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NMWAY Wrestling

184 lb. NCAA Championship Preview

By Brenan Lyon , 03/13/17, 8:00AM EDT


Photo: Tony Rotundo (

Brenan  Lyon

Brenan Lyon


#1 Gabe Dean (COR) – 30-0 [27 bonus wins]

  • EIWA’s  - 1st | Southern Scuffle - 1st
  • 40 match win streak
  • 2x NCAA Champ
  • Notable wins:
    • Myles Martin (OSU)
    • Nolan Boyd (OSU) – twice
    • Zach Zavatsky (VT)
    • Jordan Ellingwood (CMU)
    • Nick Gravina (RUT)

#2 Bo Nickal (PSU) – 21-2 [17 bonus wins]

  • B1G’s - 3rd
  • NCAA Runner-up
  • Loss to Myles Martin (OSU) 6-4
  • Notable wins:
    • TJ Dudley (NEB)
    • Emory Parker (ILL) – twice
    • Nolan Boyd (OSU)
    • Sammy Brooks (IOWA)
    • Myles Martin (OSU)
    • Nick Gravina (RUT)

#3 Sammy Brooks (IOWA) – 24-2 [19 bonus wins]

  • B1G’s - 1st | Midlands - 3rd
  • Losses to Nate Jackson (IU) and Bo Nickal (PSU)
  • Notable wins:
    • Myles Martin (OSU) – twice
    • Nate Jackson (IU) – twice
    • Nolan Boyd (OSU)

#4 Nolan Boyd (OSU) – 21-4 [19 bonus wins]

  • Big 12’s - 1st | Southern Scuffle - 2nd
  • Losses to Bo Nickal (PSU), Sammy Brooks (IOWA), and Gabe Dean (COR) twice.

The two time national champ Gabe Dean of Cornell leads this competitive weight class and is also one of the front-runners for the Hodge trophy.  Even though Penn State’s Bo Nickal lost to his archrival Myles Martin in the Big Ten semifinals, he gets the nod here as the #2 seed having surrendered only one loss on the season while having one of the most impressive resumes in the weight class.  Ohio State fans have to be happy about Myles Martin’s fifth seed, considering he is on the opposite side of Cornell’s Gabe Dean. 

I will say, you miss seeing Pat Downey’s name on this bracket.  The Iowa State Cyclone entered last year’s NCAA tournament with an 11-4 recorded and ended the tournament with a 5th place finish (197 lbs.).  I like Central Michigan’s Jordan Ellingwood as a 16 seed who could slide into the top eight.  He went 1-2 in last year’s NCAA tournament, with both losses being close bouts against Brooks of Iowa and Dechow of ODU.

Second round matchups:

  • #9 Nate Jackson (IN) vs. #8 Jack Dechow (ODU)
    • Nathan Jackson of Indiana sports an impressive resume, but ODU’s Dechow has been on a tear of late.  I like him to make it to another NCAA quarter finals.
  • #7 TJ Dudley (NEB) vs. #10 Michael Macchiavello (NCST)
    • These two wrestlers matched up earlier in the season during a dual, with Dudley taking it by a 4-2 score.

Quarter-final matchups:

  • #1 Gabe Dean (COR) vs. #8 Jack Dechow (ODU)
    • This was a 3-1 bout at last year’s NCAA’s; I expect to see more of the same while giving Dean the edge in this one.  Dechow is able to keep matches close, thus giving him a chance, but the Big Red senior isn’t making any mistakes in this one.
  • #5 Zach Zavatsky (VT) vs. #4 Nolan Boyd (OSU)
    • I like the rugged Boyd to take this match, thwarting ZZ’s funky style.  Plus a Dean/Boyd semifinal is very intriguing.
  • #3 Sammy Brooks (IOWA) vs. #6 Myles Martin (OSU)
    • I like Martin to show up at NCAA’s, just like he did last year and best a familiar foe who has controlled the season series.  I think Tom Ryan gets the sophomore ready specifically for this bout.  And who doesn’t want to see the Martin/Nickal rubber-match?
  • #7 Timothy Dudley (NEB) vs. #2 Bo Nickal (PSU)
    • Nickal makes it 3-for-3 against the Husker, reaching his second straight NCAA semifinal.

Semifinal matchups:

  • #1 Gabe Dean (COR) vs. #4 Nolan Boyd (OSU)
    • The loss Dean took to Boyd in their 2016 dual bout really showed Dean he is still human; well, ever since then he has seemed anything but.  Dean has been on a tear all year long and rolls through Boyd to reach another NCAA finals.
  • #6 Myles Martin (OSU) vs. #2 Bo Nickal (PSU)
    • The match we’ve all been waiting for.  If you are a Cornell fan, you have to be rooting for the Buckeye in this match, with the style of Nickal creating potential problems for Gabe Dean.  It’s hard to bet against Martin in this bout, but I have to give Nickal the nod to right the ship and take the rubber match.  Maybe it’s because I do want to see a Dean/Nickal finals match.  Oh well.  Who doesn’t?


