Farewell, regular season wrestling, we hardly knew ye. Well, at least we still have one match to go and it’s the one we’ve waited all season for: Army-Navy. The Commander-in-Chief’s trophy may not be on the line, but if the Mids can pull the upset, they’ll take the Star and have beaten all of the service academies in the nation. Navy also holds the all-time series lead at 49-9-5, but they have not won since 2016.
The No. 17 Black Knights (9-3) and the Midshipmen (8-5) come into the clash tied at 3-1 in the EIWA conference with championship seeding on the line. With this dual deciding all of the marbles between the two programs, it only seems fitting to do a deep dive before the match on Saturday at 7:30 PM.
Army and Navy have faced five common opponents: Wisconsin, American, Lehigh, Lock Haven, and Bucknell. The Black Knights have a 15-16 loss to the Badgers and a senior night loss to Lehigh, but wins against the other three foes. The Midshipmen fell to Wisconsin 12-24, lost at Lock Haven 15-19, and lost at Lehigh 9-23 but defeated the two remaining foes. As far as common opponents go, Army holds the slight advantage. Next we’ll look at each weight class (all rankings are based on the Coaches Panel):
125 Pounds: No. 23 Trey Chalifoux (A) VS. No 25. Logan Treaster (N)
We’ll take this one from the top with the first ranked matchup of the evening. Chalifoux enters the final dual with a 13-7 overall record and 2 bonus point wins, compared to Treaster’s 20-7 record with 7 bonus point wins. Treaster placed 1st at the All Academy Championships with a win over Air Force’s Sidney Flores but it’s difficult to spot a signature win for Chalifoux.
Prediction: Treaster, DEC. Navy 3-0
133 Pounds: Lane Peters or Andrew Wert Jr. (A) VS. No. 29 Casey Cobb (N)
I’ll be honest: I’m not sure who the Black Knights will send into this one. Wert (15-9) won the Shorty Hitchcock and has since notched wins over both Lehigh and Bucknell. Peters (7-9) has lost 6 of 7, so I would expect the freshman, Wert. Unfortunately, either wrestler will be facing ranked Casey Cobb. Cobb (14-10) has won 4 of his last 5 so I would expect him to keep form and come out on top of a close one.
Prediction: Cobb, DEC. Navy 6-0
141 Pounds: Logan Brown (A) VS. No. 30 Cody Trybus (N)
Logan Brown is another Army wrestler to have wins over both Bucknell and Lehigh. He has a 19-13 record on the season with 6 pins in 10 bonus point wins. However, he faces No. 30 Cody Trybus. Trybus is 20-9 on the season with 7 bonus point wins and Shorty Hitchcock and All Academy championships. Navy holds a significant advantage at the lighter weights, but I’m not seeing too many bonus points.
Prediction: Trybus, DEC. Navy 9-0
149 Pounds: PJ Ogunsanya (A) VS. Wyatt Long (N)
This is where it gets interesting and I don’t see a shutout getting any further than 149. Ogunsanya is 17-8 on the year and has been competing at 149 since last season. He has 7 bonus point wins and a fall over Navy’s River Curtis. He faces Wyatt Long (14-9) with 8 bonus point wins but a 1-4 dual meet record. Both wrestlers have won 3 of 4 but I give Ogunsanya the edge for having faced better competition.
Prediction: Ogunsanya, DEC. Navy 9-3
157 Pounds: No. 10 Markus Hartman (A) VS. Jared Prince (N)
Now Army has the advantage for much of the remainder of the dual. That starts fast at 157 with the highest-ranked Black Knight, Markus Hartman. Hartman is 26-6 on the year with 10 bonus point wins and a 15-0 tech fall over Navy’s Adam Davis. His opponent, Jared Prince is just 2-1 on the year but his latest win was a 3-2 decision over Old Dominion’s No. 10 Larry Early. I see Hartman’s experience on the year being too much for Prince to handle, and he picks up the first bonus point of the night.
Prediction: Hartman, MD. Navy 9-7
165 Pounds: No. 21 Cael McCormick (A) VS. No. 9 Tanner Skidgel (N)
Hooray, another ranked matchup! Tanner Skidgel is 15-4 on the year, but he only has one major decision, so don’t be surprised if this one goes all 7 minutes with a narrow spread. All four of Skidgel’s defeats have come at the hands of top-10 wrestlers: Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, Wisconsin’s Evan Wick, Virginia Tech’s David McFadden, and Stanford’s Shane Griffith. I would have predicted bonus points for Skidgel however his opponent, Cael McCormick is also 18-4 on the year and has not lost since January 4. This one could go either way, but I expect Skidgel in a close one.
Prediction: Skidgel, DEC. Navy 12-7
174 Pounds: No. 17 Ben Harvey (A) VS. No. 22 Spencer Carey (N)
The ranks start comin’ and they don’t stop comin’. Back to the mats and this time Army has the advantage. Ben Harvey is 19-7 on the season with a 10-2 dual record and a 2nd place finish at the Patriot Open. He faces Spencer Carey (17-7) who boasts an 8-4 dual record. Much like the last match, I see this one being a close decision but going in Harvey’s favor to pull Army within 2.
Prediction: Harvey, DEC. Navy 12-10
184 Pounds: No. 15 Noah Stewart (A) VS. Andrew Buckley (N)
In the second match of the night where Army has a distinct ranking advantage, Noah Stewart (14-4) will likely face Andrew Buckley (9-13). Not only does Stewart have a much better record, he has 4 tech falls and 1 pin on the year. Buckley fared well at the All Academy Championships, but has struggled in duals, going 2-8 and losing both of his ranked opportunities. Stewart should have a good chance to pick up another bonus point for the Black Knights.
Prediction: Stewart, MD. Army 14-12
197 Pounds: No. 22 JT Brown (A) VS. No. 28 Jacob Koser (N)
The amount of ranked matchups in this dual are really something special. Brown and Koser bring us back to the ranked slate with a battle of top-30 wrestlers. JT Brown has an 18-6 record on the year with 7 ranked wins and 3 wins over fellow Black Knight Alex Hopkins. He faces Jacob Koser who also has an 18-6 record. Koser holds the advantage in duals (10-3 record) but he has lost each of his ranked opportunities by decision. The decision trend will likely continue with JT Brown taking a close match.
Prediction: Brown, DEC. Army 17-12
285 Pounds: No. 19 Ben Sullivan (A) VS. John Birchmeier (N)
We wrap things up at heavyweight with another matchup that leans in Army’s favor. Not only does Ben Sullivan (16-9) hold the overall ranking advantage, but Birchmeier also injury forfeited his most recent match against Duke. Yes, 0-12 Duke. As a result, Birchmeier may not even be healthy for this matchup but if he is, he matches Sullivan at 16-9 on the year. Birchmeier has lost all 3 of his ranked matches on the year, but only 1 with bonus points (Anthony Cassar, Penn State). I would anticipate Sullivan’s 8 bonus point wins to play a factor in winning this one to seal the dual.
Prediction: Sullivan, MD. Army 21-12
Breaking it down class by class and comparing the common opponents, I have trouble seeing this not go Army’s way. I see the Black Knights picking up 3 bonus points and taking 6 of 10 weight classes to take the star and cement their EIWA lead. However, if the two are tied after 10 matches, maybe we can have head coaches Kevin Ward and Joel Sharratt wrestle to decide the winner instead of going to criteria.
Now, this is a rivalry so I could be completely wrong with my predictions, but you’ll just have to follow along on February 22 at 7:30 PM to find out.