We Must Break You: Breaking Down the Brackets, NCAA Tourney-style

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Matt McD is ready to Hulk Up and legdrop his way to victory in Omaha.

For this installment of Wrestling Bracketology, we're going to do things a little differently.  Instead of breaking things down match-by-match (an approach made exceptionally difficult by the complexity of the brackets and the frequency of upsets at the NCAA Tournament), we're going to look at  WHAT WE THINK WILL HAPPEN.  There's no point looking at the BEST CASE SCENARIO (national champion!  woo!) or WORST CASE SCENARIO (0-2!  boo!), since they're the same for everyone.

It's not shameless homerism, empty boasting, or ridiculous hyperbole to state that Iowa will almost certainly need to stumble for any other team to win the NCAA Tournament; if the Iowa wrestlers perform to the level of their seeds, Iowa will win the team title comfortably (though Iowa would, for the second year in a row, have no individual champions) unless another team has a bunch of guys wrestle way over their seeds.  The reality, of course, is that every team will have guys who fail to live up to the expectation of their seeds and guys who exceed the expectations of their seeds.  By virtue of the depth and balance of their talent, Iowa simply has a bit more breathing room than most other programs.  Mind you, that breathing room can evaporate in a heartbeat after a few ill-timed upsets, as Iowa found out last year, when they had to scrap their way through the consolation brackets to accumulate enough points to win -- and count on a jNWU wrestler (Jake Herbert) to win his match and secure Iowa's victory.  All of which is to say: March Madness won't be confined to the hardcourt this weekend -- there will be plenty of craziness on display in Omaha.

NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Session - Day - Time (CT) - Mats - Competition
Session I - Thursday - 11 a.m. - 8 - Pigtails & 1st Round (streamed on NCAA.com)
Session II - Thursday - 6:30 p.m. - 8 - Consolation Prelims, 1st Round (streamed on NCAA.com)
Session III - Friday - 9:30 a.m. - 8 - Championship Quarterfinals, Consolation 2nd & 3rd Rounds (ESPNU)
Session IV - Friday - 6 p.m. - 6 - Championship Semifinals, Consolation 4th & 5th Rounds (ESPNU)
Session V - Saturday - 10 a.m. - 6 - Consolation Semifinals, 3rd-5th-7th Place Matches (ESPNU)
Session VI - Saturday - 6:30 p.m. - 1 - Championship Finals (ESPN)

125 -- Matt McDonough (RS FR, 32-1), 3-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, 3rd place. 
McDonough has been as good as almost anyone in the Iowa line-up this year and it's certainly not out of the question for him to win the national title with his relentless style and seemingly excellent conditioning.  Sadly, he has the misfortune of competing in arguably the most loaded division in the NCAA Tournament; he's seeded third and both of the guys seeded ahead of him are former national champions (Cornell's Troy Nickerson, the 2-seed, won last year's title and Indiana's Angelo Escobedo, the 1-seed, won the title two years ago). 

There are some tough match-ups in the guys seeded below him, too.  Arizona State's Anthony Robles, the 4-seed (and better-known as the one-legged guy at last year's tourney), is a difficult match-up for anyone -- especially someone who's never faced him before.  McD went 3-0 against Iowa State's Andrew Long, the 5-seed and a fellow freshman, but all three matches were dogfights -- can McD do it a fourth time if necessary?  The good news is that Escobedo, Robles, and Long are all on the opposite side of the bracket, so McD will only have to face one of them in the entire tourney if he can make it all the way to the finals.  As good as he's been, he's still just a redshirt freshman and experience can play a key role at the NCAA Tournament.  Escobedo and Nickerson have that in spades, unfortunately.

Per Andy Hamilton, McD talks about learning from past mistakes:

McDonough, the Big Ten's freshman of the year, has scored bonus points in 25 of his 33 matches this season. His only loss was a 6-4 defeat against Escobedo in the Big Ten finals. The Indiana senior scored a pair of takedowns in the third period to claim his third conference title, but McDonough said he thinks it was helpful to get a feel for competing against a wrestler of Escobedo's caliber.

"I think it's really beneficial," McDonough said. "Either way, you've got to go out there in the national tournament with the intent of beating those returning national champions and the top-ranked guys in the country. But on the other hand, there's nothing that can beat getting a chance to feel what someone is like before the end of the season, the NCAA, the end-all, be-all tournament."

