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2011 Mid-Season All American Predictions: 141

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by , 01-17-2011 at 09:54 AM (489 Views)

1. Kellen Russell (Michigan)
2. Jimmy Kennedy (Illinois)
3. Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh)
4. Mike Thorn (Minnesota)
5. Zack Bailey (Oklahoma)
6. Chris Diaz (Virginia Tech)
7. Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly)
8. Chris Villalonga (Cornell)
R12. Germane Lindsey (Ohio), Chris Drouin (Iowa State), Michael Mangrum (Oregon State), Collin Palmer (Ohio State)

Mid Season
1. Kellen Russell (Michigan)
2. Jimmy Kennedy (Illinois)
3. Mike Thorn (Minnesota)
4. Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly)
5. Andrew Alton (Penn State)
6. Tyler Nauman (Pittsburgh)
7. Chris Diaz (Virginia Tech)
8. Zack Bailey (Oklahoma)
R12. Todd Schavrien (Missouri), Chris Drouin (Iowa State), Michael Mangrum (Oregon State), Cole Von Ohlen (Air Force)

While we didn't get the opportunity to see him last year due to his having taken a redshirt it hasn't taken Kellen Russell long to remind all of us just how good he's been during the regular season during the two years that he's competed, and to show us that he may be even better now. He's still a guy who is a great scrambler especially defensively when guys try to get in on him. On the mat he's tough up off the bottom, and then he's one of the best if not the best guy in the country and just salting away matches from the top. Something that he's shown this year though that he didn't necessarily display as often as a freshman and sophomore is just an improved offense. He's been much more effective at getting to and finishing his offense when he decides to go. I add that addendum because he seems to function with kind of an on/off switch with his offense. He's won both the Las Vegas and Southern Scuffle tournaments having recorded over the course of the year a pair of wins over Andrew Alton, a fall over Kennedy, and then other wins over Von Ohlen, Novachkov, and Thorn.

Like Russell, Kennedy came off a redshirt this year. He's been a little quieter so far over the first half than Russell has so far partly (like it or not) because he lost his highest profile match (the aforementioned fall to Russell) and then didn't even take the mat in his other most high profile match (what would have been the Midlands final against Boris) and partly because Illinois just hasn't wrestled as much as Michigan has so far during the early part of the year. Like Russell there really haven't been many revelations in terms of his wrestling style, he's still pretty much the same guy. He's a strong athletic guy who works with the basics on the feet and then gets his legs in on top or tries to tilt. So far this year the pin to Russell is the only match that he's dropped, then he has a major over Diaz in the consolation finals at Las Vegas and other wins over Schavrien, Mangrum, and Drouin.

I wanted very badly to bump Thorn one spot up this list but until I see him beat Kennedy I'm struggling with predicting it as I just don't like the look of that match up as I run it through my head. Coming into this year as the defending Big 10 champion, Thorn has continued to progress in terms of just being consistent on a match to match basis. The wild man scrambling aspect of his style is still present, he just doesn't go to it now until he really needs it. Like Kennedy his only loss this year was to Russell, dropping a heated 6-2 decision in the Southern Scuffle finals where he and Russell very prominently displayed the fact that they aren't particularly fond of one another. He had a big pin over Levi Jones at National Duals that wound up swinging the outcome of a match to the Gophers, then he has other wins over Kindig, Von Ohlen, Nacita, Mangrum, and Kemmerer. He's got duals left against Kennedy, Russell, Alton, and perhaps defending NCAA finalist Montell Marion who I've omitted from these picks for the time being so he'll definitely be battle tested before the post season comes along.

I figured before the season started that Boris would be the beneficiary of the bizarre Novachkov weight switch, and so far this year the results seem to have borne that out. Last year he kind of announced himself when he came from under the radar and won the Las Vegas tournament. This year he made it back to the finals but in what is becoming a trend on this list suffered his only loss of the year so far to Kellen Russell. As already mentioned he was also a finalist at the Midlands tournament having set up a very attractive match up with Kennedy, but unfortunately that didn't get a chance to go down. So far this year he's got wins over both Bailey and Nauman, and over the second half of the year he'll see both Mangrum and Jones who figure to be his two biggest rivals (although given the last two years at the Pac 10 tournament, who knows?) out west this year. He doesn't wrestle as strong a schedule the rest of the way so he may come into the post season as still a little bit of an unknown quantity to some people as far as how he'll stack up against the Big 10 guys who will have spent the year beating up on one another.

