We're less than two months from the NCAA tournament so it's as good a time as any to take stock of where the top wrestlers are and assess who might contend for a national title this March in Tulsa.
First, my disclaimer. The following list is not an official ranking from the NCAA. Instead, it's my rankings of the five top athletes in all ten weights, based on results, previous accomplishments, performances this season and notable wins.
Some of the biggest names are at the top of my standings: three-time national champions Spencer Lee and Yianni Diakomihalis hold down their spots as No. 1-ranked wrestlers at 125 and 149 pounds and two-time champs Roman Bravo-Young and Carter Starocci own 133 and 174 pounds.
Let's take a look at who else sits within the top five of these power rankings.
1. Spencer Lee, Iowa
2. Patrick Glory, Princeton
3. Liam Cronin, Nebraska
4. Matt Ramos, Purdue
5. Patrick McKee, Minnesota
It's Spencer Lee vs. the field at 125 pounds. Princeton's Patrick Glory is a formidable wrestler who notched two notable wins against NCAA finalist Brandon Courtney and NCAA All-American Brandon Kaylor, and he's coming for Lee, but this is the Hawkeyes weight for now.
Go mat level with @LeeSpencerlee36!#NCAAWrestling x @Hawks_Wrestling pic.twitter.com/FLBILq8ybG— NCAA Wrestling (@NCAAWrestling) January 22, 2023
The rest of the Top 5 at 125 pounds is dealer's choice. I kept Liam Cronin at No. 3 because of his wins against All-Americans Michael DeAugustino, Patrick McKee and Brandon Kaylor. Ramos sits at No. 4, which I know is a bold, risky choice, but I'm rewarding him for his recent wins over All-Americans Patrick McKee and Eric Barnett. Plus, he's wrestled 25 matches this year — he deserves respect on his name. No. 5 is Patrick McKee, but this is really anyone's spot. Killian Cardinale is undefeated too, so if he runs the table in the Big 12, he's a finalist threat as well. This weight continues to be so much fun.
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1. Roman Bravo-Young, Penn State
2. Daton Fix, Oklahoma State
3. Vito Arujau, Cornell
4. Michael McGee, Arizona State
5. Sam Latona, Virginia Tech
Roman Bravo-Young is only getting better and better, a dangerous reality for the rest of 133 pounds. The two-time Penn State champ leads the way at his weight once again, while three-time NCAA finalist Daton Fix sits at No. 2. Both Bravo-Young and Fix are undefeated, but Bravo-Young's two career wins over Fix and his 88.8 percent bonus rate puts him solidly above his Cowboy foe. Fix has a 50 percent bonus rate this season, and he's wrestling tough, but Bravo-Young is on his own tier.
Arujau gets the No. 3 spot, despite his loss to Virginia Tech's Sam Latona, because Latona took four losses earlier this year. Those losses pushed the Hokie down to No. 5, while Arizona State's Michael McGee holds down the No. 4 spot with his 13-2 record. Both of McGee's losses came against Arujau, with the second loss coming by just two points.
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There's nothing crazy in this list of five wrestlers. In fact, these rankings align with many other rankers in the country. The story of 133 pounds is Bravo-Young vs. Fix with the rest of the field looking for a chance to take down these two stars.
141 pounds1. Andrew Alirez, Northern Colorado
2. Real Woods, Iowa
3. Beau Bartlett, Penn State
4. Cole Matthews, Pitt
5. Brock Hardy, Nebraska
This weight is anyone's game. I considered giving the edge to Real Woods because of his dominant tech fall against Frankie Tal-Shahar last week and his impressive pace, particularly early in matches, but there's no ignoring Andrew Alirez' 93 percent bonus rate. That's just a wild stat for a wrestler who has yet to make the podium. Alirez has proven himself over and over again this year, so he's the guy now at 141 pounds. Woods sits at No. 2.
This is going to rile up some fans, but I'm putting Beau Bartlett at No. 3. He's undefeated, wrestling well, and he'll have his shot at Woods on Friday.
Matthews is No. 4 with his 12-1 record, and if it weren't for his loss to Jordan Titus, he'd be No. 1 or at least No. 2 here, but he does have to drop because of that loss.
Brock Hardy takes the No. 5 spot, despite his loss to Real Woods. I almost put N.C. State's Ryan Jack at No. 5 because I like the way he wrestles, but Hardy took down Woods in his match whereas Jack won his bout with a tough Tom Crook on escape points and a riding time point. Jack will have his chance against Pitt's Cole Matthews on Feb. 10, so that's his shot to make a statement and move up the ranks.
