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2016 NCAA Preview: 157 pounds

Notable 157-Pounders to Watch

Editor’s Note: Due to press deadlines, the following profiles of WIN’s ranked wrestlers were written prior to the NCAA qualifying tournaments.

2015-16 Head-to-head Matchups of Top 10 157

Updated 2016 NCAA Brackets

1. Jason Nolf, Penn State, RS Freshman, Yatesboro, Pa.

penn state 157 Nolf_Jason (H-15-MS) 69222015-16 Notes: The former three-time Pennsylvania state champion from Kittanning High School first caught everyone’s attention last year when he finished second at the Southern Scuffle while redshirting. This year, the young Lion won the Scuffle, but made even bigger news when Nolf pinned 2015 NCAA champ Isaiah Martinez of Illinois on Jan. 23. Overall, Nolf stood 26-0 with 13 pins prior to the Big Tens.

NCAA Resume: first tournament

2. Isaiah Martinez, Illinois, Sophomore, Lemoore, Calif.

illinois 157 Martinez-Isaiah_DSC0385-12015-16 Notes: Except for the loss to Penn State’s Jason Nolf, the former three-time California state champion was perfect in 57 other college bouts (including 44 by bonus points) before this year’s Big Tens. Among his other big moments this sophomore season was a Reno TOC championship where he defeated Oklahoma State’s Joe Smith in the final.

NCAA Resume: 5-0 (1st) in one tournament — The Illini lived up to his No. 1 seed in his first NCAA last March when scored bonus points in three of his victories, including a 10-2 major decision against Cornell’s Brian Realbuto in the finals.

3. Thomas Gantt, NC State, Senior, Cahokia, Ill.

nc state 157 Tommy Gantt2015-16 Notes: The former state of Illinois runner-up is enjoying his finest season in Raleigh, after redshirting last season, by going undefeated (21-0) heading into the ACCs. That included a Midlands championship over South Dakota State’s Cody Pack and a 4-1 victory over Virginia Tech All-American Nick Brascetta.

NCAA Resume: 3-2 in one tournament — Gantt’s only NCAA appearance came in 2014 when he lost the first round as an unseeded wrestler, but came back to win three straight bouts, including a 9-3 win over Virginia’s Blaise Butler before falling in the Round of 12 to Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan.

4. Ian Miller, Kent State, Senior, Oak Harbor, Ohio

kent state 157 Miller2015-16 Notes: The hard luck recipient of last year’s NCAAs — where officials messed up the scoring in his quarterfinal loss to Cornell’s Brian Realbuto — entered this year’s postseason with a 19-0 record, which included championships at the Las Vegas Invite and Navy Classic.

NCAA Resume: 10-6 (4th, 5th) in three tournaments — The national tournament has been a roller coaster ride for Miller, from scoring a 57-second pin in his first NCAAs before dropping two bout; reaching the 2014 semifinals and eventually claiming fourth place after beating Iowa’s NCAA champ Derek St. John; before losing last March in overtime to Realbuto in the quarters after officials did not properly record his points last March when he settled for fifth place.

5. Cody Pack, South Dakota State, Senior, Quincy, Calif.

south dakota state 157 Pack, Cody2015-16 Notes: Pack, who stood 25-2 prior to this year’s Big 12 tournament, is looking to become the Jackrabbit’s first Division I All-American since the former Div. II power moved up to Div. I in 2007. Pack’s most impressive moment came at the 2015 Midlands, where he finished second to NC State’s Thomas Gantt.

NCAA Resume: 3-6 in three tournaments — Pack has lost in the first round of every NCAA, including 2013 and ’14 when he went 0-4, but did rally to win three consolation bouts last March as a No. 5 seed — including an 8-3 win over Ohio State’s Josh Demas — before falling in the Round of 12 to Virginia Tech’s Nick Brascetta.

Other notable wrestlers in alphabetical order:

• Injuries have hampered Virginia Tech’s Nick Brascetta, a two-time All-American (eighth in 2013 and fourth in 2015), in is career, including this season when the Hokie senior competed in just eight matches before this year’s ACCs. Last year, the native of St. Paris, Ohio, compiled a 13-2 record and entered the NCAAs unseeded, but won his first two matches over Missouri’s Joey LaVallee and American’s John Boyle before losing to eventual champ Isaiah Martinez.

• Junior Richie Lewis of Rutgers transferred last summer from Iowa Central Community College (where the native of Toms River, N.J., finished second and third at the NJCAA national tournament). In his first season in Piscataway, the Scarlett Knight finished fourth at the Midlands and entered his first Big Ten tournament on an eight-match winning streak. That included a 3-2 win over Michigan’s Brian Murphy.

• Lehigh’s Mitch Minotti earned All-American honors the past two season — sixth in 2014 and eighth last March — but competed in just 14 bouts this winter before the EIWAs after suffering an injury during the Southern Scuffle where he settled for fourth.

• Michigan’s Brian Murphy has competed in two NCAAs, including last March when the Wolverine won his first two matches and claimed seventh place as a No. 11 seed. This year, the junior had competed in just 11 bouts and lost six.

Dylan Palacio of Cornell dropped down to 157 after compiling a 53-13 record with two NCAA appearances — just missing All-American honors by one victory in each season — after also competing on the Big Red soccer team. This season, the junior did not start wrestling until January and tallied just 10 matches before the EIWAs. Among his biggest wins was an 8-4 decision against Oklahoma State’s Joe Smith.

• The Smith name is a common one at Oklahoma State, where brothers LeRoy, John and Pat all earned championships and All-American honors for the Cowboys. Now a second generation is ready to continue that tradition as true freshman Joe Smith, the son of head coach John Smith, took off his freshman redshirt in January and stood 28-3 (and runner-up places at the Reno TOC and Southern Scuffle) prior to his first Big 12 tournament.

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