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WIN Magazine NCAA Previews • 157 pounds
157-Pound Scouting Reports
Last year, Cornell’s Kyle Dake converted his No. 1 seed into another NCAA championship. This one was at 157 pounds, where he defeated Iowa’s Derek St. John, who struggled a bit at mid-season but peaked at the end to find himself in the finals.
This year, it’s hard to see who will be a favorite considering the Hawkeye, who was ranked No. 1 most of the season, lost his only matches at the end of the season and finished third at the Big Tens.
So who could be the red-hot wrestler at this weight?
It appears that may be Jason Welch, the former Las Lomas High School star won two California state championships and was named the Junior Hodge Trophy winner his senior season. But since arriving in Evanston, Ill., in 2007, reaching such heights has been more difficult for the Northwestern All-American who has finished fourth and sixth in past Nationals. That may change after he captured his first-ever Big Ten title this year and now has the No. 1 seed.
Nebraska’s James Green, who was leading Welch in the Big Ten finals before losing, defeated St. John at the conference meet … and has a shot of becoming Nebraska’s first champion since Jordan Burroughs won the 165-pound championship in 2011.
One of the more unpredictable wrestlers heading into his second post-season is Penn State sophomore Dylan Alton, who finished third last year. The Nittany Lion appeared to be on a roll after a mid-season suspension but yet struggled at the Big Tens where he lost as many times (three) as he did in the regular season.
Looking outside the Big Ten, there are three individuals from the East Coast who have legitimate shots of making some noise in Des Moines:
• Lehigh’s junior Joey Napoli, who just won his first EIWA championship after returning from a redshirt in 2012;
• Virginia Tech’s Jesse Dong, a sixth-year senior who recently won his third ACC championship but oddly has never earned an All-American honor.
• Clarion’s James Fleming, who medically forfeited in the EWL championship in preparation for the NCAAs. The Eagle finished fifth last year and is hoping to become the Pennsylvania school’s first All-American since Chris Horning in 2005.
If there is a young wrestler who could make an immediate impact in his first national tournament, that would be Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer, who won over 30 matches in his rookie campaign and is coming off a Big 12 championship.
If there is a sentimental favorite at this weight, especially among some Iowans, it could be Boise State’s George Ivanov, who is a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa. For the first two years of his college career, he earned two NCAA Division II All-American honors for Nebraska-Omaha, just as the prominent Div. II power saw its program dropped. He was recently named OW after winning the Pac-12 championship.
The following are either unseeded or lower-seeded wrestlers who could provide some surprises and end up an All-American:
• Walter Peppelman, Harvard — it’s hard to say a returning All-American is not one of the favorites to at least repeat among the Top 8 wrestlers. But this senior from Harrisburg, Pa., has only competed in 18 matches this season after sitting out most of the first semester. The Crimson is 18-2 and did reach the EIWA championship before losing 5-0 to Lehigh’s Joey Napoli.
• Roger Pena, Oregon State — this is the junior’s third national tournament, he was within one match of All-American stature before the 2012 Pac-12 champion was pinned by Peppelman last year.
• Frank Hickman, Bloomsburg — the Husky may have benefitted from an injury to Clarion’s James Fleming to win his first EWL championship. But the senior from Castle Hayne, N.C., came extremely close to earning his first All-American honor in 2011 when he won his first two matches to reach the quarterfinals … then was within one victory of All-American status when he lost 2-1 to Peppelman.
• David Bonin, Northern Iowa — the Panther just won his first MAC championship and made a big impact last season when he pinned Peppelman in the first round.
• Josh Kreimer, Air Force — after splitting his two championship-bracket matches last March, he won two wrestlebacks, including a fall over Binghamton’s All-American Justin Lister before being eliminated in the Round of 12 by Penn State’s Dylan Alton.