149 pounds1. Yianni Diakomihalis, Cornell
2. Austin Gomez, Wisconsin
3. Sammy Sasso, Ohio State
4. Yahya Thomas, Northwestern
5. Kyle Parco, Arizona State
While there's a clear leader at 149 pounds, no one is a lock for a title anymore. Three-time champ Yianni Diakomihalis paces the group, despite his loss to Gomez, and he's looked solid across almost all of his matches this year. Diakomihalis' wins against Paniro Johnson, Kyle Parco and Caleb Henson showed that he's absolutely still able to compete for a title and will likely be the favorite again heading into NCAAs.
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Gomez, though, could stop Diakomihalis from his fourth title. He's beaten the Big Red senior before, and he has the potential to do it again. Other than Gomez and Diakomihalis, there are only two other top 149 pounders with just one loss: Yayha Thomas and Brock Mauller.
Thomas sits at No. 3 because of his loss to Ohio State's Sammy Sasso, and Mauller is just outside the top five due to his loss to Kyle Parco. The top five in these power rankings match the more official rankings on InterMat and other wrestling publications, but I would not expect these rankings to hold steady as the season continues — there's just too much chaos in this weight class.
157 pounds1. Peyton Robb, Nebraska
2. Jared Franek, North Dakota State
3. Austin O'Connor, North Carolina
4. Kendall Coleman, Purdue
5. Josh Humphreys, Lehigh
This weight class is wild. Peyton Robb is the clear No. 1 with his undefeated record and notable wins over No. 2 Jared Franek, No. 7 Ed Scott, No. 15 Chase Saldante, No. 3 Kendall Coleman, and No. 16 Brayton Lee. Robb was been tested, and he's passed every test.
After Robb, the next four spots here are flexible. I followed InterMat's lead and gave Franek the No. 2 spot. His win over Brayton Lee was good, and he also topped national qualifier Jarrett Jacques. Franek's also notable because he won the Elite 90 Award last year, the honor given to the athlete at each NCAA tournament with the highest GPA. I know that grades don't impact wrestling performance, but that honor gives Franek extra credit in my mind.
Bison junior Jared Franek has been named the Elite 90 winner for NCAA D1 Wrestling! He becomes the 16th award winner for NDSU! #GoBison #TakeCharge #NCAAWrestling #Elite90 pic.twitter.com/N3HQ6b4iF5— NDSU Wrestling (@NDSUwrestling) March 19, 2022
I bumped Austin O'Connor up to No. 3 because he's undefeated and that matters to me. He'll have No. 6 Bryce Andonian on Feb. 10 and No. 7 Ed Scott on the 17th, so this ranking may be premature given those upcoming tests, but O'Connor's a national champ, so I'm giving him the No. 3 spot, sliding in Lehigh's Josh Humphreys, a three-time Blood Round finisher, at No. 4, and putting Coleman at No. 5.
165 pounds1. Keegan O'Toole, Missouri
2. David Carr, Iowa State
3. Quincy Monday, Princeton
4. Shane Griffith, Stanford
5. Cam Amine, Michigan
The story at 165 pounds is the three returning champs and one returning NCAA finalist who all now inhabit the weight and will battle with one another in March for national glory. Defending champion Keegan O'Toole leads the way with a 10-0 record and a win over All-American Peyton Hall while Iowa State's David Carr is not far behind in No. 2 with a 12-0 record. Carr's best win thus far this year came against Dean Hamiti of Wisconsin, who currently sits just outside the power rankings.
There's an argument to give Carr the edge on O'Toole, given that he has more matches and rankings are a reflection of this season's results, but O'Toole has a higher bonus, so the Tiger stays on top. These two will meet each other in the Missouri vs. Iowa State dual Feb. 15.
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Cam Amine had a chance to jump ahead to No. 4, just behind undefeated NCAA finalist Quincy Monday, but his loss to Alex Facundo of Penn State dropped him back to No. 5, just behind 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith. Griffith and Amine have both taken unranked losses, which could have put Wisconsin's Dean Hamiti up into the top five, but Amine beat Hamiti last week. Between Amine, Hamiti and Ohio State's Carson Kharchla, the Big Ten tournament will be deep at this weight and will answer a lot of questions about where some of these borderline top-five guys stand.
174 pounds1. Carter Starocci, Penn State
2. Mikey Labriola, Nebraska
3. Mekhi Lewis, Virginia Tech
4. Michael O'Malley, Drexel
5. Chris Foca, Cornell
There's no debate about the top three athletes at 174 pounds. Carter Starocci, Penn State's two-time NCAA champion, leads the pack with a 10-0 record and a 90 percent bonus rate. He hasn't lost a match since the 2021 Big Ten finals, a loss which he later avenged in the NCAA finals that year, and he's looked unbeatable this year.
