As expected, the NCAA released the brackets for the 2011 NCAA wrestling tournament earlier this evening; you can find them in lovely PDF form here. As with most things the NCAA does these days, there were some issues. One, the "live streaming show" intended to announce the brackets was cocked-up and didn't actually, y'know, stream. Two, the brackets themselves contain plenty of decisions that are, frankly, curious... if not downright terrible. But let's just wade into the muck.
1) Anthony Robles, Arizona State (31-0)
2) Matt McDonough, Iowa (23-1)
3) Brandon Precin, jNW (30-2)
4) James Nicholson, Old Dominion (31-0)
5) Zach Sanders, Minnesota (29-4)
6) Nick Bedelyon, Kent State (23-3)
7) Ryan Mango, Stanford (21-4)
8) Jarrod Patterson, Oklahoma (25-7)
9) Jon Morrison, Oklahoma State (18-6)
10) Alan Waters, Missouri (38-5)
11) Frank Perelli, Cornell (29-11)
12) Jarrod Garnett, Va Tech (28-7)
THOUGHTS: Horseshit. Leaving aside the debate over whether McD or Robles deserves to be #1 (and you can make persuasive cases either way), the more egregious error here is not splitting up McD and Precin. They've wrestled three times already this year and now they may have to wrestle a fourth time to determine who goes to the finals. Meanwhile, Robles (who hasn't faced any of the four other top five seeds) gets to avoid either man until the finals. Ugh. I won't be shedding any tears if Nicholson or Sanders can manage to trip up Robles (and Sanders did beat him last year). As far as McD's path to the finals, it looks pretty unremarkable until the potential semifinals clash with Precin. He gets Manuel Ramirez (UNCG, 21-12) in the first round and may have a chance to pin Michigan's Sean Boyle for a third time this year in the second round. The quarterfinals should bring either (7) Ryan Mango (McD beat him 10-1 earlier this year) or (10) Alan Waters (no previous matches). He should have a good shot at bonus points in all of his first three matches.
TEAM RACE: This is a division that Iowa can make some serious hay in -- and not just because they have McD, a strong contender for the national title. Aside from Minnesota (who's a fringe team title contender at best), none of the other major contenders (Cornell, Penn State, Oklahoma State, or Boise State) have real threats here. Pataky (PSU) will have a tough match with (12) Garnett in R1, then a potential match with (5) Sanders in R2. (11) Perelli (Corn) could have (6) Bedelyon in R2 and (3) Precin in the quarters. (9) Morrison (OKST) will have to get by (8) Patterson in R2 and (1) Robles in the quarters. Allen Bartelli (BSU) is unranked and could have to deal with (8) Patterson, (9) Morrison, and (1) Robles in hist first three matches. Good luck there.
1) Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State (24-0)
2) Andrew Hochstrasser, Boise State (23-1)
3) Andrew Long, Penn State (15-1)
4) Tyler Graff, Wisconsin (33-3)
5) Lou Ruggirello, Hofstra (28-3)
6) Tony Ramos, Iowa (21-4)
7) Bernard Futrell, Illinois (24-7)
8) Mike Grey, Cornell (11-0)
9) Devin Carter, Va Tech (32-5)
10) Rollie Peterkin, Penn (26-5)
11) Scotti Sentes, Central Michigan (30-6)
12) Kyle Hutter, Old Dominion (30-8)
THOUGHTS: Not too bad, actually. The 6-seed is pretty fair for Tony based on what he's done this season and it keeps him off Jordan Oliver's side of the bracket, which is excellent news. He has a potential quarterfinals match with (3) Long -- but he did beat him at the dual earlier this year. If he can get by Long, a semifinal match with (2) Hochstrasser would be very tricky: Hochstrasser is the sort of big, strong 133-er that can give Tony fits. Ramos also gets to wrestle in a pigtail match (against Lehigh's Frank Cagnina, 19-4), which could be a good thing (extra advancement and possibly bonus points), but Cagnina also isn't a total slouch, so Tony had better be sharp from the get-go. If he gets by that match, he gets Jordan Keller (Oklahoma); beat him and he likely gets (11) Scotti Sentes (CMU). Ramos hasn't faced either guy before.
