In a selection show streaming online (and co-hosted by Shane Sparks, which means I am JACKED), the NCAA released the brackets for next week's NCAA Tournament. Enough preamble -- where did the Iowa guys land? And how close were my projections?
There was also a surprising bit of news from the NCAA about the format of the championship round on Saturday night. Rather than starting at 125 and working their way up to 285, they'll be starting at 174 and working their way up to 165... and the expected "Match of the Century" between David Taylor and Kyle Dake. As far as I know, that's an unprecedented change for the tourney -- but good on the NCAA for doing what they can to capitalize on Dake-Taylor, which could be absolutely enormous. College wrestling rarely has buzz-worthy matches or moments, but this one could be easily be their most newsworthy moment since Anthony Robles captured mainstream attention in his quest to win a title. It might even be the biggest college wrestling story since Cael Sanderson attempted to complete his perfect career at Iowa State.
1) Alan Waters, Missouri
2) Jesse Delgado, Illinois
3) Matt McDonough, Iowa
4) Nico* Megaludis, Penn State
5) Jarrod Garnett, Virginia Tech
6) Nahshon Garrett, Cornell
7) Nathan Kraisser, North Carolina
8) Matt Snyder, Virginia
9) Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State
10) Josh Martinez, Air Force
11) Nikko Triggas, Ohio State
12) Tyler Cox, Wyoming
Sidenote: One of the side benefits of the official NCAA benefits is their insistence on using the full names for guys who typically go by nicknames or initials. For instance, per the official bracket, "Nico" is short for "Nicholas." I was hoping for Nicodemus, frankly. (The best example of this is at 174, where I found out that Northwestern's "Lee" Munster is actually LEROY MUNSTER. I can't believe the jNW admissions office actually signed off on someone named Leroy.)
How'd I Do? How about 8/8, baby! Perfect start! You know what this means, of course:
I am a witch and should be burned at the stake there's nowhere to go but down from here.
Quick Iowa Outlook: McD got the #3 seed, as expected, which means he'll have to figure out a way to beat Jesse Delgado (#2) if he wants to get back to the NCAA finals (or hope that someone beats Delgado before the semis). McD will have a chance to boot Okie State's wrestler at this weight (Eddie Klimara) to the consolation bracket in R2, which would help the team race. Garrett looms as McD's potential quarterfinal opponent; McD did beat him at National Duals a few weeks ago.
Other Notes: Minnesota's David Thorn was unseeded and landed #1 Alan Waters in the first round -- ouch. This is a win-win situation for Iowa, though -- either Minnesota loses a wrestler to the wrestlebacks immediately or one of McD's biggest threats for a title at this weight is taken off the board.
1) Logan Stieber, Ohio State
2) Tony Ramos, Iowa
3) Tyler Graff, Wisconsin
4) A.J. Schopp, Edinboro
5) Chris Dardanes, Minnesota
6) Nathan McCormick, Missouri
7) Jon Morrison, Oklahoma State
8) Cody Brewer, Oklahoma
9) Levi Wolfensperger, UNI
10) Scotti Sentes, Central Michigan
11) George DiCamillo, Virginia
12) Jordan Conaway, Penn State
How'd I Do? I went 8/8 on the participants, but had the order slightly wrong -- I had Morrison at #6 and McCormick at #7. It was tough to decide between them since they went 2-2 against each other this year; I went with Morrison because he won the most recent match between them.
Quick Iowa Outlook: Not surprising -- we pretty much knew Tony would be #2 and Graff would be #3 -- but not ideal, either. In addition to Graff looming in the semis, Tony could see Morrison or Sentes in the quarterfinals. Ramos only beat Morrison 3-2 at a dual meet earlier this season and Sentes won the only past meeting between himself and Ramos (2-0 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament). Admittedly, Tony has improved a lot since then, but Sentes is a strong rider, so if Tony finds himself on bottom in that match, we'll certainly find out just how much his ability to escape has improved.
Other Notes: Dardanes (Minnesota) and Conaway (Penn State) are slated to meet in the round-of-16, which means one of them will be in the consolation bracket before the quarterfinals and facing a long path to the podium. That's a big plus in the team race.
1) Hunter Stieber, Ohio State
2) Kendric Maple, Oklahoma
3) Michael Mangrum, Oregon State
4) Mitchell Port, Edinboro
5) Evan Henderson, North Carolina
6) Undrakhbayar Khishgnyam, The Citadel
7) Mark Ballweg, Iowa
8) Nick Dardanes, Minnesota
9) Richard Durso, Franklin & Mitchell
10) Charles Cobb, Penn
11) Mike Nevinger, Cornell
12) Chris Mecate, Old Dominion
How'd I Do? So-so; I only got 6/8 participants (I had Durso and Nevinger at 7/8 rather than Ballweg/Dardanes) and I had Maple and Stieber flipped.
