Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Preview: Four Spartans wrestlers make their way to Tulsa for the NCAA Championship Thursday

March 16, 2023
<p>MSU graduate student Cameron Caffey defeats U of M redshirt sophomore Brendin Yatooma to gain 3 points for MSU. The two wrestlers struggled for two tiebreak periods before Caffey’s victory.</p>

MSU graduate student Cameron Caffey defeats U of M redshirt sophomore Brendin Yatooma to gain 3 points for MSU. The two wrestlers struggled for two tiebreak periods before Caffey’s victory.

Photo by Jack Armstrong | The State News

After all their hard work, grit, and promising performances, four Spartans qualified for the men’s NCAA wrestling championships: junior Chase Saldate, graduate student Cameron Caffey, junior Caleb Fish and redshirt senior Layne Malczewski. This year's showdown will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

These three Spartans took care of business March 5 at the Big Ten Championship in Ann Arbor, right on the mat of their rivals in the Crisler Center.

Saldate, 25-6 on the year, earned the podium within the Big Ten, giving him a solid 11th-seed spot for NCAA championships. Following him are Caffey, seeded 19th, Fish, seeded 29th and Malczewski seeded 15th, accompanying his third showing in championships over the course of his career. 

Recapping the Big Ten showdown, Saldate managed to defeat Purdue redshirt senior Kendall Coleman, who's 29-6 on the season. This victory landed Saldate the fifth-place spot, securing his bid for the NCAA tourney. Caffey matched up against Fighting Illini redshirt junior Zac Braunagel. Caffey ended up losing the match by way of forfeit, after injuring himself halfway through. Fish met Michigan redshirt junior Cameron Amine at the center of the mat for the quarterfinal. After an evenly distributed brawl, Amine was able to best Fish. However, Fish still qualified for the NCAA championship from his performance in his other matches.

As for Malczewski, his win over Purdue’s redshirt freshman Ben Vanadia in the consolation bracket put in him a promising spot for qualification. However, like Caffey, Malczewski had to forfeit his next match because of an injury. His matches the following day earned him a bid in the championship.

Despite the 25 appearances the Spartans have made in the past NCAA championships, a lot seems to be on the plate. The last Spartan to earn a NCAA championship title was Franklin Gomez in 2009. All three of these qualifying Spartans have had a great wrestling career thus far. Based on their season records for the 2022-2023 season, the sky seems to be the limit.

The standout remains to be Caffey. He continually serves as the Spartan powerhouse. Caffey and Saldate both have made the NCAA championships two consecutive years in a row, qualifying in 2021 as well.

The first rounds of the NCAA championship will be streamed ESPNU Thursday at 12 p.m. ET. The following rounds will be on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. 

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