Everything You Need To Know About D1 Opening Weekend

Everything You Need To Know About D1 Opening Weekend

Bratke tells you everything you need to know about every D1 event on the opening weekend of the NCAA season.

Dec 30, 2020 by Kyle Bratke

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When college wrestling returns on New Years Day, it will have been nearly 300 days since the last NCAA matches were wrestled. It's been a long, strange year since everything was canceled in March, but we did it. We finally made it. College wrestling is back, and I'm here to help get you ready for the opening weekend of action with a little information on every D1 event going down this weekend. 

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When college wrestling returns on New Years Day, it will have been nearly 300 days since the last NCAA matches were wrestled. It's been a long, strange year since everything was canceled in March, but we did it. We finally made it. College wrestling is back, and I'm here to help get you ready for the opening weekend of action with a little information on every D1 event going down this weekend. 

January 1

Campbell-North Carolina Kick Things Off

Wrestling fans are used to ringing in new years down south at the Southern Scuffle, but this year they'll need to go a little further south to catch the first action of the year. North Carolina and Campbell will be the only show in town on New Year's Day, and it should be a lot of fun as it features 12 ranked wrestlers and three top 25 showdowns. 

Ranked Matchups

141: #9 Josh Heil (Campbell) vs #12 Zachary Sherman (UNC)

174: #22 Austin Kraisser (Campbell) vs #9 Clay Lautt (UNC)

184: #6 Andrew Morgan (Campbell) vs #15 Devin Kane (UNC)

Coleman Scott and the Tar Heels begin the season ranked #16 in our tournament team rankings, and this will also be Scotti Sentes' first dual as the head coach of the Camels after taking over for Cary Kolat. 

January 2

Get Some Saturday MACtion

Ohio and Buffalo kickoff the MAC season, and four ranked wrestlers will be in action. For the Bobcats, Mario Guillen and Colt Yinger begin the season ranked #22 at 133 and 165 respectively and are both returning from season-ending injuries. For the Bulls, keep an eye on Derek Spann who is bumping up from 133 and will be looking to climb up the 141-pound ranking from the #17 spot where he begin the season.

App State Plays Host To Individual Quad

With the season starting two months later than usual, you'll see teams getting creative with their schedules and events this season. Appalachian State will play host to The Citadel, Kent State, and Virginia in a round-robin pool style format.

Another first-year head coach who will be getting his first D1 action is The Citadel's Ryan LeBlanc who will be returning to Boone where he was an assistant the past four seasons. 

JohnMark Bentley's squad is once again the favorite in the Southern Conference and has four ranked wrestlers in their lineup: #23 Codi Russell at 133, #19 Jonathan Millner at 149, #24 William Formato at 165, and #20 Thomas Flitz at 174. 

Entering his 15th year in Charlottesville, Steve Garland will once again have a tough lineup from top to bottom. Half of the Cavaliers starting 10 are ranked in the top 25 led by Jay Aiello who checks in at #2 to start the season. 

Jim Andrassy has a young squad at Kent State, but they have the top-ranked wrestler in the MAC and a legit All-American contender in Andrew McNally at 174 who begins the season ranked #12 nationally.

Little Rock And Arizona State Meet In Pac-12 Battle

Season two for Neil Erisman and Little Rock will begin out in the desert with a conference showdown against Arizona State. There are no Trojans currently in the top 25 but expect that to change very soon as Erisman continues to recruit very well.

The Sun Devils begin the season ranked #13 in our team tournament rankings with half of their starting lineup in the top 25 and four of them, Brandon Courtney, Jacori Teemer, Anthony Valencia, and Kordell Norfleet, ranked in the top 10. We'll also get our first look at Zeke Jones' new coaching staff that features NCAA champions, Frank Molinaro and Mark Perry.

Chattanooga Scuffles With Emmanuel

It may not be the Southern Scuffle, but the Mocs will be wrestling in Chattanooga on January 2. Hunter Gamble is back on staff for the Mocs as Kyle Ruschell enters year three in charge and returns a lineup that features three top 25 ranked wrestlers in #19 Fabian Gutierrez at 125, #21 Tanner Smith at 149, and #13 Matthew Waddell at 184. Expect a Chattanooga strong performance from the Mocs against DII Emmanuel. 

Hofstra-Lehigh Clash In EIWA Contest 

The Lehigh lineup will look much different this year with no Nick Farro, Josh Humphrey, Jordan Kutler, Chris Weiler, and Jordan Wood this year. The Mountain Hawks still have three top 25 wrestlers led by #5 Brandon Paetzell at 125. 

