Five teams that finished outside the top 20 to watch out for this NCAA season

By Mike Willis, USA Wrestling | Oct. 09, 2019, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

Photo of Stanford's three-time NCAA qualifier at 125 pounds Gabriel Townsell

Every year there are programs that make big leaps in the rankings. Here are five teams that finished outside the top 20 at last year’s NCAA tournament that are poised to make some noise in the 2019-2020 season.

Wisconsin
Last year’s finish: 21

In Chris Bono’s first year as Wisconsin’s head coach, they finished one spot away from a top-20 placement. The Badgers have been red hot on the recruiting trail recently, picking up commitments from Braxton Amos and Joey Zargo, the No. 3 and No. 36 prospects in the class of 2020 (according to Flowrestling). Additionally, they’ve received commitments from ranked wrestlers in the class of 2021 including, No. 9 Hayden Copass and No. 48 Dean Hamiti. While these wrestlers won’t be on campus for the current season, the Badgers still look to be in good shape for the present as well as the future.

At 125 pounds, it’s very possible Wisconsin rolls out true freshman Eric Barnett. The Wisconsin native was the No. 36 recruit in the class of 2019.

In the offseason, 2018 NCAA champion and 2017 NCAA runner-up Seth Gross received a sixth year of eligibility after missing the entire 2018-2019 season. He transferred to Wisconsin from South Dakota State, Bono’s previous school, for his final year of eligibility. Gross will be one of the favorites to win a title at the weight class, especially with a lot of the top-tier talent eyeing Olympic redshirts.

141 pounds will most likely be redshirt junior Tristan Moran. A transfer from Oklahoma State, Moran finished in the round of 12 last season.

It looks like three-time NCAA qualifier Cole Martin will once again cover the 149 pound spot. Martin will look to become a four-time qualifier and punch through to earn his first All-American honors.

157 pounds is a weight class that might still be in contention. Zander Wick announced his retirement after having his last two seasons cut short due to injuries. When Wick went down last season, redshirt freshman Garrett Model took over and went 10-14. He did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.

165 pounds should feature two-time All-American Evan Wick. The past two seasons, Wick has finished fourth and third at the NCAA tournament.

2018 Greco-Roman Junior World Team member Tyler Dow looks to be the man to beat at 174 pounds. During his redshirt season, he went 20-4 competing at 165 and 174 pounds.

Two-time NCAA qualifier for Northwestern Johnny Sebastian is another offseason transfer to Wisconsin. He will be looking to man 184 pounds. Sebastian missed his entire redshirt freshman season and the majority of his senior season and was given an additional year of eligibility. Sebastian wrestled at 165 and 174 for the Wildcats.

197 is another weight class that looks like it will be filled by a true freshman. Peter Christensen was the No. 23 recruit in the class of 2019 and will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact.

Heavyweight Trent Hillger earned All-American honors last season as a redshirt freshman, placing eighth in a weight class traditionally dominated by upperclassmen. He will be looking to move up the podium this year.

Oklahoma
Last year’s finish: 25

This will be Lou Rosselli’s fourth season at the helm of the Sooner’s squad. Leading the team this year will be Dom Demas, a redshirt sophomore. Demas sits at No. 1 at 141 in many preseason rankings after a fourth-place All-American finish last year.

At 125 pounds, Christian Moody will hold down the spot for his final season. The redshirt senior is a three-time NCAA qualifier.

Sophomore Anthony Madrigal will most likely be the starter at 133 pounds. He started as a true freshman last season and went 16-15. He did not qualify for the NCAA tournament.

149 pounds is a weight class that seems to be up for grabs after four-time NCAA qualifier Davion Jeffries graduated last season. Zackery Zeamer went 12-14 in his redshirt season competing at both 141 and 149. The Sooners could also run with true freshman Sam Dover, who was the No. 56 recruit in the class of 2019.

Redshirt junior Justin Thomas finished in the round of 12 last year, losing a one-point match to keep him from earning All-American honors. He should be hungry to finish on the podium at 157 pounds this year.

