Wrestler4Life Blog: NCAA Bracket Busters, the lowest seeded wrestlers to All-American

By Michael Willis, USA Wrestling, Wrestler for Life program | April 03, 2018, 9:40 a.m. (ET)
Kyle Conel of Kent State celebrates after pinning No. 1 seed Kollin Moore of Ohio State at 197 pounds. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

Every year, wrestlers come seemingly out of nowhere to earn All-American honors at the NCAA tournament. These bracket busters enter seeded low or unseeded, and manage to punch their way through to a top eight spot on the podium.

Here is a breakdown of the lowest seeded wrestlers per weight class to finish their seasons as All-Americans.

Zeke Moisey, West Virginia University
Seed-13 Finish- 8th

Seeded Wins: #7 Taylor Lamont (UVU)

No. 13 seed Zeke Moisey’s tournament was similar to his season, up and down. He opened the tournament with a 10-7 win over Virginia Tech’s Kyle Norstrem, an at large qualifier with a 12-16 record. In his next match he was pinned by #4 seed and eventual runner-up, Nick Suriano of Rutgers. Moisey dropped into the consolation bracket where he earned a 10-4 decision over SDSU’s Connor Brown, an opponent he bested during the Big 12 dual season as well. Next, he blanked Travis Piotrowski of Illinois 5-0. In the previous round, Piotrowski had knocked off NC State’s #5 Sean Fausz. In the round of 12, Moisey squared off for the fourth time this season with Taylor LaMont of Utah Valley. LaMont held the series lead 2-1 at the time, with Moisey owning the most recent victory two weeks prior, 8-5, in the Big 12 semifinals. Winning again 8-5, Moisey evened the series and propelled himself to All-American honors. In the next round, he was pinned by Minnesota’s #8 Ethan Lizak who finished in 4th. Moisey then medical forfeited to #9 Ronnie Bresser in the 7th place match. While Moisey didn’t match his memorable run to the finals of the 2015 tournament, he still earned All-American status for the second time in his career with one year of eligibility left to wrestle.

Tariq Wilson, North Carolina State
Seed-Unseeded Finish- 3rd

Seeded Wins: #5 John Erneste (Missouri) #4 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State), #3 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)

NC State’s Tariq Wilson had a very solid but unremarkable redshirt freshman regular season. Nothing that occurred during the season or his 4th place performance at the ACC Championships indicated that he would run through the 133-pound bracket at NCAAs. He opened his tournament with a big upset over Missouri’s #5 John Erneste, 8-3. He followed that up with a 10-5 decision over Northern Colorado’s Rico Montoya, who upset American’s #12 Josh Terao in the first round. The quarterfinals were where Wilson really started dropping jaws, as he majored Oklahoma State’s #4 Kaid Brock, 13-5. Brock had defeated Wilson by technical fall earlier this season. In the semifinals, he gave SDSU’s #1 Seth Gross his toughest match of the tournament before falling just short in overtime. At this point Wilson had already earned All-American honors. However, he did not let that slow down his relentless pace, as he majored Scott Delvecchio of Rutgers in the consi-semis. He followed it up with a 17-8 major over Ohio State’s #3 Luke Pletcher in the consi-finals. Those bonus points were huge for NC State, as they tied Michigan for 4th place, their highest finish ever, and brought home a team trophy. Wilson still has three more years to make his mark on college wrestling.

Scott Delvecchio, Rutgers
Seed- Unseeded Finish- 6th

Seeded Wins: #13 Bryan Lantry (Buffalo) #7 Austin DeSanto (Drexel), #6 Scott Parker (Lehigh)

A redshirt senior, Scott Delvecchio of Rutgers also reached the podium from an unseeded position at 133. After dropping his first match to Edinboro’s #14 Korbin Myers, the Scarlet Knight rattled off five straight wins on the backside, knocking off Stanford’s Mason Pengilly, Buffalo’s #13 Bryan Lantry by fall, Northern Colorado’s Rico Montoya by fall, Drexel’s #7 Austin DeSanto in overtime to earn All-American honors, and finally Lehigh’s #6 Scott Parker. Delvecchio fell to 6th after taking a loss to Tariq Wilson, and then another to Kaid Brock in the 5th place match.

