Parkersburg South, WV
- Lorenzo Norman: Blair Academy, NJ
- Myles Griffin: Lake Highland Prep, FL
- Grayston DiBlasi: Park Hill, MO
- Connor Gaynor: Mt. Carmel, IL
Commentary: Excellent potential battle between the current #1 and the Super 32 champ coming up in weight. Voinovich made the Fargo finals and then pinned Jesse Vasquez at WNO to earn his ranking, while North Carolina commit McNeil looked ultra stingy in Greensboro. Voinovich has an excellent lefty hi-c and is a monster on top, so McNeil will likely have to win on counters and some strong top work of his own.
Currently ranked eighth is Lehigh commit Manzona Bryant, a National Preps and FloNats finalist who finished fifth at Super 32. Bryant is most dangerous in the first period and is always a threat to go upper body and toss someone.
After a strong start to his high school career, Fidel Mayora has leveled off a bit between injuries and results, so this would be a good weekend to remind Michigan fans what Sean Bormet and his staff saw when they recruited Mayora.
Lackman and Dean are returning placers, and Luke Geog was a Fargo finalist breaking into the St. Ed's lineup. Lorenzo Norman is a highly touted freshman wrestling for the blue bloods in Blairstown.
Nomad's Picks: 1) Voinovich, Brecksville 2) McNeil, Sem 3) Geog, St. Ed 4) Dean, CR
Seeds & Ranking
1. #2 - Travis Mastrogiovanni - Blair Academy, NJ - Fargo Champ
2. #4 - Peyton Hall - Oak Glen, WV - Super 32 Finalist
3. #7* - Bilal Bailey - Thornton Fractional North, IL - State Champ
4. #8 - Brayden Roberts - Parkersburg South, WV - Super 32 3rd
5. #10 - AJ Kovacs - Iona Prep, NY - Super 32 5th
6. #7 - Connor Kievman - Wyoming Seminary, PA - National Preps Champ
7. #5 - Cole Handlovic - Bethlehem Catholic, PA - Beast Finalist
8. #12 - Bryce Hepner - St. Edward, OH - State Champ
9. Noah Castillo - Lake Highland Prep, FL
10. Derek Fields - Brunswick, OH - Akron Finalist
11. #20* - Enrique Munguia, Elyria, OH - State Finalist
12. Caleb Dowling - St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, PA - State Finalist
13. Vinny Zerban - Christian Brothers College, MO - Fargo 7th
14. Nick Vafiadis - New Kent, VA - Fargo Finalist
15. Dalton Harkins - Malvern Prep, PA - National Preps 4th
16. David Cumberledge - Aurora, OH - State Finalist
Kevin Contos - Genoa - State Champ
Joe Roberts - Montini Catholic, IL - Pre-Season Nationals Champ
Payne Carr, Union County
What a field! I believe the words we are looking for here are “absolute” and “FIRE!” Nine ranked wrestlers makes things intriguing but seven of the top 10 crank up the heat several notches. Grabbing the top seed is Travis Mastrogiovanni, who has been steadily improving at every stage of his growth and development and just seems to take the expected step at each juncture. That happened with a National Preps title and Fargo victory and you will like his chances at Who’s Number One next year. Does it continue with a win here building on his third-place finish last year, where he only lost to eventual champ Ryan Anderson? Mastro feels like he is on not so much a path of destiny, but just the next step in a deliberate process.
To do so he will have to venture through a veritable murder’s row of assassins. Peyton Hall will hope to continue his hot streak from NHSCA to Journeyman to the Super 32 final (where he beat Dominic Isola and Brayden Roberts along the way) and erase his little stumble here last year giving up a last-second takedown to send him to a seventh-place finish. He looked like a different wrestler with the added weight this fall and he could put this bracket on notice early on. His 3-2 final with Chase Saldate at S32 could have gone either way and Hall has an air of determination about him. Speaking of determined, BJ Bailey is aggressive and balanced and a big favorite of those in the know. Bailey just stays after everything and keeps working and his Fargo win over Cael Valencia was a great example of how his relentless nature can take out top opposition.
Roberts dropped one to Hall at S32 but that was it as he had a strong showing in winning third, beating three ranked guys along the way. One of those wins was a super tight 1-0 match over Vinny Zerban, highlighting just how small the differences are between this crew. Not far behind at S32 was AJ Kovacs, who has the potential to make a climb here, but I also got to see up close how he can struggle with power wrestlers, making his S32 losses to Chase Saldate and Luke Odom not particularly close.
