College wrestling has returned! During the first weekend of the 2019-20 college wrestling season, there were numerous open tournaments with a handful of duals sprinkled in. As one would expect, there were breakout performances by freshmen, veterans who reconfirmed their position atop the DI food chain, and others that just wrestled really well! Each week during the collegiate season, we’ll outline ten of the top performances of the week. Enjoy week one.
10) Kizhan Clarke (American) 149 lbs
The American University team had a strong showing at “The Battle of the Citadel,” coming away with three champions, but it was their 149 lber that really caught our eye. Junior Kizhan Clarke is fresh off a 2018-19 campaign where he won 27 matches but was still left at home in Pittsburgh. That may not be the case for Minneapolis. Clarke got a first period fall in his Round of 16 match which set the stage for a clash with unattached, blue-chip freshman, Jaden Abas (Stanford). Although Abas struck first, it was Clarke who came back and took a 4-2 lead after two periods. An early takedown in the third period, followed by about a minute and a half of riding time led to a 7-2 win for Kizhan. In the finals, Clarke would have to contend with Abas’ Cardinal teammate Requir van der Merwe. The match was all square at four points late in the third period with riding time clinched for van der Merwe when Clarke got a go-ahead escape. The Pac-12 champion van der Merwe then made a last-ditch effort to win and got taken to his back and ultimately lost 11-5. Clarke will have the opportunity to add to his 4-0 record on Saturday as Maryland and VMI travel to take on the Eagles.
9) Patrick Glory (Princeton) 125 lbs
Sometimes the top-ten performances feature wrestlers we don’t expect pulling upsets. Other times it will include wrestlers we already regard as great, being…well…great. The latter is how you could classify Patrick Glory’s showing Sunday at the Princeton Open. The 125 lber from the host school was anything but hospitable as he crushed the field. Glory outscored his opposition by the scored of 60-2 with three tech falls and a pin. The first victim for Patrick was Columbia freshman Angelo Rini, who he pinned in 4:02. Next up was Penn’s Blair Orr, who fell 18-0. Rider’s 2018-19 starter, Jonathan Tropea, was next, and he was blown out 17-2. For the title, Glory rolled to 15-0 tech over another in-state rival, Nic Aguilar (Rutgers). This marked the second consecutive championship at the Princeton Open to start off the season for Glory. Last season he had four bonus-point wins, as well.
8) Seth Gross (Wisconsin) 133 lbs
After almost one full year after his last collegiate match, Seth Gross returned to competition and looked as good as ever. Now sporting the colors of the Wisconsin Badgers, Gross and his teammates traveled to face Army West Point, Fresno State, and Navy, at the “Battle of the Midway” in San Diego, California. Seth showed no ill-effects and earned bonus points in all three of his matches. His first, against NCAA qualifier #17 Gary Joint, saw Seth pin the Bulldog in just over four minutes. Gross would wrap up the day with and 11-0 major decision over Lane Peters (Army West Point) followed by a 12-0 shutout of Casey Cobb (Navy). Seth was thought to be one of the preseason favorites for the Hodge Trophy and his performance on Friday did nothing to dispel those notions. Not only did Seth go undefeated, but his team won all three of their duals, though the dual with Army West Point came down to the final match.
7) Tye Varndall (Edinboro) 133 lbs
Really, the answer here could be to name the entire Edinboro team, along with head coach Matt Hill. For a team that went 2-9 last season, starting the year off 3-0 is pretty impressive. Instead of the entire squad, we’ve chosen to mention the Fighting Scots 133 lber Tye Varndall. Tye was one of six wrestlers that finished Saturday with a 3-0 mark for coach Hill’s team, yet he registered perhaps the biggest win of the day when he knocked off #19 Tim Rooney (Kent State), 7-5. Edinboro took eight of ten matches from Kent State and won 29-6. In the two other matches for Varndall, against Ashland and Mercyhurst Northeast, the 133 lber logged a four-point victory and a major decision. Varndall is a true freshman from Cambridge Springs High School, in Pennsylvania. He was a two-time state placewinner at the AA division, taking second as a senior and fourth as a junior. Ty will have his hands full this Friday with the aforementioned Gross as Wisconsin will meet Edinboro at Saegertown HS.
6) Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) 184 lbs
Last week’s Dual of the Week featured the Missouri Tigers, who entered the season tied for tenth in the country, traveling to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on 16th ranked Virginia Tech. The biggest potential matchup of the dual was thought to take place at 184 lbs between ninth-ranked Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) and #15 Dylan Wisman (Missouri). Two first period takedowns for Bolen staked him to an early lead. A reversal in the third period extended the Hokie’s lead to four points. Wisman kept attacking and was able to claim two takedowns in the last period to tie the score on the scoreboard; however, Bolen had riding time in his pocket and held on to win 10-9. Hunter has already started to build off of the momentum that he created last year, while redshirting, when he won 12 of his 13 bouts. Next Sunday, Bolen and his teammates will welcome Northwestern as they participate in the “Mat on the Mound.” The teams will compete in the middle of Virginia Tech’s baseball field and Bolen will have to deal with a good prospect in Jack Jessen.