133 -- Dan Dennis (SR, 18-3), 2-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, 3rd place.
What to make of Dennis?  In some respects, he's turned into a 30-lbs. lighter version of Morningstar this year, blowing out obviously lesser opponents, winning razor-thin decisions against guys on par with himself, and continually coming up short against the top dog in the division (Howe in Morningstar's case, Ness in Dennis' case).  Still, wins are wins and since returning from his ankle injury, Dennis has only lost three matches -- two to Minnesota's Jayson Ness, the 1-seed, and one to Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver, the 4-seed, in what was also Dennis' first match in weeks.  And, as luck would have it, both guys are on the opposite side of the bracket, so if Dennis takes care of his business, he'll only have to face one of them the entire tournament (likely Ness). 

On the other hand, Dennis' own side of the bracket contains plenty of potential potholes.  The biggest threat is Michigan State's Franklin Gomez, the 3-seed and defending national champion.  Dennis has won three in a row over Gomez (and five in a row, I believe, if you count their off-season freestyle results), but each win has been by the slenderest of margins; his most recent win, at the Big Ten Tournament, came off a wild scramble.  Does Dennis have Gomez's number or has he just had luck on his side?  A little of both most likely and any match between them is going to be a complete coin-flip, regardless of Dennis' past success against him.  Aside from Gomez, the other seeded wrestlers on Dennis' side of the bracket are Kent State's Dan Mitcheff (6-seed), Cornell's Mike Grey (7-seed), Iowa State's Nic Fanthorpe (10-seed), and Central Michigan's Scotti Sentes (11-seed).  The only one of those guys Dennis wrestled earlier this season was Fanthorpe, who he defeated 10-8 in OT.  He split two decisions with Grey a year ago and also picked up another win over Fanthorpe (also close - shock).  He's never wrestled Mitcheff or Sentes, although Sentes lost a 2-1 decision to Dennis' fill-in, Nate Moore, at Midlands.  My guess is Dennis makes it a semifinal match with Gomez, but his magic against Gomez runs out before he gets a third match with Ness in the finals. 

Per Hamilton, Dennis reflects on his most recent loss to Ness: 

"It's time to analyze it and time to develop from it but not really time to panic," Dennis said. "It's frustrating. I was out there and I was ready to go, and for one reason or another I just didn't get the job done. I've got to iron it out and it's time to learn."

What Dennis learned is there were a few fine points that made a big difference in the match. Ness broke open a 2-0 bout in the third period when he scored an escape, a takedown and a two-point near-fall before Dennis got an escape and a late takedown of his own.

141 -- Montell Marion (SO, 23-5), 6-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, 5th place.
What to expect from one of the least consistent wrestlers on the team?  Probably more inconsistency, unfortunately.  In terms of raw talent, Marion may be as good as anyone at this weight class.  In terms of successfully and consistently harnessing that raw talent, Marion is decidedly less than excellent.  The good news is that he's already beaten the two highest seeds on his side of the bracket, Minnesota's Michael Thorn (3-seed) and Oklahoma State's Jamal Parks (2-seed).  In fact, his two wins over them are two of his most impressive and dominant wins of the season -- he picked up a 15-7 major decision win over Thorn and a really strong 4-0 decision win over Parks. 

Unfortunately, he's also lost twice to Thorn (once on a fluke pin and once by major decision) and both Thorn and Parks are wrestling very well right now; Thorn in particular comes in with a ton of momentum after knocking off Ohio State's Reece Humphrey (4-seed) in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament.  Marion's also been prone to giving up big moves and digging himself into holes at times this season; sometimes he can get out of them, and sometimes not.  It would be nice to say that he gets everything together for a deep run at this tournament, but the consistency just isn't there to make that a viable pick.  That said, a lot hinges on his potential quarterfinal showdown with Thorn -- if he can get by Thorn there, the sky may be the limit for Marion.  If not, he's going to need to do his damage in the consolation bracket and avoid any untimely slip-ups to lesser opponents.

Per Hamilton, Marion reflects on what went wrong at the BTT:

Marion said he got away from his pre-match routine at the Big Ten meet and let weight management factor too much into his performance.

