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WIN’s Preseason Preview of 157: Could it be Iowa vs. Oklahoma State?
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 in Division I. The information below is subject to change as some wrestlers may change weights or redshirt this upcoming season.
Overview — Will it be a Hawkeye vs. a Cowboy?: By University of Iowa standards, last year’s NCAA Championships in Des Moines last March were a disappointment … except the performance of 157-pound Derek St. John, who appeared in his second straight NCAA final … and captured the only individual championship for the Hawkeyes.
With last year’s national runner-up Jason Welch of Northwestern graduated, it appears an Oklahoma State Cowboy — sophomore Alex Dieringer — may be St. John’s biggest roadblock. Dieringer finished third in the NCAAs after losing in the quarters by a tiebreaker to the Hawkeye.
Overcoming First-Round Blues: three former All-Americans also return in 2013-14, but all three in Oregon State’s Roger Pena, Nebraska’s James Green and Penn State’s Dylan Alton lost first-round matches in Des Moines. Only Pena and Green were able to wrestleback for a Top-8 finish, while Alton — third in the 2012 NCAAs — missed repeating as an All-American by one victory.
Remember Ian — Two years ago, it appeared that Kent State’s Ian Miller might become the best freshman at any weight class when he was seeded No. 5 at 157 pounds and recorded a 57-second fall in his first NCAA match. But the native of Oak Harbor, Ohio, lost two straight matches to end his true rookie season with a 29-5 record, a team-high 12 pins, MAC Freshman of the Year honors, but no All-American honor. Last year, the Golden Flashes redshirted Miller, who did win the Edinboro Open, National Collegiate Open and the University Nationals (in freestyle).
1st place — Derek St. John, Iowa, Senior, 31-2, 2 pins — The three-time All-American from Parnell, Iowa, continued to scale higher steps on the medal stand when last year’s championship win over Northwestern’s Jason Welch came one year after the Hawkeye lost to Cornell’s Kyle Dake in the 2012 NCAA final after a fourth-place finish in 2011-12. He was seeded No. 2 in the 2013 NCAAs, where he also defeated Matt Frisch of Citadel, Air Force’s Josh Kreimer, Ohio State’s Josh Demas and Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer to make the finals a second straight year. St. John’s career record at Iowa is 76-11 with nine falls.
3rd place — Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State, Sophomore, 35-3, 5 pins — The Cowboy has certainly enjoyed his time in Stillwater, Okla., since graduating from Port Washington, Wisc., especially with last March’s third-place finish in Des Moines and a silver medal in freestyle this past summer at the Junior Worlds. Except for his 3-2 tiebreaker loss to St. John in last year’s NCAA semifinals, the Cowboy was perfect in Des Moines, where he came back to pin Northern Iowa’s David Bonin in 1:39 of their third-place match.
5th place — Roger Pena, Oregon State, Senior, 38-7, 20 pins — The Beaver eventually had plenty of bite in last year’s national tournament and earned his first AA honor, especially after the 2012 Pac-12 champ had to settle for second place in the conference tournament … then lost 7-6 in the first round to Ohio State’s Josh Demas. Once in the wrestlebacks, Pena won five straight matches — including an 8-0 shutout of Clarion’s James Fleming in the Round of 12 — before beating Virginia’s Jedd Moore in the fifth-place match. Pena originally was a starter one year after winning his fourth Oregon state championship for Sprague High School, but redshirted in 2010-11. His career mark is 97-31.
7th place — James Green, Nebraska, Junior, 25-6, 1 pin — The fourth-seeded Husker was also upset in his first-round match in Des Moines, to Missouri’s Kyle Bradley. He then battled back to capture five of six wrestlebacks, one by pin and four by major, including a pair of 14-4 victories over Penn State’s Dylan Alton (in the Round of 12) and Clarion’s James Fleming in the seventh-place match. The native of Willingboro, N.J., also finished seventh in 2012 as the No. 11 seed.
OTHER RETURNING NCAA QUALIFIERS
ROUND OF 12
• Dylan Alton, Penn State, Junior, 28-8, 2 pins — One year after the Nittany Lion finished third in 2012 — when his only NCAA loss came in the quarterfinals to St. John — Alton won his first two bouts in Des Moines before losing consecutive matches to Northwestern’s Jason Welch and to Nebraska’s James Green to go home without a medal.
• Josh Demas, Ohio State, Junior, 20-12, 1 pin — The hometown wrestler from Columbus has qualified for two straight NCAAs since earning his fourth state placement for Westerville North High School. After going 2-2 in 2012, the Buckeye won his first two matches to reach the quarters where he lost 4-0 to eventual champ Derek St. John. A Round of 12 loss to Clarion’s James Fleming prevented him from earning AA honors.
ROUND OF 16
• Nestor Talfur, Boston U., Senior, 36-9, 8 pins — After a season-ending injury earned him another year, the native of Bound Brook, N.J. qualified for his first NCAA last March when he lost a first-round match to No. 1 seed Jason Welch of Northwestern, but came back to win two wrestlebacks before he was eventually eliminated.
• Dan Zilverberg, Minnesota, Junior, 18-14, 0 pins — The native of Wayzata, Minn., earned his first varsity and NCAA experience for the Gophers last season, splitting two of four NCAA bouts, including a 7-1 win over Lehigh’s No. 3-seed Joey Napoli.
ROUND OF 24
• Kyle Bradley, Missouri, Senior, 27-15, 2 pins — Upset No. 4 seed James Green of Nebraska in the first round before dropping matches to UNI’s David Bonin and Minnesota’s Dan Zilverberg.
• Spartak Chino, Ohio U., Sophomore, 21-15, 4 pins — defeated Oklahoma’s Matt Lester in the first round of his first NCAA last March.
• Josh Kreimer, Air Force, Senior, 28-6, 5 pins – qualified for second straight NCAA despite missing a month because of an injury last season.
• Taylor Walsh, Indiana, Junior, 30-12, 8 pins — has qualified for two straight NCAAs and upset No. 3 Joey Napoli of Lehigh in the first round last winter.
ROUND OF 32
• Andy McCulley, Wyoming, Junior 28-10, 10 pins
• Cody Pack, South Dakota State, Junior, 15-16, 2 pins
• Joey Napoli, Lehigh, Senior, 18-4, 5 pins
• Luke Smith, Central Michigan, Sophomore, 22-12, 5 pins
• Matt Frisch, Citadel, Junior, 30-15, 1 pin
• Ryan Watts, Michigan State, Sophomore, 18-8, 0 pins
• Bobby Barnhisel, Navy, Senior, 17-12, 3 pins