• Steve Fittery

2018 All-Americans Returning From An Injury Red-Shirt

Hey Fits Wrestling Faithful! We are two weeks in to the college wrestling season, and as usual, we are all looking forward to some great action on the mats. One group of guys that will be interesting to watch are four 2018 All-Americans who took last year off due to injuries. Here’s an outline of what we know, what we think we know and what will be interesting to watch, and then my prediction for each wrestler’s season.

Wisconsin’s 133lber- Seth Gross


What we know:

· 2018 national champ

· Transferred from South Dakota State to Wisconsin to be with former head coach Chris Bono and Assistant Coach Jon Reader.


What we think we know:

· Great shot finishes, tough defense, and one of the best top turners (cradles & tilts) in the country means Seth Gross should be one of the top contenders for the Hodge Trophy; awarded annually to the NCAA’s top collegiate wrestlers


What makes this season interesting for Seth Gross:

· Gross is wrestling the Freestyle circuit at 57kg; for all us Americans, that’s approximately 125.5lbs. That’s a whole weight class below his college weight! Why cut all that extra weight Seth? Simple, the man wants to win the Olympics this year and his only options are 57KG (125.5lbs) or 65KG (143lbs). Seth thinks he can win an Olympic Gold Medal at 57KG, and that’s more important to him than his second National Title.

· The other big names at 133lbs have already declared Olympic Redshirts; Daton Fix (2019 World Team Rep), Nick Suriano (National Champion), and Stevan Micic (Michigan’s superstar who already qualified Serbia for the Olympic Games). With these three world-class (yes, I said it) guys out, Seth is the heavy favorite to repeat as national champion.


My predictions:

· Seth Gross is your 133lb National Champion.

· Doesn’t win the Hodge Trophy due to killing his body/mind to stay close to 57KG. Seth will not have enough energy this season to pile on the points like he did two years ago.

· Qualifies for the Olympic Team Trials (at Penn State April 4-5), which makes him have to stay small at 133lbs.

· Has a rough time in Happy Valley in April, and doesn’t make the Olympic National Team because he’s pulling too much weight.

Iowa’s 174lber- Michael Kemmerer


What we know:

· 2x All-American at 157lbs; 3rd & 4th.

· Coming off an injury last year.

· PA boy from Franklin Regional. As a PA resident, I take a special interest in our state’s top guys.


What we think we know:

· Kemmerer moved up two weight classes to 174 this year. Based on my personal experience of moving up a two weight classes at the D1 level, I predict it will be a good move for Mikey. I think he will be quicker and have more energy than the competition.


What makes this season interesting for Kemmerer:

· Hasn’t wrestled since March of 2018 - that’s a long time off the mats.

· A brand new weight class could present challenges. Although he may be quick on his feet compared to others at that weight, his opponents may use their strength to slow him down - 174lbers wrestle different than 157lbers.

· To have a shot at the team title, the Hawkeyes need this move to pay off! They are counting on their leader to be right there as a national finalist contender when March rolls around.


My predictions:

· The weight benefits Mikey. I think his pace and skill will be too much for most guys at 174lbs. Mikey will win most of matches in the neutral position with his superior leg attacks.

· I think Kemmerer was the best wrestler at NCAA’s each year not named Jason Nolf. I see the Penn State curse (which I know all too well, sigh) continuing, and Kemmerer finishes 2nd to Mark Hall.

· The Hawkeyes finish 2nd to Penn State

Cornell’s 184lber- Ben Darmstadt


What we know:

· 197lb All-American in 2018.

· Moving down to 184lbs this year due to teammate and returning national finalist, Max Dean, taking an Olympic redshirt


What we think we know:

· Hammer on top; tall, lanky, leg rider with lots of cradles. He’s a pinner! There’s not one guy in the country who wants to be on bottom against Ben Darmstadt.


What makes this season interesting:

· Darmstadt has already suffered an early season loss to Binghamton’s Lou Deprez. Ben may still be adjusting to the weight, but I think he figures it out when it counts.

· Totally new opponents! We’ve never seen Darmstadt at this weight. Do faster 184lbers give him more trouble than slower/stronger 197lbers?

· Cornell is redshirting their superstars this year. Does that add more pressure to Darmstadt since more people are depending on him to carry the Big Red? Does Ben lose some of his enthusiasm to do well since his superstar teammates are not out on the mat with him? If you think teammate momentum doesn’t matter, you’ve never wrestled on a good team. It is real, and if Cornell guys have a bad NCAA tournament, Darmstadt could too.

§ My Predictions:

· Darmstadt makes the national finals and finishes 2nd to Zahid Valencia.

Penn State’s 197lber- Kyle Conel


What we know:

· Surprise 2018 All-American – this is the guy who beat Ohio State’s (currently #1) Kollin Moore twice in Cleveland. Moore is the hands-down favorite to win 197 this year, but maybe he shouldn’t be?


What we think we know:

· Conel surprised the country with his impressive upper body technique. I hear the man is as strong as a bear.


What makes this season exciting:

· I don’t know Conel’s exact career record, but I’m guessing he hasn’t won more than 60% of his matches. Not exactly old faithful… With Penn State expecting to win their 8th national title in 9 years, they need Conel to do big things.

· I’m excited to see whether being in the Penn State room has helped Conel with his consistency. He’s been known to lose some headscratchers.

· Conel only won by one point (4-3) in his first match this year against a relatively unknown opponent from Navy. If Conel doesn’t perform well at Nationals for the Nittany Lions, does Iowa have a shot at the team title?


My predictions

· The Penn State room works wonders on most, but how much magic can Cael possibly have up his sleeve? At some point, there has to be a disappointment. I think getting beat up on by guys like Bo Nickal, Kyle Snyder, and Anthony Cassar, leaves Conel feeling a little discouraged. Getting destroyed in a practice room every day can’t be good for one’s psyche! With that in mind, and now on a big ten schedule with tougher opponents, I think Conel wins 75% of his matches and finishes the national tournament with a 2-2 record.

· Yes, that may be an unpopular prediction, since most polls have him ranked 3rd in the country right now. “I thought you said team momentum is a big thing?” I did, and it is, and Penn state will have plenty of it in Minneapolis, but I’m a numbers guy. So far in his career, Conel is 76-25 and has never been seeded at the National Tournament. The stats tell me Conel isn’t as special as the 2018 NCAA’s (which he got a wild card to go to by the way) might suggest. Besides one weekend in Cleveland, where’s the evidence that Conel is going to be a home run for the Nittany Lions? Here’s to proving me wrong!

Adversity has hit each of these guys hard in the last year – I’m hoping they will each be back on the All - American track this season. Being forced to take a year off can really hone your focus if you love the sport. I’m willing to bet these guys are hungry to get back on the mat and podium. Either way, it will be fun for us fans to see how the season shakes out. Let me know what your predictions are in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

47 views