The Al Smith Invitational always bring wrestling fans some of the best match-ups of the year prior to the state tournament series and this year is no different. There are dozens of ranked wrestlers that will do battle on Tuesday, December 29th, and Wednesday, Decembert 30th. In addition, there appears to be a nice battle shaping up for the team crown as coach David Maldonado brings his fourth ranked Pirates into the Princess city in an effort to knock off defending champion Mishawaka. Other squads looking for team hardware include state ranked Penn, Lawrence North and Bellmont. Fans unable to make the trip to Mishawaka will be able to follow the action via IndianaMat sponsored updates at Track Wrestling. Follow the link here or on the messageboard and enjoy.
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Following is a weight class by weight class breakdown of what many consider to be the state’s toughest individual tournament.
Merrillville’s second ranked and top seeded Zac Stevens is the favorite at 103 as he was runner-up last year to Lake Central’s Kyle Ayersman. Stevens is a two-time state finalist, finishing fourth last year. He should cruise into the semifinals where he may be tested by the winner between 5th seeded and 10th ranked Mikey Witous of Penn and 4th seeded Danny Hamm of Prairie Heights.
The other side of the bracket appears a little more wide open, but look for Warsaw’s third ranked and second seeded Jarred Brooks to navigate the minefield and get to the finals. To do so, Brooks will likely have to defeat South Bend Adams’ Sam Ferdig and either ninth ranked Shannon Garrettson of Peru or previously ranked senior Ivan Ruiz of Munster.
Much like the 103 class, two headliners shine at the top of this field with top ranked Paul Beck and top seeded, fourth ranked Kyle Ayersman look likely to battle for the championship. Beck and Ayersman have both won titles here and know how to wrestle through two days of heated action. Those with the best chance of knocking off the top two include Merrillville freshman Adam Garcia (#9), 12th ranked and state placer Aurelio Medina of Munster, the hot wrestling and 16th ranked Robert Boston of Lawrence North, and Jimtown’s sixth seeded Nick Crume.
Four ranked wrestlers will do battle at 119 and a host of contenders look to make their mark on the state scene in this wide open class. Brandon Nelson of Lawrence North has plenty of big match experience but appears to be on the tougher side of the bracket with state ranked Al Padilla (#10) of Merrillville, Mishawaka’s Layten Binion (#12), along with fourth seeded Jordan Legan of Center Grove. Alex Gregory of Penn is a returning state placer whose road to the finals looks a little easier. Will the south rise with third seeded Alex Griesemer of Princeton or seventh seeded Baron Rieker of Columbus East? Look for a couple of unseeded wrestlers to make their way to the podium in this weight class.
Merrillville’s Anthony Napules is the number one seed and heavy favorite to take the title at this weight class. He will be tested on his side of the bracket which includes state ranked Bryan Smith of Lake Central (#15) along with the always scrappy Taylor Wisler of Mishawaka (#8). On the other side of the bracket look for the winner between seventh ranked Zach Thornton of Chesterton and 12th ranked Travis Barroquillo of Prairie Heights to be Napules’ match-up in the finals.
This weight class appears to have many opportunities for unseeded wrestlers to make some noise. Look for top seeded and fourth ranked Nick Schrader to make his way to the finals. Along the way he is likely to be tested by unseeded Jordan East of Southport and fourth seeded Collin Crume of Jimtown. On the other side of the bracket Frankie Valdivia of Merrillville might just pull of the minor upset of second seeded Mike Clark of Calumet. Unseed Greg Bell of Lawrence North is a name to watch in this bracket.
Mishawaka’s sixth ranked but third seeded Matt Guerra appears to be the class of this field but he will have to endure an absolute meat grinder in order to reach the finals. Guerra will have to beat Penn’s tough Ben Sokol in the second round. (Guerra narrowly beat Sokol 6-5 earlier in the year), Then comes a likely match-up with 11th ranked at 140, Matt Rattay of Lawrence North. This is just on the first day. Jimtown’s Jeremy Hill always seems to wrestle well at the Al Smith and appears to have an easier road to the finals. Will Guerra be too beat up after day one to top Hill in the finals? Look for Hill in the upset!
Hobart has has quite a streak of wrestlers in the finals at the Al Smith and that string will continue as number one ranked Frankie Porras is the overwhelming favorite to win the title this year. Look for a Caveman surprise out of the lower half of the bracket.
Three top notch competitors appear to be in the running for the gold hardware in this weight class. Munster’s top seeded and third ranked Alex Surma is a monster on top and looks to have a slight edge over Lowell’s third seeded and second ranked (140) Cameryn Brady. Peru’s second seeded and fourth ranked Dalton Sparks will likely battle Brady for spot in the finals. Look for New Prairie’s young Joe Zigler to make a name for himself this year.
Mishawaka’s state runner-up Ryan Stahl is the odds on favorite in this weight class. He is top seeded and second ranked. His only loss this year came against Sean McMurray 4-0. Look for up to three unseeded wrestlers to make it to the podium and also look for a surprise finalist from Penn.
A deep field of quality wrestlers will make this one of the best weight classes at this year’s tournament. Look for most of the seeds to hold chalk. Realistically, up to six wrestlers could take this year’s crown. Top two seeds Anthony Quiroz of Chesterton and Zack Corpe of Elkhart Memorial are both dealing with injury issues and this might open the door for the likes of Alex White of Mishawaka, Austin Kunze of Penn, Caleb Smith of Princeton or Ryley Hankenson of Bellmont to pull of some upsets and take the crown for themselves.
Last years biggest surprise was Princeton’s Drake Stein taking the title at the 152. He will not sneak up on anyone this year as he is ranked second in the state and is this year’s top seed. Look for him to cruise into the finals. The other side of the bracket is more interesting with a potential match-up between Mishawaka’s sixth ranked Dick Morin and Penn’s ninth ranked Andy Wiseman. They did not match-up earlier in the year due to some line-up shifting so this will be a high anticipated battle. Stein’s easier route to the finals may be enough to carry the day versus the Wiseman/Morin winner.
A wide open field and many likely upsets will dot this weight class. Look for the super athletic Kourtney Berry of Merrillville to upset top seed Travis Thatcher of Bellmont in a tight battle. On the other side of the bracket second seeded Timmy Buckingham will win an entertaining, high scoring match with Calumet’s Nathan Fowler. Any one of the top four seeds here could end up atop the awards podium. I say go with Buckingham.
This might be the best weight class in the entire tournament as the top four wrestlers are ranked in the top six in the state. Top ranked and top seeded Christian Lentz of Mishawaka will likely see fourth seed and 6th ranked Andrew Bultemeier of Bellmont in one semi-final. In the other semifinal, second ranked and second seeded Nathan Cleveland will likely battle with area rival, fifth ranked Vlade Nacovski of Lake Central.
Rounding out the weight class breakdown with a bang will be another potential #1 versus #2. Top ranked James Travis of Merrillville is the defending champion and top seed. He will likely face big Travis Thomas of Mishawaka, the state’s 2nd ranked heavy. Don’t count out Bellmont’s undersized but athletic Daniel Meyer. He parlayed an nice showing at last years Al Smith into a state finalist berth.
Hopefully for the fans, the team race will come down to the heavyweight match-up everyone is anticipating. Be sure to follow the team results on Track Wrestling at the following link: