2012 NCAA Wrestling Tournament Bracketology

Bracket time!

NCAA Tournament Details
March 15-17; St. Louis, MO
RADIO: KXIC 800 AM, Hawkeye All-Access (all sessions)

Thursday, March 15
Session I: 11am (ESPN3.com)
Session II: 6:30pm (ESPN3.com)

Friday, March 16
Session III Quarterfinals: 10am (ESPNU, ESPN3.com)
Session IV Semifinals: 6pm (ESPNU, ESPN3.com)

Saturday, March 17
Session V Medal Round: 10am (ESPNU, ESPN3.com)
Session VI Finals: 6:30pm (ESPN, ESPN3.com)

No time for preamble; I wrote 7000 words, so let's get to it...

125

1) Matt McDonough, Iowa (JR, 31-1)
2) Zach Sanders, Minnesota (SR, 25-3)
3) Alan Waters, Missouri (SO, 25-2)
4) Jesse Delgado, Illinois (RS FR, 30-6)
5) Nic Bedelyon, Kent State (SR, 29-4)
6) Frank Perrelli, Cornell (SR, 30-5)
7) Jarrod Patterson, Oklahoma (JR, 26-6)
8) Ryan Mango, Stanford (JR, 25-5)
9) Levi Mele, just Northwestern (JR, 30-6)
10) Nico Megaludis, Penn State (FR, 24-7)
11) Matt Snyder, Virginia (JR, 22-3)
12) Steve Bonanno, Hofstra (JR, 28-6)

Analysis: Nothing too surprising here. It's unfortunate that Delgado is on the top half of the bracket with McDonough, given what a difficult match-up he's proven to be for McD, but so it goes. He did lose to Bedelyon earlier this season, perhaps history will repeat itself. And if not, well, McD has bested him in their two most recent encounters, so it's not like he can't beat him. Everything seems to set up for a McD-Sanders rematch in the finals, though, assuming McD is able to get by Delgado again. No one but McD has been able to beat Sanders this season.

Route to Title:
R1: Jared Germaine, Eastern Michigan (23-9)
R2: Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State (30-10) or Vince Rodriguez, George Mason (18-9)
Quarters: #8 Ryan Mango, Stanford (25-5) or #9 Levi Mele, just Northwestern (30-6)
Semis: #4 Jesse Delgado, Illinois (30-6) or #5 Nic Bedelyon, Kent State (29-4)
Finals: #2 Zach Sanders, Minnesota (25-3) or #3 Alan Waters, Missouri (25-2)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Sanders: 3-0 this year, 7-0 overall (7-1, 7-4, and 6-1 decisions this year; 10-3 decision in 2010-11; 6-4 decision and 13-2 and 8-0 major decisions in 2009-10)
Delgado: 2-1 this year, 2-0 overall (lost 11-7 decision in SV, won 6-3 and 4-3 decisions)
Megaludis: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 3-1 decision in SV)
Mango: 0-0 this year, 3-0 overall (won 10-1and 11-0 major decisions in 2010-2011, won 12-4 major decision in 2009-10)
Mele: 1-0 this year, 2-0 overall (won 18-4 major decision this year, fall (4:32) in 2009-10)
Patterson: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 7-1 decision this year)

Bonus Point Potential: Decent, early on. McD beat Germaine via major decision (13-4) at Midlands earlier this season and owns several bonus point wins over Mele and Mango in the past. Bonus points will be hard to come by against either Delgado or Sanders, though.

Team Race Notes: For this feature, we're going to look at Penn State, Minnesota, and Oklahoma State. I don't think anyone else has a strong enough team to mount a serious challenge for the team title.

Penn State: #10 Nico Megaludis -- Could have a tough second round match with #7 Jarrod Patterson (OKLA). If he gets by Patterson, he'll likely get bounced in the quarters by Sanders (who has a pair of 6-2 wins over Megaludis already this season). On seeding alone, he's not favored to be an All-America and I'd be surprised to see him finish any higher than 7th or 8th.

Minnesota: #2 Zach Sanders -- As noted above, Sanders is a heavy favorite to be in the finals opposite McDonough. I don't think he'll beat McD, but he has a good route to get that far. #3 Alan Waters (MIZZ) is a potential obstacle to yet another McD-Sanders match, though; Sanders is 2-0 against him this year, but both matches were close (1-0, 8-6). Still, pencil him in as a finalist.

Oklahoma State: UN Jon Morrison -- He's battled injuries and inconsistency all season; assuming he wins his R1 match (no guarantee), he'd likely exit the bracket in R2 against Sanders. I'd be surprised if he mounted much of a push to be an All-American in the wrestlebacks.

Winner: McDonough DEF Sanders

133

1) Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State (JR, 24-1)
2) Logan Stieber, Ohio State (RS FR, 28-2)
3) Tony Ramos, Iowa (SO, 28-3)
4) B.J. Futrelll, Illinois (JR, 27-6)
5) Joe Colon, UNI (JR, 25-2)
6) Devin Carter, Virginia Tech (SO, 30-3)
7) Aaron Schopp, Edinboro (RS FR, 36-4)
8) Zac Stevens, Michigan (SR, 23-9)
9) Cashe Quiroga, Purdue (SO, 14-6)
10) Chris Dardanes, Minnesota (RS FR, 19-8)
11) Steven Keith, Harvard (JR, 30-8)
12) Bryan Ortenzio, Penn (SR, 27-3)

Analysis: Nothing surprising at the top here; you could argue that it's a bit convoluted because Ramos > Oliver > Stieber > Ramos, but Ramos' two losses to Stieber are enough to end that debate. Futrell would have a lovely record without those four (!) losses to Ramos. Colon has been a beast at 133 since getting healthy and his dominant win over Carter provided an easy rationale to ranking him higher than Carter. Based on this season's results, Oliver, Stieber, and Ramos are generally a cut above the rest of the guys at this weight, although there's some intrigue with Ramos and Stieber in that they might have to face guys that have defeated each of them once this year (#6 Carter and #10 Dardanes, respectively) in the quarterfinals. As Iowa fans, it's in our interests to root hard for Dardanes to upset Stieber; Dardanes is no pushover, but Tony has at least proven that he can beat Dardanes. He's yet to come close to beating Stieber.

