Keystone Classic Preview: 149/157/165/174 Pounds

PHILADELPHIA – The 2015 Keystone Classic is this Sunday in The Palestra, with 13 teams competing in a premier early-season wrestling tournament.

In addition to the host University of Pennsylvania program, No. 21 (Tournament Rankings) Northwestern, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Drexel, Rider, Bloomsburg, Harvard, Franklin & Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Appalachian State, VMI, and Sacred Heart will compete in the tournament.

Last year, four teams competing at this season’s Keystone Classic finished in the Top-30 at NCAAs – Northwestern (No. 15), Pitt (No. 21), Indiana (No. 24), and Rider (No. 27).

Leading up the tournament, will preview each weight class and highlight key entrants expected to compete for the title. Today, we look at 149, 157, 165, and 174 pounds.

149: The premier weight in the tournament, there are three Top-10 wrestlers likely to be entered this weekend. Leading the pack is No. 1 Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern. The 2014 NCAA champion, Tsirtsis was third last year at NCAAs. Along the way, he twice defeated No. 10 B.J. Clagon (Rider) by 2-1 decision – the second meeting in the consolation semifinals after Clagon had secured his own All-American honors. The home team will have a say in the matter with No. 8 C.J. Cobb. The champion at the Bearcat Open to begin the season, Cobb was a Round of 12 finisher last year at NCAAs – falling to Clagon in a 5-3 decision. Drexel is assuredly in the mix as well, with No. 16 Matt Cimato – also a NCAA qualifier last season – rounding out a stellar top four. If you’re looking for someone to come from off the pace, VMI’s Stevan Smith has a third-place finish at the Hokie Open to his credit early in the season.

157: While there are no returning All-Americans at this weight, Penn’s Brooks Martino and Rider’s Chad Walsh are two returning NCAA qualifiers who are in contention for the title this weekend. Martino placed sixth at EIWAs last season, while Walsh was EWL champion. Northwestern’s Bryce Brill could be a factor as well. He was 4-0 last season before suffering a season-ending injury. He hasn’t competed yet this season, but if he is good to go on Sunday Brill can surely make a run. VMI again has a wrestler coming off a good result at the Hokie Open in Neal Richards who finished second.

165: What was a deep weight at last year’s Keystone Classic is a bit more wide open this time around with the graduation of stalwarts at Indiana and Northwestern. However, as one would expect, those two Big Ten programs have reloaded. Northwestern is expected to enter No. 15 Johnny Sebastien. The Ramsey, N.J. (Bergen Catholic) product went 23-3 last year as a redshirt at 174 pounds. He hasn’t competed yet this season, but if entered gives the Wildcats a shot at the title. Indiana’s Devin Skatzka has finished second at the EMU Open and fifth at the MSU Open to begin his collegiate career. Rider is also a factor with two-time NCAA qualifier No. 14 Connor Brennan. He is 3-0 to start the season. Penn’s will enter Ray Bethea, who was sixth last year at EIWAs and has won his only two matches of 2015-16. VMI’s Shabaka Johns was third at the Hokie Open and took second at the SoCon Championships last season. Appalachian State’s Forrest Pryzbysz was third at the MSU Open this past week, making a second SoCon factor.

174: Indiana’s Nate Jackson enters the week ranked No. 12 by InterMat and is the likely No. 1 seed at the tournament. He went 3-2 last year at NCAAs and is the defending Keystone Classic champion. Appalachian State’s Nick Kees is ranked No. 15 this week, and is coming off a fifth place finish at the MSU Open. The home team will bring Casey Kent to the field. After a year off with injury, Kent is looking to build on a NCAA Championships berth at 165 pounds in 2013-14. He was 3-1 at the Bearcat Open, reaching the semifinals. Other wrestlers to keep an eye on are Pittsburgh’s Te’Shan Campbell – a PIAA state champion last year at 170 pounds, and Sacred Heart’s Conan Shuster who took sixth last year at EIWAs.

Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday in The Palestra.Ticketsare on sale now, and are $10 in advance of the tournament and $15 at the door. Live streaming of the tournament will begin at 5 p.m. on Sunday on theIvy League Digital Networkand continue through the championship finals which are expected to begin at 6 p.m.