Chad Red, Nebraska
Seed- Unseeded Finish- 7th

Seeded Wins: #6 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State)

Nebraska’s Chad Red had what most would deem a successful redshirt freshman regular season, but perhaps not quite what was expected for the blue chip recruit. However, he redeemed himself by ending his season with All-American honors. After dropping his first match to Clarion’s #7 Brock Zacherl, Red began his long journey through the consolation bracket starting with an 8-3 decision over Minnesota’s returning All-American, Tommy Thorn. Next he beat UMD’s Ryan Diehl by another 8-3 decision before getting revenge on Iowa’s Vince Turk 3-2, a wrestler he lost to at the Big 10 Tournament. In the round of 12 Red was a heavy underdog to Oklahoma State’s #6 Dean Heil, a two-time National Champion. That did not phase Red as he shocked the arena with a first period pin off a cement mixer. Red lost a tight overtime bout to NC State’s #5 Kevin Jack, before finishing off his tournament with a fall over Sa’Derian Perry in the 7th place match. Every year there are freshman who seem to turn the corner at the NCAA tournament. Look for Red to build off this performance going into next season.

Sa’Derian Perry, Eastern Michigan
Seed- Unseeded Finish- 8th

Seeded Wins: #11 Mike Carr (Illinois), #9 Josh Alber (UNI)

Eastern Michigan’s Sa’Derian Perry was one of the biggest stories from Cleveland. He entered the tournament with a losing record, 15-16, and left the tournament with a losing one, 18-19. His record obviously doesn’t tell the whole story, as he earned an 8th place All-American finish. He started his tournament with an 11-5 upset over UNI’s #9 Josh Alber, and then defeated UMD’s Ryan Diehl 12-6. Diehl had pinned #8 PSU’s Nick Lee in the first round. Perry then fell to top seeded Bryce Meredith of Wyoming in the quarterfinals, which dropped him down to the round of 12. There he defeated #11 Mike Carr of Illinois 8-6 to reach All-American status. He was majored by #8 Nick Lee in his next match, and pinned by Nebraska’s Chad Red in the 7th place match. Perry became the first All-American for Eastern Michigan since 1999, making EMU’s decision to drop wrestling shortly after the NCAA tournament all the more disheartening.

Ronnie Perry, Lock Haven
Seed- 15 Finish- 2nd

Seeded Wins: #11 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton), #10 Jason Tsirtsis (Arizona State), #2 Brandon Sorenson (Iowa)

Ronnie Perry’s best finish in high school was 7th place at the AAA Pennsylvania State tournament. His claim to fame in college was knocking off Edinboro’s AJ Schopp at the 2015 EWL tournament at 133 pounds. Three years and two weight classes higher, Perry came into the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the #15 seed at 149 pounds. He started his tournament with an 11-3 major decision over Lehigh’s Cortlandt Schuyler. In his next match he knocked off Iowa’s #2 Brandon Sorenson, who went on to earn his 4th All-American honors taking 5th place. He followed that up by taking out former NCAA Champion, #10 Jason Tsirtsis 7-4, who also battled back for earn All-American status taking seventh place. In the semi-finals he beat Princeton’s #11 Matt Kolodzik, who had taken out CMU’s #6 Justin Oliver, and Missouri’s #3 Grant Leeth to make the semifinals. Kolodzik finished in third. In the finals, Perry had the tall task of wrestling Penn State’s #1 Zain Retherford. Despite a valiant effort, Retherford claimed his 95th consecutive victory in a row, 5-3, to become a three-time NCAA Champion.