Route to Title:
R1: Brian Owen, Boise State (8-1)
R2: Nathan Pennesi, West Virginia (29-8) or Aaron Kalil, Navy (31-9)
Quarters: #6 Devin Carter, Virginia Tech (30-3)
Semis: #2 Logan Stieber, Ohio State (28-2)
Finals: #1 Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State (24-1)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Oliver: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 4-3 decision in OT)
Stieber: 0-2 this year, 0-2 overall (lost 7-0 and 5-2 decisions)
Futrell: 4-0 this year, 5-1 overall (13-5 major decision and 6-2, 5-2, and 6-1 decisions this year; 9-6 decision loss and 6-2 decision win last year)
Carter: 1-1 this year, 1-1 overall (won 3-2 decision, lost 6-4 decision in SV)
Dardanes: 2-0 this year, 2-0 overall (won 5-2 and 6-1 decisions)
Keller: 0-1 this year, 1-0 overall (won 8-3 decision in 2010-11)

Bonus Point Potential: Low, I'm afraid. Owen was the Pac-12 champion at 133 this year and Pennessi are very solid wrestlers. Just winning will be hard enough against Carter, Stieber, and Oliver, let alone lodging bonus points.

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: UN Frank Martellotti -- He got the very short stick when it comes to draws, opening up with #1 Jordan Oliver (OKST). He'll be in the wrestlebacks immediately, facing either Frank Lomas (CSUB) or Shelton Mack (Pitt). He's not going to last long in this tournament and he's unlikely to score many (if any) points for PSU.

Minnesota: #10 Chris Dardanes -- As noted, Dardanes can be a big friend to the Iowa cause if he can trip up #2 Logan Stieber in the quarterfinals. To get there he'll have to beat #7 Aaron (A.J.) Schopp, who has a gaudy record (36-4), but not much in the way of impressive wins. A Dardanes win there will be an upset in seed only. Dardanes seems like a good bet to be an All-America, likely in the 5-8 range... although he could also screw the pooch like he did at the Big Ten Tournament.

Oklahoma State: #1 Jordan Oliver -- Oliver's the favorite to win this weight and repeat as national champion. At the very least, he should make the finals easily (although I'm curious to see him versus either Futrell or Colon in the semis and Quiroga would be an interesting quarters opponent, as he's wrestling with a lot of confidence right now). If he gets there, he'll probably face either Stieber or Ramos and while Ramos does own a win over him, I'd still favor Oliver, particularly in a situation like this tournament, where he'll have all day to recover from his cut to make weight.

Winner: Oliver DEF Stieber (Ramos finishes 3rd)

141

1) Kellen Russell, Michigan (SR, 28-1)
2) Kendric Maple, Oklahoma (SO, 28-1)
3) Montell Marion, Iowa (SR, 27-3)
4) Michael Mangrum, Oregon State (JR, 33-3)
5) Hunter Stieber, Ohio State (FR, 25-4)
6) Boris Novachkov, Cal Poly (SR, 28-3)
7) Nick Nelson, Virginia (SR, 25-2)
8) Darrius Little, North Carolina State (SR, 33-10)
9) Nick Dardanes, Minnesota (RS FR, 19-8)
10) Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska (FR, 24-9)
11) Matthew Mariacher, American (SR, 23-7)
12) Tyler Small, Kent State (SO, 30-9)

Analysis: Even if National Duals didn't lead to another trophy for Iowa, it certainly wasn't meaningless from an Iowa perspective. Case in point: Marion's win over Mangrum in the Iowa-Oregon State dual is likely why he's the #3 seed in this bracket (and on the opposite side of the bracket from #1 Kellen Russell) rather than the #4 seed in the bracket (and on the same side as Russell). Considering Montell's struggles with Russell (especially at the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago), avoiding him is definitely preferable. That said, the route to a potential rematch with Russell is anything but easy for Marion. Morales won the 141 lb. class at the EWL Tournament and has an impressive record (18-2), although his competition hasn't always been fierce. #6 Boris Novachkov looms as a challenging quarterfinal opponent and #2 Maple would be a very difficult semifinal opponent (he already owns a 5-2 win over Marion this year). As always, though, the crucial factor for this tournament is not likely to be who Montell faces; rather, it figures to be which Montell shows up to wrestle. Let's hope for three days of "good Montell." There's also some intrigue on the top half of the bracket, since Russell could have a semifinal matchup with #5 Stieber, who beat Russell earlier in the year. I don't expect Russell to lose in this tournament, but Stieber might be the best bet to make it happen if he does lose.