The Pride begins 2021 with two ranked wrestlers in Sage Heller who checks in at #19 at 174 and Zachary Knighton-Ward comes in at #22 at heavyweight. Knighton-Ward is a personal favorite of mine as he puts up a lot of points and is fun to watch.

Campbell's Brutal Weekend Continues

A day after taking on #16 North Carolina, the Camels head to Blacksburg to take on #9 Virginia Tech. The Hokies have a salty lineup from top to bottom with six wrestlers beginning the season in the top 25. However, don't be surprised if a few freshmen work their way into the rankings. Sam Hillegas at 141 and Connor Brady were blue-chip recruits coming out of high school and the Hokie coaching staff likes what they have seen from Andy Smith at 197. 

Ranked Matchups

125: #25 Korbin Meink (Campbell) vs #10 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech)

184: #6 Andrew Morgan (Campbell) vs #2 Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech)

January 3

North Dakota State Hosts Loaded Quad - WATCH LIVE ON FLOWRESTLING

While there was no action this summer in the FargoDome, Fargo will play host to arguably the best event of the opening weekend as NDSU host South Dakota State, Oregon State, and Missouri. A total of 17 ranked wrestlers be in action. 

Chris Pendleton is another first-time head coach that will be making his debut. It's a completely new-look Beaver coaching staff as Isaiah Martinez, Nate Engel, and Mike Kosoy now call Corvallis home.

After a down year by Missouri standards, expect the Tigers to be back in contention for a top 10 finish with Matt Schmitt transferring from Missouri, Rocky Elam entering the lineup, and Zach Elam returning from Olympic redshirt. I also believe there's a possibility that we could see true freshman Keegan O'Toole at 157 as well. Jacques is currently ranked in the top 15, but with this year not counting towards wrestlers eligibility, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see O'Toole be the man for the Tigers.

Damion Hahn is off to a great start in Brookings, and this could be his best year to date with six wrestlers beginning the year ranked in the top 25 led by #10 Tanner Sloan at 285.

The host Bison are led by two West Fargo High School alumni, Jared Franek and Brandon Metz, who begin the season ranked both ranked fifteenth at 157 and 285 respectively. 

Ranked Matchups 

133: #12 Matt Schmitt (Missouri) vs #11 Devan Turner (Oregon State)

133: #24 Zach Price (SDSU) vs #11 Devan Turner (Oregon State) 

133: #24 Zach Price (SDSU) vs #12 Matt Schmitt (Missouri)

141: #19 Grant Willits (Oregon State) vs #17 Allan Hart (Missouri)

141: #25 Clay Carlson (SDSU) vs #17 Allan Hart (Missouri)

141: #25 Clay Carlson (SDSU) vs #19 Grant Willits (Oregon State)

157: #15 Jared Franek (NDSU) vs #13 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)

157: #17 Cade DeVos (SDSU) vs #13 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)

157: #22 Hunter Willits (Oregon State) vs vs #13 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)

157: #22 Hunter Willits (Oregon State) vs #15 Jared Franek (NDSU)

157: #22 Hunter Willits (Oregon State) vs #17 Cade DeVos (SDSU)

165: #18 Peyton Mocco (Missouri) vs #17 Tanner Cook (SDSU)

165: #15 Brandon Metz (NDSU) vs #8 Zach Elam (Missouri)

Cal Poly Welcomes Two Big 12 Foes - WATCH LIVE ON FLOWRESTLING

Continuing with the theme of hosting multiple duals in one, Cal Poly will open the season by welcoming in two West Coast Big 12 programs as Fresno State and Utah Valley will make the trip to San Luis Obispo. 

Cal Poly is a squad I'm excited to check out this season. In the offseason, the Mustangs picked up transfers Lawrence Saenz and Adam Kemp from Fresno State, Bernie Truax just won a U23 national title, and Legend Lamer had a win over Southern Scuffle champion Jaden Abas during his redshirt season. 

Utah Valley will roll out a young lineup this year but is helped tremendously by the return of Demetrius Romero after he missed all of last season due to injury. Taylor LaMont will also be returning to 125 where he made the bloodround at the 2018 NCAA Championships.

After competing for just three seasons after being reinstated, Fresno State announced that they would once again be discontinuing their program after this season. Since that announcement, four starters from a year ago have already transferred, and the majority of the roster is currently in the portal or already have their plans set for next year. Durbin Lloren and AJ Nevills are currently ranked in the top 14, and I hope every Bulldog wrestler has an outstanding season to show the administration they once again made a mistake.

