Pop a cold one -- we've got some chattin' to do.
A few weeks ago, bscaff and I sat down and broke down the Big Ten Tournament; now we're back to shoot the shit about the NCAA Tournament this weekend, hitting each weight with the intelligence (maybe) and irreverence (definitely) that you've come to expect from our wrestling talks. Part I, covering 125-157 is up right here on BHGP. Part 2, covering 165-285, is now up on BSD. Sit back and enjoy.
1) How deep does this field go? Or, phrased another way - where do you think the title contenders stop?
BSCAFF: I suppose I have to include Mizzou's Waters, don't I? I'm still irritated that he missed the Southern Scuffle, and only wrestled McDonough this year, of the Top 5 at this weight. But with that whining out of the way, I think VaTech's Garnett is the last of the title contenders. I have a healthy respect for 6-seed Garrett and 7-seed Kraisser, but I don't see either of them taking home the big boy trophy. They've both had a fair number of matches against the Top 5 at this weight - and just one in the win column to show for it: Kraisser's upset of Garnett in their second meeting. Where they're seeded, they each would likely have to beat Delgado, McDonough, and the top half winner, in successive matches. That's a little too tall of an order for the youngsters.
ROSS: I think it goes five-deep at best. The #6 seed is Garrett and while he has a ton of wins (good lord, Cornell wrestled a lot of matches this year), he also has a bunch of losses -- mostly to the guys seeded ahead of him. He's one to watch for next year (and beyond), but I don't think he can do it this year. But the top five guys - Waters, Delgado, McD, Nico, and Garnett? They can all win it, I think. It's interesting, though, because they all have some question marks. Waters has to prove he can erase his "choke artist" label. Delgado has to prove he can handle being the guy other guys are targeting. McD has to prove he can gut out another title, even though he's clearly less than his best. Nico has to prove last year wasn't a fluke. Garnett has to prove he can put together a solid run. It should be a lot of fun.
2) Do you see any upsets in the first two rounds?
BSCAFF: UNC's Kraisser doesn't have a cakewalk with American's Terao in the first round. And Waters better be on his toes for his opener against little Thorn. In the second round, I'll walk way, way, way out on a dangerously thin limb and give you this one: if Chattanooga's Nick Soto can get past 12-seed Tyler Cox, he could also upset 5-seed Jarrod Garnett. Soto owns a 10-9 win over Garnett this year.
ROSS: You took my two favorite upset picks, actually -- Thorn and Soto. I think they could both prove to be very tricky R1 opponents (especially when you factor in Waters' less-than-impressive history at the NCAAs). I'm not really that sold on #9 Trent Sprenkle or #10 Josh Martinez, either, so an early round loss for either of them would not stun me.
3) Do the Top 4 seeds survive the quarterfinals?
BSCAFF: It's unlikely that all four make it to the semis. Waters has the ability to lose to either of Sprenkle or Snyder (60/40). The Nico / Garnett match is pretty close to a toss-up (50/50). McDonough's beaten Garrett - but, I believe he had to come from behind to do it (75/25). Delgado's probably the safest bet with the way he's been wrestling. He's a pretty good match-up against Kraisser, too (90/10). So.....60% x 50% x 75% x 90% = 20.25% chance. You've been scienced.
ROSS: I was told there would be no math! I actually think they will survive the quarterfinals. Waters has looked very strong this year and Delgado has a favorable path to the semis, so I think they'll both make it. McD has a tricky match with Garrett, but I think he'll pull out a close one. Nico/Garnett is indeed tough to call, but I'm giving Nico the benefit of the doubt after last year. I spent every round waiting for him to lose and he didn't ('til the finals, at least), so I'm going to just expect him to win until he doesn't this year.
4) Any surprise (10-seed thru unseeded) All-Americans?
BSCAFF: I have Sprenkle making it through, instead of Cornell's Garrett. And that doesn't fit the 10-seed definition anyhow. So, uhh, no. I'm mostly chalk at this weight this year.
ROSS: This is hard to say without knowing how the consos will look, you know? But of the guys seeded #10 or lower, I like Triggas to maybe make the podium. I could see him stringing some pins together on the backside and getting there.
5) McDonough has been questioned more in the last 10 days than at any point in his previous four seasons. Does the Champ have one more title in him?
BSCAFF: I want to say yes very badly. I love the dude. He's a freaking bad ass. But it's hard to move him past Delgado in the bottom half of the bracket. They've wrestled 14 minutes this year, and McD hasn't really even sniffed a single takedown. If you add in McD's matches with Waters and Nico - that's an even 30 minutes of wrestling, and zero takedowns. So, while I'm secretly cheering for him (to make the final, at least), I don't have any evidence from this season to put him there. Besides heart, that is. Dude's got plenty of that.