Route to Title:
R1: Mike Morales, West Virginia (18-2)
R2: Mitchell Port, Edinboro (27-8) or Stephen Dutton, Lehigh (19-5)
Quarters: #6 Boris Novachkov, Cal Poly (27-3)
Semis: #2 Kendric Maple, Oklahoma (28-1)
Finals: #1 Kellen Russell, Michigan (28-1)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Russell: 0-1 this year, 0-2 overall (lost 7-2 decision this year, lost 9-5 decision in SV in 2010-11)
Maple: 0-1 this year, 0-1 overall (lost 5-3 decision this year)
Mangrum: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 6-4 decision this year)
Stieber: 1-1 this year, 1-1 overall (lost 4-2 decision this year, won 3-1 decision in SV this year)
Dardanes: 2-0 this year, 2-0 overall (won 3-2 and 6-4 decisions this year)
Sueflohn: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 9-6 decision this year)
Kemmerer: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 10-3 decision in 2010-11)
Kindig: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (won 9-7 decision this year)

Bonus Point Potential: Slim to none. Marion is projected to face multiple difficult opponents, which seems like a recipe for a lot of tense, low-scoring matches and not a recipe for a lot of lopsided blowouts.

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: Did not qualify anyone at this weight.

Minnesota: #9 Nick Dardanes -- If he can make it that far, a quarterfinal bout with Russell should send him crashing into the consolation bracket. Best case scenario for him seems to be a low All-America finish (5-8).

Oklahoma State: UN Josh Kindig -- He's in an OSU-OSU battle in R1, with a nasty draw against #4 Mike Mangrum (ORST). Mangrum beat him 12-7 when they met earlier this season. Kindig should go into wrestlebacks immediately, at which point he'd have to win four matches just to guarantee himself no worse than an 8th place finish. I don't think that's too likely.

Winner: Russell DEF Novachkov (Marion finishes 4th)

149

1) Frank Molinaro, Penn State (SR, 28-0)
2) Jamal Parks, Oklahoma State (SR, 30-0)
3) Cole Von Ohlen, Air Force (JR, 36-2)
4) Donnie Vinson, Binghamton (JR, 33-4)
5) Ian Miller, Kent State (FR, 28-3)
6) Tyler Nauman, Pitt (SR, 27-5)
7) Dylan Ness, Minnesota (RS FR, 20-8)
8) Eric Grajales, Michigan (SO, 18-6)
9) David Habat, Edinboro (RS FR, 35-6)
10) Cam Tessari, Ohio State (FR, 22-9)
11) Taylor Walsh, Indiana (RS FR, 28-10)
12) Ivan Lopuchanski, Purdue (JR, 16-6)

Analysis: On paper, this looks set up for a Molinaro-Parks 1v2 final, since they're the two undefeated kingpins at 149 this year. Molinaro appears to have a pretty easy path to the finals (see below), while Parks has a more challenging route; #7 Ness especially looks like a potential spanner in the works (he has a pair of very close decision losses to Parks already this year). The wildcard here is #3 Von Ohlen, who was an impressive record (36-2) and some good wins (Vinson, Grajales) to go along with it. Still, Parks beat him earlier this year (4-2), so he still looks like the slight favorite to emerge from the bottome of the bracket. Iowa did not qualify anyone at this weight; Mike Kelly failed to earn one of the automatic qualifier spots at the Big Ten Tournament and he was not granted a wildcard entry, either.

Route to Title:
N/A

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
N/A

Bonus Point Potential:
N/A

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: #1 Frank Molinaro --The highest ranked wrestler on Frank the Tank's side of the bracket is #4 Vinson -- who he pinned in 1:23 earlier this season. Suffice to say, the Italian Stallion should have little difficulty making it to the finals -- and he'll probably pick up a decent amount of bonus points along the way. Bad news for Iowa, good news for Penn State.

Minnesota: #7 Dylan Ness --Ness' performance in the Big Ten Tournament (and specifically his win over #9 Grajales of Michigan) keeps him on the opposite side of the bracket from Frankie, but getting a rematch with Molinaro will be difficult. #10 Tessari, his likely R2 opponent, pinned him earlier this year and #2 Parks, his likely QF opponent, has two decision wins (6-5 and 11-8) over him as well. I think Ness crashes out to Parks, but does some damage in the wrestlebacks to get himself a top-6 finish.

Oklahoma State: #2 Jamal Parks -- Along with Oliver, Parks is OKST's best chance at having a finalist in this year's NCAA Tournament. If he gets that far, it probably behooves us to root for him to beat Molinaro, since PSU is a bigger threat for the team title than OKST at this point.

Winner: Parks DEF Molinaro

157

1) Kyle Dake, Cornell (JR, 30-0)
2) Derek St. John, Iowa (SO, 17-2)
3) Jason Welch, just Northwestern (JR, 23-1)
4) Walter Peppelman, Harvard (JR, 26-4)
5) Ganbayar Sanjaa, American (SR, 22-3)
6) James Fleming, Clarion (JR, 27-2)
7) Dylan Alton, Penn State (RS FR, 24-5)
8) Frank Hickman, Bloomsburg (JR, 29-5)
9) Justin Lister, Binghamton (SR, 26-5)
10) Anthony Jones, Michigan State (SR, 21-8)
11) James Green, Nebraska (FR, 21-7)
12) Steven Monk, North Dakota State (SO, 26-7)

Analysis: The headline story for this weight is whether or not Kyle Dake can continue his incredible run -- only a junior, he's already won two national titles... in two different weight classes. This would be his third straight title in his third different weight class. He's also dealing with an injury, though, so things look a little more wide open here than previously expected.