"I'm not holding my head down," he said. "I had a bad showing, but I've still got my head high and I've still got confidence."

Marion enters the NCAA Championships seeded sixth with a 23-5 record. In order to leave Omaha with a title, he'll need to string together five matches without a lapse.

"It's real simple: Follow my routine, keep a positive mindset and fight hard until the very end," Marion said.

149 -- Brent Metcalf (SR, 31-1), 2-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, National Champion, 1st place.
Call us homers if you must, but it's still Metcalf.  Calling him a big match choker based off his last two losses does a disservice to the man; he still has three Midlands Championships, two Big Ten Championships, and one NCAA Championship.  The reality is he ran into two opponents who presented difficult match-ups for him and who painstakingly  prepared (and executed) nearly flawless gameplans.  The question becomes: what can Metcalf do to counter Palmer's gameplan if they meet again?  If anything, Metcalf's losses to Caldwell and Palmer should reinforce the notion that Metcalf needs to alter his approach slightly when he faces top-level opponents.  His usual buzzsaw approach works perfectly well against 98% of opponents, but for those rare few that it doesn't work perfectly against, he needs to make a few adjustments.  That doesn't mean abandoning his offense or anything -- but it does mean using it more smartly and it might mean choosing neutral rather than down (particularly against Palmer, who used his size and strength to ride Metcalf for a huge portion of the 2nd period in their Big Ten Tournament match, which wound up being the turning point in the match). 

Of course, there's a possibility that Metcalf won't even have to worry about a rubber match with Palmer in the finals; as the new 1-seed, Palmer's the guy everyone's going to be gunning for this season, especially Wisconsin's Kyle Ruschell, the 4-seed, who's openly stated that he wants to beat Palmer.  The toughest opponent on Metcalf's side of the bracket is Oklahoma's Kyle Terry, the 3-seed.  Metcalf beat him via major decision (14-6) in last year's NCAA Tournament, but Terry is another year older, wiser, and better this year.  Still, you have to like Metcalf's odds -- he's still Brent fucking Metcalf, after all.

Per Hamilton, Metcalf is back on the hunt (psst, Brent, just an FYI: hunting rifles are illegal at NCAAs):

"I think the target's still probably on my back just because of the way I've wrestled," the 2008 NCAA champion said. "But I think I've probably made myself the hunter because I'm pissed. I'm pissed at the way that (Big Ten final) turned out, I'm not happy about it and I need to fix it."

"I feel bad about it, I hate losing," Metcalf said. "But it's just a situation where it was a goofy ending. It was a situation where he didn't do anything to take the match away from me. He didn't go out, take me down and put me down like Caldwell, where he takes me down and takes me down. That's where you're like, 'Holy cow, I've got to evaluate what's going on here.' It wasn't like that. It was a situation where I really put myself in a bad position."

157 -- Jake Kerr (JR, 11-9), unseeded
WHAT WE EXPECT: no All-America.
All we want is a few wins.  Can we reasonably expect that?  Honestly... who knows.  This weight has been a complete crapshoot the entire season; expecting anything different now seems like the height of folly.  Kerr won the nod at the Big Ten Tournament (and, by consequence, this tournament) by a gut feeling from Brands... but maybe that was just some bad tacos.  Kerr's been like Marion, only without as many highs and far more depressing lows.  If he gets by Arizona State's Tejovan Edwards, his likely second-round opponent is Harvard's J.P. O'Connor, the 30-0 1-seed in the tourney.  If Kerr manages to pull off that upset, we'd happily recant all the negative things we've said about him this year. 

In the far more likely event that he loses that and drops into the consolation bracket, he'd need to win three matches in a row just to finish 8th and scrape into the All-America rankings.  That seems like asking a lot from a guy whose longest winning streak this season was four matches and was comprised of wins over guys from Cornell College, Iowa Lakes, North Carolina Pembroke, and Southern Illinois Edwardsville.  SPOILER ALERT: Everyone at this tourney is a little bit better than those guys.  If Kerr can win a couple matches and get the team some points that way, we'll call his tourney a success.  Anything beyond that will be remarkable.