TEAM RACE: Unlike 125, this is a division where almost all of the title contenders will be aiming to pick up big points. Oklahoma State, Boise State, Penn State, and Iowa all have guys ranked in the top-6, while Cornell has a guy at the 8-seed. (Minnesota has unseeded David Thorn in the mix.). There will be plenty of opportunities for head-to-head encounters, too; we could see (1) Oliver (OKST) against (8) Grey (CORN) in the quarters, (3) Long (PSU) versus (6) Ramos (Iowa) in the quarters, Long/Ramos versus (2) Hochstrasser (BSU) in the semis. If Ramos isn't able to topple Long in the quarters, root for Hochstrasser to do it in the semis; Penn State is a much bigger threat in the team title race than Boise State. Ultimately, I think either Oliver or Hochstrasser wins here.
1) Kellen Russell, Michigan (33-0)
2) Mike Thorn, Minnesota (34-4)
3) Boris Novachkov, Cal Poly (27-1)
4) Jimmy Kennedy, Illinois (17-4)
5) Montell Marion, Iowa (9-3)
6) Andrew Alton, Penn State (28-8)
7) Tyler Nauman, Pitt (23-3)
8) Zack Bailey, Oklahoma (24-3)
9) Cole Von Ohlen, Air Force (42-7)
10) Todd Schavrien, Missouri (26-6)
11) Matthew Marlacher, American (30-7)
12) Zack Kemmerer, Penn (35-7)
THOUGHTS: 4-6 was about what I expected after Marion's disappointing 2-2 weekend at the Big Ten Tournament. The wildcard in this division has always been Boris Novachkov; he has a gaudy record, but he hasn't faced nearly as much elite competition as the Big Ten guys have. His only match against the rest of the top-5 was a 3-2 loss to Russell (he does have a medical forfeit win over Kennedy, but that's not exactly relevant). On the bright side, Marion avoids a rematch with perhaps his most consistent nemesis (Thorn), although based on the history of their rivalry, Marion is due to win their next meeting. On the down side, Marion's path now includes potential rematches with Kennedy (9-6 loss at Big Tens) and Russell (9-5 OT loss at the dual). Neither of those will be easy matches at all. Of course, he has to get there first, which means beating Stephen Dutton (Lehigh) and probably (12) Kemmerer (Penn). Marion hasn't faced either guy before.
TEAM RACE: Minnesota's slim hopes of a team title rest in large part on Thorn making a run to the finals and Iowa also needs Marion to go deep here. Other than that, none of the title contenders really has a top guy in the mix here. Penn State has Alton, but he's so far been unable to get over the hump against the top guys in this division (and lord knows he's had plenty of chances, given how often the Big Ten foes have met one another). Oklahoma State has (UN) Josh Kindig, who will have to deal with (7) Tyler Nauman in R1. In one bit of good fortune, Boise State and Cornell each have unranked wrestlers (Levi Jones and Hicks Manson, respectively) facing one another in a pigtail match, meaning one of them will already be in the consos before the tournament gets too far along.
1) Darrion Caldwell, NC State (14-0)
2) Frank Molinaro, Penn State (28-2)
3) Kevin LeValley, Bucknell (30-1)
4) Kyle Dake, Cornell (26-2)
5) Jamal Parks, Oklahoma State (25-3)
6) Jason Chamberlain, Boise State (24-1)
7) Mario Mason, Rutgers (27-6)
8) Ganbayar Sanjaa, American (22-6)
9) Donald Vinson, Binghampton (26-4)
10) Kurt Kinser, Indiana (27-8)
11) Andrew Nadhir, jNW (29-5)
12) Desi Green, Buffalo (31-4)
THOUGHTS: Well, to no one's surprise, Mark Ballweg didn't get a wildcard here. We thought he'd have to win one match at the Big Ten Tournament and get one of the automatic qualifier spots and, sure enough, that's what he needed to do. Unfortunately, he went 0-2, so Iowa goes from sending a top-2 seed at this weight the last three years (and a two-time champion) to... no one. C'est la vie. It's not like we would have expected too much out of Ballweg even if he'd made it the dance. The fact that Molinaro was able to parlay a win over a ho-hum field in the Big Ten Tournament in to the 2-seed (thanks to Dake losing in the EIWA finals) is a little irritating.
TEAM RACE: Unlike 125, where Iowa is well-represented and none of the other team title challengers are, 149 is the inverse: no Iowa representation, but heavy representation by the other team title contenders. Penn State has (2) Molinaro, Cornell has (4) Dake, Okie State has (5) Parks, and Boise has (6) Chamberlain. Since Iowa can't get any points here, the best case scenario for us is to limit the amount of points available to the other challengers. So the ideal title match among the top contenders is Caldwell versus LeValley, since neither NC State nor Bucknell are serious title threats. Dake and Parks may have to battle each other in the semis; hopefully Caldwell can knock off the winner in the semis. Still, despite getting the 2-seed, Molinaro doesn't have a cakewalk to the finals: he has a potential match with (7) Mason in the quarters, who handed Frank the Tank one of his only two losses this year, and a match with (3) LeValley, who's also tricky (Metcalf only beat him 3-2 last year).