Quick Iowa Outlook: On the other hand, I am happy to be wrong about Ballweg's seed -- it's good to see him crack the top-8 here. Unfortunately, he's also drawn a really nasty quarterfinal opponent in #2 Maple. Maple beat him via tech fall at Midlands last year. Ballweg is going to need to do some work in the consolation bracket if he wants to be an All-America.
Other Notes: It's quite possible that all the squads in the team title race will be without a representative in the top half of the bracket here after the quarterfinals. In addition to Ballweg's tough draw, Okie State's wrestler (Julian Feikert) should see #1 Stieber in the second round, Minnesota's Dardanes should see Stieber in the quarterfinals, and Penn State's Pearsall should see Maple in the second round, too. Tough sledding.
1) Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State
2) Jason Chamberlain, Boise State
3) Donald Vinson, Binghamton
4) Cole VonOhlen, Air Force
5) Steve Santos, Columbia
6) Dylan Ness, Minnesota
7) Scott Sakaguchi, Oregon State
8) Nick Brascetta, Virginia Tech
9) Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska
10) Ivan Lopouchanski, Purdue
11) Andrew Alton, Penn State
12) Eric Grajales, Michigan
How'd I Do? I went 7/8 on participants, with Sueflohn at #8, Brascetta at #7 and leaving Sakaguchi out altogether. As it happens, Sakaguchi is #7, Brascetta is #8, and Sueflohn doesn't crack the top-8. Oh, and I had Santos and VonOhlen flipped, too.
Quick Iowa Outlook: As expected, Iowa did not receive an at-large qualifier at this weight, so the Iowa outlook for this weight is... nothing. Grim, empty nothingness.
Other Notes: Alton tumbled all the way to #11 and could face #6 Ness in a R2 match, meaning either Minnesota or Penn State will have someone in the consolation bracket early here.
1) Jason Welch, Northwestern
2) Derek St. John, Iowa
3) Joey Napoli, Lehigh
4) James Green, Nebraska
5) James Fleming, Clarion
6) Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State
7) Jesse Dong, Virginia Tech
8) Dylan Alton, Penn State
9) Frank Hickman, Bloomburg
10) R.J. Pena, Oregon State
11) Walter Peppelman, Harvard
12) Jedd Moore, Virginia
How'd I Do? I was 7/8 in terms of participants (I had Alton out of the top-8 and Peppelman at #8; the NCAA has Alton at #8 and Peppelman down at #11) and was also wrong with all of the seeding except for Welch and Fleming. D'oh.
Quick Iowa Outlook: Thank you, NCAA. Despite losing to Green, St. John gets the #2 seed and Green gets the #4 seed -- and the other side of the bracket. Dylan Alton, another persistent nemesis, is also on the other side of the bracket. And if chalk holds, we get DSJ-DONG in the quarterfinals -- huzzah! On the other hand, if Dong gets upset, DSJ could be in line for a tricky quarterfinal -- both Josh Demas and R.J. Pena beat him last year and Demas has continued to wrestle St. John close this year. Overall, though, this is as good a bracket as St. John could have hoped for.
Other Notes: Minnesota's Danny Zilverberg got a rough draw with Boise's Georgi Ivanov in R1; I thought Ivanov might get a seed, so he'll be a formidable opponent right off the bat. Alton has a very tough road in the top half of the bracket, with likely matches against #8 Hickman in R2, #1 Welch in the quarters, and #4 Green in the semis.
1) Kyle Dake, Cornell
2) David Taylor, Penn State
3) Peter Yates, Virginia Tech
4) Tyler Caldwell, Oklahoma State
5) Steven Monk, North Dakota State
6) Bubby Graham, Oklahoma
7) Conrad Polz, Illinois
8) Nick Sulzer, Virginia
9) Josh Veltre, Bloomsburg
10) Nick Moore, Iowa
11) Cody Yohn, Minnesota
12) Taylor Massa, Michigan
How'd I Do? So close! I was 8/8 on participants here and had every seed right except Polz and Sulzer, who were swapped on the NCAA bracket.
Quick Iowa Outlook: Holy crap, Nick Moore not only got a seed, he got the #10 seed! That's a bit of a shocker. The good news is that means he has a winnable first round match and, really, a fairly winnable second round match, too. That's certainly better than being unseeded and drawing Dake or Taylor in R1. The bad news is that Moore is staring at a R2 match with Polz (lost to him at a dual this year) and a potential quarterfinal match with the Unicorn himself (who, um, tech falled Moore in the first period last weekend). Oh well.
