Top 10 125lbs NCAA Performances (#10-#6)
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Top 10 125lbs NCAA Performances (#10-#6)

2010 to Present

Top 10 125lbs NCAA Performances (#10-#6)
John Sachs -

After both the T-Row and Funky Show, hosted by 2x NCAA Champions Ben Askren and Tommy Rowlands, and the Short Time Wrestling Podcast, hosted by Jason Bryant, released multiple episodes covering their respective “top 10” Division 1 Wrestlers of All-Time, I caught the top 10 fever. By nature of my rather recent start in the sport as a fan and competitor (c. 2010), I have a rather narrow window of memory compared to a Tommy Rowlands or a Jason Bryant, men that have decades worth of memory to pour over on the topic of wrestling. In light of my youthful perspective, I’ve decided to stick to where I’m strong.

My list will include 2010-present and the NCAA Division 1 tournament only. I’ve also chosen to stay with my favorite weight-class, 125lbs, which happens to coincide with the lightest and most dynamic weight on the college-level. Finally, to avoid having to painstakingly divide ten individual wrestlers, I’ve chosen to list the best performances at 125 since the start of the decade. Oh, and bias? Yes.

With that, here’s my Top 10 Moments at NCAAs at 125lbs:

#10: 2016 NCAAs - Dylan Peters Earns 2nd All-American Honors

In 2014, Redshirt Freshman Dylan Peters of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) became the Panther’s first freshman All-American since 1996, placing 6th after finding himself in the national semi-finals in his first NCAA tournament. Thus, when Peters was eliminated from NCAAs in two-straight matches in 2015, there were big questions left for Peters to answer. The task of earning another All-American honor would get slightly harder when the then-Redshirt Junior tore his ACL in December, three months prior to the national tournament. He would forego surgery to wrestle in his third NCAAs.

With pride and willpower, Peters squeaked out a 3-1 TB-1 victory over Barlow McGhee (University of Missouri), who Peters split matches with during the season with McGhee winning in the MAC conference finals.

Losing in the quarter-finals to returning National Champion Nathan Tomasello, Peters found himself in the round of 12, with the winner earning the title of “All-American.” He rallied off two-straight falls before medically withdrawing from the tournament, 6th-place, again, this time in 2016.

#9: 2015 NCAAs - Alan Waters Earns 3rd-place as a Senior

Entering the 2014-2015 season, University of Missouri Senior Alan Waters made his anticipated-return from redshirt, vaulting right back into the top of 125lbs weight-class. A 2013 All-American (4th), Waters still felt like there were tasks left undone at the NCAA tournament. His first freshman and sophomore campaigns at the national tournament had been plagued by one Anthony Zanetta of the Univeristy of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”), who upset the 10th-seeded Waters in 2011 and the 3rd-seeded Waters in 2012. In the latter instance, Waters would fall in the round of 12, one win away from earning All-American honors as a sophomore.

As the #1-seed in 2013, Alan Waters steadily navigated his way to the semi-finals before falling to returning NCAA finalist Nico Megaludis of Penn State, 3-2 tie-breaker. Waters would settle for 4th in the tournament for his first AA honor. A redshirt year later, Waters was again the #1-seed at 125lbs, this time in 2015 as a 5th-year senior with a single-minded pursuit of national title. Again, Waters found himself in the national semi-final, against Ohio State University freshman Nathan Tomasello, who Waters had beaten 11-8 earlier in the year. Tomasello made adjustments, beating Waters 4-2. Alive in the consolation, Waters went into “for the team” mode in his final two career matches to earn the 3rd-place NCAA plaque, beating University of Michigan All-American Connor Youtsey and arch-rival Thomas Gilman of the University of Iowa.

#8: 2013 NCAA Quarterfinals - RS-Soph. Jesse Delgado vs Freshman Nathan Kraisser

Returning All-American Jesse Delgado of the University of Illinois made it known that he wanted the national title when he made 2x NCAA champion Matt McDonough of the University of Iowa his rival. Entering the national tournament in 2013, Delgado was the reigning Big 10 Champion and #2-seed. So when he ran into University of North Carolina freshman Nathan Kraisser in the quarter-finals, many thought Delgado could make it three-straight bonus point wins into the semi-finals.

Nathan Kraisser is the disciple of Cary Kolat. Back in 2013, he was a young and exciting talent, beating a freshman David Terao of American University and RS-Senior, returning All-American Steve Bonanno of Hofstra University to make it to the NCAA quarters.

Instead of a cruising victory, Delgado got a dog-fight.

Kraisser locked up a cradle that immediately changed the tempo of the match. With near-fall, Kraisser seemed in control of the score and match. Delgado would not be denied, though, and the gentlemen would scrap to a 10-7 match, Delgado continuing his road (eventually) to a national title. Kraisser was within inches of altering history, as Delgado would be the man at 125lbs in the two years after the McDonough era.

#7: 2010 NCAA Finals - RS-Freshman Matt McDonough vs RS-Freshman Andrew Long

The match that set the tone at 125lbs for the next three years was the very first NCAA final of the decade. It was only the 2nd-time in history that two freshman met in the national finals.

#5-seed Andrew Long of Iowa State University beat eventual All-Americans Ryan Mango (Stanford) and Ben Kjar (Utah Valley University), eventual national champion Anthony Robles of Arizona State, and 4x All-American, 2008 NCAA Champion, #1-seed Angel Escobedo of Indiana University to reach the national finals.

#3-seed Matt McDonough of Iowa carried three major decisions into the finals, as he was opposite Escobedo, who beat McDonough in the B1G finals. The #2-seed, 2009 NCAA Champion Troy Nickerson of Cornell University was upset 2-1 by Fred Santaite of Boston University. On McDonough’s side, he was the only seeded wrestler to make it into the quarter-finals.

You can’t ask for a better scenario for an era defining match: Iowa vs Iowa State for the National Title.

#6: 2012 NCAA Consolation-Finals - Senior Zach Sanders vs Senior Frank Perrelli

As is always the case in wrestling, someone has to lose. So when University of Minnesota Gopher Senior Zach Sanders met Cornell Senior Frank Perrelli, the two wrestlers left it all on the mat. Both Sanders and Perrelli fell to a breakout Nico Megaludis, the 10th-seeded freshman out of Penn State, in the quarter- and semi-finals, respectively. Both battled back to reach the 3rd-4th place match, and proceeded to have an overtime barn-burner. In the end, 4x All-American Sanders topped 1st-time All-American Perrelli, 6-4 OT, with a takedown on the edge.

Next week, the upper-half of my Top 10 Performances at 125lbs will be revealed! If you need something to keep you occupied until then, check out my Pac-12 Wrestling series “Coaching Conundrum”!

Coaching Conundrum: Part 1: Fresno State/Part 2: Boise State/Part 3: Cal Poly, SLO/Part 4: CSU Bakersfield/Part 5: Stanford

D1 Update: Fresno State and Boise State

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