Connor Kievman finished the season so strong that it is difficult to even recall how rough he started it with only winning a single match here. If he can keep pace, or even better Mastro’s results here, it goes a long way towards keeping Sem in the team race conversation. Kovacs was able to handle him pretty easily before and will be standing in his way at the quarter, so that is a big ask. Cole Handlovic is always tough and seems to elevate his game to match his opponent, but hasn’t found consistency on the big stage. Last year he blitzed John Martin Best on the front side but allowed Best to come back and edge him for seventh. In too many of his matches he looks great but fails to start scoring until too late as well.
Bryce Hepner is a force within Ohio but hasn’t quite had that branch out beyond the borders. There is a ridiculous part of me that hopes that he faces Roberts again and they re-enact their epic match from NHSCA. That match was won 1-0 by Roberts by the way, if you are noticing a pattern. This bracket can go a thousand different directions and while everyone might have their sights set on Mastro, there are plenty of dark horses wearing sneakers lurking about. Enrique Munguia leads that pack and is crazy long and sports a signature win over Victor Voinovich where he almost seemed elastic, stretching all over the double V hammer. He is not unorthodox as much as he can be a mismatch style-wise, not unlike Erik Roggie is at 113. It is not out of the question that he could be the early undoing of Kievman in the round of 16 and then just keep on going.
Added to the trap matches is Nick Vafiadis who opened a lot of eyes in making the final at Fargo, but struggled at S32 and I wonder how much of that is adjusting as he adds weight. I get to see a fair amount of him and he wrestles a hybrid style of quick low shots mixed with power moves, only the power moves weren’t always there for him against strong competition and he would reach and make the contact he wanted, but not be able to hold it. If he has made adjustments in the interim he could be a landmine. Payne Carr can cause trouble if he gets into upper body positions. Joe Roberts is on a heater having pushed through some close matches and taken out Cougar Anderson (best wrestling name ever) to win Pre-Season Nats and Derek Fields could be the sneakiest darkhorse here. He could easily have won both of his finals matches with Ryan Sokol in Akron and made a world team. He just has errors to smooth out in his planning and attack, but the intangibles are there and he could be in motion for a huge jump this season. Does it start right here?
I feel like Mastro holds serve and Hall and Bailey end up in the semi opposite him, but after that I expect pure chaos to unfold. Nearly half of the ranked guys could be sent to the back in the round of 16. I am going to play it safe with the one wrestler here who consistently plays it ultra-tight to the vest and stick with Roberts holding his seed, but trust me when I say that I know there is a much better chance that someone in the double digits entering this thing finds their way to that spot.
Foster's Picks: 1. Mastrogiovanni 2. Bailey 3. Hall 4. Roberts
Seeds & Ranking
1. #2 - Paddy Gallgher - St. Edward, OH - Fargo Champ
2. #5 - Thayne Lawrence - Frazier, PA - Super 32 Finalist
3. #6* - Andrew Cerniglia - Notre Dame, PA - State Champ
4. #6 - John Martin Best - Parkersburg, WV - Fargo Finalist
5. #9 - Thomas Stewart - Blair Academy, NJ - Fargo Champ
6. #20* - Dominic Isola - Lake Highland Prep, FL
7. Brett McIntosh - Harrison, OH - State 3rd
8. Aaron Morton - Westerville South, OH
9. Keegan Rothrock - St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, PA - State 3rd
10. Tyler Lillard - Aurora, OH - Fargo 4th
11. Noah Ewen - Perrrysburg, OH
12. Brayden Thompson - Montini Catholic, IL - Fargo 8th
13. Luca Augustine - Waynesburg Central, PA
14. Jonathan Conrad - Carrollwood Day, FL
15. Gabe Arnold - Wyoming Seminary, PA
16. Harrison Trahan - McDonogh, MD - State Finalist
Paddy Gallagher has already made the entire state of Ohio break out the bubbly and clink celebratory glasses this week with his verbal to Ohio State. The anticipation of the opportunity to bring that to a crescendo in the dome late on Saturday will build with each match that he wins. It might also be my Irish roots but he somehow feels like the underdog at all times, even when he is the top seed. He has that “people’s champion” feel to him. None of that is to say that I am rooting for him over the rest of the participants, but he is a hard kid not to cheer on.
While it might feel like we are catching our breath after the whirlwind of 152, the top group here is pretty stellar. They might have an easier time working their way to the quarters but all bets will be off at that point. Gallagher is one of the most known commodities in high school wrestling (feel free to mosey on over to my breakdown of him and Keegan O’Toole leading into WNO) but I should still underline his tenacious attack rate and savage strength, which he puts to use via peerless positioning and insane angles. He is not perfect, but for all intents and purposes in folkstyle, he nearly is. If anyone like TJ Stewart makes the semi, they may be able to get to his legs, but they may also pay a very steep price as Paddy punishes them for doing so.
