Which NCAA Champs Have The Best Shot At Winning Again In 2020 And Which Ones Don’t?
With summer winding down, the start of college wrestling season is right around the corner. Last year’s NCAA finals gave us some amazing wrestling matches with top seeded guys winning titles along with a couple underdogs showing up big time and surprising us all.
In the ten weight classes in college wrestling, only four of last year’s champions graduated, meaning we have the chance to see six wrestlers compete for a repeat title. Let's look at the returning champs and see which ones have the best shots at winning a repeat title and which ones don’t.
Last year’s champ at 125lbs was Spencer Lee from Iowa, and not only did he win last year in 2019, but he also won in 2018 as a true freshman. With Lee entering into his third year, a repeat title seems very likely for him. The biggest threat to Lee winning a third straight title will probably be Sebastian Rivera from Northwestern who beat Lee twice last year: once at Midlands and again in the finals of the Big Ten tournament. Rivera was beat out in the semi-finals by Jack Mueller of Virginia who Lee was able to beat pretty soundly in the NCAA finals. Lee and Rivera should have multiple matches against each other before nationals next year, it will be interesting to see if Lee can win or if Rivera has Lee figured out.
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The champion at 133lbs last year was Nick Suriano from Rutgers. This coming year at 133lbs will possibly be one of the toughest weight classes in the history of college wrestling. In addition to Suriano, there is Daton Fix from Oklahoma State who took runner-up, and just won a spot on the Men’s National Team and will compete for a world title in September. There is also Seth Gross who won 133lbs in 2018, but was out last season with an injury. Then there is Stevan Micic from Michigan who has been one of the top ranked wrestlers at 133lbs the past two years and competes at many international tournaments for Serbia.
Needless to say, 133lbs is a deep weight class this coming year. So does Suriano have a chance to repeat? He has a chance, but winning 133 will be the most difficult weight class to win next year in all of college wrestling. Don’t be surprised to see someone other than Suriano winning 133 next year.
At 141lbs, Yianni Diakomihalis from Cornell will be in the hunt for his third straight national championship as a true junior. His opponent last year in the finals was Joey McKenna from Ohio State who has since graduated. Yianni is definitely putting the work in during the summer as he just won the Yasar Dogu tournament in Turkey which included beating world team member Zain Retherford. Nothing is a sure thing, but look for Yainni to win again at 141lbs.
Mekhi Lewis took the wrestling world by surprise last year by winning the 165lb title is a very difficult weight class as a redshirt freshman. He came into the tournament as an 8th seed and beat the number one seeded wrestler, Alex Marinelli from Iowa, then beat number four seed Evan Wick from Wisconsin, and then defeated two time national champ Vincenzo Joseph from Penn State in the finals.
So will Lewis repeat this year? Well it is possible, but with Joseph entering his senior year and Marinelli back in the mix at Iowa, it is not probable. Lewis will most likely win at least one more title for Virginia Tech, but it probably won’t be in 2020.
Last year, Zahid Valencia from Arizona State beat Mark Hall from Penn State for the second year in a row. Hall and Valencia have gone back and forth their entire college careers. There is a very good chance that Hall and Valencia will wrestle each other again for a national title and the edge will be in Valencia’s favor as he has already beaten Hall twice in the NCAA finals.
Last season, Penn State’s Anthony Cassar seemed to come out of nowhere to win the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament at heavyweight. Prior to last year, Cassar had been competing at 197lbs, but obviously the move up to heavyweight was the right decision for him. It seems like we will probably see Cassar and Minnesota’s Gable Steveson battle for the number one spot at heavyweight. Watching Cassar wrestle last year, you could tell that he was small in comparison to his competition. Cassar has a very good chance of repeating this coming season as he is working hard in the off season to put on size to match his fellow heavyweights.
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