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U23 Nationals wasn't a replacement tournament for the canceled NCAAs from March, nor was it a complete preview of what the 2020-21 NCAA season might look like in a normal year, but it did attract the strongest U23 field in recent memory despite not having a world team spot on the line.
The entries may have been bolstered by the looming specter of Covid-19 induced postponements and cancelations. Regardless of all the reasons, USA Wrestling and company managed to host the event in extremely difficult circumstances, and fans were treated to NCAA caliber brackets in Mid November in Omaha.
To find out which school 'won' the tournament, we took the top eight finishers from the 10 men's freestyle brackets and assigned points based on the NCAA scoring rubric for placements (16, 12, 10, 9, 7, 6, 4, 3 for 1st thru 8th place respectively) to the team each wrestler either attends or graduated from, and ignored advancement and bonus points.
We then added up the scores and determine which school unofficially 'won' U23s.
|5||South Dakota State||34|
Iowa may not have left Omaha with any U23 stop signs, but they did return with 10 All-American honors, more than double the next highest total. In fact, let's look at the raw number of top-eight finishes by school.
|South Dakota State||3|
That's every school with more than one U23 medal from last weekend. So yeah, pretty dece tournament by the Hawkeyes.
Iowa's All-Americans came by way of their four finalists (Kaleb Young, Nelson Brands, Jacob Warner & Tony Cassioppi), one third-placer (Max Murin), two fourths (Austin DeSanto & Jerimiah Moody), a sixth (Myles Wilson), and a brace of eighth-placers (Carter Happel & Aaron Costello).
Oklahoma squeaked by Big 12 rival Iowa State and the Pac-12's Arizona State thanks to their champ, Jacob Woodley, and runner-up, Dom Demas, also their only two entrants in the U23 divisions.
Watch Woodley defeat Warner to push the Sooners into second-place in our team rankings:
Besides their one champ, Ramazan Attasauov, who was a revelation at 57kg, the Cyclones had two third-placers, Ian Parker and Gannon Gremmel. Attasauov is one watch in the future. Originally from Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, the same region in Russia that produced freestyle wrestling greats Bilyal Makhov and Anuiar Geduev, Attasauov wrestled in high school in Massachusetts before making his way to Ames, Iowa where he is a redshirt freshman.
Iowa State tied with Arizona State, who scored their points with five All-Americans: Josh Kramer, Cory Crooks, Jacori Teemer, Cade Belshay, and Kordell Norfleet, who all placed between fourth and sixth-place.
Within the top five, South Dakota State deserves a special mention, as they are the only non-Power 5 conference program to finish in the top 10, and the only one to produce a champion as well in Tanner Sloan.
Watch Tanner Sloan avenge a Bg 12 finals loss from last March with a victory over Noah Adams in the 97kg finals in Omaha:
"But that's not fair!" you say, "you shouldn't count the points of wrestlers who already graduated!" Okay, fair point. I mean it's all made up but whatever, it's not that hard to take out the All-Americans that graduated. There aren't that many of them.
Four champs get their points removed, as Youssif Hemida, Taylor Lujan, David McFadden, and Mitch McKee are all out of eligibility. A few others get their points wiped off as well, and we get the following new leaderboard without the graduates:
|4||South Dakota State||34|
Not that much changes but worth checking out nonetheless.
I'd also like to point out that 79kg third-placer Muhamed McBryde graduated from Buffalo in 2016, yet still has U23 eligibility because he received his bachelor's degree at age 18. Here's more background on the 2019 79kg U23 world teamer:
McBryde would eventually finish fifth at the World Championships.