Semi-Final Preview Show

By | March 13, 2023

Don’t be surprised, for those of you who traditionally attend the NCAA’s Semi-Final Preview Show, when you notice a change.

Gone is the individual whose vision it was to have the show; and sold the idea to the NCAA, along with the rest of the panel.

I was told by someone who purported herself to be speaking for the NCAA that, “We’ve decided to go a different direction.” Now, I’m not sure I believe that, given how popular the show was and how comprehensive the panels evaluations were.

And if it did come from on high, one must assume it’s paybacks for trying as hard as I can to make the sport relevant to the 20 million fans we don’t have. As all of us know, leadership in any industry, doesn’t look kindly on disrupters, even ones in this case, who believe the sport is so much more than what all the networks and Fortune 500 companies are telling us buy their absence.

Or, could it be, that the decision came from Colorado Springs given who is now scheduled to be on stage? Of course, this is a topic for another day, and a much larger article, but the collegiate community had better take a closer look at what’s happening from within, given USAW’s designs on power.

The appearance of RTC’s on college campuses isn’t good for our folkstyle programming, especially when all the money that’s needed to run those programs doesn’t come from USAW, but directly, and indirectly from the collegiate community. Then there’s Colorado Springs who sold the NCAA that it only makes sense for the women’s collegiate programs to compete in freestyle. And this week, the WIN Show, at the NCAA Folkstyle Championships, will have several mats down for our international wrestlers to showcase their skills. These are all warning signs of seditious incursion if one cares to look.

Don’t be misled here, I don’t have an ax to grind with the Springs. I love it when they succeed, and I root very loudly for the Red, White and Blue. But I’m also are very fond of folkstyle and believe if we’re ever to become relevant to the masses as a sport, and to the media, and to the countries major sponsors; folkstyle is by far the more attractive of the two styles to America’s sports enthusiasts.

Drawing a parallel, folkstyle and freestyle is no different than Coke and Pepsi, or Chevy and Ford. They’re competing organizations that sell similar products. But for some reason, our folkstyle leadership doesn’t seem to see that underneath the freestyle cheese is a spring-loaded trap.

Enough of that; onto the Semi-Final pre-Preview Show given my absence. Here are the finalists in order of their finish.

125 . . .  Lee over Glory. Glory is very, very good and would win in any other year without Lee’s presence.

133 . . .  RBY over the winner of Arujau and Fix. That bout can only be predetermined after watching the two of them compete in the first three rounds. They split 2 bouts in freestyle, and if they wrestled 10 times collegiately, I believe they’d split 5 and 5. It’s just who gets the last takedown Friday night.

141 . . .  Woods over Mathews. I love Alirez, but I’m afraid that his lack of workout partners and schedule doesn’t bode well for him when it comes to the big dance.

149 . . .  Yianni over Sasso. I would have selected Gomez over Sasso and Yanni if he wasn’t hurt. And look for a barnburner when Iowa State’s Johnson hits Yianni in the semis.  They went into OT already this season.

157 . . .  Haines over Franek. Actually, anyone of 5 wrestlers could win this weight. And the bottom half of this bracket is the more interesting of the two. I selected Franek over O’Connor because of his wide-open style. And Haines because he’s wearing a PSU singlet which we know means success in big matches. But Robb is as tough as they come too. This is a fun weight, where pools are won or lost.

165 . . . Carr over O’Toole. David isn’t the most exciting wrestler in the tournament, but he’s as consistent as Lee Kemp was. He’s just a bitch to score on. He and Monday ought to be fun in the semis, a parental reunion of sorts. Did I mention that there are three NCAA Champions in this weight.

174 . . . Starocci over Lewis. For fun, watch the second-round match-up between Starocci and Washington, there’s no love lost between the two. Lewis is just solid and experienced but not enough to overcome the focus of Starocci. A fun fact, if Lewis is to win the weight, he’ll most likely have to go through 5 wrestlers; all of them from the Big 10.

184 . . . Brooks over Keckeisen. Hidley could challenge Brooks but being a returning champion always gives you an edge.

197 . . .  Dean over Elam. And no, I’m not picking a lot of Penn Staters because I’m from PA. They just know how to win and that’s Cael’s doing. But Dean does have his work cut out for him with Allred in the second round and Bonaccorsi in the quarters. I like Truax too, but again, his workout room isn’t what some of his competitors have.

Hwt . . . Parris over Kerkvliet. As much as I feel that Kerkvliet might win, Parris has earned the right to be selected here. He’s wrestled a very tough schedule and survived every challenge. As a Schalles Award Winner, I’m cheering for Air Force’s Hendrickson at this weight, but I’m not betting on him.

Please remember, the day after everything is over, when you re-read my predictions, don’t forget they were made without the benefit of having two of what I consider to be the most important indicators of success for winning a pool at the NCAA’s. One, being able to watch the matches leading up to the semis. That will always tell you who’s wrestling above his pay grade, who’s wrestling hurt, and who’s starting to feel the pressure? Then there’s the benefit everyone else has of knowing who the final four are in each weight class as opposed to selecting them, as I did here, from a field of 32.

P.S The last three years I was on the panel, I went 17 for 20, 20 for 20 and 18 for 20. Check that against the new guys on the block.

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