The following is a breakdown of WIN’s Top 20 wrestlers in the 125-pound weight class. The preseason rankings were released on Sept. 11. The remaining nine weight classes will be previewed over the next five weeks.
Iowa’s Matt McDonough (right) defeated a young Big Ten rival in Nico Megaludis, 4-1, in the 125-pound finals of the 2012 NCAA tournament in St. Louis, Mo. (Tim Tushla image)
1. Matt McDonough, Iowa, Senior
The native of Marion, Iowa, has appeared in every NCAA final since becoming a starter in 2010; capturing national championships in 2010 (beating Andrew Long of Iowa State) and last March when he defeated Penn State’s Nico Megaludis, 4-1. McDonough’s only loss in 15 NCAA matches came against Arizona State’s Anthony Robles in 2011. Overall, McDonough is 100-4 — 36-1 last winter — in his Iowa career, a winning streak of .962, which ranks No. 4 in Iowa’s history books for all-time career winning percentage. He also has pinned 35 in his career, 26 in the last two years.
2. Nico Megaludis, Penn State, Sophomore
Just one year removed from winning three Pennsylvania state championships for Franklin Regional in Murryville, Pa., Megaludis earned the starting spot as a true freshman and landed a spot in the 2012 NCAA finals as a No. 10 seed. He upset No. 7 Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma, No. 2 Zach Sanders of Minnesota and No. 6 Frank Perrelli of Cornell before losing to McDonough in the final. The young Nittany Lion won 28 of 36 matches last winter, when he showed how tough he was in a 3-1 sudden-victory loss to McDonough in a regular-season match.
3. Jesse Delgado, Illinois, Sophomore
This Illini took over the starting spot last winter — after placing in four straight California state tournaments for Gilroy High School — and caught everyone’s attention when he upset McDonough, 11-7 in sudden victory, in a regular-season match-up in Iowa City on Dec. 2. He eventually placed seventh nationally with a 34-8 record. (Delgado did not face Megaludis last winter).
4. Steve Bonano, Hofstra, Senior
Now in his fourth year as a starter — not including a redshirt season in 2010 when he dealt with an elbow injury — the native of Wantagh, N.Y., has compiled an 85-38 career mark. This included a 32-9 record last winter when he claimed his first CAA championship and All-American honor (8th place).
5. Alan Waters, Missouri, Junior
This native of Kansas City, Mo. — where he won four state championships for Park Hill High School — made an immediate impact on the Tigers as a true freshman in 2011. He won his first 24 matches en route to a 39-7 record (including a team high 11 falls) and was seeded No. 10 at the NCAAs. A lot more was expected from Waters in St. Louis, last March when he was seeded No. 3. Unfortunately, the Tiger (29-4 in 2011-12) was upset 4-2 in overtime against Pitt’s Anthony Zanetta in the second round and went home without an All-American honor when he lost to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado in the Round of 12. Waters did not lose a conference match last winter and claimed his first Big 12 title.
6. Jarrod Garnett, Virginia Tech, Senior
The Hokies welcome the native of Newark, Del., back to their line-up after Garnett chose to take an Olympic redshirt last winter, when he finished second in freestyle at the University Nationals. Prior to that, Garnett had compiled 96 wins (the eighth most in Tech history), won two ACC championships and qualified for three NCAA tournaments (compiling a 6-6 mark) and came within one victory of claiming All-American honors in 2010, when he lost to Iowa’s McDonough in the quarterfinals.
7. Levi Mele, Northwestern, Senior
This native of Vernel, Utah, had competed at 141 pounds in 2010 and 133 pounds in 2011 before dropping down to 125 pounds last winter — after the graduation of multiple-time All-American Brandon Precin — when he qualified for his second NCAA tournament. He enters his senior season with a 59-30 career mark, but he finished 31-8 (including a team-high 13 falls) last winter. One win was an overtime pin against Megaludis in the Big Ten tournament. In the 2012 NCAAs, Mele (as a No. 9 seed) recorded a first-round fall before losing to Stanford’s Ryan Mango and Oregon State’s Pat Rollins.
8. Matt Snyder, Virginia, Senior
After starting his college career at Bloomsburg in 2009, the native of Lewistown, Pa., transferred to Virginia one year later and has compiled a 77-32 record, including 24-5 last year when he won his first ACC championship and qualified for his second NCAA tournament (where he defeated Ohio State’s Johnni DiJulius and Eastern Michigan’s Joe Germaine, but lost in close matches to Cornell’s Frank Perrelli and Waters).
