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OSU Wrestling: Breaking Down and Predicting Each Cowboys’ Bracket at NCAA Championships

What does each Cowboys’ path in Kansas City look like?



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

It all comes down to this.

Every Oklahoma State wrestler going to Kansas City for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which starts Thursday, has competed in at least 17 matches this season. And those bouts only matter to set up seeding for this week.

Before all 10 Cowboys start competing for NCAA titles and All-American status, here’s a breakdown, plus predictions for every bracket and the team race. If you haven’t yet, you can can see all the brackets here.

125: No. 6 Troy Spratley

I already predicted Spratley to reach All-American status in five thoughts last week, but I don’t believe Spratley will just barely be sneaking on the podium in blood rounds in his first NCAA tournament as a redshirt freshman.

This wide-open weight class has the potential for a Cinderella run, and Spratley has rubbed elbows with the best of them. He already has a 4-2 win over 2 seed Luke Stanich of Lehigh. And 3 seed Drake Ayala of Iowa needed sudden victory to beat Spratley when the Hawkeyes visited Stillwater. Both of those guys are on Spratley’s side of the bracket.

Spratley would meet Ayala in the quarterfinals and Stanich right after in the semis if none of them were upset. Expect this bracket to be a mess by then, though.

The top guy at 125 pounds is a freshman in Penn State’s Braeden Davis, who is riding a five-match winning streak into Kansas City after winning a Big Ten title. Davis has lost to Ayala and 15 seed Caleb Smith of Nebraska, proving there’s clearly no singular favorite here.

Prediction: Despite losing his first match at the Big Ten tournament, I think Ayala is the best wrestler at this weight. However, even his last tournament showing proves he’s vulnerable to upset with his conservative style. It’ll be a close one between Spratley and Ayala, but Spratley will still have to battle through the consolations and compete for third against the loser of Davis and 5 seed Jore Volk of Wyoming, who beat Spratley in the Big 12 final.

133: No. 1 Daton Fix

I’m just throwing darts with predictions in every other bracket, but if my prediction for Daton Fix is a dart throw, Ted Lasso is the one throwing the dart.

Fix should collect bonus points early before likely getting a Big 12 final rematch against 8 seed Evan Frost of Iowa State in the quarterfinals. That should be more bonus from Fix, as well, though.

It will probably be a Big Ten final rematch in the other quarterfinals between 4 seed Dylan Shawver of Rutgers and Dylan Ragusin from Michigan. It will be the fourth meeting this season between the Dylans, and the winner of Round 4 will get Fix.

On the other side, it will probably come down between unbeaten Lehigh freshman Ryan Crookham, who is the 2 seed, and defending national champion Vito Arujau of Rutgers, who got the 6 seed after losing twice this season to Crookham.

Prediction: Whether Crookham still has Arujau’s number or if Arujua wins when it matters most, give me Fix over either in his fourth NCAA final. Fix should cap his Cowboy career with his first national title.

141: No. 10 Tagen Jamison

Although seeded just outside of All-American status, Jamison will probably have to start getting through the trenches of wrestlebacks early. Jamison will beat 23 seed Danny Fongaro of Indiana in the first round, but after that, 7 seed Cael Happel of Northern Iowa has had Jamison’s number and will likely be waiting in the second round.

A loss to Happel would require Jamison to rattle off three straight wins in one day to reach All-American status. If Jamison does lose his third match of the season to Happel and rebounds with back-to-back wins, he’d likely have to avenge a loss against either 5 seed Anthony Echemendia of Iowa State or 4 seed Ryan Jack of NC State in the blood rounds.

Prediction: Both Echemendia and Jack have enough experience and talent to make a run to the finals, depending on who’s victorious in their quarterfinal matchup. Jamison will be oh-so-close to stepping on the podium in his first try.