Twin brother of Justin, Jeremy Thomas looks to be the starter once again at 165 pounds. He will be looking to qualify for his first NCAA tournament after going 10-13 last season.

Redshirt sophomore Anthony Mantanona will compete at 174 pounds. A highly touted recruit, Mantanona went 15-15 as the starter last season. He will be another wrestler looking to qualify for his first NCAA tournament.

True-freshman Darrien Roberts could be Oklahoma’s best option at 184 pounds. Roberts was ranked #70 in the class of 2019.

Jake Woodley went 1-2 at his first NCAA Championships as a redshirt freshman last season at 197 pounds. He will look to qualify for Nationals and contend for the podium this season.

After a very good redshirt season, going 13-1 at 197 pounds, Jake Boyd struggled last season after bumping up to heavyweight, going 10-21. After another offseason to get bigger and adapt to the new weight class, look for Boyd to be much improved.

Utah Valley
Last year’s finish: 29

Utah Valley will return 2018 round of 12 finisher Taylor LaMont to their lineup after he missed the 2019 season with injury. LaMont will most likely compete at 133 pounds and will certainly be a podium threat and a strong boost to the Wolverine lineup.

Due to LaMont’s absence last season, Utah Valley went with true freshman Isaiah Delgado at 133 pounds. Delgado went 7-17. This season, he might make the cut and try to take the 125 pound spot. Competing with him will be redshirt freshmen, Will Edelblute, who went 10-3 last season and Josiah Nava, who went 12-6.

141 pounds could potentially be held down by Drexel transfer and 2017 Fargo junior freestyle champion Ty Smith. While listed on the roster, Smith’s health is a question. Smith medically withdrew from Drexel and underwent several surgeries over the summer. If Smith is not good to go, Josh Tolentino went 7-7 last year as a true freshman at 141 pounds.

Redshirt Junior Matt Findlay is making the bump from 141 to 149 pounds this season. Last year, he put together a 17-4 record while dealing with several injuries. Findlay made it to the round of 12 at the NCAA tournament.

157 will feature a battle between redshirt senior Grant LaMont and incoming Wyoming transfer redshirt sophomore Jed Loveless. LaMont was 3-11 as the starter last season. Loveless went 11-12 for Wyoming competing at 149 and 157 pounds.

Redshirt senior Demetrius Romero will look to become an All-American at 165 pounds in his last season of eligibility. Romero transferred from Boise State when they dropped their program. He went 1-2 at the 2018 NCAA Tournament and finished in the round of 12 last season.

Kimball Bastian is in a similar situation to Romero at 174 pounds. The redshirt senior has qualified for the last two NCAA tournaments, finishing 1-2 in both 2018 and 2019.

Tanner Orndorff is a three-time NCAA qualifier at 197 pounds. However, the Utah Valley roster currently has him listed at 184 pounds. The redshirt senior has put together a 62-45 varsity record over the past three years. It will be interesting to see how Orndorff handles the cut to 184.

Orndorff dropping to 184 will make room at 197 for redshirt freshman Jayden Woodruff. Competing entirely in Open tournaments last season, Woodruff put together a 10-0 season.

Finishing the lineup off for the Wolverines is heavyweight Tate Orndorff. As a redshirt freshman, Orndorff qualified for the NCAA tournament and went 2-2. In the offseason, Orndorff made the U23 Greco-Roman World Team.

Stanford
Last year’s finish: 40

Stanford will be heavily bolstered by two freshmen who will be podium threats straight out of the gates. At 141 pounds, Real Woods went 22-1 during his redshirt campaign. The only match he lost was to Penn State’s two-time All-American Nick Lee, 3-1, in the Southern Scuffle finals. Shane Griffith had an equally impressive redshirt season at 165 pounds, going 24-2. His two losses came at the hands of two-time NCAA champion and one-time runner up Penn State’s Vincenzo Jospeh, 6-4, and 2019 NAIA runner-up Ryan Niven of Grand View, 3-1.

