*Images Courtesy Nolan Schmidt
NCAA SEED: 24
#13 Brit Wilson (Northern Illinois) md. Lorenzo De La Riva 15-4
#25 Hayden Hastings dec. Lorenzo De La Riva 5-4
#25 Hayden Hastings dec. Lorenzo De La Riva 7-3
Lorenzo De La Riva dec. #25 Hayden Hastings 4-3
Lorenzo De La Riva dec. #13 Kimball Bastian (UVU 10-5)
The Weight Class
174 is a weight with three contenders, followed by a laundry list of wrestlers capable of making a run at the podium. The last two NCAA champions at this weight, Penn State’s Mark Hall and Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia, are on a collision course for the finals, and only Missouri senior #2 Daniel Lewis stands in their way. Though Michigan’s Myles Amine has been within a point of Hall on multiple occasions, it’s still hard to imagine a world where Amine gets over the hump for a win. The Big 12 qualified five wrestlers at this weight, with Oklahoma State’s Jacobe Smith the high seed at seventh. Smith and Northern Iowa’s Taylor Lujan are both seeded to place.
Path to the Podium
Lorenzo De La Riva is catching his stride at the right time. The Cal State Bakersfield transfer started the season 6-7, but finished it with wins in fourteen of his last fifteen matches and a third place finish at the Big 12 tournament. His lone loss in that time came to Northern Iowa’s Taylor Lujan, who enters NCAAs seeded eighth. The most impressive win in that stretch was a 10-5 victory in the third place match at Big 12’s over #13 Kimball Bastian of Utah Valley. De La Riva won that bout with superior mat work and fantastic scrambling. In the first period, De La Riva’s ability to fend off solid leg attacks kept the score at zero. In the third he took defense a step further and scored six points by exposing Bastian off his own attack for six points. If that recipe can be replicated, there is a chance you will see some upsets from De La Riva.
De La Riva draws one of the most talked about wrestlers at the weight in Minnesota’s #9 Devin Statzka. Like De La Riva, Statzka has come on strong of late. Statskza was third at the Big Ten tournament and his NCAA seed took a boost as a result. Once you get past the hype that Statzka has deservedly built in the last three weeks, this match looks a bit closer than the seeds might dictate. A loss to Statzka would mean a first round wrestle back with Hayden Hastings of Wyoming. Hastings holds a 2-1 advantage over De La Riva this season, but De La Riva won the last match 4-3 at Big 12s. The bracket isn’t kind to De La Riva from there. A win over Hastings would mean a matchup with the loser of Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola and Okie State’s Jacobe Smith. Many prognosticators have both of those wrestlers becoming All Americans. Should De La Riva beat Statzka, his path would certainly lighten. Northern Iowa’s Lujan would await in the round of sixteen, but the backside would be more forgiving with a few winnable matches followed by a blood round bout with Virginia Tech 2X All American David McFadden. The key to De La Riva’s tournament lies in that first round bout with Statzka. Pay attention Thursday morning Bison fans.