A month ago, Iowa was looking at possibly being lucky just to go 2-2 at this weight, but St. John's unexpected resurgence has given Iowa newfound hope here. His strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament erased a pair of ugly losses earlier this season and earned him the #2 seed he figured to be a lock for pre-injury. St. John also has an interesting -- and potentially very tricky -- route to the finals. His R1 opponent, Houdashelt, was the B12 champion at 157 and his possible R2 opponent, Pena, dominated DSJ on his way to a 9-1 major decision win at National Duals earlier this year. St. John is a different wrestler now, but Pena is no pushover. Alton and Welch await DSJ in the quarters and semis, and though he bested both guys at the Big Ten Tournament, the matches were very, very close. Still, DSJ at the Big Ten Tournament looked as close to the DSJ of old as we've seen since early December; if that DSJ can show up here, there's every reason to think he can make a run to the finals.

Route to Title:
R1: Drake Houdashelt, Missouri (27-5)
R2: Roger Pena, Oregon State (28-7) or Corey Mock, North Carolina (26-10)
Quarters: #7 Dylan Alton, Penn State (24-5)
Semis: #3 Jason Welch, just Northwestern (23-1)
Finals: #1 Kyle Dake, Cornell (30-0)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Welch: 1-0 this year, 4-0 overall (4-3 decision win this year; 4-2, 5-2, and 6-1 decision wins in 2010-11)
Peppelman: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (8-2 decision win in 2010-11)
Alton: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (3-1 decision in SV this year)
Hickman: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (11-7 decision win in 2010-11)
Green: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (6-4 decision in SV this year)

Bonus Point Potential: Not good. Given DSJ's balky knee, let's just be happy with any and all wins he can get at this tournament. Style point need not apply to him this year.

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: #7 Dylan Alton -- Alton fell to a #7 seed after this third-place finish at Big Tens. He could get a rematch with DSJ in the quarters, although he could easily get pipped by #10 Jones (MSU) in R2. Alton is 2-0 against Jones this year, but only by the slimmest of margins (1-0, 2-1 OT). I think he comes up short against Jones or St. John and heads to the wrestlebacks. But he's been a solid wrestler this season and I think he winds up performing about to the level of his seed and finishing 7th or 8th.

Minnesota: Did not qualify anyone at this weight.

Oklahoma State: UN Albert White -- White could help us out by knocking off Alton if he can get to the second round (has to beat #10 Jones of MSU to get there) -- but that could be asking too much of him. White is probably headed to an early exit to the wrestlebacks and I don't see him stringing 3-4 wins down there to grab All-America honors.

Winner: Dake DEF St. John

165

1) David Taylor, Penn State (SO, 27-0)
2) Shane Onufer, Wyoming (SR, 31-1)
3) Andrew Sorenson, Iowa State (SR, 26-2)
4) Bekzod Abdurakhmanov, Clarion (SR, 31-4)
5) Mike Evans, Iowa (RS FR, 25-6)
6) Peter Yates, Virginia Tech (JR, 22-5)
7) Josh Asper, Maryland (JR, 24-1)
8) Robert Kokesh, Nebraska (RS FR, 28-5)
9) Conrad Polz, Illinois (JR, 20-5)
10) Cody Yohn, Minnesota (JR, 19-9)
11) Brandon Hatchett, Lehigh (SR, 18-3)
12) Paul Gillespie, Hofstra (SR, 28-5)

Analysis: One of the bigger seeding shockers of the tourney was at this weight, where Asper suffered his first loss of the season in an OT loss to Yates in the ACC final -- and tumbled all the way down to the #7 seed. That seems a bit low, frankly. It also has the unfortunate side effect of keeping Evans on the Unicorn's half of the bracket, which is not what we wanted to see. Of course, for that to be a factor Evans will have to make the semis, which could be a tall order. Blevins, his R1 opponent, has a glossy record (34-6) although not a lot of big wins (just Yates, really), and Winston and Gillespie, his R2 opponents, are both tough wrestlers. His most likely quarters opponent, #4 Abdurakhmonov, beat Evans via major decision (11-3) at Midlands. Like Marion, we're going to need to see three days of "good Mike" at this tournament -- i.e, the Evans that throttled Yates and dismantled Kokesh, not the guy who lost to Yohn and had a handful of other listless performances. I think he makes it to Taylor, gets beat again, but rebounds for a top-5 finish via the wrestlebacks.

Route to Title:
R1: Kyle Blevins, Appalachian State (34-6)
R2: #12 Paul Gillespie, Hofstra (28-5) or Scott Winston, Rutgers (19-6)
Quarters: #4 Bekzod Abdurakhmanov, Clarion (31-4)
Semis: #1 David Taylor, Penn State (27-0)
Finals: #2 Shane Onufer, Wyoming (31-1) or #3 Andrew Sorenson, Iowa State (26-2)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Taylor: 0-2 this year, 0-2 overall (9-4 decision loss and 11-2 major decision loss this year)
Abdurakhmanov: 0-1 this year, 0-1 overall (11-3 major decision loss this year)
Sorenson: 0-1 this year, 0-1 overall (4-3 decision loss this year)
Kokesh: 2-0 this year, 2-0 overall (7-3 decision win and 17-2 tech fall win this year)
Yates: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (9-0 major decision win this year)
Polz: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (5-1 decision win this year)
Yohn: 2-1 this year, 2-1 overall (fall (6:02) and 5-4 decision win this year, 5-3 decision loss in SV this year)

Bonus Point Potential: Not great, although you never know with Evans -- I never would have dreamed he would tech fall Kokesh at the Big Ten Tournament, but that's precisely what he did. If he can get into a good position on top and work a few turns, bonus points are very much in play for him. That's hard to forecast, though.