1) Adam Hall, Boise State (25-0)
2) Steve Fittery, American (28-0)
3) David Taylor, Penn State (34-0)
4) Bubba Jenkins, Arizona State (16-3)
5) Jesse Dong, Va Tech (32-3)
6) Derek St. John, Iowa (19-4)
7) Bryce Saddoris, Navy (33-6)
8) Jason Welch, jNW (26-4)
9) James Fleming, Clarion (30-2)
10) Daryl Cocozzo, Rutgers (27-8)
11) Walter Peppelman, Harvard (29-6)
12) Paul Young, Indiana (25-9)
THOUGHTS: Someone's "0" must go! No other weight has as many undefeated wrestlers; it's kind of amazing that all three have been healthy all year and managed to avoid each other. The golden boy (David Taylor) may have to go through both Fittery and Hall if he wants to win a national title this year. As far as DSJ goes, he's staring at a potential quarterfinal match with Taylor; he's narrowed the gap on Taylor in their two matches, but beating him remains uncertain. To get there, DSJ will need to beat Frank Hickman (Bloomsburg) and probably (11) Peppelman (Harvard), neither of whom he's faced before. Assuming he can't get by Taylor (again), DSJ will need to be ready to do some work in the consolation brackets.
TEAM RACE: Boise's slim team title hopes are pretty reliant on Hall running the table here. The other major contender with a horse in the race at this weight is (of course) Penn State, with Taylor. Oklahoma State and Cornell each have unranked wrestlers here and Minnesota didn't qualify anyone at all. Assuming DSJ can't take Taylor out of the championship bracket, root for Fittery to topple him in the semis. And if worse comes to worse, we want Hall to beat him in the finals -- as noted, Boise is less of a team title threat than Penn State.
1) Jordan Burroughs, Nebraska (31-0)
2) Andrew Howe, Wisconsin (22-2)
3) Tyler Caldwell, Oklahoma (28-5)
4) Josh Asper, Maryland (31-2)
5) Colt Sponseller, Ohio State (21-5)
6) Dallas Bailey, Oklahoma State (23-7)
7) Shane Onufer, Wyoming (29-2)
8) Scott Winston, Rutgers (20-3)
9) Justin Kerber, Cornell (30-4)
10) Zach Toal, Missouri (20-12)
11) Aaron Janssen, Iowa (26-7)
12) Cody Yohn, Minnesota (27-11)
THOUGHTS: The 11-seed seems pretty fair for Janssen. If he can get by Peter Yates (VT), he'll probably get (6) Bailey (OKST) in R2; Bailey owns two wins over him this year (8-7 and 6-2), but Janssen is wrestling very well right now. If he gets by Bailey, he's probably looking at (3) Caldwell in the quarters; get by him and it's probably a rematch with (2) Howe, who Janssen had on the ropes in the Big Ten semis. That said, Janssen has a long, difficult road just to get to that point; in all likelihood, he's going to have to do most of his damage in the consos.
TEAM RACE: Another race without too many top contenders in the team title race. Penn State failed to qualify someone at this weight and Boise State has an unranked guy, while Cornell has the 9-seed and Minnesota has the 12-seed. Oklahoma State stands to gain the most points at this weight, since Bailey is the highest-seeded guy from any of the contenders. For Iowa's sake, it's probably best if this weight is mostly upset-free; if the top-five guys take care of business, that's fine -- their teams don't figure to be in the team title race. My guess is it comes down to Howe-Burroughs in the finals; they've been the class of this weight all year (or three years, in Howe's case).
1) Jon Reader, Iowa State (34-0)
2) Ed Ruth, Penn State (32-1)
3) Mack Lewnes, Cornell (35-2)
4) Colby Covington, Oregon State (20-1)
5) Christopher Henrich, Virginia (32-2)
6) Ben Bennett, Central Michigan (27-5)
7) Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford (27-3)
8) Mike Letts, Maryland (28-8)
9) Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa (19-8)
10) Nick Heflin, Ohio State (20-7)
11) Austin Mays, Lehigh (21-9)
12) Mike Benefiel, Oklahoma State (15-6)
THOUGHTS: Maybe Ethen had too good of a weekend at the Big Tens. By moving up to the 9-seed, he's staring down the barrel of a quarterfinals match with (1) Reader (ISU), which is scary business indeed (Reader own two wins over him earlier this season, 6-1 and 11-2). Of course, to get there he'll need to beat either Rob Morrison (Rider) or Dorian Henderson (Mizzou), followed by a likely match with (8) Letts (Maryland). Luckily, he does own a win over Letts (6-4 at Midlands) from earlier this season. Getting by Reader will be a very tall task; Lofthouse is going to need to make his mark in the consolation bracket -- fortunately, he's proven very capable of doing that this year, both at Midlands and at Big Tens.