ROSS: I cannot disagree with a word of that, really. I want very yes for him to do it and to make something of this bitterly disappointing senior season, but I don't see how it happens unless Delgado suffers a shocking upset before the semis. McD has two wins over Delgado, but both were over a year ago and he hasn't looked anywhere close to beating him this year. If they wrestle, it will be an absolute shocker if McD comes out on top. And a finals match-up with Waters (who pwned him at National Duals) or Nico (who wrestles him extremely close) would be no picnic, either. For McD to win another title, I think chaos needs to break loose at this weight and I just don't see that happening.
1) Scotti Sentes is 12 feet tall, but still certifying at 133. He's had some head scratching results this year, but could he pull the upset over Ramos in the quarters like he did in 2011's second round?
BSCAFF: No. Move along, folks. There's nothing to see here. Ramos has been killing fools all season long. If he gets out from Stieber, he gets out against Sentes - and that's Sentes' only shot at the upset.
ROSS: I heard his bones are made out of that weird Stretch Armstrong shit, which is how he can be so tall and still qualify at 133. That or he's just been on a hunger strike all year. Poor bastard. Anyway, I think he'll give Tony a little trouble -- for about a period. But Ramos has been able to get escapes against Schopp, Graff, and Stieber this year, so I'm not too worried about him getting an escape against Sentes now. I'm not expecting bonus points from this match, though.
2) Can Stieber or Ramos pin his way to the final?
BSCAFF: Yes, again, to Stieber. What a freak. He really ought to be mentioned with Dake, Taylor and Ruth more often. Ramos has a chance to pull off the same feat, because I don't think he's wrestling Graff in the semis, and I think he's more likely to open it up against McCormick for the home crowd.
ROSS: Yeah, Stieber can do it -- and he just might, given his insane ability and the weakness of his half of the bracket. Ramos could do it with some upsets, but I don't think he pins Sentes or Graff. His half of the bracket does not look conducive to a lot of bonus points, really, which is unfortunate for Iowa's title hopes.
3) Any surprise All-Americans?
BSCAFF: Two. I have 11-seed DiCamillo (UVA) knocking off OU's Brewer (8-seed) in the round of 12, and 10-seed Sentes doing the same thing to 12-seed Jordan Conaway (PSU). (//cries softly). Okie State's Morrison, the 7-seed, is the other AA-seed to fall.
ROSS: The #9 seed making the podium isn't exactly a huge surprise, but can I give a shoutout to Levi Wolfensperger anyway? I mean, his name is Levi freaking Wolfensperger. I like your DiCamillo and Sentes picks, but I'm going to say unseeded Shelton Mack (Pitt) mounts a challenge for the podium. But that might just because his name reminds me of former WWE wrestler Rodney Mack and his White Boy Challenges. Anyway.
1) The last two years we've had Thorn, Kennedy, Marion, Novachkov, and Russell at this weight. This year, not so much. Yawn?
BSCAFF: If we're comparing storylines to 125, 133, or 149....yeah, this is a bit of a yawner in comparison. I was hoping for a Mangrum-Stieber rematch, but they're on opposite sides of the bracket. Maple's got disgusting talent, and has just rolled over (almost) everyone. But he also has exactly 1 match against any of the top 10 seeds: a crazy 14-11 win over 4-seed Mitchell Port. Port's also the only one to wrestle Stieber, Maple and Mangrum - and he's got three close loses to show for it.
ROSS: The top-4 at this weight are good, but they're also probably a cut below the top guys we've seen at this weight the last few years. Maple is very talented and has a very flashy record, but holy hell is it padded with cupcakes and nonsense. I'm very curious to see how he handles some real competition in this event. Stieber hasn't blown the doors off everyone, but he seems Russell-like in his ability to constantly win close matches. This weight doesn't have the heavy hitters that other weights do, but I think it will provide some really good matches if the seeds hold to form.
2) I'll give you Kendric Maple and Hunter Stieber vs. the rest of the field (+400). Would you take it?
BSCAFF: If I understand this correctly, I can put $100 on 'the field', and if anyone other than Maple or Stieber wins the title, I get $400. Ehhh - I don't know. I like Mangrum, Port, Henderson, Neibert, and UPenn's Cobb - but I don't see any of them beating both Stieber and Maple, which is what it's probably going to take. So I'll pass. Seems like a sucker bet to me.
ROSS: If I was actually betting, I would probably take the field because it seems safer -- Stieber and Maple are good, but not so good that it's THAT hard to see them getting upset in the tourney. But since I'm not actually betting... I do think one of them will win it. And my money's on Stieber.
3) Give me a first round upset.
