We Must Break You Is Thinking B1G

Iowa wrestling has the weekend off from competition, but that doesn't mean we can't spend a little time thinking about them. Next weekend is the Big Ten Tournament in West Lafayette, which is important for two reasons: an opportunity to claim a major championship and the means to qualify weights for the NCAA Tournament two weeks later. To that end, the NCAA also released the qualifier allocations for every conference, which contained very good news for the Big Ten. The Big Ten always leads the nation in qualifiers, but they're taking it to another level in 2012: a whopping 74 qualifiers. That's more than they've had in recent years and almost as many as the conferences with the second (EIWA, 46) and third (Big 12, 31) most qualifiers combined (77). It's good to be the king.

The pre-seeds for the Big Ten Tournament will be announced Monday, which should be virtually identical to the final seeds released on Friday. Commenter twade70 has gone ahead and made some excellent educated guesses on what those seeds might look like, so let's take a look at them and forecast how things might play out for Iowa, as well as the winners at each weight. Since Penn State and Minnesota appear to be Iowa's stiffest challengers for an NCAA title (with Penn State being the overall favorite), I'll also take a look at their NCAA qualification projections. (Note: the record in brackets is for B1G dual meets only.)

125 (6 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Matt McDonough, Iowa (7-1)
2) Zach Sanders, Minnesota (7-1)
3) Jesse Delgado, Illinois (6-2)
4) Nico Megaludis, Penn State (5-3)
5) Levi Mele, Northwestern (6-2)
6) Jonni Dijulius, Ohio State (4-3)
7) Eric Olanowski, Michigan State (3-4)
8) Grant Pizzo, Michigan (3-5)

Analysis: Delgado beat McD, but lost to Sanders and Mele. Mele beat Delgado, but lost to McDonough and Megaludis. Megaludis beat Mele, but lost to Sanders, McDonough, and Olanowski (albeit via DQ). So 3-4-5 is a bit of a muddle. On paper, McD is staring at a semifinal match with Megaludis, who McD beat 3-1 in sudden victory at the dual meet. That was a close match but Megaludis also never looked terribly close to scoring; I'd still strongly favor McD in a rematch. Mele would be a more favorable matchup, though, since McD beat him via major decision (18-4) at the dual meet. On the other side, Sanders-Delgado could put on quite a show in the semis -- Sanders beat him via 14-13 decision (!) earlier this year. I still think we're headed to a third showdown between McD and Sanders, though -- and a second-straight Big Ten title for McD.

Winner: Matt McDonough, Iowa (2x) def. Zach Sanders, Minnesota

NCAA Qualification Notes: Iowa, Minnesota, and Penn State should have no trouble qualifying a wrestler here. McD, Sanders, and Nico should easily finish within the top-6 at this weight. (Note: I'm not going to speculate about who among the wrestlers on those teams could get at-large spots. For the purposes of this exercise, let's just assume everyone either needs to get one of the NCAA's automatic qualifying spots or get left home. I don't think there are that many borderline guys anyway.)

133 (7 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Logan Stieber, Ohio State (7-1)
2) Tony Ramos, Iowa (7-1)
3) B.J. Futrell, Illinois (7-1)
4) Chris Dardanes, Minnesota (5-2)
5) Cashe Quiroga, Purdue (4-3)
6) Zac Stevens, Michigan (4-4)
7) Ridge Kiley, Nebraska (4-4)
8) Frank Martellotti, Penn State (3-4)

Analysis: There's quite a drop-off here after the top-four, as you can see. Stieber beat Ramos, didn't face Futrell, and lost to Dardanes. Ramos beat Dardanes (twice) and Futrell (thrice), but lost to Stieber. Futrell beat Dardanes, but lost to Ramos (thrice) and didn't face Stieber. Dardanes beat Stieber, but lost to Ramos (twice) and Dardanes. If these are the seeds at this weight, they're probably the best we can hope for. Beating Futrell for a fourth time this year would be daunting, but Tony's still had an easier time with him than Dardanes (who seems to cause Tony's offense to freeze in its tracks). Leaving Dardanes at the 4-seed also sets up a potential semifinal match between Dardanes and Stieber. As much as I want to see Ramos get a rematch with Stieber (protip: don't take down this time, Tony), there's no doubt that his chances of winning a Big Ten title would be much better if Dardanes was his opponent in the finals. Still, it will probably be Stieber... and I just can't pick Tony to beat him until I see Tony actually get a takedown against him.

