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Five Thoughts on NCAA Wrestling Championships Brackets

On Fix’s gift, expectations and more.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Ten individual brackets, each with 33 wrestlers, is a lot to think about.

The NCAA revealed Wednesday night the brackets for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which starts next Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri. All 10 Oklahoma State wrestlers qualified for the tournament, with 133-pounder Daton Fix being the Cowboys’ only top seed. You can see the full brackets here if you haven’t yet.

Later in the week I’ll break down each bracket and every Cowboys’ path to a national title or All-American status, but first, here are five thoughts after my first glance of the brackets.

1. Daton Fix Was Gifted

No road to the NCAA finals is smooth, but Fix has a paved Oklahoma state highway to the 133-pound final in his fifth and final appearance in the tournament.

I tweeted (or X’d, I don’t know?) Wednesday night that my initial thought from the brackets was that Fix was finally gonna win a natty after coming up short in the finals three times. Immediate reactions are overreactions, but I don’t think my take is quite Stephen A.-esque.

The committee gave Fix a parting gift after seven years of bad luck. Fix got the No. 1 seed for the third time in his career after going 17-0 this season. Despite his perfect record and becoming the first five-time conference champion in Big 12 and OSU history, Fix getting the top spot here is actually a bit of a surprise. He had a slow start to the season because of an early injury. During that time, Lehigh freshman Ryan Crookham, who’s the 2 seed, exploded on to the scene. Crookham finished the season 18-0 and beat defending national champion Vito Arujau of Cornell twice, including in the EIWA final last weekend.

Arujau upset Fix in the semis last year on his way to an NCAA title. With that history and Crookham’s emergence, it’s been those three at the top of rankings almost all season. Crookham has been No. 1 since he beat Arujau the first time and Fix was injured. Arujau and Fix have been interchangeable at No. 2 and 3 in different rankings.

With all that, I expected Crookham to be No. 1 here, with Fix edging out Arujau after his second loss. However, that conference finals loss dropped the defending champ to the 6 seed — on the opposite side of the bracket as Fix. And despite being behind him nearly all season, Fix jumped Crookham to be No. 1. It seems the committee made RPI hefty with this year’s seeding, hence Fix’s leap and Big Ten wrestlers getting higher seeds throughout.

There are still other challengers scattered throughout the 133-pound bracket, but the gift of the top seed put Fix’s biggest obstacles on the opposite side, meaning one will take out the other, most likely, before Fix would have to beat either for a title.

2. Jordan Williams Is Better than Where He’ll Likely Finish

Jordan Williams was already unpredictable heading into the Big 12 Wrestling Championships last weekend, but that uncertainty reaches another tier ahead of Kansas City.

Williams, a redshirt freshman, made a run to the 149-pound final at the Big 12 tournament, but an injury in his semifinal bout ultimately led to him not being able to finish the finals match and losing by injury default. After how Williams performed in Tulsa, I’d be confident in him making some noise at nationals, but that injury derailed Williams from getting back on track. OSU coach John Smith said Sunday that Williams will likely miss 10-12 days with the shoulder injury. The NCAA tournament starts 11 days from when he said that.

The committee also didn’t do a gimpy Williams any favors with the 20 seed, apparently putting more stock into Williams’ inconsistent 14-7 season than his recent success. That tough draw gives Williams 13 seed Caleb Rathjen of Iowa in the first round. Williams wrestled Rathjen’s backup, Victor Voinovich III, when the Hawkeyes visited Stillwater. Williams won the matchup, 7-3. Rathjen beat Voinovich 6-3 when the two met at a tournament this season.

If Williams were to pull off the upset, he’d then get 4 seed Caleb Henson of Virginia Tech. Henson was an All-American last year after finishing fifth as a freshman.

The injury timetable and bracket will be against Williams. He would have to be a Cinderella already missing a glass slipper to reach All-American status. He will likely lose more than he wins in his first NCAA appearance, but with the card he was dealt, Williams is a better wrestler right now than what his tournament outing will likely show.