Other Notes: Hopefully Oklahoma's Bubby Graham can knock Yohn down to the consolation bracket in R2; if not, Va Tech's Yates should do so in the quarters. Oklahoma State has a good wrestler here in Caldwell, but he has to get through Dake in the semis, so... yeah. There's not much point in rooting against Taylor, either. There's one guy here who can beat him and Taylor won't see that guy until the finals.
1) Chris Perry, Oklahoma State
2) Matt Brown, Penn State
3) Mike Evans, Iowa
4) Robert Kokesh, Nebraska
5) Josh Asper, Maryland
6) Logan Storley, Minnesota
7) Jordan Blanton, Illinois
8) Nick Heflin, Ohio State
9) Nathaniel Brown, Lehigh
10) Dan Yates, Michigan
11) Blake Stauffer, Arizona State
12) Matt Miller, Navy
How'd I Do? Well, I went 8/8 on the participants, and I got the seeds at #1, #7, and #8 right. I whiffed on everything else, though.
Quick Iowa Outlook: Ouch. Storley's meltdown at the Big Ten Tournament has dropped him all the way to the #6 seed (seriously, if he takes care of business there, he's almost certainly the #1 seed here), which is bad news for Evans -- Storley is who Evans would face in the quarterfinals, unless Storley again crashes and burns at a tournament. If he gets by Storley, Evans could see Brown, who just beat him at the Big Ten Tournament. Rough draw.
Other Notes: As noted, Storley's seed really took it on the chin after that rotten Big Ten Tournament performance. He would have been #2 at worst before that, but he fell all the way to #6 here. Still, if you're looking for a higher seed capable of making the finals at this tournament, Storley is easily your best bet. And so much for Asper benefiting from the chaotic Big Ten Tournament -- all his 19-1 record and ACC championship netted him was the #5 seed. #goacc
1) Ed Ruth, Penn State
2) Ben Bennett, Central Michigan
3) Robert Hamlin, Lehigh
4) Steve Bosak, Cornell
5) Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota
6) Ryan Loder, UNI
7) Jimmy Sheptock, Maryland
8) Josh Ihnen, Nebraska
9) Chris Chionuma, Oklahoma State
10) Jacob Swartz, Boise State
11) Mike Larson, Missouri
12) Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa
How'd I Do? Well, pretty good -- I had 7/8 participants, with Chionuma over Ihnen in my projection. I did agonize a little over which guy to plug in there, though. I also had t he seeding from 3-5 a little off; based on this and the VonOhlen seed at 149, it would seem the NCAA gives no fucks about injury defaults in conference championships. Maybe Logan Storley should have just invented an injury at the Big Ten Tournament.
Quick Iowa Outlook: Hey, Ethen Lofthouse earned a seed! Like Nick Moore, I wasn't sure if that would be the case or not, but it's good to see that his strong performance at the Big Ten Tournament really paid dividends -- there's no way Lofthouse gets this seed without finishing 3rd there and beating Ihnen. Sucks that he'll probably get Steinhaus in R2, though. As expected, Lofty is going to need to do work in the consos at this weight.
Other Notes: Iowa, Penn State, Oklahoma State, and Minnesota all have wrestlers in the top half of the bracket, so Ed Ruth will certainly be helping the team effort by mowing down guys from Penn State's main competitors. Bennett could have a really easy path to the finals if Hamlin is still limited by the injury that caused him to default at the EIWA Tournament.
1) Dustin Kilgore, Kent State
2) Quentin Wright, Penn State
3) Matt Wilps, Pittsburgh
4) Alfonso Hernandez, Wyoming
5) Taylor Meeks, Oregon State
6) Kyven Gadson, Iowa State
7) Nathan Schiedel, Binghamton
8) Micah Burak, Penn
9) Jake Meredith, Arizona State
10) Scott Schiller, Minnesota
11) Blake Rosholt, Oklahoma State
12) Brent Haynes, Missouri
How'd I Do? 8/8, baby! Got all the participants right and all the seeds. /fistpump
Quick Iowa Outlook: Oh boy. Burak drew #1 Kilgore in the first round, which is pretty awful luck. Worse, if (when) he loses that match, he'll face a guy who's already beaten him this year in his first consolation match: either Cornell's Jace Bennett or Illinois' Mario Gonzalez (although Burak also owns a win over Gonzalez, so that's something). But this was a nasty draw for Burak and it could lead to a short stay in the tourney for Burak. On the other hand, if he can win that first wrestleback, the likely opponents Burak would face after that don't look quite as daunting, so...