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: #1 David Taylor --You know, the Sainted Unicorn himself. He's the heavy favorite to win the title here and it would be a surprise if he didn't. Of course, the same was true of him at 157 last year and he got Bubba Jenkins'd. So you never know. That said, it would be a stunner if he didn't make the finals and if he didn't get a ton of bonus points on his way there. He is very, very, very good.

Minnesota: #10 Cody Yohn --Yohn rode some strong wins at the end of the season to a #10 seed, but I think he crashes out in R2 to the underseeded #7 Asper. At that point, he'd need to win three matches in the wrestlebacks to make the podium; I think that's more consistency than we can expect out of Yohn.

Oklahoma State: UN Dallas Bailey -- He's a .500 wrestler who draws #6 Yates, the ACC champion, in R1. Hello, wrestlebacks. He stands a good chance to be out of the tourney in a hurry.

Winner: Taylor DEF Asper (Evans finishes 5th)

174

1) Ed Ruth, Penn State (SO, 26-0)
2) Chris Perry, Oklahoma State (SO, 26-0)
3) Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford (SR, 20-0)
4) Logan Storley, Minnesota (FR, 23-6)
5) Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa (SO, 24-7)
6) Ryan DesRoches, Cal Poly (SR, 24-3)
7) Jordan Blanton, Illinois (JR, 25-7)
8) Lee Munster, just Northwestern (RS FR, 23-10)
9) Nick Heflin, Ohio State (SO, 23-8)
10) Te Edwards, Old Dominion (SR, 21-3)
11) Justin Zeerip, Michigan (SR, 20-6)
12) Jimmy Sheptock, Maryland (SO, 24-4)

Analysis: There was a slight change to the seeds here; Iowa State's Chris Spangler was originally the #8 seed, but he had to withdraw after suffering a concussion at the Big 12 tournament. As a result, the guys previously seeded 9-12 move up a spot and Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland slides in at #12. Like 165, this is another weight where Iowa finds itself in an awkward spot -- good enough to be a top-5 seed, but not good enough to be a #2 or #3 seed (and thus on the opposite side from the #1 seed). That means a potential semifinal showdown with Ed Ruth, which would be... unwelcome.

Still, if Lofthouse makes it to the semis, that will be pretty damn fantastic in its own right. And he has a plausible route to get that far: his early round opponents don't look too imposing (EL is also the only Iowa guy to wrestle in a pigtail match, which gives him a chance for a few extra points) and his quarterfinal opponent (Storley) is a guy he's very close to being 3-0 against this year -- he's definitely a guy Lofthouse can beat. Sheptock presents an interesting wildcard in R2, though -- he has a good record and won this weight at the ACC Tournament, but he doesn't have a lot of big wins or matches against elite competition.

This weight looks like a three-horse race, though, with three undefeated guys at the top of the heap here. Amuchastegui was the national runner-up at this weight last year and was beating Ruth pretty decisively before Ruth (somewhat controversially) injury defaulted out of the match. Perry has looked very good at this weight since cutting down from 184 in early January. And Ruth has been Ruth: utterly dominant for pretty much the entire season. In terms of our team title hopes, it behooves us to root on Amuchastegui -- he can knock out Perry in the semis and Ruth in the finals.

Route to Title:
Pigtail: Dave Foxen, Brown (17-12)
R1: Seth Creasy, Lockhaven (17-13)
R2: #12 Jimmy Sheptock, Maryland (SO, 24-4) or Kyle Detmer, Oklahoma (19-9)
Quarters: #4 Logan Storley, Minnesota (23-6)
Semis: #1 Ed Ruth, Penn State (26-0)
Finals: #2 Chris Perry, Oklahoma State (26-0) or #3 Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford (20-0)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Ruth: 0-1 this year, 0-3 overall (10-1 major decision loss this year, 10-3 and 3-2 decision losses in 2010-11)
Perry: 0-1 this year, 0-1 overall (3-2 decision loss in OT this year)
Storley: 1-2 this year, 1-2 overall (4-3 decision win; 5-3 and 6-2 decision losses this year)
Blanton: 4-0 this year, 4-0 overall (6-1, 8-6, 4-2, and 8-6 decision wins this year)
Munster: 2-1 this year, 2-1 overall (5-2 and 7-2 decision wins this year; 7-3 decision loss this year)
Heflin: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (3-1 decision win in 2010-11)
Zeerip: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (6-4 decision win in 2010-11)

Bonus Point Potential: Lofthouse might have a shot at bonus points in his first two matches if he has enough confidence to cut loose with his offense. Beyond that, decisions look like the order of the day.

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: #1 Ed Ruth --He's been a beast all season and it's hard to see anything different from him here, at least until the finals when he faces (presumably) Perry or Amuchastegui. There's a smidge of intrigue in a quarterfinal match with Heflin, since Heflin was holding his own with Ruth for a little while in their Big Ten Tournament match... but Ruth ended up still getting a major decision over him, so it's difficult to see Ruth tripping up there. Iowa (Lofthouse) and Minnesota (Storley) have a chance to stop Ruth's (and Penn State's) rampage through the bracket in the semis, but Ruth also owns major decisions over both guys this season. He's gonna make the finals and he's gonna get a lot of bonus points on the way.