149: No. 20 Jordan Williams

I wrote a lot about Jordan Williams in my five thoughts last week. The redshirt freshman lost his starting spot at one point before winning it back and eventually making a run to the Big 12 final. But a shoulder injury suffered in the Big 12 semis forced Williams to exit that finals match early and lose by injury default.

OSU coach John Smith initially said Williams would be out 10-12 days because of the injury, and that was 11 days before the NCAA tournament starts. Thursday, though, a week before the tournament, Smith said Williams was “fine” and acted as if Williams had been training.

Even without the injury Williams was dealt a challenging hand as the 20 seed. He’ll begin his first NCAA tournament with a matchup against 13 seed Caleb Rathjen of Iowa. An upset there, and Williams gets the winner of 4 seed Caleb Henson of Virginia Tech and No. 29 Alek Martin from South Dakota State, who Williams has beaten twice this season.

Williams’ side of the bracket also includes OU’s Willie McDougald, who has beaten Williams twice this season, and West Virginia’s Ty Watters, who beat Williams in the Big 12 final.

Prediction: Going into your first NCAA tournament gimpy just seems like an unfeasible task, considering it’s three days of legit competition and an early trip to wrestlebacks would require even more matches with an injured shoulder. Williams will eventually reach the podium at NCAAs, but not yet in his first appearance there.

157: No. 16 Teague Travis

Teague Travis will get challenged from the get-go as the 16 seed at his first NCAA tournament.

Travis’ tournament will start with a familiar Big 12 opponent in 17 seed Brock Mauller of Missouri. Travis beat Mauller 4-2 when they met in a dual this season, but Mauller thrives in this environment as a three-time All-American.

Getting past Mauller would most likely set Travis up with a match against 1 seed Levi Haines of Penn State, who is 18-0 this season.

Prediction: That opening matchup against Mauller is worrisome and a looming second-round bout with Haines is extra daunting. Travis will pick up some wins, especially in the consolation bracket, but ultimately fall short of All-American status after being handed a tough start.

165: No. 7 Izzak Olejnik

A third-place finish in the gauntlet that the 165-pound bracket was at Big 12s should have rewarded Olejnik a higher seed here. Nonetheless, he should still finish higher than the number currently next to his name.

Luckily for Olejnik, all those powerhouses from the Big 12 at this weight are on the other side of the bracket. Olejnik should easily get by his first-round matchup before likely getting an experienced Cameron Amine of Michigan, the 10 seed. Olejnik is experienced, too, as an All-American last year and has already beaten Amine this season, 6-4, on his way to winning the title at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

In the finals of the CKLV, Olejnik beat the 3 seed on his side of this NCAA bracket, Cornell’s Julian Ramirez, 4-2. They could meet again in the NCAA semis if Olejnik avoids an upset and possibly upsets 2 seed Mitchell Mesenbrink of Penn State in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Although Olejnik is probably the second-best wrestler on his side of the bracket, Mesenbrink is probably the best and puts up a lot of points. This weight class is loaded, with a talented Olejnik still finishing in fifth.

174: No. 25 Brayden Thompson

You know when you’re watching college football the first fall Saturday and a freshman takes a huge hit, then you instantly utter, “Welcome to college football”? This 174-pound bracket is a massive middle linebacker laying out the freshman Brayden Thompson. Welcome to NCAAs.

As the 25 seed, Thompson shares the top half of this bracket with three (!!!) former NCAA champions. If Thompson does happen to start his first national tournament with an upset over 8 seed Adam Kemp of Cal Poly, he’ll then most likely be rewarded with a bout against 9 seed Carter Starocci, who may be the best 9 seed in college wrestling history. Starocci is a three-time NCAA champion and has won 64 straight matches he’s actually competed in. He plummeted in seeding after going 0-2 at the Big Ten tournament because of injury default in the first year injury defaults actually count as official losses on records.