Other Notes: The odds of a Burak-Burak match at this tournament are not good, unless Micah also loses in R1 -- although even then Nathan would need to win three matches in the consolation bracket just to get to a point where he could face Micah (who would need to win two matches in the consolation bracket himself). Or they could just shock the world and meet in the quarterfinals. Oklahoma State (Rosholt) and Minnesota (Schiller) didn't have great luck with their seeds; both guys could be in wrestlebacks by Friday morning.
1) Dom Bradley, Missouri
2) Tony Nelson, Minnesota
3) Alan Gelogaev, Oklahoma State
4) Chad Hanke, Oregon State
5) Mike McMullan, Northwestern
6) Bobby Telford, Iowa
7) Connor Medbery, Wisconsin
8) Mike McClure, Michigan State
9) Zac Thomusseit, Pittsburgh
10) Jarod Trice, Central Michigan
11) J.T. Felix, Boise State
12) Adam Chalfant, Indiana
How'd I Do? Not great. I got 6/8 of the participants right, but screwed up the 7/8 seeds; I had Trice and Thomusseit there, while the NCAA went with Medbery and McClure (B-1-G! B-1-G!). I also didn't nail the top seeds at the weight; I had Nelson #1, Gelogaev #2 and Bradley #3. Instead, it's Bradley #1, Nelson #2, and Gelogaev #3. In hindsight, the logic behind that choice is clear: Bradley and Nelson both finished with one loss and Bradley beat Nelson. Gelogaev ended with three losses (two to Nelson and one to Bradley, which he later avenged).
Quick Iowa Outlook: Er, not ideal. Bobby is staring at a quarterfinal round match-up with Gelogaev, who's been a nightmare match-up for Telford the last two years. Then again, a quarterfinal match-up with Bradley or Nelson wouldn't have looked that much more promising, either...
Other Notes: Minnesota and Oklahoma State have big guns at this weight, but they'll have to go through one another to get to the finals here. Penn State's Jimmy Lawson is staring at a R2 match (if he gets that far) with Gelogaev.
This is not a great draw for Iowa. There are looming match-ups with difficult opponents (Delgado, Graff, Taylor, Steinhaus, Kilgore, Gelogaev) lurking all over this bracket for Iowa. But the interesting thing is that none of the main contenders for the team title got particularly auspicious draws (at least on paper) here.
PENN STATE: Could easily have five guys in the wrestlebacks after Thursday. They're seeded to have four guys in the finals, but I would not be surprised if it was fewer than that (although I expect two minimum, and more likely three). And don't sleep on Matt Brown's R1 opponent, Missouri's Todd Porter -- he majored Chris Perry earlier this year, so he's definitely no scrub.
MINNESOTA: Minnesota could also have five guys in the wrestlebacks after Thursday, depending on how Nick Dardanes does in the 8/9 match in R2. They're only seeded to have one finalist (Nelson). Storley and Ness give them two other pretty solid possibilities to make the finals, but both guys will have to do so from the #6 seed, which won't be easy.
OKLAHOMA STATE: Oklahoma State could have five or six guys in the consolation bracket after Thursday, depending on the outcomes of some close matches at 141, 157, and 184. They're seeded to have two finalists, with Gelogaev as another strong possibility, but as a team they have to overcome their recent history of choking on the big stage.
IOWA: Iowa projects to have around six guys alive on the championship side of the bracket and it could be seven if Nick Moore can beat Conrad Polz. On the other hand, there are potentially tricky R2 matches for Iowa at 141 and 285 and the quarterfinal round looks very unforgiving for Iowa: they may be lucky to put three in the semis and only two project to make the finals.
And some of the dark horses...
CORNELL: They project to have just three guys make it to the quarterfinals and only one of those (Dake) seems like a really strong bet to advance further than that.
MISSOURI: They also project to have just three guys make it past R2 on the championship side of the bracket, although two of those guys (Waters, Bradley) are seeded to make it all the way to the finals.
What's it all mean? This really looks like a year when the title will be won -- or lost -- in the consolation rounds, unless there are some big upsets in the championship bracket. Penn State is still the favorite, given that they have a great shot of getting three guys into the finals -- and a pretty good shot of getting four into the finals -- and Oklahoma State, Minnesota, and Iowa are lurking behind them, but question marks and potholes abound for all of these teams. This has the makings of a pretty wild team race to me; hopefully the atmosphere in Des Moines can help inspire some strong Iowa performances.