Minnesota: #4 Logan Storley --Storley should cruise until a quarterfinal match with (hopefully) Lofthouse; hopefully our boy EL can even up their season series at 2 wins apiece and send Storley into the wrestlebacks. Still, I expect Storley to be an All-America this year, the only question is where and the 3-6 range sounds right for him.

Oklahoma State: #2 Chris Perry -- Perry shouldn't have any trouble with his Thursday matches, but things get interesting starting on Friday, beginning with a possible quarterfinal match with #7 Jordan Blanton. Almost all of Blanton's losses on the season are to Lofthouse or Ed Ruth... though Perry did beat him 6-3 earlier this season. The possibly semifinal match with #3 Amuchastegui could be a scorcher and then of course there's Ruth in the finals if he gets that far. Like Storley, I fully expect Perry to be an All-America this year, the only question is how high he is on the podium. I'll say either 3rd or 4th.

Winner: Ruth DEF Amuchastegui (Lofthouse finishes 5th)

184

1) Joe LeBlanc, Wyoming (SR, 30-1)
2) Robert Hamlin, Lehigh (JR, 29-1)
3) Ben Bennett, Central Michigan (JR, 30-3)
4) Steve Bosak, Cornell (JR, 28-4)
5) Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota (SO, 27-4)
6) Quentin Wright, Penn State (JR, 26-3)
7) Josh Ihnen, Nebraska (JR, 23-5)
8) Ryan Loder, UNI (SO, 32-4)
9) Austin Trotman, Appalachian State (SR, 33-4)
10) Jake Swartz, Boise State (SO, 18-4)
11) Ben Clymer, Hofstra (SR, 29-6)
12) Jonathan Fausey, Virginia (SO, 21-3)
UN) Grant Gambrall, Iowa (JR, 10-10)

Analysis: We wondered where Gambrall would get seeded and the answer turned out to be: nowhere. Gambrall struggled to a 10-10 record on the season, mostly because of his underwhelming efforts at 197. That record and the fact that the selection committee wasn't supposed to consider results from previous years when making seeding decisions made it a no-brainer for Gambrall to be an unseeded wrestler (Iowa's only unseeded competitor, in fact). The bad news is that means he has a tough road to get onto the podium at 184. The good news is that his path through the bracket is filled with guys that he has beaten before. And, frankly, seed or no seed, 184 was always going to be a beartrap of a weight this year; it's the one weight where total chaos could erupt and I wouldn't be shocked. Anyone in the top eight could win the title and I wouldn't bat an eye.

Gambrall opens up with #8 Ryan Loder (UNI), a tough opponent -- but someone Gambrall split with a year ago. Win that match and he probably faces #9 Austin Trotman (Appy State) -- who Gambrall beat at the NCAAs last year. Win that match and he should face #1 Joe LeBlanc (Wyoming) -- who he also beat at the NCAAs last year. Another win and he could face #4 Steve Bosak (Cornell) -- who he (here we go again) beat at last year's NCAAs. (He could also face #5 Kevin Steinhaus (MINN) there, which would be less helpful, since Gambrall has never beaten Steinhaus... but Bosak beat Steinhaus earlier this year and could certainly do so again.) And then he could face #2 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) or #3 Ben Bennett (Central Michigan) in the finals, who he... well, actually he's never faced them before. But if Gambrall gets to the finals, holy hell, will that be a stunning achievement in its own right. Of course, it will be brutally difficult for him to get that far -- and that's assuming that "good Gambrall" shows up for every single match, which is no guarantee. On ability alone, Gambrall should be an All-America this year. If he flakes through any matches, though, he's going to find himself in the consolation bracket in a hurry and it's a long, treacherous path to the podium from there.

Route to Title:
R1: #8 Ryan Loder, UNI (32-4)
R2: #9 Austin Trotman, Appy State (33-4) or MacKain Stoll, North Dakota State (23-12)
Quarters: #1 Joe LeBlanc, Wyoming (30-1)
Semis: #4 Steve Bosak, Cornell (28-4) or #5 Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota (27-4)
Finals: #2 Robert Hamlin, Lehigh (29-1) or #3 Ben Bennett, Central Michigan (30-3)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
LeBlanc: 0-0 this year, 2-0 overall (8-3 decision win and FFT win in 2010-11)
Bosak: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (6-3 decision win in 2010-11)
Steinhaus: 0-2 this year, 0-4 overall (3-1 and 3-2 decision losses this year, 4-1 and 5-4 decision losses in 2010-11)
Ihnen: 0-0 this year, 0-1 overall (4-2 decision loss in OT in 2010-11)
Wright: 0-1 this year, 1-1 overall (8-3 decision win in 2010-11, fall (3:53) loss in 2010-11)
Loder: 0-0 this year, 2-1 overall (4-2 decision win in 2010-11, 8-3 decision win in 2009-10, fall (6:59) loss in 2010-11)
Trotman: 0-0 this year, 1-0 overall (8-5 decision win in 2010-11)

Bonus Point Potential: lol

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: #6 Quentin Wright -- Bit of a surprise that he got the #6 seed over Josh Ihnen (NEB), since Ihnen just beat him at the Big Ten Tournament, but hey. Wright certainly has the talent to win it all at this weight (see: last year), but he's been a touch more inconsistent this year and this is such a punishing weight class that he could easily fall short here. It should be smooth sailing for Wright until the quarterfinal with #3 Bennett, who he's never faced before. I don't see him beating Bennett and #2 Hamlin (LEH), who beat Q handily earlier this season. Wright will be an All-America, though, probably in the 3-6 range.