Winner: Logan Stieber, Ohio State def. Tony Ramos, Iowa

NCAA Qualification Notes: Iowa and Minnesota should have little trouble qualifying wrestlers here. Penn State, on the other hand, will probably need Martellotti to win a few matches, which is a much dicier proposition.

141 (5 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Kellen Russell, Michigan (8-0)
2) Hunter Stieber, Ohio State (5-1)
3) Montell Marion, Iowa (6-1)
4) Nick Dardanes, Minnesota (5-2)
5) Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska (5-2)
6) Daryl Thomas, Illinois (5-3)
7) Bryan Pearsall, Penn State (3-4)
8) Matt Ortega, Indiana (3-4)

Analysis: What an incredibly top-heavy weight. Five of InterMat's top 10 wrestlers at 141 are in the Big Ten (Russell, Stieber, Marion, Dardanes, Sueflohn)... but no other B1G wrestlers crack their rankings. That big drop-off from the top of the heap to the rest is why the Big Ten only gets five NCAA spots here. On one hand, that means those top guys really need to avoid upsets. On the other hand, the reason there are only five spots is because the rest of the heap hasn't been good enough to mount much of a challenge to the top guys -- and it's unlikely they'll start doing so now. Russell was undefeated in B1G dual meets, but lost to Stieber at an early season tournament and didn't face Marion or Dardanes this year. (He did major Sueflohn.) Stieber beat Russell at that aforementioned tournament and beat Marion and Dardanes in duals, but split two matches with Sueflohn (even getting majored in one of them). Marion lost to Stieber in a dual, but beat Dardanes twice and Sueflohn once. Dardanes beat Sueflohn, but lost to Marion twice and to Stieber. Sueflohn went 1-1 against Stieber, but also lost to Russell, Marion, and Dardanes. It's odd that Russell hasn't wrestled more of the top guys at this weight, but it's also not his fault: Michigan faced Ohio State and Minnesota in duals... those teams just didn't send Stieber or Dardanes out to wrestle Russell. Russell looks like a favorite to get back to the finals, but Marion will need to avenge his loss to Stieber to get there. I think he manages that, but still can't solve Russell.

Winner: Kellen Russell, Michigan (4x) def. Montell Marion, Iowa

NCAA Qualification Notes: Again, Iowa and Minnesota should have little trouble qualifying here, but Penn State will have a much tougher time sending someone at this weight.

149 (9 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Frank Molinaro, Penn State (8-0)
2) Eric Grajales, Michigan (5-2)
3) Dylan Ness, Minnesota (5-3)
4) Cam Tessari, Ohio State (4-1)
5) Ivan Lopouchanski, Purdue (6-2)
6) Taylor Walsh, Indiana (5-2)
7) Eric Terrazas, Illinois (5-3)
8) Kaleb Friedley, Northwestern (3-4)

Analysis: While this is still a weak weight overall, it has a fair amount of depth in the Big Ten -- thus the 9 qualifying spots. That's a very pleasant surprise from an Iowa perspective, but more on that in a minute. On paper, this looks like a weight where Molinaro should run away from the competition -- he's 3-0 this year against Grajales and Ness and the matches weren't terribly close. He didn't wrestle Tessari this year, so there's some intrigue in a potential semifinal matchup there... but this is the Italian Stallion's weight to lose. And he won't.

Winner: Frank Molinaro, Penn State (2x) def. Dylan Ness, Minnesota

NCAA Qualification Notes: Penn State and Minnesota should easily qualify wrestlers here. I didn't think Mike Kelly would have much of a chance to get an NCAA spot for Iowa here, but the fact that there are NINE qualifying spots gives me much more hope. He's been very close to beating several of those guys at the bottom of the seeds already and just one win may be enough to get him into 9th place. Suddenly it seems doable for Kelly to get into the NCAA tournament.