The athlete whose style matches up best against Starocci and the wrestler who likely has the best chance to stop the champ is 2022 NCAA finalist and 2019 NCAA champion Mekhi Lewis, but Lewis sits at No. 3 after a Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite loss to Nebraska's Mikey Labriola. Labriola is an elite wrestler who flies under the radar because of the depth of his weight class but could undoubtedly win a title this year. With a 19-0 record and his sudden victory win against Lewis, Labriola is in the hunt.
Outside of this top three, 174 is pretty open. InterMat has Chris Foca of Cornell at No. 4, Michael O'Malley of Drexel at No. 5. I like that order. For the sake of mixing things up though, I've got O'Malley at No. 4. I'm rewarding O'Malley's undefeated record, and I think this could be the year he breaks through and ends up on the podium. His best win is Demetrius Romeo, a 2021 All-American, so we'll elevate him. Foca's only loss came by way of a 3-2 decision against Lewis, so he has a case to be higher in the rankings, but for now, it's O'Malley at No. 4, Foca at No. 5.
1. Aaron Brooks, Penn State
2. Parker Keckeisen, Northern Iowa
3. Trent Hidlay, NC State
4. Marcus Coleman, Iowa State
5. Jonathan Loew, Cornell
Everyone in InterMat's Top 33 has taken a loss at 184 pounds. Penn State two-time champ Aaron Brooks lost to Iowa State's Marcus Coleman. Coleman lost to Trey Munoz. Munoz lost to Lenny Pinto and injury defaulted to Matt Finesilver. Finesilver lost to Brooks, Trent Hidlay, Hunter Bolen and Kaleb Romero. Romero lost to Hidlay, Bolen and Parker Keckeisen. And Parker Keckeisen lost to Hidlay. It's a ranker's delight.
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Brooks, much like Yianni Diakomihalis, gets the benefit of the doubt as the returning champ. Keckeisen earned the No. 2 spot since he has the last win over Hidlay by fall, though Hidlay is absolutely dangerous. Hidlay was also the 2022 ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year and has 4.0, so he earns bonus points in my rankings for that.
The No. 5 spot is pretty open in my mind right now. Kaleb Romero, Jonathan Loew and Hunter Bolen have all been All-Americans, and any one of them could take over that spot. Romero is so tough, but I'm going to give the nod to Loew because of his higher winning percentage and his two pins over the weekend, but he still needs to wrestle more matches before I feel super confident in that ranking.
1. Rocky Elam, Missouri
2. Nino Bonaccorsi, Pittsburgh
3. Michael Beard, Lehigh
4. Max Dean, Penn State
5. Yonger Bastida, Iowa State
Earlier this year, I wrote a story about six seniors who have a chance to win a title in their final season. One of those guys, Nino Bonaccorsi of Pitt, remains in a good position at 197 pounds to accomplish that goal. I have Bonaccorsi ranked No. 2, behind Rocky Elam of Missouri, and these rankings align with InterMat's standings. Michael Beard, a Penn State transfer who now wrestles for Lehigh, is at No. 3, with his two losses coming against 2021 NCAA finalist Bonaccorsi and All-American Bernie Truax.
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Beard beat 2022 NCAA champion Dean this season, delivering Dean his second loss and moving him down to No. 4 in my power rankings. I considered putting Dean No. 5, given his two losses, but he has a win over No. 5 Yonger Basitda, so I'll once again follow InterMat's lead again at 197 pounds with Dean at No. 5 and Bastida at No. 5.
285 pounds1. Mason Parris, Michigan
2. Tony Cassioppi, Iowa
3. Greg Kerkvilet, Penn State
4. Lucas Davison, Northwestern
5. Wyatt Hendrickson, Air Force
Mason Parris skyrocketed himself to the top of the rankings over the weekend when he beat Penn State's Greg Kerkvliet 3-1. Kerkvliet, who finished fourth in last year's NCAA tournament has been excellent this year, bonusing 66 percent of this opponents and looking every bit like a title contender. When Arizona State's 2022 NCAA finalist Cohlton Schultz took his first loss of the season to AJ Nevills, Kerkvliet jumped to No. 1, but that top spot is Parris' now.
Iowa's Tony Cassioppi is No. 2 given his undefeated record, Kerkvliet is No. 3, though these two will wrestle each other on Friday. Northwestern's Lucas Davison, who gave Cassioppi a great match two weeks prior, is No. 4, but he could rise up a spot if Kerkvliet drops his bout to Cassioppi as well.
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Part of me was tempted to be totally radical and put Wyatt Hendrickson No. 2. His only loss this season came against Mason Parris 12-5, and he's pinned his last five opponents. Those are Spencer Lee numbers. We'll keep Hendrickson at No. 5, but he's cant-miss wrestling. Though Hendrickson has yet to All-American, this dominant wrestler belongs on every rankings list.