Luke Zilverberg, South Dakota State
Seed- 13 Finish- 8th

Seeded Wins: #4 Josh Shields (Arizona State)

After spending the past two seasons at 165, SDSU’s Luke Zilverberg made the cut to 157 for his redshirt senior season. Coming in as the #13 seed, Zilverberg won his opening bout against Brown’s Justin Staudenmayer 6-1. He then took out ASU’s #4 Josh Shields. Shields had held Zilverberg scoreless in the two bouts they wrestled earlier this season, each resulting in a 4-0 Shields victory. This time Zilverberg was able to open up his offense and won by a 9-6 decision. In the quarterfinals, he lost to UM’s #5 Alec Pantaleo 8-5. Pantaleo went on to wrestle to seed and took 5th. In the round of 12, Zilverberg earned a tight 6-5 victory over UNC’s Kennedy Monday, who had taken out #2 Joey Lavallee of Missouri in the opening round. Zilverberg then dropped a 6-0 decision to Nebraska’s #8 Tyler Berger, who went on to finish third. In the match for seventh place, Zilverberg once again squared off with #4 Josh Shields, but came out on the wrong side of an 11-5 decision. With his 8th place finish, Zilverberg was one of three SDSU wrestlers to become All-Americans this season.

Jon Jay Chavez, Cornell
Seed- 16 Finish- 7th

Seeded Wins: #11 Isaiah White (Nebraska), #8 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State)

After focusing more on Greco-Roman for his first two seasons at Cornell, Jon Jay Chavez made the most out of his opportunity to start. Coming in as the #16 seed, Chavez opened his tournament with a 14-3 major decision over UVA’s Andrew Atkinson. He dropped his following match to eventual 2018 runner up, four-time finalist, and two-time NCAA Champion, the #1 seed Isaiah Martinez of Illinois, 10-5. Chavez dropped to the consolation bracket where he earned decisions over NDSU’s Andrew Fogarty, 6-1, and Navy’s Drew Daniels 4-0. In the round of 12, he was faced with a tough matchup in Nebraska’s #11 Isaiah White. White had knocked off #6 Richie Lewis of Rutgers, and pushed PSU’s #3 Vincenzo Joseph, the eventual champion, into overtime in the quarterfinals. Chavez gutted out a 2-1 decision in sudden victory to claim All-American status. He fell in his next match to Wisconsin’s Evan Wick, 9-2. Wick would go on to take third. Chavez would end his tournament on a high note, with a 10-5 victory over Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers to take 7th. Chavez was one of all four All-Americans for Cornell, all of whom were competing in their first NCAA Tournament.

Jacobe Smith, Oklahoma State
Seed- 13 Finish- 8th

Seeded Wins: #12 Forrest Przybysz (Appalachian State), #7 Taylor Lujan (UNI)
Jacobe Smith was a bright spot in a relatively bleak tournament for Oklahoma State, who finished tied for 13th place. Smith came in as the #13 seed and opened his tournament with a 13-2 major decision over Iowa’s Joey Gunther. He dropped a tight 4-2 bout to Lehigh’s #4 seed Jordan Kutler in the second round. Kutler would go on to finish 6th. Smith had a scare in his first consolation match but was able to pull out a 6-4 decision in sudden victory over NC State’s Daniel Bullard. He rolled to an 11-3 major decision over App State’s #12 Forrest Przybysz in his next match which pushed him into the round of 12 where he faced off against UNI’s #7 Taylor Lujan. Smith bested Lujan 10-8 to secure himself a spot on the podium. Smith lost his next match to #6 Bo Jordan of Ohio State 16-2. He then fell 7-2 in the 7th place match against SDSU’s David Kocer. Smith, a two-time NJCAA champion, will have one remaining year of eligibility.