Per Hamilton, Kerr says he just has to stop thinking:

Kerr said he's capable of wrestling better than he did at the Big Ten meet. He said he didn't have as much energy as usual in his matches, but it wasn't a weight or nutrition issue. He said he's working on his mental skills going into the national tournament. More specifically, he said he's trying to clear his head and keep his brain from getting in the way of what his body is trying to accomplish.

"If I don't think and I just react and I just empty my mind and just do it, I know I've got the skills, I've proven I have the skills," Kerr said. "I just have to get over that hump of focusing and emptying my mind instead of thinking about things and draining myself."

165 -- Ryan Morningstar (SR, 26-6), 7-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: no All-America.
It was nigh-impossible to know what to expect from Morningstar anyway, given his propensity to wrestle everything down to razor-thin decisions -- it was just as likely for him to make a deep run in the tourney as it was for him to lose a pair of close decisions and be done.  Add a mysterious and potentially serious knee injury on top of that and you have a mystery doused in enigma sauce.  Hopefully he's healthy enough to be able to string together a few wins -- not just for the sake of the team title, but because it would really suck if his last hurrah was a quick and forgettable exit from the NCAA Tournament. 

As maddening as he's been to watch, he's provided some big wins over the years (his grind through the consolation bracket last year was instrumental in Iowa's national championship victory) and he's certainly worked his ass off for the program.  That said, to become an All-American, he's going to have to win three matches at bare minimum.  Can he do that on possibly one leg?  Seems like it's asking a lot out of him.

Per Hamilton, Morningstar says maybe his knee isn't so bad (we're still skeptical):

"It's come a long way in a short amount of time," said Morningstar, who placed third at last year's national tournament. "I'm in pretty good shape and that has a lot to do with it, and I heal pretty quick."

"I'm a pretty optimistic person in general," Morningstar said. "I have that much confidence in myself and my abilities and I know I'm doing the right things to get back on the mat. What it boils down to is it's just a leg, it's just a knee. It's not like I just cut it off or I got in a traumatic car accident. It's just a knee and I've got to fight through it and embrace the process. It's probably going to hurt, but that's part of it, and it's do-or-die."

174 -- Jay Borschel (SR, 32-0), 2-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, National Champion, 1st place.
Borschel's been Mr. Reliable for Iowa this season, grinding out win after win.  He hasn't been quite as dominant as Metcalf, who has notched 16 pins, five technical falls, and three major decisions to date, but he hasn't been too shabby, either -- he has ten pins and ten major decisions to his credit so far and he went through the entire Big Ten Tournament without giving up a takedown.  He's been remarkably successful against the other guys on his side of the bracket this season, too -- he beat Oklahoma State's Mike Benefiel (#6), 9-1, Central Michigan's Ben Bennett (#7), 6-1, Illinois' Jordan Blanton (#10), 6-0.  He also notched wins over a bunch of the unseeded guys on that side of the bracket, including Ohio State's David Rella (9-0), Michigan State's Ian Hinton (8-0), Lehigh's Robert Hamlin (4-3), and a three-peat over Iowa State's Duke Burk (10-4, 9-3, 10-2). 

The only seeded wrestlers on his side of the bracket that he hasn't wrestled this season are Virginia's Christopher Henrich (#3) and Binghamton's Joshua Patterson (#11).  Not to mention that Borschel is wrestling better than arguably anyone else on the Iowa team right now and, well, there's good reason to be confident about his chances.  Should he and Cornell's Mack Lewnes, the 1-seed, both make it to the finals that would be one hell of a match, but we're not betting against JayBo right now.

Per Hamilton, JayBo is focused:

The next tournament for the Iowa senior is the one he has invested years of sweat trying to win.

"That's kind of what your career and everything is defined by -- winning a (national) championship," Borschel said. "That's your ultimate goal, and that's what you think about all the time."

184 -- Phil Keddy (SR, 23-7), 9-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, 4th place.
We would love to predict a stirring return to form for Keddy here; he's been one of the most likable guys on the team these past few years, as well as being the most exciting wrestler to watch on the team aside from Metcalf (until this year, when injuries hampered Keddy and McDonough arrived on the scene).  His lightning-quick escapes and his double underhook takedowns were a joy to watch.  The escapes are still there (usually), but his takedowns seem to have been negated by injuries and his own increasing over-reliance on them; after 3-4 years of using them, his opponents have kind of figured out his tricks.  It's good that Keddy gets avoid Illinois' John Dergo (#2), who beat Keddy in the Big Ten Tournament final and who just seems like a bad match-up for him at this point, but his side of the bracket is fraught with challenges. 

