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Grappler Gold NCAA Championship Preview

By Cullen Maksimowski, 03/14/17, 6:00PM EDT



ST. LOUIS, Mo.-- March Matness is in full-tilt with the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships slated for this weekend (March 16-18) in St. Louis.

The staff at Michigan Grappler is diving into each weight class with full analysis and predictions heading into this weekend’s action.

Here’s a look at 157:

This is another weight class with a clear title lock at the top and a battle for second place for the rest of the field.

Penn State’s Jason Nolf has obliterated his competition this season notching a fall or tech-fall in 19-of-22 matches.

Falling to I-Mar, 6-5, in the finals last years has lit a fire under the undefeated sophomore and it doesn’t look like anyone can stand in his way climbing atop the podium.

Iowa freshman #2 Michael Kemerer has been the only one to remotely hang with Nolf this year. That’s if you can call a 9-4 and an 8-2 loss, hanging?

Rounding out the top five are #3 Joey Lavallee (MIZZ), #4 Tyler Berger and #5 Joe Smith.

Aside from Nolf, Smith and #7 Dylan Palacio are the only returning All-Americans in the field.

Second Round Matchups:

#9 Josh Shields (ASU) vs B.J Clagon (Rider)

How Clagon ended up in the rat-tail match I’m still not sure. He’s no slouch though and knows what it takes to win on the national stage.

A 2015 All-American at 149, Clagon has had nice career at Rider and is looking to end it with another podium visit. I like him to win his rat-tail match over Colt Shorts (Poly), #8 Jake Short (Minn) and #9 Josh Shields (ASU).

#7 Dylan Palacio (Cornell) vs #10 Colin Heffernan (CMU)

Palacio is back and looking for his second top-five finish after battling injuries much of the season.

Heffernan isn’t your typical #10 seed. After suffering an early-season injury last season and losing his starting spot at 149 to teammate Justin Oliver, the junior has made a seamless transition to 157 and has legit All-American potential.

I think there is some rust and stamina issues for Palacio and Heffernan wins a close one to advance to the quarterfinals, 6-5.

Quarterfinal Matchups:

#5 Joe Smith (OKST) vs #4 Tyler Berger (NEB)

Again, probably a more anticipated matchup then the finals.

These two will be squaring off for the first time and wrestle a pretty similar style. Should be fun to watch.

I think Smith’s lack of mat time this season catches up with him late and Berger steals it, 9-7.

#3 Joey Lavallee (MIZZ) vs #6 Clayton Ream (NDSU)

These two wrestled way back in 2013 with Lavallee taking the 3-0 decision.

Lavallee has saved his best wrestling for his senior season and has just one loss on the books. Ream has been a steady fixture in the top 10-15 all season for the Bison.

I think this one plays out just as it did in 2013. Lavallee wins 3-0.

#2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs #10 Colin Heffernan (CMU)

Heffernan will keep this one interesting regardless but will need to put together his best match of the season to edge the freshman Hawkeye.

Ultimately, I think Kemerer simply brings to much offense to the table for Heffernan and racks up some third-period points advances to the semis with a 9-5 decision.

Semifinal Matchups:

#1 Jason Nolf (PSU) vs #4 Tyler Berger

No sense in reading into this one too much. Nolf majored Berger, 15-7, in the regular season and will most likely play out the same way the second time around. Nolf wins 13-4.

#2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs #3 Joey Lavallee

 Despite a great senior season, Lavallee’s title hopes will come to an end in this matchup.

Kemerer’s relentless offensive motor will eventually wear down Lavallee in the third and will head to the finals with an 8-4 victory.


#1 Jason Nolf (PSU) vs #2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa)

One of the few #1 vs #2 matchups of the evening will end with Nolf getting his finals redemption and earning the 157-pound NCAA Championship.

However, I think this match will be much closer than anticipated.

Kemerer knows he’s not supposed to win and you can bet he will have his foot on the gas pedal the entire match. I’ll even go out on a limb and say he grabs the first takedown.

Nolf settles down in the second and third-period and out works Kemerer for the 8-5 decision.