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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.
By Mike Finn
Overview — This year’s title should be Taylor-made
As Penn State’s David Taylor enters his final collegiate season, the Nittany Lion has been part of some of the biggest matches … for both winning (as he did in the 2012 finals, which also earned him the Hodge Trophy) and for losing (first to former Penn State All-American Bubba Jenkins by fall in the 2011 NCAA finals), 5-4 last March against Cornell’s Kyle Dake. The Big Red senior used that victory over Taylor to become the sport’s first four-time champion at four different weights.
In 2013-14, it’s hard to imagine Taylor will have any true competition since the next highest returning All-American — Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State and formerly from Oklahoma where he finished second in 2011— lost 10-0 to Taylor in last year’s Southern Scuffle.
Who are the new faces?
With four All-Americans from 2013 not returning, this will also give a chance for others to achieve national stardom. One may be Iowa State’s Mike Moreno, who earned 27 more wins last season (31), than in 2012, and joined his father — also known as Mike — as All-Americans for the Cyclones.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s Nick Sulzer – who became the Cavs’ 12th all-time All-American — hopes to also become the ACC school’s first national champ
Then there is Illinois’ Jackson Morse, who redshirted last winter after claiming an All-American honor in 2012.
One young star who is expected to get shelved for this season is Michigan’s Taylor Massa, who just missed earning AA honors by one match last March as a true freshman, and will likely redshirt this winter.
2nd place – David Taylor, Penn State, Senior, 30-2, 14 pins
This Nittany Lion has officially won 100 of 103 matches during this three years in Happy Valley and two of those losses came in the NCAA finals of 2011 (against Arizona State’s Bubba Jenkins at 157 pounds) and 2013 at 165 pounds (against Cornell’s Kyle Dake, who also beat Taylor earlier last season at the Southern Scuffle; Dake’s other win over Taylor came in last year’s NWCA All-Star Classic exhibition).
Otherwise, this graduate of St. Paris (Ohio) Graham High School has been perfect in his PSU career, including the 2012 NCAAs when he pinned four straight foes before earning a 22-7 technical fall over Lehigh’s Brandon Hatchett for his first championship … and eventually the Hodge Trophy.
In his career, Taylor has pinned 37 foes, including eight in three NCAA tournaments; four of which also came last March in Des Moines when he flattened John Staudenmayer (North Carolina), Zach Strickland (Appalachian State), Conrad Polz (Illinois) and Peter Yates (Virginia Tech) before losing 5-4 to Dake in the finals.
3rd place – Tyler Caldwell, Oklahoma State, Senior, 35-5, 6 pins
Originally an Oklahoma Sooner, who finished second to Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska in the 2011 NCAA finals, this native of Wichita, Kan., transferred after two years to Stillwater. After redshirting the 2011-12 season, Caldwell added a second All-American honor last March when his only NCAA loss came against Cornell’s Kyle Dake, 2-0, in the semifinals. Once in the wrestlebacks, he defeated both Conrad Polz (Illinois) and Peter Yates (Va Tech) to claim third.
Caldwell also finished third last winter at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, where he lost 10-0 to David Taylor.
6th place – Mike Moreno, Iowa State, Junior, 31-10, 7 pins
After suffering through a 4-13 record as a redshirt freshman in 2011-12, this native of Urbandale (Iowa) High School — where he wrestled for his father, also named Mike and a former Cyclone All-American — turned in a banner season last winter, especially at the NCAAs where he won five of eight matches and claimed sixth place.
Two of his NCAA victories last year were pins against Stanford’s Bret Baumbach and Ohio State’s Mike Martin, then clinched his first AA honor with a 17-2 technical fall over Michigan’s Taylor Massa.
8th place – Nick Sulzer, Virginia, Junior, 27-11, 1 pin
The former Ohio state champion from St. Eds qualified for his first NCAA as a redshirt freshman in 2012 — when he went 27-9 for the Cavs — but it wasn’t until last year that Sulzer collected his first All-American honor.
Seeded eighth, Sulzer won his first two matches in overtime against Stanford’s Bret Baumbach and Bloomsburg’s Josh Veltre, before losing 13-0 to eventual champ Kyle Dake of Cornell. Once in the wrestlebacks, Sulzer clinched his first All-American honor when he edged American U’s Patrick Graham in the Round of 12.
ROUND OF 12
• Steven Monk, ND State, Senior, 36-5, 12 pins — the native of Wausau, Wisc., has qualified for the NCAAs the past two winters but came up just one win short in each national tournament to miss AA honors. Monk’s Round of 12 loss at 157 pounds in 2012 came against Nebraska’s James Green. Last year, Monk was eliminated by Conrad Polz of Illinois.
• John Staudenmayer, North Carolina, Junior, 30-13, 1 pin — After losing to David Taylor in the first round of last year’s NCAAs, the Tar Heel came back to win three wrestlebacks — including two in overtime against Indiana’s Ryan LeBlanc and Bloomsburg’s Josh Veltre — before losing to Minnesota’s Cody Yohn, 5-3, in the Round of 12.
ROUND OF 16
• Mark Martin, Ohio State, Junior, 19-18, 1 pin — Went 2-2 in his first national tournament last March, when his wins came against Peyton Walsh (Navy) and Zack Strickland (Appalachian State).
• Zach Toal, Missouri, Senior, 25-18, 4 pins – defeated Nebraska’s Austin Wilson in the first round before losing a second wrestleback bout to Patrick Graham of American U.
• Josh Veltre, Bloomsburg, Senior, 34-7, 0 pins — Among Veltre’s two wins in the 2013 NCAAs was an 8-5 win over Iowa’s Nick Moore
• Austin Wilson, Nebraska, Sophomore, 29-14, 3 pins — After losing in the first round to Missouri’s Zach Toal, the Husker came back to win two straight wrestlebacks over Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo) and Chattanooga’s Josh Condon.
ROUND OF 24
• Bret Baumbach, Stanford, Senior, 23-12, 3 pins
• Pierce Harger, Northwestern, Junior, 26-10, 5 pins
• Ryan LeBlanc, Indiana, Senior, 24-10, 6 pins
• Nick Moore, Iowa, Junior, 19-10, 6 pins
• Ramon Santiago, Rider, Senior, 30-9, 0 pins
• Zach Strickland, Appalachian State, Sophomore, 25-13, 4 pins
• Tyler Wilps, Pittsburgh, Junior, 21-9, 0 pins
ROUND OF 32
• John Greisheimer, Edinboro, Senior, 19-16, 5 pins
• Paul Hancock, Army, Senior, 32-12, 4 pins
• Josh Houldsworth, Columbia, Senior, 20-9, 2 pins
• Nigel Jones, NC State, Senior, 27-14, 7 pins
• Caleb Marsh, Kent State, Junior (may move to 174), 23-12, 1 pin
• Mike Ottinger, Central Michigan, Junior, 23-15, 0 pins
• Nick Visicaro, Rutgers, Junior, 15-11, 1 pin
• Peyton Walsh, Navy, Junior, 29-13, 7 pins