BSCAFF: Take VaTech's Zach Neibert to take out Cornell's 11-seed Mike Nevinger. They haven't wrestled this year, and Neibert's barely over .500 at (16-9). But that was one hell of a schedule he's wrestled, and he hasn't been blowed out by anyone.
ROSS: I like that upset. For some reason, Neibert seems like he should be better than he is -- when I was doing my preview I kept having to double-check that he wasn't actually seeded. Also, Nevinger has a ton of losses this year. I'm gonna go with Pasquale "Pat" Greco over Evan Henderson, mainly because a dude with a name like "Greco" has to get a win at the NCAA Wrestling Tournament, right?
4) Who wins?
BSCAFF: I think Maple's in the tougher half, but I think he matches up better with Mangrum than Stieber does. A Maple-Stieber final would be fun to see, because I think Maple beats the Stieber down-block stance to the tune of 3 or 4 takedowns. And I enjoy Stieber losses as much as the next guy.
ROSS: For some reason, I don't think both Stieber and Maple will make the finals. We're slated to have a few undefeated vs. undefeated match-ups at this tournament, but I don't think this one will come to pass. I'm going to go with Stieber vs. Mangrum instead and as much as I don't want to see it happen, I think Stieber wins. He's the best of a so-so bunch at this weight this year.
1) Is this weight the Jordan Oliver show or can someone trip him up?
ROSS: It's the Oliver show. He should be working on his 3rd straight NCAA title, if not for a run-in with Logan Stieber (and some iffy officiating) at last year's NCAA Tournament. Despite jumping up TWO weights, he's been just as much of a killer at 149 as he was at 133 -- maybe moreso. I don't see too many guys in this field who will be able to hang with him for three full periods.
BSCAFF: Boise's Chamberlain can keep it close, and Ness has a recent 4-6 loss to him from National Duals. I think he wins the weight, but I'm actually not expecting him to bonus his way through. He's unlikely to have a match against anyone outside the Intermat top 15 (depending upon how you feel about Edinboro's Habat) the entire tournament.
2) The Big Ten is well-represented in the lower seeds at this weight, while several small-school stars are represented in the higher seeds. It seems like the Big Ten guys beat up on each other a lot, which hurt them when it came to seeds. Will they have the last laugh and upset some of their higher-seeded small-school counterparts?
ROSS: Yes, absolutely. As much as it pains me to see Iowa continue to get goose egged at this weight, the truth is that it's not JUST because Iowa stinks at the weight -- it's because the Big Ten is actually pretty damn good at it right now. Between Ness, Sueflohn, Alton, Grajales, and Lopouchanski, there's some good guys at this weight in the Big Ten. And they just beat the crap out of each other. Meanwhile, I just don't know how much I trust guys like Vinson, Chamberlain, VonOhlen, and Santos. Gaudy records, sure, but they don't really face a lot of stellar competition. I think the Big Ten could have 2-3 guys finish in the top-5 of this weight.
BSCAFF: I'm going to take the other side of this, to a certain extent. Ness is obviously legit, and Sueflohn's been a lot better this year than last. But of those top 5 from the Big Ten, I think we had just two regular season matches between them, which is why the seeding blew ass. I don't like Grajales or Lopouchanski to make the podium, and I can completely understand why no one would have any confidence in Andrew Alton. Baron Von Ohlen and Steve Santos probably don't win the Big Ten this year - but I wouldn't be suprised to see either in the final (against Ness). Well - maybe not Von Ohlen. Or Santos. Wait - what was my point? Chamberlain and Vinson. They're pretty good, at least.
3) Give me a first round upset.
ROSS: I've got two for you: Drake Houdashelt (MIZZ) over #11 Andrew Alton (PSU) and Ian Paddock (OSU) over #3 Donnie Vinson (BING). I'm not sure Houdashelt over Alton is that much of an upset -- you could flip those seeds and I wouldn't bat an eye -- but I think Houdashelt is a tough out and if he can weather Alton's early storm, I could see him beating him late when Alton gasses out. Of all the non-Oliver, non-B1G guys, I probably like Vinson the best, but Paddock is a damn tough first round match-up. Given a full season at 149, I think Paddock would be seeded at this weight -- he's only not because he spent most of the season on the bench behind Tessari instead. I could see him grinding out a close decision win over Vinson.
BSCAFF: Damn it, man! Those are both excellent picks, because there's a pretty good shot that at least one of them happens. The worst part, for Vinson - if he survives Paddock, he gets Lehigh's Shane Welsh in the first round, who also has a decent shot at knocking out the 3-seed. It's a damn shame that Grajales got Max Mayfield in the first bout. One of about 20 other guys, and I'd put him on the upset list, too.