If that does happen it will be fun to watch while it lasts. Stewart’s mom was sitting in front of me at Mount Mat Madness his freshman year recording his match and almost certainly has me gasping on video as TJ seemed to be moving at twice the speed as everyone else in the gym. I hadn’t seen him before then and you just can’t take your eyes off of this kid. I wasn’t surprised when he just kept on steamrolling guys all the way to a stop sign at Fargo. My only selfish regret is that he took his beaming smile and enthusiasm and talents out of Maryland and up to Blair, even if it is in his best interests - haha!
Blocking his path will be John Martin Best, who has been one of those guys always in the conversation at every weight as he has grown. Best isn’t terribly flashy but is rock solid and certainly likes to take things in close and upper body if given the chance. As I mentioned in 152, he basically split his matches with Cole Handlovic last year to finish seventh. He needed a sudden victory and a brutal stalling call to beat Kolby Allred in the Indian Classic final earlier this month (the entire match was brutal with stalling and penalty points leading the way). I am a fan of Best but Stewart might already be too much for him. He was also banged up after his Super 32 clash with Cael Valencia so I assume he is at full strength here.
The other side is likely to be a traditional Pennsylvania showdown between Andrew Cerniglia and Thayne Lawrence. Lawrence lost close ones to Kyle Mosher and Dom Mata last year, but then seemed to glide to a state title, including easily dispatching Tyler Stoltzfus. Cerniglia started bumpy here last year with beating Brayden Roberts but losing to Mastro and then a wild 13-8 OT loss to Mike North, but followed it with a better Beast where he came in fourth. He would have a stumble or two along the way but still but closed things out with a monster statement win going 14-0 over Gabe Miller to get his state title.
Either could make the final, and it will surely be one of them, but the story of this bracket beyond Paddy doing a victory lap might ultimately be about the youth movement and how long the new blood will have to wait to reach the podium. I think Stewart leads that charge and beats Best and it is unfortunate that he then gets a tough lesson from Gallagher, as he could heat up enough to take on either of the PA contenders. Bubbling below him are some highly-rated freshmen in Brayden Thompson and Gabe Arnold. It says something just in the fact that the two are starting for programs like Montini and Sem, but they back it up. Arnold is busy and athletic and likely can’t wait to test himself out against older competition. Thompson is more of a patient wrestler picking his moments and either one could win a few matches before things get a little too tight and experience carries more weight.
Start decorating for Saint Paddy’s Day, but don’t forget to tune in for the early matches and see the future.
Foster's Picks: 1. Gallagher 2. Lawrence 3. Stewart 4. Cerniglia
Seeds & Ranking
1. #9 - Nevan Snodgrass - Kettering Fairmont, OH - Fargo 3rd
2. #6 - Domonic Mata - Blair Academy, NJ - National Preps Champ
3. #10 - Tyler Stoltzfus - St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, PA - Super 32 6th
4. Andrew Donahue - Wyoming Seminary, PA - State Finalist
5. Jaden Bullock - Oscar Smith, VA - State Champ
6. Jax Leonard - Louisville, OH - State 4th
7. Hudson Hightower - St. Edward, OH - State 5th
8. Caden Rogers - Malvern Prep, PA - National Preps 6th
9. Ethan Anderson - Aurora, OH
10. Lucas White - Christian Brothers College, MO
11. Dillon Walker - LaSalle, OH
12. Bailey Flanagan - Lake Highland Prep, FL
13. Stephen Little - Union County, KY
14. Anthony DeRosa - Bethlehem Catholic, PA
15. Anthony Rizzo - Brecksville, OH
16. Tye Rozell - Broken Arrow, OK
Since his arrival at Blair from California, Dom Mata has been a steady presence in the middle of the lineup and has displayed one of the most effective top games in the country, resulting in a gleaming National Preps jacket at the finish of the season. However, just when you think he is about to tip over into truly elite status, there is a small slip, an example of which is a loss he already picked up this year to Shane Reitsma. Last year at Ironman California came back to get him in the form of a defeat to Jace Luchau in the semi before his eventual fourth-place finish. He did put it to Stoltzfus along the way and as much as you want to pencil him in as a finalist here, his results just leave me uneasy doing so without it being done by a pencil with a firm eraser on the end of it.
Nevan Snodgrass also fell in the semi last year, with Mata’s teammate Julian Ramirez doing the honors, before beating Ashton Habeil for third. Snodgrass is built like a bulldog and wrestles like an anaconda. He only has a few losses and they are to guys that are sure to AA at the D-1 level with names like Kharchla and Kennedy. A title here would put him in the national spotlight in a big way, and he would more than deserve it. Watching his battle with Carson Kharchla at states you can feel the aura of danger exuding off Snodgrass at every exchange. He won’t just be the top seed; he will be the guy no one wants to face.