Minnesota: #5 Kevin Steinhaus --The seeding committee didn't do the Big Ten any favors; Steinhaus wins the conference tournament and gets a... #5 seed. Ouch. (The only Big Ten champion seeded lower is Mario Gonzalzez -- #7 -- at 197.) That's not as much of a slam on the Big Ten as it is a recognition of how good this weight is across the board, though. There are a ton of very good 184ers this year. #12 Jonathan Fausey (UVA) could be an interesting threat in R2 for Steinhaus, but the first big threat is a possible match with #4 Bosak in the quarters; Bosak beat him 8-2 earlier this year. Win there and he probably has #1 Joe LeBlanc (WYO) in the semis. LeBlanc is interesting because he has a great record and has beaten several other top guys... but he also hasn't faced Hamlin or Wright. Like Wright, Steinahus will be an All-America, most likely in the 3-6 range.

Oklahoma State: Did not qualify anyone at this weight.

Winner: Hamlin DEF Bosak (Gambrall does not make All-America)

197

1) Cam Simaz, Cornell (SR, 26-1)
2) Chris Honeycutt, Edinboro (SR, 36-1)
3) Matt Wilps, Pitt (JR, 30-3)
4) Christian Boley, Maryland (SO, 30-1)
5) Cayle Byers, Oklahoma State (SR, 23-3)
6) Brent Haynes, Missouri (JR, 23-6)
7) Mario Gonzalez, Illinois (SO, 23-7)
8) Alfonso Hernandez, Wyoming (JR, 36-5)
9) Matt Powless, Indiana (SR, 33-4)
10) Sonny Yohn, Minnesota (SR, 26-5)
11) Micah Burak, Penn (JR, 19-4)
12) Joe Kennedy, Lehigh (SR, 21-5)

Analysis: Like 149, a weight where Iowa has no dog in the fight. Sigh. It certainly stings to look at the seeds and see #5 Cayle Byers and wish it said Iowa after his name rather than Oklahoma State. What might have been... Ahem. Outside of Byers, none of the major team title contenders have a top wrestler at this weight (sorry, Minnesota: Sonny Yohn is a chump). Simaz, Honeycutt, and Wilps look like the best of the best here, although in a bizarre bit of seeding, Wilps beat Honeycutt in the EWL finals, yet is seeded below him. (Apparently the people who seeded 165 did not work on the 197 bracket.) Personally, I'm gonna cheer for Honeycutt because he makes me think of M*A*S*H*. Yep.

Route to Title:
N/A

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
N/A

Bonus Point Potential:
N/A

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: UN Morgan McIntosh -- I was a little surprised to not see McIntosh get a seed, but I guess his overall resume just isn't quite there yet. He has a tough draw, though: Taylor Meeks (ORST) in R1, and then a likely R2 match with #1 Simaz. That probably drops him into the wrestleback, where he'd need to wrestle another three matches to make All-America status. I think he comes up short there this year. He'll get PSU some points, though.

Minnesota: #10 Sonny Yohn --This is Yohn's last rodeo, so he should be motivated to do well. And while he tends to underachieve at the Big Ten Tournament, he's also a two-time All-American, so he usually manages to get his act together in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, he could get derailed in R2 against B1G champion Gonzalez (who didn't face Yohn in the Big Ten Tournament, but did beat him 5-4 earlier this year). If that's the case, he'll need to do damage in the wrestlebacks. Even if he beats Gonzalez, I suspect he loses to Honeycutt in the quarters. I won't bet against him scraping his way to a third-straight All-America placement, though, probably in the 7-8 range.

Oklahoma State: #5 Cayle Byers -- Byers is the best bet of the team title contenders to make a deep run at this weight, although he's also had some stumbles at this weight (and briefly lost his starting job). #12 Joseph Kennedy (in R2) and #4 Christian Boley (in quarters) look like his toughest potential matchups. I think Byers gets tripped up somewhere before the finals, but he'll do enough in the wrestlebacks to finish in the top-6 and be an All-American.

Winner: Honeycutt DEF Boley

HWT

1) Ryan Flores, American (SR, 17-0)
2) Tony Nelson, Minnesota (SO, 27-2)
3) Clayton Jack, Oregon State (SR, 35-1)
4) Zach Rey, Lehigh (SR, 18-2)
5) Bobby Telford, Iowa (RS FR, 25-7)
6) Cameron Wade, Penn State (SR, 25-4)
7) Jeremy Johnson, Ohio (SO, 30-5)
8) Spencer Myers, Maryland (SO, 22-5)
9) Levi Cooper, Arizona State (JR, 25-10)
10) Mike McMullan, just Northwestern (RS FR, 23-10)
11) Tucker Lane, Nebraska (SR, 24-7)
12) Matt Gibson, Iowa State (JR, 25-8)

Analysis: Much like Derek St. John at 157, Bobby Telford really helped himself with his showing at the Big Ten Tournament, with two big wins over Michigan's Ben Apland and Penn State's Cameron Wade. As a result he finds himself all the way up to a #5 seed. There's no easy side of the bracket for Bobby, but in this case I'm more comfortable with him facing the devils he doesn't know (#1 Flores and #4 Rey) than the devils he does know (#2 Nelson and #3 Jack). I know he's come nowhere close to beating Nelson... he could still surprise me against Rey or Flores. Such is my hope, anyway.