Chip Ness, University of North Carolina
Seed- Unseeded Finish-7th

Seeded Wins: #10 Emery Parker (Illinos), #9 Max Dean (Cornell), #7 Taylor Venz (Nebraska)

UNC’s Chip Ness came into the NCAA Tournament unseeded despite wrestling close matches with ranked wrestlers during the regular season. He opened the tournament with a with a 4-3 win over #10 Emery Parker of Illinois. He kept the momentum rolling with a big 11-6 victory over Nebraska’s #7 Taylor Venz, avenging a 13-11 sudden victory loss he took in a January dual meet. Venz would battle back to take 4th. Ness would fall in the quarterfinals to Ohio State’s eventual runner up and former NCAA Champion, #2 Myles Martin, 10-6. In the round of 12, he defeated Navy’s Michael Coleman earn All-American status. In a rematch from the first round, Ness dropped his next match 7-5 to Emery Parker, who went on to take third. Ness ended his tournament on a high note defeating Cornell’s #9 Max Dean 6-3 to earn seventh place.

Kyle Conel, Kent State
Seed-Unseeded Finish- 3rd

Seeded Wins: #9 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State), #8 Nate Rotert (SD State) #1 Kollin Moore 2x (Ohio State)

Kent State’s Kyle Conel is another one of the absolute shockers of this tournament. Last year, he took a season off from wrestling and didn’t rejoin Kent State’s team until August. At the MAC tournament, he took third, losing to true freshman Aaron Naples of Ohio who finished the season with an 11-16 record. Predicting him to pull off the tournament he did would have been ludicrous. In his first match, he defeated Oklahoma State’s #9 Preston Weigel 5-0. He followed it up with another upset over SDSU’s #8 Nate Rotert, 8-2. In the quarterfinals, he pulled arguably the biggest upset of the entire tournament pinning Ohio State’s #1 Kollin Moore. He took his only tournament loss in the semifinals to eventual NCAA Champion, #4 Michael Macchiavello of NC State by pin. However, he bounced back in the consi-semis with a pin of his own over UNI’s Jacob Holschlag. In the consolation finals, he proved his victory over Kollin Moore wasn’t a fluke and beat him again. This time it was a 5-3 decision for third place. Conel has one year of eligibility left and will be one of the most closely followed wrestlers in the NCAA next year.

Jacob Holschlag, Northern Iowa
Seed-Unseeded Finish 5th

Seeded Wins #6 Willie Miklus (Missouri), #2 Ben Darmstadt (Cornell)

UNI’s Jacob Holschlag entered the tournament unseeded and dropped his first match to Missouri’s #6 Willie Miklus. In his first consolation match Holschlag earned a 16-0 technical fall over App State’s Randall Diabe. He next defeated UNC’s Danny Chaid 10-5 followed by a 3-2 decision over Nebraska’s Eric Schultz. In the round of 12 he defeated Lehigh’s Chris Weiler, 3-2. Due to how the brackets turned out, Holschlag managed to earn All-American status without beating a single seeded wrestler. However, in his very next match, he defeated first round opponent #6 Willie Miklus 9-5. He was pinned by Kent State’s Kyle Conel in the consi-semi finals which dropped him into the 5th place match. To finish his tournament, he pinned Cornell’s #2 Ben Darmstadt, and earned 5th place.

Youssif Hemida, University of Maryland
Seed- 12th Finish- 8th

Seeded Wins: #10 Jordan Wood (Lehigh) by injury, #5 Sam Stoll (Iowa)

Youssif Hemida was Maryland’s sole All-American this season. Coming in as the #12 seed, Hemida earned a major decision over UVA’s Tyler Love 9-1 in the opening round. In the second round, he defeated Iowa’s #5 Sam Stoll 7-2, avenging an 8-1 loss he took at the Big 10 Tournament. He dropped his next match to Duke’s #4 Jacob Kasper. Kasper would wrestle to seed and place 4th. In the round of 12 Hemida won when #10 Jordan Wood of Lehigh injury defaulted out of the match at the 1:46 mark. He lost his next match to Hofstra’s #11 Mike Hughes 8-0, and lost in the 7th place match to PSU’s #3 Nick Nevills 7-5. Hemida still has his senior season to improve upon his 2018 finish.

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