  • #1 Gabe Dean (COR) vs. #2 Nickal (PSU)
    • One of the most anticipated matches all season long, and it’s finally here.  Gabe Dean is trying for his 3rd straight title, while Nickal’s role is reversed from last year’s final; this time, he’s the underdog.  Rob Koll has had this match in the back of his mind all year, so you know they are going to be ready for the high-flying antics of Nickal.  Dean excels at a lot of things, but his greatest area is keeping good position.  I don’t see the Michigan native getting in any positions that might be detrimental for him.  He solidifies his third straight NCAA title, while wrapping up the Hodge trophy.

Why My Kids Will Wrestle by Cael Sanderson

By OWN Staff 02/16/2016, 3:15am EST

A Stranger Kind Of Motivation

By Robbie Waller 02/24/2014, 9:30pm EST

Lingering fear over my encounter with a stranger coupled with bewilderment and an awkward sense of appreciation for this stranger’s statement carried me the rest of the way home

Seeing my breath in the bitter cold February mornings here in Pennsylvania brings back fond memories.   The roads were lined with snow, ice and salt from months of plowing and shoveling.  I grew up in a small PA town.  My high school, Mount Pleasant was not generally known for it’s athletic teams but had produced some great individual athletes.  But when I stepped into the school in 1994, Mount Pleasant had yet to have a PIAA State champion.  Not in wrestling.  Not in any sport.  Many had fallen just short and silver was the unfortunate standard.

I would continue the silver standard by losing consecutive state final matches in both my sophomore and junior seasons.  Wrestling clubs, which currently offer the opportunity for the best wrestlers in the area to congregate weekly in one mat room, did not exist in the mid-nineties.  And as many teenagers I know, my father’s advice of running 3 miles everyday to be in great shape had gone unheeded for my high school years up unto this point. 

But prior to my senior year I decided to take his advice and began the dreadful task of running the recommended daily regimen.  With practice after school and schoolwork in the evenings, the only time to really get the extra workout in was pre-dawn.  Each morning my mother would get up and drive me 3.2 miles from our home to the local Sunoco station also known as the ‘Open-Pantry’.  She would pull into the lighted parking lot and I would climb out and mumble “See you in twenty,” before shutting the door.

I breezed through the first month of the season with a perfect record winning both the Beast of the East and PowerAde tournaments without much competition.  An unfortunate car accident would sideline me in early January for the entire month. I was unable to do anything during this time, including working out of any kind.  No running, no wrestling no lifting.  I once again began to feel the fear of future failure creep in. 

Once my doctor gave me the green light, I resumed my regular workout schedule that again included my early morning running routine.  On one particular frozen February morning, my mother advised me that it was seven degrees out and implored me “not to run this morning.”  “I gotta go ma,” I responded.  We hopped in our blue Toyota Corolla and away we went.

My mom was right.  It was brutally cold out that morning.  As I stepped out of the car in the Sunoco parking lot, I could see my breath fog up the air around me like smoke from a cannon.  Not a soul was seen as I made my way up and down the countryside roads, hugging the snow-banked sides.

My lungs were burning and my stomach was cramping.  My face was frozen and the thought of stopping and walking was clearly at the forefront of my thoughts.  I had just climbed the last large hill and was in the middle of a long straight away stretch just about a mile from home when I noticed headlights coming toward me in the distance.  As the lights grew closer, I could tell it was a truck.  Closer and slower it came.  I tightly hugged the side of the road as the truck neared.  It was slowing down.  No, it was stopping.  As the truck reached me, I could see the window rolling down.  My heart was pounding and all thoughts of pain and my current suffering had subsided.  Behind the wheel was a bearded man.  We locked eyes.  “Go get it Waller!” he yelled as he hit the gas and sped off.  Stunned by this stranger’s comment, I nodded as I backpedalled and watched his taillights fade out of sight.

I turned and ran the last mile home as hard as I could.  I felt no pain and no suffering.  Lingering fear over my encounter with a stranger coupled with bewilderment and an awkward sense of appreciation for this stranger’s statement carried me the rest of the way home.

One month later I would win the PIAA State Championship and become my high school’s first-ever state champion. 

Pennsylvania roads aren’t paved with gold during the winter months (or anytime for that matter).  And along with the snow and salt, I can guarantee you there will be failure along them.  But you can also find success somewhere along the way, if you’re willing to find the daily motivation to get up and continue on that same road toward a goal that many aren’t even willing to look down.

On that freezing February morning, a stranger had taken away my pain and doubt, and filled me with a sense of motivation (not to mention fear!).  He didn’t know me, but he knew what road I was on.  One filled with potholes full of failure, disappointment, and shortcomings.  But he was kind (or crazy) enough to stop and let me know that my journey wasn’t going unnoticed and that he too wanted his town’s first state champion.  I never found out whom that bearded man was but I’m glad he was there that morning. 

Throughout my coaching career, I have been blessed to coach NCAA Champions, All-Americans, and U.S. World and Olympic Team members.  All of them pulled motivation from different areas of their lives.  Whether it was faith, family, past failures, or their community, they all found it.  They found it everyday and for every workout. 

The whereabouts of my PIAA State medals are unknown.  I lost track of them.  It doesn’t really matter.  Medals and trophies don’t define your success.  Experiences do.  Everyone takes their own individual and unique path toward their goals.  And whatever those goals are, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of motivation to get there.  Don’t be afraid to look in stranger places to add more fuel to your fire.  Because you never know where your next challenge will come from and who or what it might be.