While bscaff and I broke down the NCAA Wrestling Tournament in exhaustive weight-by-weight detail earlier this week (go read part one and part two if you haven't done so yet), we also answered a few broader questions about the event, too. We're also joined by Mike Riordan, of SBN's excellent MMA blog, Bloody Elbow, and our favorite Cornell fan, oldocho. So without further ado...
1) What do you think of the decision to redo the order of matches to make Dake-Taylor the main event?
MIKE: Great idea, wrestling starting to act like a business, organizing its event more like a fight card.
BSCAFF: It blows. It's pretentious, and it's entirely likely that it will disappoint average Joe fan, whom I presume ESPN/NCAA is targeting with this move. These two have wrestled 16 minutes of folkstyle and produced 0 takedowns. The chances that Cornell or Penn State (or both) are screaming bloody murder because of a crap-tastic call that decides the winner? 94.64%. Having said that - at least the last match we get for five months won't be Dom Bradley vs. Tony Nelson. Do. Not. Want.
ROSS: I like it as a general idea, although I wonder why they didn't just wait until after the semifinals on Friday to announce it, if only to allow them to pick another weight to end on if the unthinkable happens and one or both guys don't make it to the finals. (Well, that's not true -- I know why they announced it already. It's the same reason they're doing it at all: to generate buzz and get people talking.) But I really like the idea of trying to end the finals on the best (or biggest) match. It's always been depressing to end with the heavyweights because those matches usually suck. Why not end with something a bit more exciting?
But bscaff is absolutely right that the match itself could very well be a bit of a dud in terms of excitement -- the first two Dake-Taylor matches were not exactly action-packed thrillers that people will be telling their grandchildren about in hushed tones. But it's an incredibly big match for the sport. Between them, they already have four NCAA titles and five finals appearances -- I can't imagine there have been too many matches in the past that featured guys that decorated. And of course there's the little matter of Dake trying to make history, too. This is probably the biggest match in the sport since Cael tried to lock up his fourth title (and an undefeated career), so I think it absolutely should be the main event of the evening, even if there's a very good chance it could be the wrestling equivalent of the LSU-Alabama "Game of the Century" (the 9-6 regular season one, not the 21-0 national title beatdown).
oldocho: I've thought for years that they should shuffle around the order of finals day in an attempt to help grow the sport. This is the one time per year that ordinary American sports fans may watch college wrestling (often by accident), and it never looks good when they tune into watch SportsCenter at 11 o'clock and see two fat guys pushing their heads together for 11 minutes. Because high-level heavyweight matches are usually about as exciting as high-level Guile vs. Guile matches, switching the order up so the last final is at a middle weight can only be a good thing.
>However, I'm still kind of uneasy with the fact that it took one of the most anticipated matches in the sports history--along with a good prodding from ESPN--for the NCAA to finally make this change. But then again, it does stay consistent with the NCAA's inconsistent notions of amateurism. I bet they're just thrilled that they have a match they can market that doesn't require fewer than 8 limbs. But I wouldn't be surprised if right after the Kyle Dake-Twilight Sparkle match ends, when the winner is celebrating, "On Wisconsin!" is suddenly played over the Wells Fargo Arena sound system and Andrew Howe walks out to cash in his Money in the Bank contract.
Actually, that would be pretty awesome.
2) Which three teams will pose the biggest threat to Penn State -- and what will it take for them to stop a PSU three-peat?
ROSS: It's Oklahoma State, Iowa, and Minnesota -- maybe in that order, too. If you break it down by potential finalists... Oklahoma State has a good shot to get two (Oliver, Perry) and could get three if Gelogaev can get past Nelson. Iowa has a good shot at two finalists also (Ramos, St. John) and could get four if McD and Evans can get by their recent nemeses. Minnesota has a solid shot at two finalists (Nelson, Storley) and could get three if Ness runs the gauntlet at 149. But in order for anyone to counter Penn State's contingent of studs (and bonus point prowess), they're going to need to get a good haul of bonus points themselves and they're either going to need to pull some upsets (or take advantage of opportunities that other upsets hand them) or do a lot of damage in the consolation rounds. It's going to be difficult. I'd like to say that Iowa will derive some home mat advantage from the Tournament being in Des Moines, but I'm not sure that will be enough to put them over the top.
BSCAFF: Iowa, Okie State and Goldy. That's the complete list, not just the top 3. I'll probably go stab myself in the eye with a bic ballpoint after writing this.....but the Hawks have the best shot in my opinion. Minnesota, besides Storley, wrestled incredibly well at Big Tens. It's time for Danny Zilverberg, little Thorn, and Cody Yawn to return to Earth. Iowa, meanwhile, basically wrestled close to seed, outside of Burak (6th to 4th, big whoop). They picked up a ton of bonus, and nearly pulled it off. And now they're at home (or, you know...pretty close to it)? Do not like. Wrestle just a little better than at Big Tens, and combine that with one PSU stumble (Altons, Nico, Brown, Q), and they can probably take the big boy hardware.
MIKE: First off, Taylor, Ruth, and Wright are going to get massive points, that's a foregone conclusion. If Penn State is going to lose, their next tier of wrestlers need to fall flat on their face. This means that the Altons need to continue to under perform and Brown and Megaludies need to lose to wrestlers they shouldn't lose to.
Minnesota could win it, but they need to see some of their less dependable guys to make it to the podium. Cody Yohn, in particular needs to finally perform when it counts. David Thorn at 125 is capable of a run, and this would really help Minnesota's title hopes.
I thought Iowa still had a shot, particularly after Big Tens, but good lord did their upper weights get hosed in the bracketing, They have an uphill climb.