Stoltzfus had a solid Super 32 and is just plain trouble for most folks with his array of moves. He is a classic Pennsylvania kid who can kind of do it all, without being absolutely elite at any one skill set. It has allowed him to pull off major upsets of top 10 guys but he also drops weird matches. In a lot of ways Stoltzfus is the poster boy for the parity that exists nationally for this weight. Just at Journeymen he beat Graham Calhoun, who then beat Reitsma, who you recall just beat Mata. (It’s not out of the question that this bracket goes kablooey on day one!) I think he will settle in and should have luck negotiating the early rounds, but once he comes up against someone with a focused attack like Snodgrass it will most likely not be enough.
We have a massive wildcard by the name of Andrew Donahue thrown into the pile at 170. Highly touted in middle school, many projected Donahue to be the future of the heavyweights once he hit high school. His physical growth leveled off somewhat, wrestling 182 as a freshman at Culver last season, where he bulldozed Indiana before falling to Evan Bates in the state final. Many of us are surprised to see him in the Sem lineup at 170 but rest assured that his skills are continuing to expand in the Blue Knights room. Is he one to watch for in the future, or one to watch for right now?
Tons of quality in the mix of football standouts and up-and-comers that follows. Hudson Hightower went 3-2 here as a freshman, including winning his first match by being so dominant on top that his opponent was DQ’d on stall calls on bottom. He is back and coming off a fifth place finish at state last year, looking to establish himself at the top level both in Ohio and nationally in his third year at the power program. Unfortunately, it sounds like Hightower is a late scratch due to some injuries but should not miss significant time.
Jaden Bullock adds a bit of length in comparison with some of the field and had some nice results in Fargo and Super 32, but he also was unable to overcome the power of Snodgrass and Stoltzfus when he eventually ran up against them. Jax Leonard might have the best mullet in the entire competition and will capitalize on any mistakes if allowed. Ethan Anderson started to get on a run on the back last year before being edged by Nathan Warden.
After a wild day one, I actually think this bracket will result in chalk at the top of the podium — surprising even myself! Snodgrass will be on a mission of destiny and savvy experience will eventually rule the day with decisions for Mata over Stoltzfus and then Stoltzfus over Donahue. If Donahue makes the semi against Snodgrass be sure to circle that one as it will be very telling as to where he stands in the bigger picture.
Foster's Picks: 1. Snodgrass 2. Mata 3. Stoltzfus 4. Donahue
Seeds & Ranking
1. #9 - Anthony D’Alesio - Canfield, OH - Returning 4th
2. #8 - Rylan Rogers - Blair Academy, NJ - Fargo & Akron Finalist
3. #19* - Ashton Habeil - Lake Gibson, FL - Returning 4th
4. #19 - Jake Evans - Elyria, OH - Returning 7th
5. #16 - Nathan Warden - Christiansburg, VA - Super 32 4th
6. #18 - JT Davis - Smyrna, DE - Beast 8th
7. Trevor Swier - Montini Catholic, IL - Fargo 8th
8. Micah Ervin - Union County, KY - State Champ
9. Jack Darrah - Christian Brothers College, MO - Fargo 7th
10.Bryce Mattioda - Broken Arrow, OK - State Finalist
11. Cole Rees - Wyoming Seminary, PA - National Preps 4th
12. Cole Hivnor - Lake Catholic, OH
13. Walker Stephenson - Hillcrest, SC - FloNats Finalist
14. Matt Rogers - Wantagh, NY
15. Lucas Cochran - Box Elder, UT
16. Dominic Solis - McDonogh, MD - National Preps 5th
Is this the beginning of a massive Rylan Rogers breakout year? If so, he will have to earn it the hard way right off the bat. With a skill set that translates beautifully to freestyle, Rogers is must-see viewing at Fargo and Akron, where he has burst through to the finals. Adding an age level NHSCA crown, and more than holding his own regardless of the age or size of his opponent during the regular season, Rogers has shown that he is ready to stake a claim as a premier big man.
Last year Anthony D’Alesio lost to Devin Winston in the quarterfinals, and then went on an absolute tear (and seemed to shatter the right side of his face in the process, not that it stopped him from competing!). He took out Peyton Craft and Sam Fisher on the back before nearly getting revenge on Winston in the third-place bout. We don’t get to see a lot of D’Alesio outside of Ohio so luckily we get to come to him. If you are not familiar, he brings a distinct fierceness to the mat and his refusal to concede any positions keeps all of his matches extremely active.
Ashton Habeil returns from his fourth-place finish last year at 170 where he looked great but just couldn’t get past Nevan Snodgrass. He moves up a class and certainly plans to shake things up. He brings with him perhaps the best curly mop in wrestling and a penchant for fast starts. Habeil and Peyton Craft put on a pretty entertaining back and forth in Fargo this summer and should he and Rogers hit in the semi we could see a wild first period of fireworks.
