Five NCAA Championships first-round matches to watch

By Mike Willis, USA Wrestling | March 20, 2019, 6:24 p.m. (ET)
Photo of Iowa star Alex Marinelli by Darren Miller, University of Iowa

Looking through the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships brackets, there will be a number of great first-round matchups right out the chute. Fans will want to pay close attention on Thursday morning to make sure to see these battles.

165 pounds
No. 1 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. Winner of No. 32 Tyler Moreland (Northwestern) vs. No. 33 Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State)

Top seeded Marinelli could face a two-time All-American at 157 pounds in Joe Smith in the opening round. Smith spent the majority of the season filling in at 174 due to injuries in the Oklahoma State lineup. His overall record is 18-6, and he is 4-2 at 165 pounds. Marinelli took sixth at the NCAA tournament as a redshirt freshman last season and is currently 23-0.

184 pounds
No. 12 Cash Wilcke (Iowa) vs. No. 21 Nick Gravina (Rutgers)

Wilcke has fallen one match short of All-American status the past two seasons up a weight class at 197 pounds. The redshirt junior is 21-6 this year. Gravina made the round of 12 two seasons ago and the round of 16 last season. Injuries have severely limited Gravina’s competition this year, and he only holds a 6-3 record entering the tournament.

133 pounds
No. 9 Chas Tucker (Cornell) vs. No. 24 DJ Fehlman (Lock Haven)

Fehlman pushed Tucker to the brink earlier this season, falling 7-5 in sudden victory. The pair also met last season with Tucker winning a 6-4 decision. Tucker did not wrestle any matches his first two seasons at Cornel but was an NCAA qualifier last season going 1-2. Fehlman, a redshirt junior, qualified for the tournament in 2017 where he went 0-2.

285 pounds
No. 9 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan) vs. No. 24 Jeramy Sweany (Cornell)

The only time these heavyweights have met was at the 2018 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational where Sweany picked up a first period fall. Stencel, a redshirt sophomore, qualified for NCAAs last season and went 0-2. This is the third NCAA tournament Sweaney has qualified for. Last year he went 2-2. Stencel is leading the NCAA in pins this year.

197 pounds
No. 10 Tom Sleigh (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 23 Kellan Stout (Pittsburgh)

The pair have yet to wrestle in college, but Sleigh bested Stout in the blood round of the 2013 PIAA Championships at 170 pounds. Sleigh went on to become a two-time PIAA third-placer. Stout ended his high school career a one-time state runner-up and one-time state champion. Sleigh was a three-time NCAA qualifier at his previous school, Bucknell. His best finish came at the 2016 NCAA tournament where he made it to the round of 16. This is the first time Stout, a redshirt junior, has qualified for the NCAA tournament. He spent his first two seasons with Penn State before transferring to Pittsburgh last season.