WIN’s 2013-14 Preseason Preview: Heavyweight

Updated: October 8, 2013

Editor’s Note: For the past eight weeks, WIN has been previewing each of the ten weight classes on a weekly basis. In this week’s preview, WIN is examining the heavyweight class, based on WIN’s preseason rankings, which were released on Sept. 27.

Click here to see WIN’s 2013-14 Preseason Tournament Power Index and individual rankings for all ten weight classes.

Will Nelly make Gopher trifecta history?

            Since 1937, when Minnesota earned its first NCAA individual championship, there have been 17 different Gophers to capture titles. This includes five who twice stepped on the top step of the All-American stand and three of those competed at heavyweight for UM: Verne Gagne (1948-49), Cole Konrad (2006-07) and Anthony Nelson (2012-13).

Minnesota's Anthony Nelson (right) defeated Northwestern's Michael McMullan in the 2013 NCAA finals for his second straight championship.
Minnesota’s Anthony Nelson (right) defeated Northwestern’s Michael McMullan in the 2013 NCAA finals for his second straight championship.

By the end of the 2014 Nationals in Oklahoma City, Nelson hopes to become the first three-time champion for the men dressed in maroon and gold singlets. That’s because Nelson is rated No. 1 in WIN’s preseason poll after he defeated Northwestern’s Michael McMullan, 6-2, in last year’s heavyweight championship … and these two finalists are the only returning All-Americans from Des Moines’ NCAAs.

Fans will get another look at this match-up in the 2013 NWCA All-Star Classic, which is being held on Saturday, November 2, at George Mason University.

The Big Ten also has another heavyweight to watch this year: Iowa’s Bobby Telford, whose NCAA experience last March was cut short because of an injury. One year earlier at the NCAAs in St. Louis, the Hawkeye finished fifth nationally.

Gwiazdowski as hungry as a Wolf

By virtue of winning the NCAAs, Nelson earned a chance to make the 2013 U.S. World Team in freestyle. Unfortunately, the Gopher came up short and ironically lost twice in the Challenge Tournament of the Trials to the same wrestler and someone who could challenge Nelson this winter: Nick Gwiazdowski of N.C. State.

Gwiazdowski, who defeated Nelson, 9-0, and 6-4, to finish third in the Challenge tournament in Stillwater, Okla., last June, is returning to college folkstyle for the Wolfpack after transferring from Binghamton in 2012. He finished eighth that season as a true freshman before soon following coach Pat Popolizio from New York to North Carolina.

Don’t forget Johnson

Gwiazdowski’s last NCAA match was an 11-5 loss to Ohio University’s Jeremy Johnson in the seventh-place bout. Johnson, who failed to place in last year’s NCAAs, then lost to Gwiazdowski in last April’s U.S. Open in freestyle, returns for his senior season as a Top-5 contender.


Taking a closer look at top All-American candidates

Rk.             Name            School            Year            ’13 Record            NCAA ‘13

1.             Anthony Nelson            Minnesota            Senior            33-1            Champion

The native of Cambridge, Minn., who competed at 215 pounds as a high school senior in 2009, has compiled a 98-11 record and earned three All-American honors and two titles for the Gophers. After finishing seventh at the 2011 NCAAs, where he clinched his first AA honor by winning three straight wrestlebacks after losing in the second round, the Gopher was perfect in the 2012 and ’13 NCAAs.

Two years ago, Nelson, seeded No. 2, pinned Northwestern’s Michael McMullan in the quarterfinals before defeating Lehigh’s defending champion Zach Rey in the championship. Last March, Nelson was seeded No. 2 again before edging All-Americans Jarod Trice of Central Michigan and Oklahoma State’s Alan Gelogaev — by one point each— to advance to the finals where he blew open a close match vs. McMullan with a second takedown and riding-time advantage.

2.             Michael McMullan            Northwestern            Junior            22-4            2nd

For many, it was a surprise when this Wildcat from Easton, Pa., reached the NCAA finals last March as the No. 5 seed when McMullan defeated Oregon State’s No. 4 seed Chad Hanke, 5-3, in the quarterfinals and Missouri’s No. 1 seed Dom Bradley, 3-1 in OT, in the semifinals.

But it should also be pointed out that McMullan, as the No. 10 seed, finished third in the 2012 NCAAs, where his only loss came in the quarterfinals against eventual champ Anthony Nelson of Minnesota. In those Nationals, McMullan came back to win four straight wrestlebacks, including a 5-3 win over Nick Gwiazdowski (then of Binghamton) and 10-5 over Oregon State’s Clayton Jack in the third-place bout.

3.             Bobby Telford            Iowa            Junior            21-8            NQ/Rd of 24

After finishing fifth in the 2012 NCAAs as a redshirt freshman, winning five of seven bouts in St. Louis, it appeared that this native of Hockessin, Del., would earn another step on the All-American stand in Des Moines as a No. 6 seed. But Telford’s 8-1 first-round win over Bucknell’s Joe Stolfi also proved to be very painful for the Hawkeye, who suffered a knee injury in that victory and was unable to wrestle the rest of the tournament.

4.             Nick Gwiazdowski            NC State            Sophomore            Transfer            ’12 AA

Where there is NC State coach Pat Popolizio, there has been this native of Delanson, N.Y., who started his career at Binghamton with Popolizio — finishing eighth nationally in 2012 — then following his coach to Raleigh, N.C., where he redshirted in Popolizio’s first season with the Wolfpack. Competing solely in Open tournaments last winter, Gwiazdowski won the Hokie Open, Wolfpack Open and Penn State Open and finished third at the Southern Scuffle, where his only loss was to Minnesota’s Anthony Nelson, 4-1, in the semifinals.


5.             Jeremy Johnson            Ohio U.            Senior            36-11            NQ/Rd of 12

The native of Broadview Heights, Ohio, gained national attention on the college level two years ago when the Bobcat won 13 of his final 15 matches — including ten in a row — and finished seventh in St. Louis; becoming just the second Ohio U All-American since 2005. Last season, Johnson was unseeded in Des Moines — after finishing third in a very tough MAC tournament — and failed to medal when he lost in the Round of 12 to Pitt’s Zac Thomesseit.



6.             J.T. Felix            Boise State            Senior            28-12            NQ/Rd of 12

7.             Joe Stolfi            Bucknell            Junior            26-16            NQ/Rd of 12

8.             Connor Medberry            Wisconsin            Sophomore            25-8            NQ/Rd of 24

9.             Austin Marsden            Oklahoma State            Junior            Reserve

10.             Mike McClure            Michigan State            Senior            34-7            NQ/Rd of 16

11.             Adam Chalfant            Indiana            Junior            27-11            NQ/Rd of 24

12.             Jimmy Lawson            Penn State            Junior            23-9            NQ/Rd of 32

13.             Justin Grant            Bloomsburg            Senior            24-14            NQ/Rd of 32

14.             Ernest James            Edinboro            Senior            24-14            NQ/Rd of 24

15.             Spencer Myers            Maryland            Senior            Redshirted            AA in 2011

16.             Blake Herrin            American U.            Senior            27-10            NQ/Rd of 24

17.             Dan Scherer            Stanford            Senior            22-14            NQ/Rd of 16

18.             Evan Knutson            No. Dakota State            Junior            17-15            NQ/Rd of 24

19.             Kevin Innis            Boston U.            Senior            22-8            NQ/Rd of 24

20.             Adam Fager            Utah Valley            Junior            20-12            NQ/Rd of 32