TEAM RACE: Another division with a lot of meaning for the team title race. In addition to Iowa, Penn State has the 2-seed (Ruth), Cornell has the 3-seed (Lewnes), and Oklahoma State has the 12-seed. Minnesota and Boise State both have unseeded wrestlers at this weight. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then our usual enemy (Iowa State) is definitely our friend here: assuming Ethen doesn't upset him, we want Reader to run the table. Iowa State doesn't have a prayer of winning the team title, but he can knock off Lewnes or Ruth for us if they make the finals. Indeed, the fact that Ruth and Lewnes are on the same side of the bracket means both of them can't make the finals -- good news for Iowa. Barring that, root for Amuchastegui to wreak some havoc on that side of the bracket: he's got a great name, he's good, and he could take out Ruth and/or Lewnes.
1) Chris Honeycutt, Edinboro (26-0)
2) Robert Hamlin, Lehigh (28-2)
3) Steve Bosak, Cornell (30-3)
4) Travis Rutt, Wisconsin (33-2)
5) Joe LeBlanc, Wyoming (24-2)
6) Ryan Loder, UNI (27-9)
7) Chris Perry, Oklahoma State (23-5)
8) Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota (30-9)
9) Quentin Wright, Penn State (16-6)
10) Josh Ihnen, Nebraska (25-8)
11) Kirk Smith, Boise State (8-2)
12) Grant Gambrall, Iowa (19-7)
THOUGHTS: Frankly, it's a little remarkable that Gambrall is actually seeded after the way his season has fallen apart on the back end. To say he's not entering the tournament with positive momentum would be a pretty huge understatement. Gambrall isn't even locked into the first round yet -- he has to get by Corey Peltier (Maryland) in a pigtail match first and with the unconvincing way Gambrall is wrestling, that's no sure thing. Win that match and he gets a date with Austin Trotman (APPST) in the first round, then a likely match with (5) Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming) in round two. If he can manage to get by that match, he'll probably get a rematch (4) Rutt (Wisco), who pinned him at Big Tens last week. Gulp.
TEAM RACE: Cornell is the only major contender with a top-5 seed (Bosak), but the other contenders do have guys represented lower in the seedings (Okie State has Perry at the 7-seed, Minnesota has Steinhaus at the 8-seed, Penn State has Wright at the 9-seed, Boise has Smith at the 11-seed, and Iowa has Gambrall at the 12-seed). This is a weight where Cornell could pick up some major points if Bosak can spring an upset or two in the quarters and semis. Unless Smith has undergone a nigh-miraculous recovery, he won't be contributing many points to Boise's total. Wright, who played an instrumental role in Penn State's run to the Big Ten title last week, has a tough draw here. If he gets by Jonathan Fausey (Virginia) in round one, he'll have to deal with a rubber match with (9) Steinhaus (MINN) in round two; Steinhaus beat him via major decision earlier this year (10-1) and nearly got him in the Big Ten finals. And if he gets by Steinhaus, he'll probably have to topple the undefeated Honeycutt in the quarters. A dark horse here might be (7) Perry (OKST), who's been winning ugly for most of this year -- and that's a useful skill to have come tourney time. And we certainly know he has the pedigree to win here...
1) Cam Simaz, Cornell (31-1)
2) Clayton Foster, Oklahoma State (22-0)
3) Trevor Brandvold, Wisconsin (14-0)
4) Dustin Kilgore, Kent State (33-2)
5) Luke Lofthouse, Iowa (20-5)
6) Micah Burak, Penn (26-6)
7) Zac Thomusseit, Pitt (22-2)
8) Matt Powless, Indiana (36-5)
9) Sonny Yohn, Minnesota (13-5)
10) Logan Brown, Purdue (21-7)
11) Jerome Ward, Iowa State (16-7)
12) Zack Geisen, Stanford (18-2)
THOUGHTS: The 5-seed seems pretty solid for our favorite Albino Rhino. Uncle Luke probably could have earned himself the 3- or 4-seed with a win over Brandvold in the Big Ten finals, but the 5-seed isn't too bad. He has to deal with Riley Orozco (Cal State-Bakersfield) in round one and then probably (12) Giesen (Stanford) in R2. Luke hasn't faced either guy before. Get by them and he's looking at a match with (4) Kilgore (Kent St) in the quarters, which could be very tough. He's a big, strong, and technically skilled, which is a bad matchup for the Albino Rhino. And even if he gets by him, the semis would likely bring a match with (1) Simaz (Cornell). If Uncle Luke is going to make a serious run for the title, he's going to need to put together the performance of his life -- or get some help along the way in terms of upsets (or both).