5) Logan Treaster (Navy) 125 lbs
The Naval Academy traveled cross-country on Friday, along with Wisconsin and rival, Army West Point to take on Fresno State in the “Battle of the Midway.” The Midshipmen jumped out to an early lead on Fresno State in match one with the help of their 125 lber, Logan Treaster. Logan put four team points on the board with an 11-0 major decision over FSU’s Jeremy Trinh. Navy would never trail and was victorious in seven of ten matches. Against Wisconsin, Treaster also staked the Midshipmen to an early lead after he edged Michael Cullan, 1-0. Cullen had registered a major decision in his first match against Fresno State, also. A day later, Navy traveled to take on Cal Baptist. There Trester won a 10-8 battle with Dilan Atjun to complete his perfect weekend and help lead his team to wins over FSU and CBU. Next weekend, Treaster and his teammates will get to test themselves against the best in the country as they head north to take on Penn State and top-recruit Brody Teske.
4) Jacob Wright (Fresno State) 157 lbs
One of the top 157 lbers left out of the 2019 NCAA Championships was Fresno State’s Jacob Wright. After a midseason drop from 165 lb, Wright won 16 of his 20 matches at the lower weight. Unfortunately, a 2-2 showing at the Big 12 Championships helped prevent him from receiving an at-large berth. This year, it seems, Wright is leaving nothing to chance. At the Battle of the Midway, Wright was the only Bulldog wrestler to leave with three wins and a perfect record in-tact. In the opening match of the season, Jacob was only one of three FSU wrestlers to get their hand raised against Wisconsin, when he dispatched of Garrett Model, 9-6. It was more of the same in their second match against Navy and Wright prevailed 15-8 over Scout Skidgel. In the last dual of the day, Wright upset two-time national qualifier, Luke Weiland (Army West Point), 7-2. Fresno State’s 157 lber will be tested next by Rutgers Michael Van Brill on Friday when the Scarlet Knights make the trip out west.
3) Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) 149 lbs
There not much room to move when you’re a redshirt freshman that starts the year ranked fifth in the nation. Or at least up; however, Sammy Sasso demonstrated at the Michigan State Open that he is one of the elite 149 lbers in the country. Not only should Sasso live up to lofty expectations, but he could also very well exceed them. Sammy went five-for-five in racking up bonus points in all of his bouts on Saturday, with three falls and two techs. After starting his tourney with a fall and tech, Sasso ran into NCAA qualifier Nate Limmex (Purdue) in the quarters. Sasso needed less than two periods to pin Limmex. For a spot in the finals, Sasso added another fall over Ben Lamantia (Michigan). That set up a championship match against Kanen Storr (Michigan), a 2019 NCAA qualifier that was seeded eighth. That didn’t matter to Sasso, who cruised to a 19-4 tech fall. In the previous match, Storr had gotten by Sammy’s Buckeye teammate, Ke-Shawn Hayes, 4-3 in tiebreakers.
2) Theorius Robison (Northern Colorado) 133 lbs
Normally, on the top ten performances of the week, we try to limit the honorees to wrestlers that we know are not redshirting. As of now, the verdict is still out on Theorius Robison’s redshirt status. On Saturday, Robison helped nudge Bears head coach Troy Nickerson and staff towards the “start him” side by his win at the Cowboy Open. Even though Theorius made the finals of the tournament, there wasn’t necessarily anything eye-popping about his run through the 133 lb bracket. In the quarters, Robison tallied a win over a prospective starter for Utah Valley, Isaiah Delgado, 12-8. Next up was the Air Force Academy’s Colin Poynter in the semi’s. 9-5 was the final score in favor of the UNC wrestler there. Looming in the championship bout was a much bigger task, the sixth-ranked wrestler in the nation, Montorie Bridges (Wyoming). While down by a point in the second period, Robison used a nifty duck-under to a double leg to secure the matches only takedown. An escape after a scramble in the third period provided Theorius with the 3-2 lead that he would never relinquish. The Bears are in action again next weekend as they host the Northern Colorado Open. On Saturday, November 16th, UNC will compete in their first dual meet, so that the first opportunity where we’ll get to see Robison officially in the lineup.
1) Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) 141 lbs
This week’s college wrestler of the week is a two-time All-American who has decided to move up a weight class to 141 for his senior season. While his height may lead some to think that 133 is a more ideal weight for him, Luke proved otherwise. In his first tournament at the new weight class since his freshman season of 2016-17, Pletcher came away with a title at the Michigan State Open. Not only did Pletcher win the 141 lb championship, but more importantly, was who he beat. In the championship match, Luke knocked off the top-ranked wrestler in the nation, Dom Demas (Oklahoma). Demas was the highest returning placewinner at the weight (4th), while Luke entered the match ranked third. Pletcher had also finished fourth in the nation in 2019, though he did so down at 133 lbs. Both wrestlers finished regulation with an escape point to their credit. After a scoreless sudden victory period, the match went to tiebreakers. Luke was able to earn another escape while holding Demas down for the entirety of the 30 second period. For the rest of the tournament, Pletcher was able to notch a pair of wins by major decision and another two by fall. The second of the two majors came in the semifinals against two-time national qualifier Dylan Duncan (Illinois). The two met last season at 133 and Ducan held Pletcher to a one-point decision, at 3-2. This year Pletcher widen the gap to 15-5.