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Photo: Minnesota’s Brayton Lee (left) earned his first All-American honor in 2021, but suffered a season-ending injury last February.
Last year’s NCAA champ, Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin, has graduated and the 2022 national runner-up, Quincy Monday of Princeton, has moved up a weight; leaving the race for the 157-pound title wide open this March in Tulsa, Okla.
But several past All-Americans return, including a 2021 national champ, do return this winter. Below are several of those wrestlers who could end up on top this upcoming season. WIN will update its rankings in the November issue as wrestlers finalize their weight classes for this season.
• Minnesota’s Brayton Lee leads the preseason favorites. Two years ago, the native of Brownsburg, Ind., earned his first All-American honor (sixth) and was expected to finish even higher in 2022 as he won 16 of his first 18 matches. Instead, he suffered a season-ending injury against Ohio State and missed out on the post-season.
• There is a past national champion at this weight in North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor, who claimed the top spot at 149 pounds in 2021 before he settled for eighth place at 157 pounds in 2022. A native of Lockport, Ill., this Tar Heel is actually a three-time All-American as he finished in third place in 2019 as a No. 6 seed. After qualifying for the cancelled 2020 NCAAs, O’Connor truly enjoyed the 2021 Nationals when he was seeded No. 2 and beat Ohio State’s No. 1 Sammy Sasso in a 2-1 tiebreaker. Injuries hampered O’Connor last winter when he lost his first-round match as a No. 11 seed, but came back to win four straight wrestlebacks before medically forfeiting his final two consy bouts.
• Another returning All-American who sat out last season is Missouri’s Brock Mauller, who has moved up a weight class. The hometown native of Columbia, Mo., first appeared in the Tiger line-up in 2019 as a late-season sub and the true freshman finished at the nationals that year. He then earned a No. 4 seed in the cancelled 2020 NCAAs before claiming a fifth-place finish in 2021. He sat out last season to focus on his freestyle career and competed at the U23 World Championships.
• Virginia Tech’s Bryce Andonian is another former All-American at 149 pounds who has moved up to 157. A three-time ACC runner-up and national qualifier, the native of Kirtland, Ohio, made an impact in Detroit last March when he claimed third as a No. 11 seed. Along the way, he upset No. 6 Jon Millner of Appalachian State and Wisconsin’s No. 3 Austin Gomez twice (in the quarters and the third-place bout).
• Nebraska’s Peyton Robb is another wrestler who ignored a double-digit seed to eventually claim his first All-American honor. Seeded No. 10, the native of Owatonna, Minn., lost in the second round in Detroit, but came back to win five wrestlebacks, including a pin against NC State’s Ed Scott in the Round of 12.
• One reason that Michigan’s Will Lewan captured his first All-American (5th place) honor after qualifying for a third NCAA tourney was his ability to win close matches. In last year’s NCAAs, the native of Chicago won four matches; three that went into overtime, including his first two bouts and a fifth-place victory over Arizona State’s Jacori Teemer. Unfortunately for him, he also lost 3-2 to Princeton’s Monday in the semifinals.
• No Arizona State wrestler had a longer winning streak last year than Jacori Teemer’s 22 straight wins, that included a Pac-12 title and his first three NCAA matches last March as a No. 3 seed. Unfortunately for the Sun Devil, he lost his final three bouts in 2022, including a semifinal bout to eventual champ Ryan Deakin and his two consolation bouts. This came one year after the native of Long Beach, N.Y., finished fourth in the 2021 NCAAs as a No. 11 seed when he won five straight wrestlebacks.
• Among the most veteran wrestlers at this weight class has to be Oklahoma State’s Wyatt Sheets, the 24-year-old son of OSU’s two-time NCAA champion Mike Sheets, who first showed up on the Cowboy campus in 2016. During this time, the native of Stilwell, Okla., has dealt with many injuries, including 2020-21 when he was just 11-9 on the season. But, he earned a late at-large invitation to the national tournament as a No. 33 seed and surprised many by claiming eighth place for his first All-American honor. He went 1-2 in last year’s NCAAs.
1st – 2. Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) dec. 5. Quincy Monday (Princeton), 9-2
3rd – 1. David Carr (Iowa State) dec. 10. Peyton Robb (Nebraska), 7-2
5th – 8. Will Lewan (Michigan) dec. 3. Jacori Teemer (Arizona State), 4-2 sv
7th – 17. Hunter Willits (Oregon St.) won by forfeit over 11. Austin O’Connor (UNC)
|2||Jacori Teemer||Arizona State||Jr.||6th|
|4||Austin O’Connor||North Carolina||Gr.||8th|
|5||Bryan Andonian||Virginia Tech||Sr.||3rd/149|
|7||Brock Mauler||Missouri||Jr.||RS/AA in 2021/149|
|9||Ed Scott||NC State||So.||R12|
|10||Jared Franek||North Dakota State||Sr.||R12|
|12||Wyatt Sheets||Oklahoma State||Gr.||R24|
|17||Johnny Lovett||Central Michigan||Jr.||R16|
|19||Chase Saldate||Michigan State||Jr.||R32|
|20||Derek Holschlag||Northern Iowa||Sr.||R32|
WIN will preview additional weights between now and Oct. 21