If Thompson happens to pull off the biggest upset in history, next he’d probably have 1 seed Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech, who is 15-0 this season and won a national title at 165 pounds in 2019. The 4 seed at 174 is Shane Griffith from Michigan. He won a title at 165 in 2021 when he was at Stanford.

Prediction: This outcome has nothing to do with Thompson’s talent. The freshman was just dropped in a land mine of championship-caliber wrestlers. I do believe Thompson has the talent, especially based on what he showed at Big 12s, to upset Kemp in his first-ever NCAA tournament match. After that, things get rough for Thompson and he won’t end his first NCAA tournament as an All-American with such a small leash after a buzz saw in the second round.

184: No. 3 Dustin Plott

The 184-pound bracket reminds me of the team race, as it seems like everyone is just competing for second place.

Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen seems unstoppable as the 1 seed at 26-0. Plott has lost thrice in his first season at 184, and two of those were to Keckeisen. The most recent was a 14-5 major decision in the Big 12 final as Keckeisen won his fourth conference title and was awarded the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.

Plott seems to be in a trio of guys in the bottom half of the bracket competing to take on Keckeisen in the final. Penn State’s Bernie Truax, the 6 seed, is the only wrestler left at 184 who has ever beaten Keckeisen (in the quarterfinals in 2022). Plott would see Truax in the quarterfinals.

Plott would also need to get through 2 seed Isaiah Salazar of Minnesota in the semis. If for not sharing a conference with Keckeisen, Plott would probably be the one in Salazar’s shoes with only one loss and the 2 seed.

Prediction: It’s a challenging road, but I believe Plott is the second-best wrestler at this weight and will get a third shot at Keckeisen. Keckeisen is just in another tier, though.

197: No. 27 Luke Surber

Luke Surber could be dangerous in this bracket, but he has also flopped more often than not this season.

A 27 seed means a tough first matchup in 6 seed Lou DePrez of Binghamton, but Surber actually has the talent to get past the first two rounds because of how this bracket fell. An upset to start things would likely give Surber 11 seed Jaxon Smith of Maryland. Surber started this season 8-0 before suffering an injury in a match against Smith and lost via medical forfeit at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas. That injury ultimately derailed Surber’s season, and he’s been unable to really get back on track since. But maybe this would be a full-circle moment.

Nonetheless, two upsets would likely set up a Big 12 bout for Surber against 3 seed Tanner Sloan of South Dakota State. The two haven’t met this season, but Surber was 0-2 against Sloan last season.

Prediction: Surber is and will perform better than his 27 seed, but he’ll still miss out on All-American status as his low seed throws a lot of obstacles at him.

285: No. 12 Konner Doucet

Konner Doucet’s tournament will start with a rematch against 21 seed Dayton Pitzer of Pittsburgh. Like everyone he wrestles, Doucet had a close battle with Pitzer this season, but ultimately won 3-0. A win there probably sets up another rematch with 5 seed Nathan Taylor of Lehigh. Taylor beat Doucet 4-3 this season.

Then, if Doucet manages to avenge the loss to Taylor, it would likely be a third straight rematch against 4 seed Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State. Schultz beat Doucet in sudden victory, 4-1.

Prediction: Doucet seems to be wrestling worse since when he narrowly beat Pitzer in January. He scored only two takedowns in the entire Big 12 tournament. Doucet will contend with everyone across from him but still not reach All-American status.

Team Race

Even Smith doesn’t believe anyone will catch Penn State this season. It will be a rat race for second place and a challenge of which non-Big Ten school can finish the highest.

My predictions would give OSU four All-Americans: Spratley, Fix, Olejnik and Plott. That would actually line up with seeding, however, I still have all of them other than Fix finishing higher than their seeding. Those few spots could be a huge difference in such a close team race after the top.

Here’s how I see the top five of the team race shaking out.

1.Penn State

2. Iowa
3. NC State
4. Oklahoma State
5. Nebraska

And, after all that work and research, here’s to being completely wrong by Thursday afternoon.

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