9. Anthony Zanetta, Pittsburgh, Senior
Competing in his third NCAA tournament last March, this Panther won his first two matches — including an overtime win over Waters — to reach the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, he lost his consolation bout to Hofstra’s Steve Bonano in overtime and just missed earning a first All-American honor with a 29-6 mark. Overall, the native of Pittsburgh has compiled an 82-28 record since becoming a starter as a true freshman in 2010, when he won the first of three EWL titles.
10. Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State, Senior
After going just 10-17 as a true freshman in 2009, the native of Billings, Mont., redshirted one year later … and then made great strides the last two seasons. In compiling a 65-23 record in two years, Sprenkle has qualified for the NCAAs both years and captured three wins in each of those Nationals only to miss All-American honors by one match both years. That included last March, when he won lost a second-round bout to the eventual champion McDonough, but came back to win two consolation bouts before he was eliminated in the Round of 12 by Zach Sanders of Minnesota, 5-4.
11. Joe Roth, Central Michigan, Junior
The native of Dixon, Ill., where he won an Illinois state championship in 2009, earned O.W. honors and a Mid-American Conference championship last March — defeating Kent State All-American Nic Bedelyon in the finals — to send him to his first NCAA tournament. Despite the fact that he went 1-2 in St. Louis, the Chippewa recorded the second-most victories (35 against 9 losses) among all 125 pounders in Division I, including 14 wins by major decision.
12. Ryak Finch, Iowa State, Sophomore
The native of Safford, Ariz., may have only compiled a 15-10 mark in his first season as a starter with the Cyclones, but his tough schedule — including wins over Oklahoma State’s Jon Morrison and Oklahoma’s Jarrod Patterson — earned him an NCAA appearance. He finished 1-2 in St. Louis, where his only victory was a 52-second fall against Tyler Iwamura of Cal State Bakersfield.
13. Camden Eppert, Purdue, Junior
Despite the fact that this native of Anderson, Ind., is still looking for his first winning record (a 26-34 combined) for the Boilermakers, he knows how to peak when it matters. Eppert qualified for the NCAAs after finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, at the Big Ten tournaments. In last year’s Nationals, Eppert won two matches over Central Michigan’s Joe Roth and Wyoming’s Mike Martinez.
14. Garrett Frey, Princeton, Senior
The former Blair Academy wrestler has earned a trip to the NCAAs in each of his first three years with the Tigers and has captured 27 wins each season, including last winter when he finished second at the EIWA tournament for the second time in his career. Frey, the younger brother of the late Adam Frey — the Cornell wrestler who died in 2009 — has won two of six matches at the Nationals; both coming against West Virginia’s Shane Young in 2010 and 2012.
15. Jared Germaine, Eastern Michigan, Junior
The native of Saginaw, Mich., earned his first NCAA appearance last March when he finished third in the tough MAC tournament that included Bedelyon and Roth. In posting a 24-11 mark last winter, Germaine defeated the likes of Eppert and Sprenkle. In last year’s NCAAs, the Eagle defeated Vince Rodriguez of George Mason but lost to both McDonough and Snyder.
16. Johnni DiJulius, Ohio State, Sophomore
One of seven freshmen to compete for the Buckeyes last season, the former three-time Ohio state champion from Walsh-Jesuit High School compiled a 19-15 record and earned a trip to the NCAAs with a seventh-place finish in the Big Tens. At the NCAAs, the Buckeye lost both bouts, 3-2 to Snyder and 10-4 to Virginia Tech’s Eric Spjut. Among his most impressive wins last year came a pair of wins against Sprenkle at the Las Vegas Invitational.
17. Shane Young, West Virginia, Senior
The native of Jeanette, Pa., has qualified for the NCAAs in each of his first three seasons with the Mountaineers, including last year when he finished 24-8 on the year and captured his first NCAA tourney win over Maryland’s Shane Gentry. In compiling a 68-28 career mark, Young’s most wins (28) came as a sophomore in 2011. He has finished second in every Eastern Wrestling League tournament he’s entered.
18. Shane Gentry, Maryland, Junior
By placing second in last year’s ACC tournament, the native of Stafford, Va., earned his first appearance at the NCAAs, where he lost to Patterson and Young to finish 14-10 overall. One year earlier as a true freshman, Gentry finished 17-13 and third in the ACC.
19. Vince Rodriguez, George Mason, Sophomore
Traveling across the country from his native Fresno, Calif., Rodriguez finished 18-11 in his first season with the Patriots and qualified for the NCAAs with a second-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association. Among his more notable wins were victories over Frey and Gentry.
20. Jerome Robinson, Old Dominion, Sophomore
Despite dealing with an early-season injury, the native of Toledo, Ohio, finished 17-11 last winter and earned an NCAA berth with a third-place CAA finish.
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