The next tier starts with Nathan Warden, who has a Clark Kent look but pulled out his Superman game in Greensboro at Super 32 (no apologies for all of the “super” talk!) His fourth-place finish was no fluke as he battled all weekend and hung with Gerrit Nijenhuis for most of his semifinal. He also comes from a Christiansburg room that has produced a long line of solid big men. In that same S32 bracket JT Davis lost to Gavin Bell on a quick start to SV, before Bell dropped one to Warden. Bell then beat Jake Evans in the fifth-place match, which is how the back end of the rankings has sorted out. Everyone will be happy John Poznanski is not in the field as he is the one who sent both Davis and Evans to the consolations.
Of the three I have a recency lean towards Davis, as I watched him win the Ray Oliver last weekend where he looked sharp over a tough Dominic Solis. Davis is kind enough to have a back tattoo of his name so that you never have to wonder which wrestler he is on the mat, and he also brings a brash ranginess to his game, with lots of quick grabs and picks. Davis has a signature win over Sam Fisher at Beast in his pocket, and Evans has one over Peyton Craft, so this crew can win big matches. Can one of them find a way into the final in a bracket without a sure thing at the top of it?
Micah Ervin is the lighter of the two twin state champs from Kentucky (Matthias is in the heavyweight draw) and is a crafty opponent, as is pretty much everyone from the seventh seed down to Solis at 16. So many of these kids like Jack Darrah have felt like they were on the cusp of breaking through, but it hasn’t happened just yet, with Darrah already struggling this season. Walker Stephenson had a solid FloNats run, including beating Darrah, but has leveled out since then. Will this be the weekend for one of them to right the ship?
Very little separates this group and there should be plenty of topsy turvy results and I won’t be shocked if upsets rule the day until the semifinals put things back into place with Roger and D’Alesio laying down the law. I hate to say it, and I hope his face stays intact this time, but I see the lightning speed of Rogers spelling heartbreak for D’Alesio here once again in the final match. Beyond the final two, it is anyone’s ballgame though. I will plug in Habeil and Warden to round it out, but not with a ton of confidence.
Foster's Picks: 1. Rogers 2. D’Alesio 3. Habeil 4. Warden
Seeds & Ranking
1. #5 - Peyton Craft - Blair Academy, NJ - National Preps Finalist
2. #6 - Sam Fisher - Fauquier, VA - State Champ
3. #10 - Seth Shumate - Dublin Coffman, OH - Fargo Champ
4. #20 - Jack Wimmer - McDonogh, MD – Super 32 6th
5. Nicholas Feldman - Malvern Prep, PA - Fargo 3rd
6. #14 - Emmanuel Skillings - Broken Arrow, OK - State Champ
7. Jordan Greer - Avon, OH - State 4th
8. Matt Kelly - Iona Prep, NY
9. #18 - Ben Vanadia - Brecksville, OH - State Finalist
10. Brent Paulus - Louisville, OH - State 4th
11. Kyle Costello - Wyoming Seminary, PA
12. Dom Loparo - Wadsworth, OH
13. Josh LaBarbera - Montini Catholic, IL
14. Parker Warner - Mount St. Joseph, MD
15. Keith Bodnar - Steubenville, OH
16. Tai Carter - Perkins, OH
This bracket is shaping up to be a wild one even before we hit the quarters. Talent all over the place and loaded with a great big Seth Shumate shaped bomb placed in the middle of everything. Shumate powered his way into the national picture last year as a freshman with his in-state wins and Akron and Fargo coronation, following it up with a splashy early commitment to Ohio State. To say that he should have the crowd here firmly behind him as he goes through the tournament might be a massive understatement. Shumate entered Super 32 as a favorite, but as I called his early match with Luke Montgomery, it became evident that some sharpness was missing, and after a mental error at the end of the second period an upset was soon upon him. In his final match of the tournament against Gavin Carter it was almost like he was practicing all three styles in the first period, including a big mat return that he didn’t follow up on for points. I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of any of it.
However, the results sent him down the rankings and also put some tape together for rivals to gameplan around, particularly in trying to ride him. Do we see that version of Shumate, with the normal adjustment that can happen once coaches get to see more of a young phenom and figure out their moves? Or was that just practice and we are about to have a rhino unleashed on the savannah, goring everything in its path? I have a bad feeling that he will be electrified by wrestling on hallowed ground and the rest of the bracket might want to hide in the brush for as long as they can.
