NCAA Preseason Scouting Report: 174 pounds

Updated: October 19, 2022

Photo: A difference of 15 riding-time seconds decided the 174-pound title in 2022 for Penn State’s Carter Starocci (right) over Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis.

The 174-pound weight class in the upcoming 2022-23 NCAA Division I wrestling season is another one where 2022 finalists and past champions — in Penn State’s Carter Starocci (2021 and ’22) and Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis (2019) — could meet again in the 2023 NCAAs in Tulsa.

In WIN’s on-going series of previewing each weight class, check out the top Division I contenders to at least earn All-American honors next March. WIN will update its rankings in the November issue as wrestlers finalize their weight classes for this season.

174-pound NCAA Wrestlers to Watch

• The NWCA All-Star Classic is slated to make its return after a four-year absence on Nov. 22 in Austin, Texas, and the featured bout at 174 pounds is scheduled to be between two former NCAA champions: Penn State’s Carter Starocci and Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis. 

Carter Starocci

The Nittany Lion is a two-time champ from Erie, Pa., who first beat Iowa’s Michael Kemerer in the 2021 NCAA final to avenge a Big Ten final loss to the Hawkeye; then used a 15-second riding-time advantage to beat Lewis in double overtime last March in Detroit.

Because Starocci earned another year of eligibility because of the pandemic, he still could wrestle three more seasons and if he keeps winning NCAA titles, become the sport’s first five-time champ.

Mekhi Lewis

Oddly, Lewis also made a big impact his redshirt freshman year in 2019 when the native of Somerset, N.J., ignored a No. 8 seed at 165 pounds and won a national championship with a 7-1 victory over Penn State’s former champ Vincenzo Joseph. After taking an Olympic redshirt in 2020, he returned in 2021 but faced injuries that forced him to withdraw from the NCAAs after winning his first two bouts. 

Last year, the Hokie moved up to 174 pounds and won another ACC title to earn a No. 2 seed at the NCAAs. 

Dustin Plott

• Oklahoma State’s Dustin Plott is just two years removed from winning two Oklahoma state high school championships at Tuttle, Okla. In that short time, he became an immediate starter for the Cowboys and qualified for the 2021 NCAAs; then won a Big 12 championship last March and lived up to his No. 6 seed with a sixth-place NCAA finish. A 9-7 sudden-victory win over Ohio State’s Ethan Smith in the Round of 12 earned him All-American status.

Mikey Labriola

• Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola has a chance to win four NCAA All-American honors after the native of Easton, Pa., finished sixth in 2019, third in 2021 and seventh last year. He was also a No. 10 seed in the cancelled 2020 NCAAs.

Last year, Labriola was seeded ninth in Detroit and won two bouts before losing to Starocci. Once in the wrestlebacks, he beat Wyoming’s Hayden Hastings in the Round of 12, then edged North Carolina’s Clay Lautt in the seventh-place bout.

Clay Lautt

• North Carolina’s Clay Lautt won his first ACC title at the end of his third year in Chapel Hill in 2020. After COVID cancelled his chance at the NCAAs that year, the native of Olathe, Kan., reached his goal of All-American honors 24 months later by claiming eighth place as a No. 10 seed last March.

• Utah Valley’s Demetrius Romero and Rutgers’ Jackson Turley -— both All-Americans in 2021 — are expected to return after injuries sidelined them last post-season.

It has been quite a journey for Romero, who first wrestled two seasons (2015-17) at Boise State before the school dropped wrestling. After transferring to Utah Valley, the native of Meridian, Idaho, qualified for the 2019 NCAAs after becoming his school’s first Big 12 champ. Unfortunately, injuries sidelined him for most of the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons. Between those campaigns, Romero won a second Big 12 title in 2021 and eventually claimed sixth place as a No. 2 seed. He was forced to medically forfeit his fifth-place match.

Turley, a native of Chester, Va., was also forced to medically redshirt last season after six matches. That came after the Scarlet Knight ignored a ninth-place Big Ten finish, a No. 26 seeding and first-round NCAA loss to claim eighth place in 2021. Turley went on to win four wrestlebacks, including two by pin and one by technical fall before injuries ended that national tourney.

• Ohio State’s Ethan Smith, an All-American (fifth at 165) in 2021 who didn’t place in 2022, is expected to return for the Buckeyes this season.

2022 NCAA All-American Matches (includes seed)

1st – 1. Carter Starocci (Penn State) dec. 2. Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech), 5-5 tb rt

3rd – 4. Hayden Hidlay (NC State) major dec. 5. Michael Kemerer (Iowa), 12-4

5th – 3. Logan Massa (Michigan) dec. 6. Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State), 5-1

7th – 9. Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) dec. 10. Clay Lautt (North Carolina), 3-2


Click to view WIN’s Preseason Team Tournament Power Index (TPI)

WIN’s Preseason 174-pound Individual Rankings

Wt Name School Year 2022 NCAA
1 Carter Starocci Penn State Jr. 1st
2 Mekhi Lewis Virginia Tech Sr. 2nd
3 Dustin Plott Oklahoma State Jr. 6th
4 Mickey Labriola Nebraska Sr. 7th
5 Clay Lautt North Carolina Gr. 8th
6 Demetrius Romero Utah Valley Sr. Inj/6th in 2021
7 Jackson Turley Rutgers Jr. Inj/AA in 2021
8 Michael O’Malley Drexel Sr. R12
9 Peyton Mocco Missouri Jr. R12
10 Ethan Smith Ohio State Sr. R12
11 Hayden Hastings Wyoming Gr. R12
12 Philip Conigliaro Harvard Jr. R12/165
13 Lance Runyon Northern Iowa So. R16
14 Ben Pasiuk Army Jr. R24
15 Adam Kemp Cal Poly Jr. R24
16 Chris Foca Cornell Jr. R24
17 Nick Incontrera Penn So. R24
18 Cade DeVos South Dakota State Jr. R24
19 Tyler Eischens Stanford Sr. R24
20 Joel Devine Iowa State Sr. R32

Click here to view WIN’s 125-pound Preview

Click here to view WIN’s 133-pound Preview

Click here to view WIN’s 141-pound Preview

Click here to view WIN’s 149-pound Preview

Click here to view WIN’s 157-pound Preview

Click here to view WIN’s 165-pound Preview

WIN will preview additional weights between now and Oct. 22

  • Oct. 20 – 184 pounds
  • Oct. 21 – 197 pounds
  • Oct. 22 – Heavyweight