Keddy went 1-2 against the top seeds on his side of the bracket this season, losing 3-1 (OT) to Boise State's Kirk Smith (#1) and 7-1 to American's Michael Cannon (#4) and narrowly beating Oklahoma State's Clayton Forster (#5), 3-2.  But who knows what to expect out of 184 this season; it's such a crazy weight that two runners-up from last year's NCAA Tournament, Central Michigan's Mike Miller (runner-up at 174) and Ohio State's Mike Pucillo (#10; runner up at 184), are squaring off in the pigtail match in this year's tournament, meaning one of them is going to find this quest for a title (or even a repeat runner-up spot) done first thing Thursday morning.  Let's just hope we see more good Keddy than bad Keddy this weekend.

Per Hamilton, Keddy is healthy and ready to tear things up:

But Keddy has won 10 of his last 12 matches and takes a 23-7 record into the NCAA Championships. Keddy is the No. 9 seed at 184, but he's won three of four career meetings against potential second-round opponent Louis Caputo of Harvard, the No. 8 seed, and he's beaten Boise State's No. 1 seed Kirk Smith, a possible quarterfinal opponent, three out of four times.

"I feel like I'm at that (2009) level, and with my mind, I feel I'm even better just because of the things I've gone through," Keddy said. "I know that even though I was expecting to go out there and win those matches (early in the season), it wasn't really me. I feel like I've got as good of a chance now as I ever could."

197 -- Chad Beatty (SR, 14-3), 9-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, 7th place.
That projection is as much of a shot in the dark as any of them.  Not only is Beatty dealing with the most serious injury issues this side of Morningstar (he's supposedly fully recovered from the foot fracture he sustained in early January, but who knows; at the very least, his conditioning is definitely suspect), but he also got a shitty draw.  His first opponent is Oklahoma State's damn dirty commie import, Alan Gelogaev (who has a slightly unorthodox style); if he gets by him he get's Minnesota's Sonny Yohn (#8), who narrowly edged Beatty at the Big Ten Tournament.  And should he defeat him, his reward?  A date with Iowa State's Jake Varner, the 1-seed. 

It's not much of a stretch to suggest that Beatty's going to need to do most of his damage in the consolation bracket and having to wrestle a lot of matches down there makes us worry about his conditioning and mat shape.  Best of luck to Chad, who's never had an easy go at things during his Iowa career -- it would be quite sweet if he's able to stand on the podium this weekend, no matter what position it might be.

Per Hamilton, Chad Beatty is determined to go out a winner:

Chad Beatty was out of his cast in less than a month, back on the mat in controlled situations shortly after that and wrestling in the Big Ten Championships nine weeks after undergoing surgery on his fractured right foot.

"We heard about a similar scenario where a guy is still on crutches 13 weeks post-op," Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "Same situation, same procedure to fix it, and the guy won't get off the crutches. We were off the crutches the day the doctor said we could get off the crutches. We were in the room the day before the doctor said we could get in the room. That's accelerating the process, and he's very determined."

Hwt -- Dan Erekson (SR, 12-0), 5-seed
WHAT WE EXPECT: All-America, 3rd place.
Erekson's particularly tricky to project, too, since he's also dealing with some injury issues, or more precisely, conditioning issues resulting from an injury.  Unlike Beatty, he's at least had a few months' of mat time to get most of the kinks worked out, but his conditioning over the course of a tournament is still a little questionable -- one need look only at how badly he seemed to wear down in the closing minutes of the Big Ten Tournament final.  Does he have enough gas in his tank to make it to the finals -- and win?  I don't know.  I'm leaning on the pessimistic side of things at the moment, but I'll be happy to be proven wrong.  If Erekson can make the finals, I do think he can win them; there's almost a full day off between the semis and the finals and he'll have plenty of adrenaline and motivation to work with.  It's a shame his conditioning isn't in peak form here, because his relentless drive has been one of his strongest attributes; in a division full of fat, slow, plodding dudes, his energetic style and non-stop motor have been exciting -- and effective. 

