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WIN’s Preseason Preview of 149: Ness and Sakaguchi lead a wide-open race

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Updated: August 29, 2013

By Mike Finn

Editor’s Notes: Between Aug. 9 and the start of the college wrestling season, WIN is taking a closer look at the top wrestlers in all ten weight classes. The information below is subject to change as some wrestlers may change weights or redshirt this upcoming season.

Overview: If there was a wide-open weight class this winter, it has to be 149 pounds where only 18 of 33 wrestlers, who competed in last year’s NCAAs, are expected to return in 2013-14. Among those not returning are graduated seniors and the top three All-Americans from 2013: champion Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State, runner-up Jason Chamberlain of Boise State and Scott Santos, whose third-place finish in Des Moines was the highest ever by a Columbia wrestler.

Only four All-Americans are expected to return, led by Minnesota’s Dylan Ness, who has overcome injuries to claim to a pair of AA finishes, including second in 2012. Among the most notable returning wrestlers are Oregon State’s Scott Sakaguchi, who hopes to become the Beavers’ first champion since Les Gutches won the second of two NCAA titles (and Hodge Trophy) in 1996.

The following is a closer look at wrestlers who could make an impact at 149 pounds next March in Oklahoma City at the NCAAs.

 

TOP RETURNING 2013 ALL-AMERICANS

 

4th place – Dylan Ness, Minnesota, Junior, 20-6 record & 5 pins in 2012-13

The native of Bloomington, Minn., had some big shoes to fill when he arrived in Minneapolis three years ago, considering his older brother Jayson ended a multiple-time All-American career with the Gophers as the 2011 NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner.

But Dylan nearly won an NCAA crown in his first true season with Minnesota in 2011-12 when he reached the NCAA finals at 149 pounds before losing 4-1 to Penn State’s Frank Molinaro. One year later, he was nearly sidelined with injuries but returned and finished fourth last March in Des Moines.

But what made last year’s All-American finish even more impressive is that Dylan, seeded sixth, was upset by Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt, 5-2, in the second round; forcing the Gopher to win five of six wrestlebacks, including a Round of 12 victory over Nebraska’s Jake Sueflohn, before losing to Columbia’s Steve Santos in the third-place bout.

 

5th place – Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State, Senior, 30-8, 9 pins

The native of Clovis, Calif., has qualified for the NCAAs in each of his three seasons in Corvalis since earning a starting spot in 2011 … and has twice earned All-American honors: finishing seventh two years ago and fifth last season.

In last year’s NCAAs, the Beaver was seeded seventh and won his first two matches before losing a 2-1 tiebreaker to Pac 12-rival Jason Chamberlain of Boise State. Once in the wrestlebacks, Sakaguchi won three of four matches, including a 2-1 victory over Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson in the Round of 12 and a 6-5 decision against Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt in the fifth-place match.

Sakaguchi enters his final season with a 98-29 career mark, which ranks him 23rd on OSU’s all-time win list.

 

6th place – Drake Houdashelt, Missouri, Junior, 31-12, 4 pins

The Tiger from O’Fallon, Mo., has qualified for the NCAAs in each of his first two seasons as a starter. But while he failed to win a match in St. Louis at 157 pounds in 2012, Houdashelt dropped down to 149 last winter and clinched an All-American honor when the unseeded Tiger defeated American’s Kevin Tao in a tiebreaker of their quarterfinal match. To reach that moment, Houdashelt upset 11th-seed Andrew Alton of Penn State, 4-1, in a first-round bout, followed by a 5-2 victory over defending national runner-up Dylan Ness. Unfortunately, he lost his final three bouts in Des Moines, including to Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain in the semis and to Ness and Sakaguchi in the wrestlebacks.

 

8th place –  Nick Brascetta, Virginia Tech, Junior, 32-7, 2 pins

The native of St. Paris, Ohio, had already won two ACC championships going into the NCAAs last March. And it was in his second NCAA tournament in Des Moines that the Hokie earned his first All-American honor … but only after he lost in the second round to Nebraska’s Jake Sueflohn. Once in the wrestlebacks, Brascetta won three of five bouts, including a 5-3 win over American U’s Kevin Tao in the Round of 12.

Going into his third season, Brascetta — who became an immediate starter after winning two Ohio state titles for Graham High School — has compiled a 41-12 record.

There is also a chance that Virginia Tech coach Kevin Dresser could redshirt Brascetta since senior Zach Neibert, an eighth-place finisher at 141 pounds last year, is moving up to 149 with the return of Devin Carter at 141 this season.

 

OTHER RETURNING NCAA QUALIFIERS

 

ROUND OF 12

• Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska, Junior, 24-7, 2 pins — two time NCAA qualifier; lost in Round of 12 last year to Jayson Ness after earlier beating Ness and reaching the 2013 quarterfinals.

 

ROUND OF 16

• David Habat, Edinboro, Junior, 30-9, 3 pins — two-time NCAA qualifier, who has yet to medal and is a combined 3-4 in the past two national tournaments.

• Ray Borja, Navy, Senior, 24-9, 2 pins — the third year was the best season yet for the Midshipmen, who qualified for his first NCAA and split four matches.

• Eric Grajales, Michigan, Senior, 24-9, 4 pins — has competed in three NCAAs — going 2-2 each national tournament — and reached the Round of 12 as both a freshman and sophomore.

 

ROUND OF 24

• Nick Lester, Oklahoma, Senior, 17-12, 2 pins — went 1-2 in last year’s NCAAs after earning All-American honors in 2012.

• Brandon Richardson, Wyoming, Junior, 14-21, 2 pins — reached NCAAs despite the losing record and earned a fall over Pitt’s Ronnie Garbinsky in last year’s NCAAs, where he was 1-2.

• Alex Hudson, Chattanooga, Senior, 15-8, 1 pin — earned his first NCAA trip after going 11-9 his first two seasons.

• Andrew Alton, Penn State, Junior, 27-6, 12 pins — The winner of the Schalles Award for pinning — when Alton was a true freshman at 141 pounds when he pinned 18 of 30 victims and eventually reached the quarterfinals in 2011 — had a much tougher NCAAs last year when he lost a first-round bout to Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt.

 

ROUND OF 32

• Chris Villalonga, Cornell, Senior, 23-12, 1 pin — two-time NCAA qualifier

• Ronnie Garbinsky, Pitt, Sophomore, 18-12, 3 pins — EWL runner-up earned first NCAA trip as a redshirt freshman.

• Alexander Richardson, Old Dominion, Sophomore, 29-14, 2 pins — qualified for NCAAs as a true freshman last winter.

• Nick Bedelyon, Clarion, Senior, 20-16, 6 pins — moved up from 141 pounds as a freshman in 2012.

• Caleb Ervin, Illinois, Sophomore, 22-14, 3 pins — defeated Minnesota’s Dylan Ness in the regular season.

• Ian Paddock, Ohio State, Senior, 15-9, 3 pins — three-time NCAA qualifier

 

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