Leading off for the Cardinal’s at 125 pounds will be three-time NCAA qualifier Gabriel Townsell. In each of his NCAA tournament appearances, Townsell has gone 1-2. This offseason, Townsell made the U23 men’s freestyle World Team.

The most likely candidates for the 133 spot seem to be junior Anthony Le or redshirt sophomore Dalton Young. Competing at 133 and 141 last season, Le put together a 5-8 record. Young went 6-9 wrestling at 133 and 141. Either could be pushed for the spot by incoming freshman, four-time California state placer, Luciano Arroyo.

Redshirt junior Requir van der Merwe seems primed to take the 149 pound spot. Last season, Van der Merwe was the Pac 12 champion and went 1-2 at the NCAA Championships. Most likely redshirting this year is Jaden Abas. A highly touted recruit, Abas was ranked No. 8 in the class of 2019.

157 is another weight class with a likely lineup battle. Junior Dominick Mandarino went 21-9 last year competing at 157 and 165 pounds. Tyler Eischens went 19-6 during his redshirt season at 157 pounds. He also made the Greco-Roman Junior World team. Mandarino has a redshirt available, so it’s possible he’s not in the lineup this year.

174 will either be last year’s starter at 165 pounds redshirt junior Jared Hill or redshirt sophomore Foster Karmon. Hill went 11-10 competing at 157 and 165 pounds and finished third at the Pac 12 Championships. Karmon was 10-7 competing at 165 and 174 pounds.

Judah Duhm is the most likely starter at 184 pounds. The junior had extremely limited action last season going 5-1. However, he did finish as the runner-up at the Pac 12 Championships.

Two-time NCAA qualifier Nathan Traxler returns for his redshirt junior year at 197 pounds. Traxler made the round of 16 in 2018 and the round of 12 in 2019. If he continues his progression, he will find himself on the podium this season.

Redshirt sophomore Haydn Maley will most likely take the heavyweight spot. He was an NCAA qualifier last season with a 23-12 record and finished runner-up at the Pac 12 Championships.

Northern Colorado

Last year’s finish: 49

Head Coach Troy Nickerson just pulled off best recruiting class in Northern Colorado’s history, landing No. 3 Andrew Alirez, No. 57 Mosha Schwartz  and No. 60 Theorius Robison. While it seems likely that Schwartz and Robison redshirt this season, Alirez will probably forego a redshirt. He is a high podium threat at 149 pounds.

Redshirt freshman Jace Koelzer looks like the man at 125 pounds. He had an excellent redshirt season, going 20-2.

Redshirt senior Sean Cannon will look to make the most of his last year of elligbility. He went 4-16 last season. It is possible that Robison or Schwartz forego a redshirt and challenge Cannon for the spot.

141 pounds will be redshirt sophomore Chris Sandoval. Despite an 8-12 season, Sandoval claimed fifth at the Big 12 Championships and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament.

157 pounds will most likely feature Jimmy Fate, a redshirt junior. Fate took his redshirt last season and did not compete. In 2018 he went 17-17 at 149 pounds.

Three-time NCAA qualifier Austin Matthews transferred to Northern Colorado after being granted a 6th year of eligibility due to missing the 2018 and much of the 2016 seasons because of injuries. As a true freshman, Matthews qualified for the NCAA tournament for Clarion at 157 pounds. His redshirt sophomore and junior years, he made the round of 16 at 157 and 165 pounds for Edinboro.

There are several options for 174 pounds, but the most likely seems to be Billy Higgins. Coming off a strong redshirt at 165 pounds, where he went 21-6, Higgins is moving up to 174 to make room for Matthews.

Appalachian State transfer Alan Clothier should man the spot at 184 pounds. The redshirt junior qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2018, going 27-11. Last season he went 19-14 and did not qualify.

Redshirt senior Jacob Seely will attempt to qualify for his third-straight NCAA tournament at 197 pounds. Last year, Seely went 14-12 and finished 1-2 at the NCAA tournament.

Redshirt junior Robert Winters will look to qualify for his first NCAA tournament after starting for the bears the past two years. Last season, Winters went 10-15.