3. Don’t Rule Out Dustin Plott

Don’t gauge expectations for Dustin Plott based on the last time we saw him — a 14-5 major-decision loss to No. 1 Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa in the Big 12 184-pound final.

Keckeisen is on a different tier, and Plott has to share a conference with him. Keckeisen handed Plott two of his three losses this season. If Plott was competing in any other conference, he’s probably coming off winning a championship and losing at least one less match, if not a one-loss or undefeated wrestler.

Plott is 27-3 this season as the 3 seed at 184. Big Ten champion Isaiah Salazar of Minnesota got the 2 seed at 21-1. Oregon State’s Trey Munoz, who Plott beat 4-2, is the 4 seed at 19-3. Plott is the only one of that trio without a conference title this season. But he’s not only in the same tier — proven by the fact he’s beaten Munoz — he might be the best wrestler of the bunch. Salazar and Munoz just didn’t share a conference bracket with Keckeisen to knock them down a peg.

Don’t expect drastic ground to be made up between Plott and Keckeisen in only two weeks, but Plott should still have finals expectations at 184 pounds.

4. Freshman Most Likely to All-American

The Cowboys will have four freshmen making their NCAA Wrestling Championships debut in Kansas City. All have started at least most of the season, and there’s been anticipation all along on what kind of noise the young talent could make by nationals.

I’ve already written about Jordan Williams above. Other redshirt freshmen include Troy Spratley, the 6 seed at 125, and Tagen Jamison, the 10 seed at 141. Brayden Thompson, the 25 seed at 174, is the only true freshman of the bunch.

Williams is battling an injury and has a tough road ahead, so he probably has the least likely chances to upset his way to the podium. Thompson would also need to pull off some major upsets to catapult into the top eight. Thompson was impressive during a third-place finish at the Big 12 tournament and has the talent to upset 8 seed Adam Kemp of Cal Poly in the first round, but even after that, Thompson would get three-time NCAA champion Carter Starocci of Penn State next. That’s a long, tough road in your first NCAA experience.

Then there’s Spratley. Based on seeding, Spratley is the easy answer for which freshman will finish as an All-American. But 125 is also a wide open bracket and could be the one with an underdog finishing as champion. In fact, Spratley has even beaten 2 seed Luke Stanich of Lehigh, 4-2. He lost to 3 seed Drake Ayala of Iowa in sudden victory.

As long as Spratley isn’t one of the early victims of a potentially chaotic bracket, he could finish even higher than his seed, easily securing All-American status as a freshman.

5. Realistic Expectations

The most assertive statement I’ll make during these thoughts is that no team is catching Penn State and ending the Nittany Lions’ reign.

Expectations from the fanbase for Smith’s program are national title or bust. I’m guilty of that as well, even when evaluating individuals’ success. But no matter the history Cowboy Wrestling has or what Coleman Scott has added to the program this year, an NCAA title for the Cowboys this season is just not logical barring the greatest upset in collegiate wrestling.

A second-place finish behind Iowa State in the Big 12 probably hampered those expectations, though. However, the Cyclones executed almost flawlessly last weekend. I doubt that happens again.

Realistic expectations for OSU is still finishing above ISU, even two weeks after losing a Big 12 title to the Cyclones. Best ISU, and the Cowboys could very well be the highest-ranked team outside of the Big Ten.

That would require Fix and Plott to secure anticipated spots in the finals. Izzak Olejnik and Troy Spratley also need to avoid upsets and reach expected All-American status. Four All-Americans would double how many OSU had its past two outings in the NCAA tournament. OSU would most likely still need at least one more Cowboy to upset his way to becoming a fifth All-American, too. Five All-Americans would be the most since OSU had six in 2021 and placed third.

So expect better than what you’ve seen from the Cowboys the last two years, but they’re still not a true contender, at least not yet with four freshmen.

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