Now that my Fantasy Wrestling season has abruptly and unceremoniously ended, I have moved on to other pursuits to help me through the emotional devastation. One of the most intriguing things for me, as we go into out prep period for NCAA's, is "Where do we seed Derek St. John?"
Coming into this season, St. John was a clear-cut number 2 and the only guy really seen as a threat to Kyle Dake's quest for his third title in three weight classes. All looked well as Derek started the season dominantly, scoring 7 bonus point wins in his first 11 matches while also going undefeated, albeit against less than the cream of the crop.
Unfortunately, in that 11th match against old nemesis David Bonin of Northern Iowa, Derek fell victim to an unfortunate knee injury while in a scramble with Bonin. While the exact injury has never been made clear, it was obviously a big enough deal to keep him out of the line up for most of the next two months.
When he came back, he clearly wasn't the same man, conditioning wise or in regards to the trust in his body. On the first weekend of National Duals, he lost fairly easily to Josh Demas and then got whooped by RJ Pena, two guys who most would agree aren't quite on a healthy St. John's level. Many Iowa fans, including myself, thought Iowa should just shut him down and let placeholder Nick Moore wrestle out the season and see what he could do. As usual, the fans should leave these decisions to the coaches.
The very next week, at the National Duals finals, Derek St. John wrestled again and looked ten times better than he had just a week before. While he still wasn't the guy he had been, he beat Danny Zilverburg of Minnesota by decision and pinned Jackson Morse of Illinois. Iowa fans were encouraged, but cautious at this point. Big 10's would be the real test.
Obviously, starting St. John at Big 10's was a risk, because if he twisted his already injured knee the wrong way in his first match, that would be that and Iowa would get minimal points from that weight. St. John was there, however, and after some early struggles, came back to beat top 10 ranked James Green of Nebraska in overtime. Then he beat Dylan Alton of Penn State in overtime as well, which punched his ticket to the finals. There he would see an old friend.
Waiting for St. John in the finals was #2 ranked Jason Welch, whom St. John had met three times last season, beating Welch all three times in hotly contested matches. This year, Welch had replaced St. John as #2 in the country and had taken the mantle as "Most likely challenger to Dake".
In an exciting, well-wrestled match, Welch got the first takedown, but St. John controlled most of the match after that. St. John was finally able to penetrate Welch's funky defense with 15 seconds left and secure the match winning TD, giving him the Big 10 championship.
So, now the question comes: where do we seed Derek St. John? Let's take a look at his resume.
Derek St. John
Marquee wins: #17 David Bonin, #8 James Green, #5 Dylan Alton, #2 Jason Welch
Key losses: #18 Josh Demas, #15 RJ Pena (Pac 12 Champion)
Highest Returning 2010 157 lb AA (4th Place)
Pre-Season #2 ranking
So, his resume is not as barren as one might have thought. Here are the top 12 (Number of wrestlers seeded by NCAA) at 157 going into this weekend, per Intermat:
1. Kyle Dake, Cornell
2. Jason Welch, Northwestern
3. Ganbayar Sanjaa, American
4. James Fleming, Clarion
5. Dylan Alton, Penn State
6. Walter Peppelman, Harvard
7. Frank Hickman, Bloomsburg
8. James Green, Nebraska
9. Anthony Jones, Michigan State
10. Justin Lister, Binghamton
11. Steven Monk, North Dakota State
12. Matt Lester, Oklahoma
So, high should Derek St. John go? Does he belong at the second seed, where everyone thought he would be going into the season? Should he be unseeded completely? Somewhere in between?
Personally, I think St. John was a top 2 wrestler coming in to the season, and he appears like he's back to very near that level now. Kyle Dake is a clear #1, and I think St. John deserves the opportunity to face him there. Sanjaa, Welch, and Alton, 3 of the top 5, lost this weekend, two of them to St. John.
I think St. John might actually deserve that 2 seed. By the rankings, James Fleming would move up to the # 2 seed. Fleming's best wins are two over Frank Hickman and one over Dylan Alton. I think it will probably be between St. John and Fleming for the #2 seed.
Where do you think St. John will be seeded?