Telford should face a few familiar faces before reaching Rey in the quarters -- UNI's Beale and ISU's Gibson in R1 and R2, respectively . He beat both guys in December (beat them pretty comfortably, in fact), so if he can rechannel his December form, he should be just fine. Rey and Flores look like significant obstacles -- they're both big, strong, experienced heavyweights. In other words, exactly the sort of heavyweight that's given Bobby fits this year. But if he can make it to the quarters against Flores, even if he loses there he would need just one win in the wrestlebacks to assure himself of an All-America finish. I think he'll do that.

Route to Title:
R1: Blayne Beale, UNI (28-11)
R2: Matt Gibson, Iowa State (25-8)
Quarters: #4 Zach Rey, Lehigh (18-2)
Semis: #1 Ryan Flores, American (17-0)
Finals: #2 Tony Nelson, Minnesota (27-2) or #3 Clayton Jack, Oregon State (35-1)

Record Against Seeded Opponents:
Nelson: 0-2 this year, 0-2 overall (2-0 and 2-0 decision losses this year)
Jack: 0-1 this year, 0-1 overall (5-3 decision loss this year)
Wade: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (5-0 decision win this year)
Gibson: 1-0 this year, 1-0 overall (9-3 decision win this year)
McMullan: 1-1 this year, 1-1 overall (4-2 decision win in SV this year, 7-5 decision loss in SV this year)
Lane: 0-1 this year, 0-1 overall (4-1 decision loss this year)

Bonus Point Potential: It's heavyweight wrestling, so points will likely be at a premium, but Bobby did get a major decision against Beale earlier this season...

Team Race Notes:

Penn State: #6 Cameron Wade --Wade's stock took a tumble thanks to his loss to Telford at the Big Ten Tournament. He'll have a tough time getting past #3 Jack and #2 Nelson in his half of the bracket. I think Jack trips him up, but Wade wins enough in the wrestlebacks to make the bottom half of the podium.

Minnesota: #2 Tony Nelson --Nelson has looked like a buzzsaw (albeit a rather large, fairly slow-moving buzzsaw) for much of this season and he's certainly capable of putting together a run to the finals. BUT he also could get tripped up in R2, since he could face UN Peter Sturgeon (CMICH), who beat him 6-4 earlier this season. That would really throw a monkeywrench in Minnesota's title hopes. I think Nelson gets revenge, though.

Oklahoma State: UN Austin Marsden -- No team was hurt by injuries right before the NCAA Tournament as much as Oklahoma State, who lost Alan Gelogeav, the likely #2 seed and a good bet to make the finals and pick up bonus points along the way (something of a rarity in the world of heavyweight wrestling). But he tore a pectoral muscle and is out, which means throwing Marsden into the fire. He has a good record (26-4), but most of that came via unattached competition. Barring any freakish upsets, I think he goes down early (probably to #4 Rey in R2) and struggles to string together enough wins to be an All-American.

Winner: Rey DEF. Nelson (Telford finishes 6th)

Final Placement/Advancement Point Predictions

IOWA
125: 1st (16) + 4
133: 3rd (10) + 3.5
141: 4th (9) + 3.5
149: DNP + 0
157: 2nd (12) + 4
165: 5th (7) + 3
174: 5th (7) + 3
184: DNP + 2
197: DNP + 0
HWT: 6th (6) + 3
TOTAL: 64 +26 = 90

PENN STATE
125: 7th (4) + 2.5
133: DNP + 0.5
141: DNP + 0
149: 2nd (12) + 4
157: 7th (4) + 2.5
165: 1st (16) + 4
174: 1st (16) + 4
184: 4th (9) + 3.5
197: DNP + 2
HWT: 6th (6) + 3
TOTAL: 67 + 26 = 93

MINNESOTA
125: 2nd (12) + 4
133: 7th (4) + 2.5
141: 7th (4) + 2.5
149: 6th (6) + 3
157: DNP + 0
165: DNP + 2
174: 4th (9) + 3.5
184: 5th (7) + 3
197: 7th (4) + 2.5
HWT: 2nd (12) + 4
TOTAL: 58 + 27 = 85

OKLAHOMA STATE
125: DNP + 2
133: 1st (16) + 4
141: DNP + 1.5
149: 1st (16) + 4
157: DNP + 1
165: DNP + 0.5
174: 3rd (10) + 3.5
184: DNP + 0
197: 5th (7) + 3
HWT: DNP + 2
TOTAL: 49 + 20.5 = 69.5

So, pre-bonus points, that would leave us at:

1) Penn State -- 93
2) Iowa -- 90
3) Minnesota -- 85
4) Oklahoma State -- 69.5

And as we saw last year and again at the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State is full of bonus point machines. So that factor definitely favors them. These predictions actually assume more Penn State wrestlers "overachieving" (at least in the sense of finishing higher than their seed), but I don't think it's unreasonable where Nico or Wright are concerned. (I also have Frank the Tank losing, which may be a case of wishful thinking more than anything else.)

But, ultimately, in order to beat Penn State, one of two things (and maybe both) needs to happen: Penn State needs to have guys underachieve (either one of their big guns or several of their lesser guns) and/or one of the teams chasing them (probably Iowa or Minnesota) needs to have no guys underachieve and a few guys significantly overachieve. The Gelogaev injury seems to have crippled Oklahoma State's title chances. They have three studs, but far too many question marks elsewhere in the lineup. It pains me to say it, but I truly think this title is Penn State's to lose. Please choke it off, Nitts.

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