Peyton Craft gets the nod for Blair and followed making the National Preps final with an NHSCA championship, before having one of those weird freestyle seasons where kids are caught in no man's land at age level. He was respectable in matches with guys like Chris Foca and Jackson Turley, but he also lost to them repeatedly. There is a ton to like about Craft’s all-around mat game but he feels like one of the most fragile top seeds in the tournament. He has yet to crack the top four here finishing 7th last year and 5th his first year, but that included two wins by medical forfeit. If he looks shaky early this thing could go in a very different direction.
Sam Fisher is desperately looking to get over the hump and into the finals at the big tournaments. One of those kids that is a flying mop-top wrestling all over the country and trying to constantly test himself, he also stays active on the mat and puts up a lot of points in his matches. Last year he lost a heartbreaker semi to eventual champ Darrien Roberts in sudden victory before running out of steam and finishing sixth. He will certainly be hoping to go the distance as a senior and better the sixth/seventh range he found himself in at Ironman/Beast last year. Fisher likes to get inside and work the upper body but this will be a dangerous group for that, particularly with Shumate on his side.
Nicholas Feldman had a stellar summer finishing third in freestyle (we will be looking back on the Feldman and Bennett Berge match five to six years from now) and taking home a Greco title at Fargo and he might be young but he looks like all kinds of problems moving forward. His quarter with Jack Wimmer will be a big one and if he powers through it Craft might have an awful lot to think about over Friday night. Emmanuel Skillings was a disappointing 2-2 here last year, but he brings enough quickness and athleticism that it can change the result of any match. His inexperience tends to create a make or break style of attack with lots of big moves. Eventually your luck will run out wrestling like that, but if he brings a new level of discipline he could be a major wild card here. Wimmer is the polar opposite, with a steady Eddie style of underhooks and pushing forward that tends to keep most matches close.
Tight group just below Skillings with acres of quality all throughout. Ben Vanadia didn’t have a great freestyle campaign but he looked pretty formidable capturing third at NHSCA (he also finished second there as a freshman). Brent Paulus could be Wimmer’s little brother and has a compact style that can leave his legs open to attack. Jordan Greer is growing into his long frame and showed Ethan Hatcher how he is no fun to tangle with last year. He needs to keep things moving and away from the ground but could disrupt things in the bracket with the right opportunity. Matt Kelly transferred to Iona last year and his in-state success hasn’t translated just yet, including a tough Super 32 draw most recently, as he looks to improve this weekend.
Expect some shakeups and a set of wild quarterfinals! If Greer has made a jump in the offseason he could give Craft a handful, and that side is not set in stone if Feldman announces his arrival to the rest of the country by making quick work of Wimmer. Should he not be ready and Wimmer keeps a lid on it for this tournament, Wimmer poses a lot less concern for Craft. The other side should see Fisher tested but able to get by, but he will definitely be looking over his shoulder to see if a Shumate sized hulk is throwing around boulders in the background. Shumate at full steam will be a terror and that is what I anticipate, taking out Fisher in the semi and Craft (or Feldman?) in the final.
This bracket will be about one young hammer solidifying his place at the top of the heap, and if we are lucky it could be about another announcing his arrival. (You have no idea how close I am to picking Feldman to make the final, though I bet the inclination is pretty much jumping off your screen — haha!)
Foster's Picks: 1. Shumate 2. Craft 3. Fisher 4. Feldman
Seeds & Ranking
1. #2 - Braxton Amos - Parkersburg South, WV - Returning Champ
2. #5 - Ethan Hatcher - Brecksville, OH - Returning 5th
3. #10 - Kolby Franklin - Wyoming Seminary, PA - Fargo Champ
4. #9 - Noah Pettigrew - Blair Academy, NJ - Fargo 3rd
5. #8 - Kyonte Hamilton - Georgetown Prep, MD - FloNats Finalist
6. Grady Griess - Northwest, NE - State Champ
7. Max Fausnaugh - Bowling Green, OH - State Finalist
8. Blake Robbins - Louisville, OH
9. Matt Kaplan - Lake Highland Prep, FL - State Champ
10. Lazar Gasic - North Royalton, OH
11. Riley Ucker - Dublin Coffman, OH - Fargo 5th
12. Nik Mishka - Mt. Carmel, IL
13. Nick Lisco - St. Edward, OH
14. Nolan Neves - Graham, OH
15. Jake Noon - Findlay, OH
16. Chase Thompson - American Heritage, FL - Pan Am Games Silver
There is a very good chance that we are kicking off the season with the best 220 bracket we shall receive all year. The craziest part might just be that we could also see Braxton Amos make light work of it in his quest to become a three-time champion. Amos was out his freshman year with injury, but since then has circled this Saturday in his calendar with “pick up shiny plaque”. Amos will find himself surrounded by a hungry and talented field, but it is terribly difficult to envision any scenario where he doesn’t emerge victorious. When Amos won here his sophomore year, he did it with toughness and raw determination. By this time last year, he had evolved into the total package, and has only continued to polish those skills in the interim. Tough as nails, tactically sharp, and combining great mat awareness with mountains of brute strength, opponents cannot escape an Amos onslaught.