Ranked Matchups

#23 Bernie Truax vs #8 Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley)

Trophy Contender NC State Opens On The Road

There's no doubt when March rolls around that Pat Popolizio will have the Wolfpack ready to contend for a team trophy at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis and they'll start the year with eight of their starters in the top 25. Not only do they have eight starters, but they have three wrestlers, Jakob Camacho, Hayden Hidlay, and Trent Hidlay, who are ranked in the top 3. 

For Gardner-Webb, keep an eye on Old Dominion transfer Trevon Majette at 133, Rodrick Mosley who had a 20-win season at 165 last season, and Anthony Perrine at heavyweight who had a nice year after bumping up from 197.

Bucknell Opens With Individual Tri

While three teams will be in action Sunday afternoon, it will be an individual format rather than duals when Bucknell, VMI, and Long Island hit the mats. Bucknell features a top 10 wrestler in Zach Hartman who had big wins over Cam Amine and Kennedy Monday. The coaching staff is also high on a trio of young bucks. Darren Miller at 133 is a true sophomore who won over 20 matches a year ago and true freshmen Kurt Phipps at 141 and Dorian Crosby at heavyweight. 

While there are no ranked wrestlers currently for VMI or Long Island, keep an eye on Job Chishko at 149 who had a win over two-time NCAA qualifier Josh Finesilver. For the Sharks, watch Chris Gomez at 149 and Ryan Ferro at 165 who picked up a win over Jacob Lizak last season.

Central Michigan Begins Quest To Regain Control Of MAC

Missouri has won nine straight MAC championships, but it was Central Michigan who came out on top of the preseason MAC rankings. Before the addition of the Tigers, it was the Chippewas who won the league year in and year out. Will this be the beginning of their return to the top? Coach Borrelli's squad starts the season with four top 19 ranked wrestlers and two in the top seven.

Iowa State Takes On DIII Power Wartburg

There will be no cupcake opener for Coach Dresser's squad. Since 1999, Wartburg has won 13 Division III national championships and will be looking to show they can compete with the D1 top 10 ranked Cyclones. 

Ranked Matchups

125: #11 Brady Kyner (Wartburg) vs #8 Alex Mackall (Iowa State)

141: #5 Brady Fritz (Wartburg) vs #4 Ian Parker (Iowa State)

174: #2 Kyle Briggs (Wartburg) vs #14 Julien Broderson (Iowa State)

197: #11 Kobe Woods (Wartburg) vs #12 Marcus Coleman (Iowa State)

285: #2 Jordan Brandon (Wartburg) vs #7 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State)

Northern Colorado, Wyoming Open With Big 12 Battle - WATCH LIVE ON FLOWRESTLING

These two programs are very familiar with one another and will add another chapter in the rivalry Sunday afternoon with a dual that features four top 25 showdowns.

This is without a doubt the best lineup Troy Nickerson has had during his time in Greely with seven former NCAA qualifiers set to hit the mats. Look for Senior Nationals champion Andrew Alirez to make another big jump and Theorius Robison to make some noise down at 125. A year ago as a true freshman he knocked off All-American Montorie Bridges. 

Not to be outdone, Mark Branch and company bring back six former NCAA qualifiers and will once again be one of the top tier programs in the Big 12. Fresno State transfer Jacob Wright was an NCAA qualifier last year and should make a big impact at 157. Last season he had wins over Peyton Robb, Justin McCoy, and Justin Thomas. 

Ranked Matchups

#18 Jackson Hemauer (Northern Colorado) vs #15 Hayden Hastings (Wyoming)

#19 Alan Clothier (Northern Colorado) vs #21 Tate Samuelson (Wyoming)

#19 Jacob Seely (Northern Colorado) vs #18 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming)

#11 Dalton Robertson (Northern Colorado) vs #9 Brian Andrews (Wyoming)

Cary Kolat Era At Navy Begins

Last but certainly not least, the Cary Kolat era begins in Annapolis with a visit from #14 Pittsburgh. Kolat has been making waves on the recruiting trail with three commitments from wrestlers on the class of 2021 and 2022 Big Board's, and now will look to keep that momentum going on the mat. His tenure at Navy will begin with a talented squad featuring four top 25 ranked wrestlers. 

The moment Keith Gavin arrived at his alma mater, the Panthers were immediately improved and that trend has continued each year. Pitt will begin the season with half of their lineup in the top 25 and three top seven wrestlers. 

We should learn a lot about both teams on Sunday night. 

Ranked Matchups

#6 Micky Phillippi (Pitt) vs #21 Casey Cobb (Navy)

#16 Cole Matthews (Pitt) vs #21 Cody Trybus (Navy)

#7 Jake Wentzel (Pitt) vs #8 Tanner Skidgel (Navy)

#5 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt) vs #24 Jacob Koser (Navy)