157 (6 NCAA Qualifying Spots)
1) Jason Welch, Northwestern (8-0)
2) Dylan Alton, Penn State (6-2)
3) James Green, Nebraska (7-1)
4) Anthony Jones, Michigan State (5-3)
5) Josh Demas, Ohio State (4-3)
6) Derek St. John, Iowa (2-1)
7) Alec Ortiz, Minnesota (3-3)
8) Shawn Perry, Wisconsin (2-6)

Analysis: When a wrestler who went 2-6 has a chance at an 8-seed, it's fair to say this was not a terribly good weight class in the Big Ten. But it's also not a great weight class nationally, which is part of the reason why the Big Ten will still send six automatic qualifiers at this weight class. Before the year began, it seemed like a two-horse race between Welch and DSJ; after DSJ's injury, it looks like a one-horse race. Then again, the matches between the top three at this weight were very close: Welch beat Alton 2-1 and Alton beat Green 2-1. (Alton also lost a B1G dual match to Minnesota's Jake Deitchler, who has since retired.) From an Iowa standpoint, these seeds wouldn't be favorable -- Green looks like a bad matchup for DSJ. He's an explosive, powerful wrestler who could easily give a gimpy DSJ lots of problems. He had a questionable gas tank when he wrestled Iowa early in January, but if he's improved that, he's my pick to pull a mild upset here.

Winner: James Green, Nebraska def. Jason Welch, Northwestern

NCAA Qualification Notes: Penn State should easily qualify a wrestler at this weight. I don't think Iowa will have much difficulty qualifying a wrestler here, either, although the fact that it rests on DSJ's balky knee makes me nervous. We saw how bad it looked after he tweaked it against Ohio State a month ago; hopefully that won't happen again, but... I think Minnesota has very little shot of qualifying someone at this weight.

165 (8 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) David Taylor, Penn State (8-0)
2) Mike Evans, Iowa (6-2)
3) Robert Kokesh, Nebraska (6-2)
4) Ben Jordan, Wisconsin (3-3)
5) Conrad Polz, Illinois (6-1)
6) Dan Yates, Michigan (4-3)
7) Cody Yohn, Minnesota (2-5)
8) Derek Garcia, Ohio State (4-4)

Analysis: The reality is this is David Taylor's world and the rest of are just watching the Sainted Unicorn do work on the rest of the Big Ten. Evans lost to Garcia and went 1-1 with Yohn, but he also beat Kokesh, Jordan, and Polz. Kokesh was pretty dominant in his wins (four with bonus points), but he lost to Evans and Taylor. Jordan was manhandled by Evans (twice) and Kokesh (and lost a weird one to a jNW wrestler), but he also beat Polz, which is probably why he gets the nod ahead of him here. Per these seedings, we'd get an Evans-Yohn rubber match, giving Mike a chance to erase the taste of that loss to Yohn last weekend. An Evans-Kokesh semi could be pretty tasty, too -- assuming the good Mike Evans shows up. Either way, though, Taylor's winning this thing.

Winner: David Taylor, Penn State (2x) def. Robert Kokesh, Nebraska

NCAA Qualification Notes: Penn State and Iowa shouldn't have any difficulty qualifying wrestlers here. If the Cody Yohn that showed up against Mike Evans shows up here, Minnesota should be fine, too. If the Yohn that slumped through most of the B1G season shows up, though, it could get interesting.

174 (9 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Ed Ruth, Penn State (8-0)
2) Logan Storley, Minnesota (7-0)
3) Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa (5-2)
4) Nick Heflin, Ohio State (3-2)
5) Justin Zeerip, Michigan (4-3)
6) Tyler Koehn, Nebraska (4-4)
7) Curran Jacobs, Michigan State (5-3)
8) Jordan Blanton, Illinois (3-2)

Analysis: Guess how many non-bonus point wins recorded for PSU this year? That would be three -- and none of them were against B1G foes. So, yeah, this is another weight where PSU is a big, big favorite. Storley gets the 2-seed by virtue of beating everyone else in the B1G (he didn't wrestle when Minnesota faced PSU in a dual), although Lofthouse did avenge his dual meet loss to Storley last weekend. Ethen's two losses were to Ruth and Storley. He didn't face Heflin, Zeerip, or Jacobs this year, but he did beat Koehn and Blanton (thrice). It's crucial that Ethen gets the 3-seed here, though, because that puts them on the opposite side of the bracket from Ruth -- and that's a rematch we want to delay as long as possible. Ruth-Storley should be a fun final, but Ruth has been too dominant this year to get cute and pick an upset.

