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Photo: Max Dean (left) beat Iowa’s Jacob Warner in his first season at Penn State after also making the 2019 NCAA finals wrestling for Cornell University.
Between the impact of COVID and the NCAA’s transfer portal, several wrestlers have moved to different schools over the past few years and Penn State’s Max Dean was among the first to benefit as the former Cornell All-American claimed his first NCAA title last March and is considered the favorite at 197 pounds this winter.
But there are six other returning All-Americans, including a pair of other past finalists, that also hope to reach the top step of the podium this March in Tulsa, Okla., for the 2023 NCAAs.
In WIN’s on-going series of previewing each weight class, check out the top Division I contenders this winter. WIN will update its rankings in the November issue as wrestlers finalize their weight classes for this season.
• Penn State’s Max Dean, the defending national champ at 197 pounds, first appeared in a national tournament in 2018 when he placed eighth for Cornell University. One year later, the younger brother of Cornell’s two-time national champ Gabe Dean reached the final in 2019 and finished second to Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster.
But then COVID hit, canceling the 2020 NCAAs and also shelving Dean’s return in 2021 when the Ivy League cancelled its season. That played a part in Dean transferring to State College where he moved up to 197 pounds. The native of Lowell, Mich., excelled last year, earned a No. 1 seed in Detroit, and captured his first national championship.
• Iowa’s Jacob Warner, who finished second to Penn State’s Dean in last year’s final, is a three-time All-American for the Hawkeyes.
The native of Tolono, Ill., first earned a seventh-place finish in 2019 and two years later Warner claimed fourth place as a No. 5 seed.
Last year, Warner was seeded No. 6 in Detroit, where he upset No. 3 Eric Schultz of Nebraska in the quarters and No. 2 Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming in the semifinals.
• Growing up in Loyal, Wisc., where he won two high school state championships, Stephen Buchanan made the bold move to Laramie, Wyom., where he became an immediate starter and qualified for the cancelled 2020 NCAAs as a true freshman.
The Cowboy has continued to grow and earn All-American honors the past two seasons; claiming eighth as a No. 8 seed in 2021 and third in 2022 to become just the fourth wrestler in Wyoming history to earn at least two Top-8 placements. Earlier, he also became just the fourth all-time Wyoming wrestler to win a Big 12 championship.
• Cal Poly’s Bernie Truax first grabbed national attention in 2021 when the native of Oceanside, Calif., finished fourth nationally as a No. 12 seed at 174 pounds; scoring upsets of Michigan’s Logan Massa and Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola. Last year, the Mustang moved up a weight and earned another fourth-place finish after first reaching the national semifinals for a second straight year before losing to Michigan’s Myles Amine.
• Missouri’s Rocky Elam, a two-time Missouri state champ for Staley High School in Kansas City, spent time training full-time at the Olympic Training Center before arriving in Columbia. Since joining the Tiger program, Elam has earned a pair of fourth-place national finishes when he was seeded No. 7 in each tourney. That included last March when he beat 2021 national runner-up Nino Bonaccorsi in the Round of 12. One year earlier, he beat No. 2-seed Eric Schultz of Nebraska en route to claiming a Top-8 finish.
• Iowa State’s Yonger Bastida did not start wrestling in college folkstyle until he arrived in Ames in 2020 from Trinidad, Cuba, where he earned a Junior World silver medal and U23 World bronze medal in freestyle.
Call the Cyclone a quick study as he earned All-American honors in Detroit last March where he was seeded No. 10. After losing in the second round, Bastida came back to win five of six wrestlebacks, including a 5-4 decision over Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley in the Round of 12 and scored a fall in the fifth-place match.
• Pitt senior Nino Bonaccorsi is looking to make another trip to the NCAA finals. The native of Bethel Park, Pa., was seeded No. 6 two years ago when he lost 4-2 in the finals to Oklahoma State’s A.J. Ferrari. Unfortunately for the Panther, he came up short last March, losing in the Round of 12. He also lost in the Blood Round as redshirt freshman at 184 pounds in 2019.
1st – 1. Max Dean (Penn State) dec. 6. Jacob Warner (Iowa), 3-2
3rd – 2. Stephan Buchanan (Wyoming) dec. 7. Rocky Elam (Missouri), 1-0
5th – 10. Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) pinned 21. Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State), 2:29
7th – 3. Eric Schultz (Nebraska) dec. 14. Greg Bulsak (Rutgers), 3-2
Click here to view WIN’s Preseason Team Tournament Power Index (TPI)
|1||Max Dean||Penn State||Sr.||1st|
|4||Bernie Truax||Cal Poly||Jr.||4th/184|
|6||Yonger Bastida||Iowa State||Jr.||5th|
|7||Michael Beard||Lehigh||So.||AA (7th) in 2021 (Penn State)|
|8||Nino Bonaccorsi||Pitt||Sr.||R12/2nd in 2021|
|9||Gavin Hoffman||Ohio State||Sr.||6th|
|10||Kordell Norfleet||Arizona State||Sr.||R16|
|12||Isaac Trumble||NC State||Jr.||R24|
|13||Tanner Sloan||South Dakota State||Sr.||R24|
|15||Luke Surber||Oklahoma State||Jr.||R24/Hwt|
|16||Cameron Caffey||Michigan State||Gr.||R16|
|19||Owen Pentz||North Dakota State||Jr.||R24|
WIN will preview additional weights between now and Oct. 22