In terms of opposition, the bracketeers didn't do Danimal any favors -- last year's national champion, runner-up, and fifth-place finisherare all on his side of the bracket.  On the other hand, last year's national champion, Missouri's Mark Ellis (#9) has been having a middling season, last year's national runner-up, Duke's Konrad Dudziak (#4) missed a big chunk of the season for disciplinary reasons (friends don't let friends drive drunk while carrying a machete), and last year's fourth-place finisher, Iowa State's David Zabriskie (#1), was pinned by Erekson in last year's tournament (it's kind of why Zabriskie was in 5th place).  They all seem eminently beatable and Erekson won't have to beat all of them, just two of them at most (Zabriskie and Ellis are in the same bracket pod) before getting to the finals and a possible match with Oklahoma State's hulk of a heavyweight, Jared Rosholt (#2).  Erekson doesn't lack for ability and, performance-wise, he's been pretty consistent this year, aside from some third-period sloppiness in some matches that made them closer than they needed to be... but does he have the gas tank?  Hard to say.

Per Hamilton, Dan Erekson likes action:

Dan Erekson remembers the days when he watched heavyweights and wished they'd take more shots and score more points.

"I always wanted to see more action," said the undefeated Iowa senior who has brought a fresh change to his weight class with a style that employs more lightweight skills than heavyweight pummeling. "It's fun to actually wrestle. I'm not going to talk negative about (the prototypical heavyweights), but it's a different style of wrestling and I don't like to wrestle that style. I like to shoot. It's more fun to score points and put people on their back."

FYI: If you prefer different (and possibly easier to read) links to Hamilton's stories, here's a link to 125-157 and a link to 165-Hwt.

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO LAST YEAR?

Last year Iowa won the title with 96.5 team points, 4.5 more than second-place Ohio State.  The overwhelming majority of Iowa's team points came from their five All-Americans: Brent Metcalf (2nd), Ryan Morningstar (3rd), Phil Keddy (4th), Dan Erekson (4th), and Dan Dennis (7th). 

125: In '09, Charlie Falck did not place in the top eight; it would be stunning if McDonough didn't improve on that (considerably) this year.
133: Last year, Dennis finishes 7th; it's reasonable to believe that he'll improve on that this year.
141: A year ago, Tsirtsis won only two matches and failed to place in the top eight; Marion is inconsistent, but should be able to do better than that.
149: Last year, Metcalf was upset in the finals and placed 2nd; he should do no worse than that this year, and improvement is certainly possible.
157: A year ago, Iowa didn't qualify anyone at this weight, so they obviously got zip out of it; needless to say, anything we get out of Kerr this year will be an improvement on last year's big fat zero.
165: In '09, Morningstar rampaged hugged his way through the consolation bracket to earn 3rd place; if he equals or betters that this year, given his injury condition, he'll be a fucking legend... let's assume we're going to backslide some here.
174: Last year, Borschel had a miserable tournament and failed to even place in the top eight; this year he's a heavy favorite to finish in the top two, which would certainly stand as a marked improvement.
184: A year ago, Keddy finished 4th; it will be difficult for Keddy to equal or better that mark this year, but it's not impossible.
197: A year ago, Beatty failed to place in the top eight and had contributed just one consolation bracket win to the Iowa cause; depending on his conditioning, he could better that substantially this year.
Hwt: In '09, Erekson finished 4th; he's in a good position to equal or better that this year.

The magic number of points for a title is generally around 100 team points.  It's not a stretch to think that Metcalf and Erekson can duplicate their efforts from last season.  Keddy also could, although that seems less likely given his consistency issues.  It's very plausible that Dennis will get more points than he did last year.  It's unlikely that Morningstar will be able to duplicate his points from last season... fortunately, those points should be made up for (and then some) by McDonough and Borschel.  And given the paucity of points Iowa got at 141, 157, and 197 last year, it wouldn't take much from Marion, Kerr, and Beatty to improve even slightly on those results.  If all that happens, it'll likely take another team going bananas to out-do Iowa.

YOU BUM, RANK THE IOWA TEAM IN ORDER OF LIKELIHOOD TO BE CHAMP

OK, since you asked so nicely.