Hatcher and Franklin were here at 195 last year where Hatcher was pinned by AJ Ferrari in the quarters and then beat Franklin on his way to a 5th place finish. Franklin would go on to beat Jack Wimmer for 7th, which is a pretty impressive finish for a freshman. With both moving up a weight, Hatcher will be hoping to keep that separation intact. Ethan is very smooth and quick and will have a slickness to his game that differs from the others at the top of this crew. Who has made the biggest jump since then, and also adapted to the bigger weight? Franklin and Hatcher feel like they are on a collision course to get some answers come day two.
This is a huge tournament for Kyonte Hamilton who has been more potential than results so far, and he is the tallest wrestler to draw the shortest straw of the tightly packed together ranked wrestlers, ending up on Amos’ side. Not only that, but he will have to go through a hungry Noah Pettigrew just to get to the semi. If he can, he actually presents an interesting matchup as Braxton rarely sees that kind of length paired with Kyonte’s skill set. Of course, Hamilton has also been susceptible to powerhouses that get inside on him, and Amos has power to spare. Kyonte looked decent against a light field in winning the Ray Oliver as a tune-up, but he also had those moments of sloppy technique on top that give me pause. (He also looked a little leaner and I am going to start a one-man campaign for him to be a crazy tall 197 in college, where I think he will be most effective.)
With Sem and Blair adding huge recruits to anchor their upperweights for the next three years, Franklin and Pettigrew get to officially start what may well become the best heavyweight rivalry we have witnessed in ages. I selfishly hope they hit whenever and wherever possible, which is most likely to be in the finals of everything that matters sooner rather than later. They have split their past contests and it is likely a year too early for that to happen at Ironman with Pettigrew on the Amos side. Should they hit on the back it could still be a major swing in the team race for the victor. Franklin plays more of a power game whereas Pettigrew will look to put together sequences of moves and takes more chances firing in as often as he can, providing a fascinating contrast as we watch these two continue to evolve.
Ironman is a pretty tough introduction for Pettigrew coming up to Blair from Georgia, and despite his experience on the national stage, it hasn’t been in folkstyle and I do factor a little nerves in. He should be in the groove by the quarterfinal match with Hamilton where he will look to get low and feast on his ankles. Seeing how Kyonte deals with what I expect to be a pretty relentless attack makes this a can’t miss quarter. It is a shame that the victor then has to face an unstoppable Amos Express, but that is what Ironman is all about.
A few more kids looking to make a name for themselves will fill out those quarters, with Riley Ucker most prominent amongst them. Ucker will be hoping he can become well known for a huge upset here and not his confusion at Fargo last year that might have cost him a chance in the final. Grady Griess can be super active and also sneak a pin in an early match or two and Max Faushnaugh is the kind of classic solid Ohio grappler that makes every match at this tournament worth watching.
Amos won’t be denied a third crown, and I am going total gut feeling that the Franklin that wouldn’t quit at Fargo is his opponent in the final. The loser of Pettigrew and Hamilton then gets Hatcher on the back showing just how important this seeding is. If it is Hamilton he will have to turn around and sweep away the disappointment and really dig deep.
Foster's Picks: 1. Amos 2. Franklin 3. Hatcher 4. Pettigrew
Seeds & Ranking
1. #4 - Isaac Righter - Mount St. Joseph, MD - Beast & National Preps Champ
2. #10 - Garrett Kappes - McDonogh, MD - National Preps 3rd
3. #17 - Andy Garcia - Pueblo East, CO - State Champ
4. Kade Carlson - Corner Canyon, UT - Freakshow Champ
5. Matthias Ervin - Union County, KY - Returning 6th
6. Max Millin - Massillon Perry, OH - Beast 4th
7. Cole Potts - St. Frances DeSales, OH - State 4th
8. Cole Deery - Malvern Prep, PA - Beast 6th
9. Kevin Hudson - Caesar Rodney, DE - State Champ
10. Hugo Harp - Smyrna, DE - State Champ
11. Nate Miller - Wyoming Seminary, PA - Beast 5th
12. Ryan Elrod - St. John, OH
13. Caden Hill - Crestview, OH
14. Breslin Walker - Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, OH
15. Daniel Wirth - Beaver Local, OH
16. Ryan Howard - Waynesburg Central, PA
Sam McNulty - Perkins, OH
Marlon Welty - Broken Arrow, OK
Four years of Cohlton Schultz being in the finals at Ironman came to an end last December, with the last two runs highlighting how weird things can get in the heavyweight bracket here on occasion. 2017 saw a much-hyped meeting with Seth Nevills ruled out due to Nevills failing a skin check, while 2018 showed how we can see some quirky calls here (shades of Zeke Escalera’s DQ in 2017) and found Isaac Righter frustrated by being repeatedly penalized on simple holds and then stopped while quickly pinning his opponent in the opening match and exiting thanks to a DQ. 2019 has it’s wrinkle before it even begins as the much-anticipated debut of Jake Kaminski at 285 will have to be delayed until later in the season, drastically altering the team race this weekend.