Oklahoma State is an interesting team, if Oliver, Perry, and Gelogaev all make the finals, then they are just a couple other big performances away from being in the mix.
oldocho: Influenza, Mononucleosis, and SARS. And even they'll have to team up to stop PSU.
3) Any egregious seeding mistakes?
BSCAFF: I wouldn't say egregious. I didn't like that all four of the Big Ten's seeded 184-lbers were on the same half of the bracket. Don't ask me to explain how Matt Brown got the #2 at 174, or how Storley is #6. And I'm violently opposed to giving Dom Bradley the #1 seed when his coach sits him against the Top 5 guys. But I think all three of those complaints are the type that you'll get every year.
oldocho: I seriously can't believe that Oregon is a twelve.
MIKE: There's been lots of talk about the mis-seeding of Logan Storley, I have to say that I agree, particularly when a couple guys who defaulted in their conference tournaments retained their seed.
ROSS: I agree that Storley got hosed with his seed -- he had one bad tournament and got sent all the way down to the #6 seed. Bizarre. It's strange to see them place so much emphasis on conference tournaments sometimes and much less emphasis at other times. The injury default issue is a sticky one. On one hand, it doesn't feel fair to punish a guy for being hurt... but on the other hand, it doesn't seem fair to seed them like nothing happened, either. I'm not sure what the most satisfying answer is there.
4) Who are your dark horses to contend for individual titles? (NOTE: for the sake of argument, let's say these guys need to be seeded no higher than 4th.)
BSCAFF: Garnett will contend at 125 (and fail). No one at 133 will contend outside of the top 2. At 141 I'd take a flier on #6 Ugi, though it's also likely he gets bounced to the consolations in either of his first two matchups. I like #6 Ness at 149, #8 Alton at 157, no one at 165, everyone at 174, no one at 184, no one at 197, and, for the sake of 98% of college fatties, I hope #5 McMullan makes the final and shows that taking leg shots is okay, and that you're allowed to score on something besides riding time, reversals, and slide bys.
ROSS: As much as it pains me to say, I think two Minnesota guys have very good opportunities to outdo their less-than-stellar seeds and contend for titles. Honestly, Dylan Ness (149) and Logan Storley (174) are both better than the #6 seed -- Ness fell there because of an injury-plagued season and 1-2 sketchy losses and Storley dropped there after a disastrous Big Ten Tournament, but it's not hard to see both guys making the finals at their respective weights. Ness was a finalist last year and he's looked very good since as the season has progressed; it helps that 149 isn't a particularly scary weight other than #1 Jordan Oliver, and he's on the other side of the bracket from Ness. Storley was #1 or #2 for much of this season and has wins over most of the other top-seeded guys this year; it certainly wouldn't surprise me if he regained that form and mounted a push for the finals at 174.
oldocho: Dylan Ness at 149 is the best lower-seed with a shot at a title, I think. Minnesota's going to need him to come close to have a shot at the title, though. And get an assist from bacterial meningitis. Also, pretty much everyone at seeds 5-12 at 174 is in the running.
MIKE: Jarrod Garnett, Virginia Tech, 5th seed, beat Delgado at Midlands
Dylan Alton, Penn State
Jarrod Trice Central Michigan
5) Other than Dake-Taylor, which three (or five?) matches are you most excited to see go down at this event
MIKE: Megaludis Garentt in the 125 pound quarters
Vinson vs Chamberlain in the 149 semis
Evans vs Storley 174 pound quarters
Quentin Wright vs anyone
BSCAFF: 1) Kilgore vs. Quentin. It may not end pretty, but I'd love to see Q hit Kilgore with a youth wrestling move for 5 points so I can laugh out loud.
2) If Andrew Alton can survive Houdashelt in the opener, I'd love to see him against Ness for the first 4 - 5 minutes. Yes, this is repeat from a request I made 10 days ago.
3) I'd love to see Alan Waters have to wrestle McD, Nico, Delgado, McD, and Nico in successive matches. Fucking Missouri.
4) Kendric Maple against someone from the top 10. That'd be a neat trick.
5) Anything with Ed Ruth.
6) and Stieber vs. Ramos 5. He keeps getting closer.
oldocho: I'd like to see a rematch between Mike Evans and Mathew "One T" Brown after their final at the B1G championships. Also Donald Vinson against Ness and the winner of that against Jason Chamberlain. I'm also looking forward to any match involving Undrakhbayar Khishignyam because I want to see Quint Kessenich try to pronounce it when interviewing him after.
ROSS: So many choices, so little time...
1) #1 Dustin Kilgore (Kent St) vs. #2 Quentin Wright (Penn St) at 197
Two undefeated guys, two guys not afraid to dig deep into their bag of offensive tricks, two guys not scared to go on offense... yeah, this sounds like fun.
2) #1 Logan Stieber (Ohio St) vs. #2 Tony Ramos (Iowa) at 133
I still believe Tony will beat Stieber someday. I hope "someday" is Saturday night in Des Moines.
3) #1 Jordan Oliver (Okie St) vs. #6 Dylan Ness (Minny) at 149
Ness is one of the few 149ers who can make Oliver sweat and push him out of his comfort zone. Both guys are also outstanding scramblers, so we're likely to see some really funky stuff in a match between 'em.
4) #1 Jason Welch (jNW) vs. #2 Derek St. John (Iowa) at 157
St. John has owned Welch over the course of their careers, but Welch is wrestling better than ever this year and even though St. John has bested Welch every time they've met, it's not like he completely mopped the floor with Welch. The matches are usually close and they usually come down to an epic scramble.
5) CHEATING ALERT! Every match from the quarterfinals on at 174
Yeah, this is a cheat. But this weight is so wide-open and the matches are so dramatic that the last seven matches at this weight are all going to be absolute thrillers (although, if the expected guys are all involved, they may not feature the most offensive you've ever seen). Can't wait.