Ten first-round matches to watch at the NCAA tournament
by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling
Feature photo of Cameron Amine courtesy of Sam Janicki
The 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championships begins in less than two days. Hurrah! After missing out on the tournament last year, wrestlers and fans are eager to once again engage in three glorious days of non-stop action. While every match of the tournament is must-see TV, check out ten opening round bouts that could provide some intrigue.
125 – No. 12 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern) vs. No. 21 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State)
DeAugustino was a First Team NWCA All-American as a redshirt freshman last season. This year, he’ll look to claim a spot on the podium and earn NCAA All-American status. In his first match he’ll see Oklahoma State’s true freshman Trevor Mastrogiovanni. A blue chip recruit, Mastrogiovanni is 13-4 this season and placed fifth at the Big 12 Tournament. DeAugustino is a sizeable favorite in this matchup, but how many times have we seen a talented freshman come into their own at NCAAs?
133 – No. 13 Zach Redding (Iowa State) vs. No. 20 Ryan Sullivan (West Virginia)
Going into the Big 12 Tournament, Redding was seeded seventh and Sullivan was seeded second. Redding, a true freshman, put together an impressive run and took third. Sullivan, a redshirt freshman, was injured during his first match and forced to default out of the tournament. Assuming Sullivan is close to full strength, this is a tossup bout between conference rivals.
141 – No. 21 Real Woods (Stanford) vs. No. 12 Grant Willits (Oregon State)
This one is juicy. Woods had a terrific freshman campaign last season, establishing himself as one of the top 141 lbers in the country and earned First Team NWCA honors. This season, he didn’t wrestle a match until the Pac 12 Tournament, where he reached the finals before being pinned by Willits. Now, in the opening round, he’ll square off with Willits once again. Willits, who is a junior, is a three-time NCAA qualifier. Last season, Woods defeated him twice by major decision.
149 – No. 18 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State) vs. No. 15 Griffin Parriott (Purdue)
Degen is a four-time NCAA qualifier, a 2019 NCAA All-American and a 2020 NWCA First-Team All-American. After a 6-3 season, with all three losses coming to NCAA qualifiers, he finds himself slotted at No. 18. Purdue’s Parriott, a three-time NCAA qualifier in his own right, is 7-2 on the season with both of his losses coming at the Big Ten Championships to NCAA qualifiers.
157 – No. 21 Andrew Cerniglia (Navy) vs. No. 12 Brady Berge (Penn State)
Cerniglia was a big-time recruit for Navy, and so far he’s living up to the hype during his freshman season. He placed third at the EIWA Championships, but took a bizarre loss to Bucknell’s Jaden Fisher, which was Fisher’s only win of the season. However, Cerniglia still sports an 8-1 record. Penn State’s Berge is a hammer when he’s healthy. This season, he is 8-2 with both losses coming at the Big Ten Championships. However, he did not compete in the fifth-place match. Hopefully, it was just a cautionary measure, and he’s 100% on Thursday morning.
165 – No. 11 Cameron Amine (Michigan) vs. No. 22 Kennedy Monday (North Carolina)
Amine has had a fantastic freshman season so far, with his only losses coming to Iowa’s Alex Marinelli and Ohio State’s Ethan Smith. However, he faces a tough challenge in Monday a three-time NCAA qualifier. In his freshman season, Monday knocked off No. 2 seed Joey LaVallee and made it to the round of 12. He cannot be overlooked.
174 – No. 23 Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma) vs. No. 10 Peyton Mocco (Missouri)
Mantanona is a wrestler that not many people would be happy with drawing in the first round. Sporting an 8-7 record, Mantanona, a two-time NCAA qualifier, is unpredictable and likes to go big. Mocco, a 2020 NCAA qualifier as a freshman, has been nothing but solid this season. He is currently 11-1 with his only loss coming in the MAC finals to Kent State’s Andrew McNally, 8-7.
184 – No. 29 Samuel Colbray (Iowa State) vs. No. 4 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa)
Colbray is a three-time NCAA qualifier and a 2020 NWCA Honorable Mention All-American. In 2019, he made the NCAA quarterfinals and fell in the round of 12. Keckeisen has had a perfect redshirt freshman season, going 13-0 and winning a Big 12 title. Keckeisen and Colbray wrestled once this season with Keckeisen earning a 4-3 decision. Don’t let the seeds fool you, this should be a good match.
197 – No. 26 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) vs. No. 7 Rocky Elam (Missouri)
Woodley is a three-time NCAA qualifier and all seven of his losses this season came to NCAA qualifiers (including three to No. 4 seed AJ Ferrari of Oklahoma State). Elam is another exceptional freshman, coming in as the MAC champion with a perfect 11-0 record.
285 – No. 25 Nathan Traxler (Stanford) vs. No. 8 Jordan Wood (Lehigh)
This pair of wrestlers between themselves have qualified for the NCAA tournament eight times. Traxler, a 2020 NWCA Second Team All-American, made the move up from 197 lbs. to heavyweight this season where he is 6-2. Wood is a 2019 NCAA All-American and a 2020 NWCA Second-Team All-American. He is the EIWA champion, and enters the tournament with a 7-1 record.