Winner: Ed Ruth, Penn State (2x) def. Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa

NCAA Qualification Notes: Penn State, Minnesota, and Iowa have the three best wrestlers at this weight. The Big Ten gets nine qualifying spots here. I don't anticipate them having much difficulty qualifying their wrestlers here.

184 (7 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota (8-0)
2) Quentin Wright, Penn State (7-1)
3) Josh Ihnen, Nebraska (6-2)
4) Cody Magrum, Ohio State (3-0)
5) Braden Atwood, Purdue (6-2)
6) Grant Gambrall, Iowa (0-0 at 184)
7) Tony Dallago, Illinois (6-2)
8) Ian Hinton, Michigan State (2-4)

Analysis: Steinhaus beat Wright at a dual earlier this year and also beat Ihnen, Atwood, Gambrall, and Dallago. Wright beat Ihnen. After that, though, these seeds are a bit of a stab in the dark, with guys like Magrum missing time due to injury and Gambrall not cutting to 184 until a few weeks ago. Don't be surprised if these seeds are wrong after the top two. On the other hand, I don't think it matters -- I don't think anyone will touch Steinhaus or Wright here.

Winner: Quentin Wright, Penn State (2x) def. Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota

NCAA Qualification Notes: Obviously, Minnesota and Penn State should have little difficulty qualifying here. If Gambrall wrestles the way he's capable of wrestling -- i.e., as he did against Dallago at National Duals last week -- he shouldn't have any trouble, either. Note: if Gambrall does not finish in the top-7 at this weight, Iowa will NOT qualify for the NCAA tournament at 184, no ifs, ands, or buts.

197 (7 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Sonny Yohn, Minnesota (6-1)
2) Matt Powless, Indiana (7-0)
3) Morgan McIntosh, Penn State (5-1)
4) Andrew Campolattano, Ohio State (5-3)
5) Max Huntley, Michigan (3-3)
6) Mario Gonzalez, Illinois (6-2)
7) James Nakashima, Nebraska (4-3)
8) Nick McDiarmid, Michigan State (2-5)

Analysis: Yohn and Powless are the class of this division. Yohn beat Powless earlier this year (4-1) at the Southern Scuffle, but they were 2-2 in their head-to-head meetings before this season. McIntosh and Campolattano are the future of this division, two true freshmen who have enjoyed a fair amount of success already. Iowa's options here are either Tomas Lira or Vinnie Wagner; based on Vinnie getting the nod at National Duals last weekend, he's probably the favorite here as well. I don't know if there's such a thing as a good matchup for Iowa at this weight, but it would obviously be preferable to avoid Yohn and Powless as long as possible.

Winner: Matt Powless, Indiana def. Sonny Yohn, Minnesota

NCAA Qualification Notes: Minnesota should qualify easily. Ditto Penn State, assuming McIntosh is healthy (he's been slowed by a knee injury lately). Iowa... well, seven spots gives Vinnie a little bit more of a chance than I thought he'd have. I'll certainly be rooting for him. But I wouldn't bank on him getting one of the spots.

HWT (10 NCAA qualifying spots)
1) Tony Nelson, Minnesota (8-0)
2) Cameron Wade, Penn State (7-1)
3) Ben Apland, Michigan (6-2)
4) Tucker Lane, Nebraska (5-3)
5) Bobby Telford, Iowa (2-2)
6) Roger Vukobratovich, Purdue (4-4)
7) Mike McMullan, Northwestern (5-3)
8) Adam Chalfant, Indiana (3-3)

Analysis: And, finally, the most thrilling weight class of the Big Ten Tournament! Or not. Nelson's the favorite here -- he has the undefeated record in league dual meets, including a 5-0 win over Wade -- but given the razor-thin margin in most heavyweight matches, it wouldn't be a shock to see an upset or three here. As far as Bobby is concerned, these seeds would slot him on the same side as Nelson, who defeated him 2-0 last week. I'm not sure being on the same side as Wade would be any better for Bobby, though. The most important thing for Telford is to rediscover his offense and regain some of his December mojo.

Winner: Tony Nelson, Minnesota def. Cameron Wade, Penn State

NCAA Qualification Notes: Again, Minnesota and Penn State qualify easily here. I'm still nervous in general about Bobby, but with 10 (!) available, there is zero excuse for him not to qualify.

Thanks again to twade70 for the excellent seeding information.

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