1) Brent Metcalf, 149 lbs. -- Still Metcalf, still the most dominant guy on the team.
2) Jay Borschel, 174 lbs. -- He and Lewnes have been consensus 1-2 all season for a reason.
3) Dan Erekson, Hwt -- Gas tank is a question, but he can beat anyone in the field and has experience.
4) Matt McDonough, 125 lbs.  -- Has oodles of talent, but lacks experience and is in a loaded division.
5) Dan Dennis, 133 lbs.  -- He's beaten Ness before (albeit a year ago)...
6) Phil Keddy, 184 lbs. -- He has the ability to beat everyone and a lot of experience... does he have the conditioning and consistency?
7) Montell Marion, 141 lbs. -- Like Keddy he has the ability... but he doesn't have experience or consistency.
8) Chad Beatty, 197 lbs. -- Well, he kept his last loss to Varner to a decision, so maybe he can beat him?  OK, no.
9) Ryan Morningstar, 165 lbs. -- Unless this whole injury this is a ruse and he has a plan to murder Wisconsin's Andrew Howe (#1), Morningstar's nemesis these past two years, before Saturday night, it ain't happening.
10) Jake Kerr, 157 lbs. -- Kerr winning five in a row against the best in the nation at 157 might require an outbreak of ebola.

WHO SHOULD WE WORRY ABOUT?

  • IOWA STATE: Yes, Inconsolable State University is a threat.  Like Iowa, they qualified ten wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament.  However, four of their weights they qualified (141, 157, 174, and 184) feature unseeded competitors.  Their guys at 133 and 149 are seeded 10th and 7th, respectively.  Their top guys are at 125 (#5), 165 (#4), 197 (#1), and Hwt (#1).  They would need quite a few guys to wrestle way above expectations... and that hasn't been a trademark of Iowa State teams for a while now.
  • OKLAHOMA STATE: The Okie Staters qualified nine wrestlers for the tourney (everyone by 149).  They have one unseeded guy (197), and three guys seeded 10th or lower (125, 157, 165).  Their strongest weights (133, 141, 174, 184, Hwt) are also weights that Iowa is strong at, so head-to-head match-ups at those weights could prove important.
  • CORNELL: Yes, the Nard Dawg's alma mater is not just a trendy sleeper in the other big NCAA Tournament this weekend, they're a significant threat in this tournament as well.  Cornell's problem is that they're extremely top-heavy; they have guys seeded 4th or better at four weights (125, 141, 174, 197), but they didn't qualify anyone at 149 or 157 and they have unseeded guys at three weights (165, 184, and Hwt).  They would likely need their big guns to all wrestle to seed or better, get some help from other teams coming up short, and get a few of their "lesser" guys to wrestle above their seeds.  But don't do a double-take when/if you see Cornell high on the team standings -- they have a very good squad.
  • OHIO STATE: Despite their struggles at the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago, they can't be ruled out; they nearly turned a similar result at the BTT into a national championship a year ago.  Like Cornell, they're extremely top-heavy; they have guys seeded 5th or better at three weights (141, 149, 165), but they failed to qualify at two weights (157 and Hwt) and they have unseeded guys at four weights (125, 133, 174, 197).  They have essentially the same team as last year, only with no J Jaggers (the national champion at 141) and Pucillo wrestling far worse than he was a year ago.  They would need Humphrey, Palmer, and Sponseller to wrestle to seed or better, get disappointing performances out of the teams ahead of them, and wrestle above their seeds (or lack thereof) at multiple weights.  Seems like a tall order.
  • MINNESOTA: Finally, our favorite yellow rodents from up north can't be dismissed, either.  They qualified wrestlers at nine weights (all but 184).  Unfortunately (for them), they only have two real top-seeded guys, Ness at 133 (#1) and Thorn at 141 (#3).  They have three other guys seeded 5th or 6th (125, 157, 174) and four guys seeded 8th or worse (149, 165, 197, and Hwt).  Again, they're going to need a little help from other teams and some better-than-expected results from some of their own guys to make a run.  The fact that Dustin Schlatter (157), one of their best guys, is apparently hobbled by a knee injury, isn't going to help matters.  But they did put on a pretty good charge at the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago, so they shouldn't be totally overlooked.
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