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 197-pound weight class, based on WIN’s preseason rankings, which were released on Sept. 27.
Overview — Will Meeks end Oregon State’s NCAA title drought?
Oregon State has not had an NCAA individual champion since former Hodge Trophy winner Les Gutches won his second consecutive title at 177 pounds in 1996. That drought could end this March, considering the Beavers’ Taylor Meeks begins the 2013-14 campaign ranked No. 1.
Considering last year’s top-three finishers — including Penn State’s two-time champ Quentin Wright and Kent State’s first champion in Dustin Kilgore — have graduated, there is no dominant wrestler at this weight class. The second- and third-ranked wrestlers — Minnesota’s Scott Schiller and Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson — will be just juniors this winter.
There are two wrestlers who will be competing at 197 pounds who have already earned All-American honors at different weights — Oklahoma’s Travis Rutt and Ohio State’s Nick Heflin. Rutt sat out last season after transferring from Wisconsin, where he finished seventh at 184 pounds in 2011. Heflin is jumping two weights after claiming fifth place last March at 174 pounds.
The following is a closer look at the top competitors at 197 pounds this winter.
Rk. Name School Year ’13 Record NCAA ‘13
1. Taylor Meeks Oregon State Junior 38-7 4th
This native of Orting, Wash., — who competed at the high school weight classes of 145, 160, 171 and 189 pounds and won three state prep titles — moved up to 197 pounds last season after qualifying for the 2012 NCAAs as a redshirt freshman. Meeks made the most of his move as he first won the Pac-12 championship, and pinned two of his first three victims in Des Moines before losing 8-6 to Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore in the semifinals. Once in the wrestlebacks, Meeks majored Minnesota’s Scott Schiller and settled for fourth place after losing to Pitt’s Matt Wilps.
2. Scott Schiller Minnesota Junior 29-6 5th
After backing up former Gopher Sonny Yohn in 2012 — when this native of West Fargo, N.D., turned in an impressive 26-4 record — Schiller made the most of his first season as a starter last winter. He upset Penn State’s eventual two-time champ Quentin Wright during the regular season and finished second in the Big Ten. Once in Des Moines, the Gopher — seeded No. 10 — reached the quarters before losing to Wright, then clinched his first AA honor with a 3-1 win over Illinois’ Mario Gonzales.
3. Kyven Gadson Iowa State Junior 30-5 6th
The native of Waterloo, Iowa, turned in an inspirational moment in last year’s post-season when — shortly after the death of his father and former Cyclones AA Willie Gadson — he won the Big 12 championship and eventually claimed his first Top 8 NCAA finish. As the No. 6 seed, the Cyclone pinned Illinois’ Mario Gonzales in the first round but was upset by Oklahoma State’s Blake Rosholt in the second round. Once in the wrestlebacks, Gadson won four straight bouts, including a Round of 12 meeting with Wyoming’s Alfonso Hernandez.
4. Travis Rutt Oklahoma Senior Transfer ‘12 AA
Has it really been two years since this native of New Prague, Minn., has wrestled a varsity match? Since claiming seventh place in the 2011 NCAAs while wearing the University of Wisconsin singlet, Rutt took an Olympic redshirt in 2012, transferred to Oklahoma with former Badger teammate Andrew Howe, then sat out last season with the Sooners. Rutt competed for three years with the Badgers, including 2008-09 when he was a true freshman at 174 pounds and compiled a 9-15 record. He improved to 17-13 at 184 in 2009-10 and then 34-4 in 2010-11.
5. Blake Rosholt Oklahoma State Senior 17-10 8th
The native of Ponca City, Okla., became the third member of his family to earn All-American honors for the Cowboys. First there was Jake, a three-time NCAA champion (2003, ’05-06) at 184 and 197. Then there was Jared, a three-time (2008-10) All-American at heavyweight. Last year’s NCAAs was the second Nationals experience for Blake, who wrestled at heavyweight in 2010-11 after subbing for an injured Alan Gelogaev. After backing up Cayle Byers in 2012, Blake finally had his true All-American moment last March as a No. 11 seed when he won his first two matches and after losing to Pitt’s Matt Wilps in the quarters, defeated Maryland’s Christian Boley in the Round of 12.
6. Mario Gonzales Illinois Senior 18-9 NQ
This home-state Illini from Aurora has qualified for the last two NCAAs but came up short one victory in each national tournament from earning All-American honors. As a sophomore in 2012, Gonzales was seeded No. 7 and came back to win two wrestlebacks before falling to Wyoming’s Alfonso Hernandez. Last March, Gonzales was unseeded and lost in the first round before winning three straight wrestlebacks before losing 3-1 in the Round of 12 to Minnesota’s Scott Schiller. Gonzales was also a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2011, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-January.
7. Nick Heflin Ohio State Senior 20-7 5th at 174
The native of Massillon, Ohio, spent the past three seasons at 174 pounds where he finished fifth nationally in both 2012 and 2013 after qualifying for his first Nationals in 2010 as a Big Ten runner-up before losing in the NCAA Round of 12. Injuries have plagued Heflin’s career, giving him only 70 overall matches with 51 victories. At the NCAAs, the Buckeye is 13-6, including last year when he was 5-2 and reached the quarterfinals. He lost a 3-2 tiebreaker to eventual champ Chris Perry of Oklahoma State.
8. Morgan McIntosh Penn State Sophomore Redshirt ‘12 NQ
The former three-time California state champion from Calvary Chapel High School returns to his starting spot at 197 spot after redshirting as a sophomore last season, while teammate Quentin Wright won the NCAA title. In 2012, McIntosh qualified for the NCAAs as a true freshman and finished 18-10. At the NCAAs in St. Louis, the Nittany Lion opened with a 9-3 win over Oregon State’s Taylor Meeks before losing to eventual champ Cam Simaz of Cornell and Ohio State’s Andrew Campolattano.
OTHER NATIONALLY-RANKED WRESTLERS
9. Christian Boley Maryland Senior 27-8 NQ/Rd of 12
10. Nathan Burak Iowa Sophomore 21-17 NQ/Rd of 12
11. Richard Perry Bloomsburg Senior 30-6 NQ/Rd of 16
12. Jackson Hein Wisconsin Senior 21-12 NQ/Rd of 24
13. Braden Atwood Purdue Junior 25-12 NQ/Rd of 32
14. Max Huntley Michigan Junior 17-16 NQ/Rd of 32
15. Caleb Kolb Nebraska Senior 19-19 NQ/Rd of 24
16. Derrick Borlie Virginia Tech Junior 20-13 NQ/Rd of 24
17. Brandon Palik Drexel Senior 26-6 NQ/Rd of 24
18. Jace Bennett Cornell Junior 31-16 NQ/Rd of 32
19. Nick Whitenburg Eastern Michigan Senior 18-10 NQ/Rd of 24
20. James Fox Harvard Junior 13-6 NQ/Rd of 32