4) How about a surprise All-American?
ROSS: I like some combination of Paddock, Houdashelt, and #10 Lopouchanski to all make the podium here -- maybe two of those three guys. I think 1-2 top-5 seeds at this weight will fail to make All-America (I'd bet the farm on VonOhlen being one of them, too, given his history at this tournament and the fact that he was hurt at his conference tournament a few weeks ago).
BSCAFF: I'm buying everything you just wrote, except Lopouchanski, for whom I have an irrational distaste. Stupid Russian tie. Similarly, I have an irrational affinity for a lot of the unseeded guys at this weight, in addition to Paddock and Houdashelt: Habat, UVA's Valenti, Shane Welsh, even Sparty's Osterman could pull an upset or two. Army's Daniel Young isn't a push over. This is just a stupid-deep weight class this year. And no, I don't think #11 Alton makes the podium, though I'd put him in the mix, too.
1) How much of a gift did Derek St. John get in the seeding here?
ROSS: A pretty big one. I was very nervous about how the seeding would work out here and, in fact, I was pretty sure it was going to be Green #2, St. John #3, which was not good, because Green is a rotten match-up for St. John. Instead, St. John gets #2 and Green only gets #4? THANK YOU JEBUS. A semifinal match-up with Napoli doesn't scare me that much (St. John had a solid 6-0 win over him earlier this year) and a finals match-up with Welch would be fine, too, because DSJ has had a lot of success against him in the past. I will be a little nervous of Josh Demas (OhSt) or #10 R.J. Pena (OrSt) make it to the quarters on Friday because they're also tricky match-ups for DSJ, but for the most part, this is a great draw for St. John.
BSCAFF: It's a crime he didn't get the 1-seed. DSJ was #1 all year long, and undefeated until a couple of bad days at the end of the year. He still has just 2 losses; Welch would have 2 losses as well, if he'd been man enough to face DSJ this year. Derek St. John is going to turn it on, and bonus his way to his first National Championship! He's been oversold, and everyone should jump on board immediately. I'm seeing Pin-Pin-Pin-Tech Fall-Pin for DSJ. (come on, jinx).
2) How much are you going to miss seeing Jesse Dong's name in these brackets after he graduates this year?
ROSS: A lot. Names like that are like a gift from the comedy gods -- they don't come along every day. I'm so excited at a potential DSJ-Dong match in the quarters on Friday. FEAR THE DONGER!
BSCAFF: I can't read the dude's name and not think of Sixteen Candles. No more yanky my wanky, da Donger need foo. Automobile? We should petition the NCAA to give the Donger a 7th year of eligibility. Speaking of 16 Candles...what the hell happened to Russ from National Lampoon's Family Vacation? He was cranking out the hits in the mid 1980's. And now he probably couldn't get a spot on Flava Flav's reality show.
3) Any surprise All-Americans here?
ROSS: I think whoever wins the Demas-Pena first-round match will make the podium. And, hell, I could actually see both guys making it, although it will be a long road for the guy who loses that match. I think Demas is one of the most underrated guys at this weight. I could also see Mizzou's Kyle Bradley put together a run and make the podium -- he's got 13 losses (which is bad), but he has a few good wins lately and might be peaking at the right time.
BSCAFF: I'm all screwed up with this weight. I'm dumb enough to have DSJ - Alton in the final. DSJ wins, of course. And looking back over the bracket I filled out....I have UVA's #12 Jedd Moore, and Hah-vahd's #11 Peppelman both making the podium. That's Jedd Moore, from UVA, mind you. What in the hell was I thinking when I filled that out?
4) Who makes the finals?
ROSS: I want to pick something other than scratch, but I just can't. I think the top half of the bracket is easier than the bottom, but any desire I had to pick Fleming over Welch evaporated when I saw that Welch beat him 10-1 earlier this year. Green could emerge from that half of the bracket, but I think his shitty cardio will bite him at some point before the finals. And I think St. John will emerge from the bottom of the bracket. So.. .Welch-St. John.
BSCAFF: The final gets cancelled for two reasons: 1) to make more room for Dake-Taylor; and 2) because Derek St. John will have done enough to deserve his finals opponent default. Instead of a 7-minute match, there will be a 5-minute coronation of DSJ during which the NCAA puts real-life DSJ on top of the podium, with 7 DSJ-cardboard cut outs into the other spots, and snaps multiple photos. It's the right thing to do. The last 2 minutes transition to Shane Spanx and Anthony Robles felating each other (metaphorically) about Taylor-Dake. And by the way - I'm going to miss Jeff Blatnik this year, because every year he'd mention that Penn State fans cheered for him when he wrestled, and that Penn State fans are the best.
Again, don't forget to read PART II.