2022-23 NCAA 197-pound preseason preview: Max Dean leads the crowded field

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This weight is similar to last season where the field is deep and at least 20 different wrestlers have a legitimate chance to fight their way to the podium. Returning champion Max Dean of Penn State is the favorite after a 23-1 season.

Top national spot winners of 2022 return this season including Iowa’s Jacob Warner (2nd), Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan (3rd), Missouri’s Rocky Elam (4th), Iowa State’s Yonger Bastida (5th) and Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State (6th). Pittsburgh’s Nino Bonaccorsi reached the final in 2021 while Binghamton’s Lou DePrez finished eighth that year. Michael Beard ranked seventh in 2021 for Penn State, but was Dean’s backup last season and has since moved to Lehigh.

Bonaccorsi’s last four seasons offer clues to the unpredictability of that weight. He reached the round of 16 as a rookie in 2019, did not compete in 2020 due to COVID, placed second in 2021 and reached the round of 16 in 2022 after losing his second match of the tournament .

Last year’s rankings will have no bearing on what happens in 2023. Expect this to be the most unpredictable of the 10, and don’t be surprised if several 2022 All-Americans don’t repeat .

Pre-season previews:125 | 133 | 141 | 149 | 157 | 165 | 174 | 184 | 197 | 285

Deceased

Eric Schultz, Nebraska

Greg Bulsak, Rutgers

Pat Brucki, Mich.

Alan Clothier, Northern Colorado

Jack Brown, army

Tristen Guaman, Northern Illinois

Kayne Hutchinson, Air Force

Chris Kober, Campbell

Arick Lopez, Cal Baptist

Matt Correnti, runner

Cade Wilson, brown

Nonzio Crowley, Long Island

Jackson Moomau, West Virginia

Jake Woodley, Oklahoma

Parker McClellan, Lock Haven

Josh Loomer, State of California Bakersfield

Michael Waszen, Franklin and Marshall

Schultz placed seventh last year but had yet to reach the round of 16. Bulsak was 1-6 over three national tournaments and finally reached the podium in 2022. Michigan’s Pat Brucki finished fourth in 2019 when he was at Princeton but only reached the round of 16 last season . All three are gone, but they serve as a reminder of just how chaotic and unpredictable this weight class can be.

Back from the 2022 All-Americans

Max Dean, Penn State (1st)

Jacob Warner, Iowa (2nd)

Stephen Buchanan}, Wyoming (3rd)

Rocky Elam Missouri (4th)

Yonger Bastida, Iowa State (5th)

Gavin Hoffman, Ohio State (6th)

Last year’s top six wrestlers return with Bonaccorsi, Beard and DePrez placing in 2021. Dean has reached the NCAA Tournament Finals twice (2nd in 2019 for Cornell at 184 and 1st in 2022 at 197 for Penn State). The Nittany Lion star is a safe bet to place high.

Warner has good domestic tournaments, placing seventh in 2019, fourth in 2021 and second in 2022. Buchanan lost to Warner in the semi-finals but battled for third place, beating 2021 World Junior Champion Elam in the final of consolation.

These four seem like solid bets to reach the podium again, but there are landmines they have to deal with, including the three place backs from 2021.

Watch the highlights of Max Dean’s victory at the 2022 NCAA Tournament Finals

Jump from 184 pounds

Bernie Truax, Cal Poly

Zac Braunagel, Ill.

Two of these landmines are Truax and Braunagel. Truax started his career at 149 pounds, qualified for nationals at 165 in 2020, placed fourth at 174 in 2021 and fourth at 184 in 2022. He will try his luck at 197 this year after reaching the semi-finals last season.

Illinois coach Mike Poeta has indicated that Braunagel, a three-time national qualifier at 184, could move up a weight this season. If so, expect him to be a factor here as well.

Get off 285 pounds

Tyler Bagoly, Clarion

Bagoly spent his first two years at 184 pounds, then climbed to 285 for the next three. He moves to 197 for this season after missing the national tournament in 2022, but qualified for the COVID-cancelled 2020 NCAA Championships.

Getting out of Redshirt

Ethan Laird, Rider

Jaxon Smith, Maryland

Tate Picklo, Oklahoma

Elijah Sobas, Cal Baptiste

Andrew Wilson, Gardner Webb

As if 197 wasn’t deep enough, there are a handful of redshirts that will keep things interesting. Laird is a three-time national qualifier who reached the round of 16 in 2021 while Smith and Picklo each made an age-level world team. Smith recently finished fifth at the U20 Freestyle World Championships while Picklo was part of a Greco U17 World Team in 2019. All three will have an immediate impact on their teams this season.

Jaxon Smith wrestled at the U20 World Championships this year

Favorite

Max Dean, State of Pennsylvania

It’s hard to argue against a returning national champion who avenged their only loss of last season in the B10 Championships. Dean is 8-2-1 at the NCAA Championships and seems to be improving. He’s the choice here until someone proves otherwise.

Competitors

Jacob Warner, Iowa

Stephen Buchanan, Wyoming

Rocky Elam, Missouri

Nino Bonaccorsi, Pittsburgh

Warner and Bonaccorsi are back as finalists, so they have both proven they can have a championship run. Elam placed fifth and fourth at the NCAA championships and his U20 world title proves he can win big tournaments. Buchanan entered as seeded two, lost to Warner in the semifinals and bounced back for third place. His work shows he is a consistent performer and can make a title run in 2023.

Rocky Elam interrupted his match for the gold medal of the 2021 World Junior Championships

All-American Threats

Yonger Bastida, Iowa State

Gavin Hoffman, Ohio State

Michael Beard, Lehigh

Lou De Prez, Binghamton

Cam Caffey, State of Michigan

Tanner Sloan, State of South Dakota

Kordell Norfleet, Arizona State

Ethan Laird, Rider

Jaxon Smith, Maryland

Tate Picklo, Oklahoma

Bernie Truax, Cal Poly

Most of those who qualify for NCAA championships at this weight will be All-American threats, but the 11 above are worth mentioning. Whether it’s on the championship or consolation side, every game should have some level of intrigue. The quarter-finals and round of 16 are eight matches not to be missed.

landmines

Braxton Amos, Wis.

Zac Braunagel, Ill.

Thomas Penola, Purdue

It’s a joke, really, to only point to three landmines since that weight is a barrel of gunpowder waiting to happen. Amos is a senior level member of the Greco World team at 97 kilograms this year and a U20 world champion in 2021. It’s not his ideal weight (215 pounds would be perfect) but he has the potential to win big matches. Braunagel is probably on the rise and he’s used to beating bigger guys in freestyle, so he’s someone you should watch out for. Purdue hasn’t had an All-American since Tony Ersland took over, so Penola has added motivation to change that this season.

Braxton Amos will represent the United States at the 2022 Greco-Roman World Championships

Predictions

1. Max Dean, State of Pennsylvania

2.Stephen Buchanan, Wyoming

3. Jacob Warner, Iowa

4. Rocky Elam, Missouri

5. Michael Beard, Lehigh

6. Nino Bonaccorsi, Pittsburgh

7. Gavin Hoffman, Ohio State

8. Bernie Truax, Cal Poly


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