Righter didn’t get to face Schultz last year (I am still distraught that we all missed out on these two bulls going at it) but he did learn his lesson, putting on a master class the following weekend in giving up no offensive points, and winning each match in completely different fashions, as he claimed a Beast of the East crown. He proceeded to dominate the rest of the season all the way through National Preps, and I expect that he will pick up right where he left off by confidently navigating this pile of bruisers and battlers.
The new and improved Righter that rolled out last year meant that we got to see less of the wild athleticism that thrilled spectators in his debut season, (the first year I saw him win some local matches just by scaring kids so badly with his warmup routine that they were literally shaking on the mat) but it also served to showcase his devastating top game which I rate as one of the best in the country. Andy Garcia is a wrestler who has been on the receiving end of that attack and will be hopeful of avoiding it (and Righter) for as long as he can. Garcia isn’t flashy, but rather one of those heavies that can hang around in matches and steal them in the third. It will be telling if he is a cut above the Ohio grinders that tend to fill out the second half of the podium at 285 here, or if the physicality wears him down.
Kaminski being absent tips the team scales in Blair’s direction, and it also leaves Garrett Kappes in prime position on the bottom side of the bracket. Kappes enters the season with more questions than answers in his campaign to establish himself as one of the top heavyweights. After adding so much weight so quickly the concerns about adapting to the change in technique required to tangle with the biggest of the big were out there, but his durability hangs heavy in the air, exiting numerous major tournaments and duals via injury. Those concerns were not quieted with his quick departure from his Super 32 match with Hunter Catka and Garrett will be looking to prove that he can hang here in more ways than one. He looked great starting the regular season in taking the Ray Oliver and this is also the beginning of a pretty long haul for Kappes, as his dream season would still likely entail meeting Righter no less than six times this year, which is a schedule no one wants.
An assortment of experienced big boys fills things out, with returning placers Kade Carlson, Matthias Ervin and Max Millin all more than ready to go toe to toe with anyone here. Millin is another one who has already had his fill of Righter but will like his chances with any of the others. Carlson beat Ervin here at 220 for 5th last year and both will be looking to make a big move. The pair are inconsistent but know how to hang in matches and Ervin had a win over Kyonte Hamilton last spring. All last year I listed Coltin Deery as a trap match and I will do the same here again as I like a lot of what I see from him. He made it to the Beast semi before dropping matches to Millin and Miller on the back.
Smyrna has elected to send Hugo Harp in at heavy as opposed to 220 and he is quite literally the very definition of a trap match. I can’t see him putting together a prolonged run but he will be entertaining for as long as he is in the tournament. I went to the Ray Oliver more or less to see how Kyonte would deal with him in the final, but Harp lost his semi by inexplicably picking bottom with no intention of getting out. He slowly walks out of the stands like an 80-year-old man with no warmup right before his matches and then just wants to blast double everyone into oblivion and make crazy throws all over the mat. He lost a wild match to Skylar Coffey in sudden victory at NHSCA last year and if he ever develops a full folkstyle game he could be major problems. Watch him while you can. As a deep dark horse to make some trouble, Sam McNulty is another Ohio kid that could be a landmine here. Coming off a big football season he could make some local noise this year before heading off to the Air Force and might take a national kid or two with him along the way.
I fully admit to being biased, as I get to see a ton of his matches, but this should be Righter’s year to add an Ironman title to his growing collection of trophies. He is insanely talented and the only sure bet here and if he does so, this also positions him to wrestle for the number one ranking in a week against Catka (where Righter should be the #1 seed as returning Beast champ and having beaten Catka previously.) He does have the more difficult side and Carlson’s toughness and deep underhook will meet Ervin’s technical proficiency and patience in a quarter where I think Ervin reverses last year's result to make the semi. On the bottom Kappes has to be very careful with Harp in round two. They got to wrestle next to one another last week but I doubt Garrett expected him to go heavy here. I think the Garcia and Millin quarter will be very tight and either will give Kappes a test, and none of the three being in the final will shock me. I’m going all Maryland and giving Kappes a slight edge to get to the first of many matches with Righter this season.
Foster's Picks: 1. Righter 2. Kappes 3. Ervin 4. Millin