TEAM RACE: Another chance for Cornell and Oklahoma State to pick up big points in the team race, since they have the 1- and 2-seeds at this weight. Simaz and Foster will be tough to beat, but there are some good wrestlers at the seeds below them, too -- Brandvold looked solid at Big Tens and Kilgore is legit. We all know about Uncle Luke, but Thomusseit (who owns a win over Lofthouse from earlier this year) and Yohn are dangerous wrestlers with lower seeds at this weight. Penn State has no one at this weight and Boise State has an unranked guy at this weight (which is a recurring theme with them, actually).
1) Zach Rey, Lehigh (29-1)
2) Jarod Trice, Central Michigan (26-3)
3) Ryan Flores, American (22-5)
4) Dominick Russo, Rutgers (30-6)
5) Dom Bradley, Missouri (25-3)
6) Ryan Tomei, Pitt (28-4)
7) Blake Rasing, Iowa (17-5)
8) Tony Nelson, Minnesota (29-6)
9) Cameron Wade, Penn State (28-6)
10) Nathan Fernandez, Oklahoma (20-5)
11) Tucker Lane, Nebraska (29-7)
12) Eric Bugenhagen, Wisconsin (28-11)
THOUGHTS: 7-seed is pretty good for Blake, given where he started at this year and that miserable slump he went through in January. He's top of the heap among the Big Ten guys (and deservedly so). He's got a first round date with Kyle Simonson (ISU); he beat him 2-0 earlier this year. Win there and he likely gets a date with (10) Fernandez in R2, followed by (2) Trice (CMU) in the quarters. He hasn't faced either of those guys before. But, really, the story's the same as it ever is: heavyweight matches are such a crapshoot, so often determined by who gets the first (and often only) takedown. Blake has confidence and a string of good performances on his side right now, which is about all you can hope for at this weight.
TEAM RACE: Another chance for Iowa to make up some ground on the competition in the team race. Cornell, Oklahoma State, and Boise State all have unseeded wrestlers at this weight, while Minnesota (8-seed Nelson) and Penn State (9-seed Wade) have lower-seeded wrestlers. Iowa could really use a very nice tournament out of Blake here and with him wrestling so well recently, there's reason to have some hope that he could deliver that.
PROJECTED TEAM POINTS (placement points only)
1) Penn State - 50pts
2) Cornell -- 48pts
3) Oklahoma State -- 45 pts
4) Iowa -- 42 pts
5) Wisconsin -- 40 pts
6) Boise State -- 34 pts
7) Minnesota -- 22 pts
Note that this tally reflects placement points only (projecting bonus points is impossible and projecting advancement points in the NCAA bracket gives me a migraine), so it's very imprecise, but it gives us a rough idea of which teams have the most strength. This tally also assumes that everyone will wrestle exactly to seed, which certainly won't happen; again, this is just meant to give a rough idea of the teams with the most strength. Penn State and Cornell have the most strength at the top -- each has four guys rated a 3-seed or higher -- while Iowa and Oklahoma State counter with a lot of balance. Iowa has nine seeded wrestlers (more than anyone else), but three of them are seeded between 9-12 -- which doesn't get you any placement points.
Interestingly, Wisconsin sneaks into the discussion on the strength of four guys rated a 4-seed or higher. If a few of those guys can wrestle a bit higher than their seed, they could be a dark horse to make some noise with their four studs. On the other hand, if they suffer an upset (like Rutt going down in the quarters at the Big Tens), they're toast. Boise State is one of the few teams to qualify wrestlers at all ten weights -- but only four of them are seeded. They have the quantity, but not the quality. Ditto Minnesota, who has nine wrestlers qualified, but only three projected to finish in All-America places.
I think it's probably a four-horse race between Cornell, Penn State, Iowa, and Oklahoma State. For Iowa to win, they need Penn State and Cornell to suffer a few upsets -- and they need to avoid turning in any disappointing performances themselves. Iowa can't afford a year like they had two years ago, when a number of guys turned in underachieving efforts and Iowa won by the skin of their teeth. The field is too deep this year for Iowa to win with anything less than their best effort.