One person who isn't going to be an unknown quality to anyone is Andrew Alton as he's come out and just blown people away this year and would probably be the most talked about freshman in the country were it not for that guy on his team wrestling up a few weight classes. So far this year 14 of his 22 wins have come by fall, 11 of those were in the first period. His biggest wins so far this year have been a pair over Zack Kemmerer (including one by fall), and a pair over Cole Von Ohlen (including one by major). Just crazy to watch on his feet, gets most of his pins with variations of his mixer and/or headlock series but he's someone who can just as easily come out and wrestle guys straight up and score without utilizing the big move and that will certainly serve him well as the year progresses. On the mat he's been solid. He's showed the ability to ride and turn (although not necessarily for pins, most of his falls have been feet to back) and the ability to get away from most everyone. His only losses so far this year (and I apologize for the final time for how repetitive this is getting) are a pair of matches that he's dropped recently to Kellen Russell. The second match against Russell, a 2-1 decision during the Virginia Duals finals was the first time we've seen Alton really be ridden this year. He's got duals left against Nauman, Marion (again possibly), Russell, Kennedy, and Thorn. The last three will come over the course of a seven day span in February and that should be huge in terms of telling us how Alton really compares to the best guys at the weight especially Kennedy and Thorn who he won't have wrestled yet.

I came into the year thinking that Nauman was going to be the guy who really broke out this year at the weight and emerged as an elite guy, and it hasn't quite happened yet. He spent some time on the shelf during the early part of the year and that in all likelihood has been a major contributor to the fact that he's still more or less the same guy as last year. Not to say that is a bad thing as he was excellent last year en route to falling just short of making the finals at NCAA's and he's been solid so far this year as well. He had an excellent Midlands tournament this year recording a fall over Drouin and then wins over Schavrien and Mark Ballweg. He had a win over Kemmerer earlier in the year. He's also the first guy on the list who has lost to someone other than Kellen Russell. He dropped a match to Matt Mariacher during a match at Northeast Duals, that was the last time we saw him before he went on the shelf for a while (if I recall correctly) then he also took a loss at Midlands to Novachkov. Huge match coming up between him and Alton this Friday, given how the two of them like to wrestle you can imagine that we'll see some fireworks.

Moving from a guy who I predicted to breakout this year to a guy (due to home state fandom) that I wished would breakout we have Chris Diaz. Unfortunately he seems like the same high quality but relatively schizophrenic wrestler that he's been since he broke out on the national stage as a sophomore. Like Nauman he was an All American last year, sending #2 Jamal Parks home in the round of 12 before finishing 8th overall. Had a tough go of things last weekend at National Duals as he lost to Josh Kindig in Kindig's first match after coming out of redshirt, and also fell to Corey Manson in a match that helped take any possible wind out of Virginia Tech's upset sails. He split matches early in the year with Chris Drouin falling to him in the dual before defeating him the next day at the Hokie Open. Then continuing the trend that he started as a sophomore and junior he lost early at the Las Vegas tournament (this year to Vicente Varela) before rampaging back through the consolations (putting up quality wins over Mangrum, Von Ohlen, and Bailey). He'd wind up losing to Kennedy for 3rd, but that Vegas performance kind of epitomizes everything we've seen from Diaz over the last couple of years.

I said it in the pre-season and I'll say it here again, I may be underrating Bailey here given that he's the highest returning placer from last year's NCAA tournament. He's been very quiet so far this year so I don't imagine that I'll hear many people actually saying that though. He competed in the All Star match where he won a tight match over Germane Lindsey with a late takedown. Then he also has a solid win over Elijah Nacita. The place where he had the biggest opportunity to make his mark this year was at Las Vegas, but he dropped matches there to Novachkov and Diaz and didn't really beat anyone. He would have had another opportunity to see tough guys at Midlands but for whatever reason he didn't wrestle. While he may still be the favorite in the Big 12 he'll definitely be pushed as Drouin, Schavrien, and Kindig are all going to be tough outs.[/QUOTE]