2014 NCAA WRESTLING TOURNAMENT NITTY-GRITTY PREVIEW

Andrew Carpenean-US PRESSWIRE

Here's what you need to know about the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Tournament, which gets underway tomorrow morning in Oklahoma City.

Let's skip the preamble and get straight to the previewin' -- there's over 7000 words to get through here.

125

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Jesse Delgado JR Illinois 25-2
2 Nahshon Garrett SO Cornell 30-1
3 Nico Megaludis JR Penn State 26-3
4 Josh Martinez SO Air Force 32-3
5 Dylan Peters RS FR UNI 31-4
6 Jarrod Patterson SR Oklahoma 18-2
7 Ryan Taylor FR Wisconsin 17-4
8 Cory Clark RS FR Iowa 17-2
9 Tyler Cox JR Wyoming 28-5
10 David Terao SO American 32-8
11 Robert Deutsch SO Rider 30-4
12 Tim Lambert RS FR Nebraska 22-11
13 Evan Silver SO Stanford 23-4
14 Eddie Klimara SO Okie State 18-8
15 Anthony Zanetta SR Pitt 20-9
16 Joey Dance FR Va Tech 23-8

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jesse Delgado, JR, Illinois

REPEAT ODDS: That really depends on whether or not the officials at the NCAA Tournament let him use his patented "grab an ankle and roll around on the mat for a while" technique.  It's technically stalling... but the refs rarely ding him for it.  If he's allowed to get away with that, he'll be tough to beat.  That said, this is a pretty tough field of contenders and they'll give Delgado a run for his money.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: The two primary challengers for Delgado figure to be his B1G nemesis Megaludis (who owns two wins over Delgado, including one earlier this season) and Garrett, who fell to Delgado in the NCAA semifinals last year and again earlier this year, but has beaten everyone else set before him.  Both Megaludis and Garrett are on the other side of the bracket from Delgado, though, so he'll only have to deal with one of them.

On Delgado's own half of the bracket, the two biggest challenges to his dominance figure to come from a pair of Iowa boys.  Air Force's Josh Martinez is the highest non-Delgado seed in that part of the bracket, but he injury defaulted out of his last two matches at his conference tournament and his health is a question mark.  UNI's Dylan Peters is the #5 seed and he's been on a tear of late, winning 13 straight matches, several with bonus points.  Coincidentially, his last loss?  A 6-5 decision to Delgado.  And Iowa's Cory Clark, the #8 seed, will be a real threat to Delgado as well -- he beat him a year ago and gave him a tough battle at the Big Ten Tournament a few weeks ago.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: The biggest puzzler here is Martinez, who got the #4 seed despite those aforementioned injury defaults, which sends a somewhat curious message.  But he does have a sparkling record (32-3, per the NCAA) and we know from past experience that the NCAA loves gaudy records.

IOWA ANALYSIS: Clark hurt his seed with the loss to Ryan Taylor in the 3rd place match at the Big Ten Tournament (he'd be at least the #7 seed without that loss), but he doesn't find himself with a terrible draw.  He opens with Edinboro's Kory Mines, an opponent that Thomas Gilman beat via major decision in a dual meet earlier this season.  A win over Mines should set up a Round of 16 clash with Wyoming's Tyler Cox, the #9 seed.  Cox is good and has some solid wins (#12 Tim Lambert x2, #14 Eddie Klimara), but he's also lost to multiple good wrestlers and if Clark wrestles as well as he's capable of doing, he should pick up the win.

Delgado looms in the quarters and while we might have preferred to put that match off 'til later, the truth is that Clark was likely going to have to beat Delgado at some point in this tournament -- having to do it a little bit sooner won't hurt much.  Delgado is also the devil we know; Clark has wrestled him twice, with one win and one very narrow loss.  I like his odds in another rematch.  Clark has no experience against either Garrett or Megaludis.  If Clark gets by Delgado, I think a showdown with UNI's Peters will await in the semis (they went XX while facing each other during their redshirt year last year), with Garrett or Megaludis likely awaiting in the finals.  That's a difficult path, but Clark at his best has looked capable of doing it.  The key will be getting Clark at his very best for three straight days.  He faded badly on the second day at Midlands and struggled on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament as well. The biggest issue for Clark may not be any of his opponents, but whether or not he can manage the weight cut effectively and maintain his mental focus -- especially if he does happen to drop into the consolation bracket...

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: ...because Iowa needs big points out of Clark to mount a real challenge to Penn State in the team title race.  He's capable of giving them that, but only if he wrestles at a high level for three days.  It's especially vital for Clark to get as many points as he can at 125, too, because this looks like a year where Penn State might NOT get as many points out of Nico as they've been able to get in years past.  He's a two-time NCAA finalist, but with Garrett blocking his path this year he'll be hard-pressed to make it to a third-straight final.  There are also some tough foes in his draw, which could make it difficult for Nico get bonus points.  The third contender in the team race, Minnesota, doesn't have a wrestler at this weight.

133

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Joe Colon SR UNI 30-1
2 A.J. Schopp JR Edinboro 31-1
3 Tony Ramos SR Iowa 27-2
4 Jon Morrison SR Okie State 25-1
5 Tyler Graff SR Wisconsin 27-4
6 Mason Beckman SO Lehigh 24-3
7 Cashe Quiroga SR Purdue 16-6
8 David Thorn SR Minnesota 24-6
9 Johnni DiJulius SO Ohio State 26-7
10 Nick Soto JR Chattanooga 33-9
11 Ryan Mango SR Stanford 27-3
12 Joe Roth SR Central Mich 23-7
13 Cody Brewer SO Oklahoma 20-7
14 Zane Richards RS FR Illinois 25-7
15 Mark Grey FR Cornell 30-7
16 Mackenzie McGuire SO Kent State 27-13

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Logan Stieber, JR, Ohio State

REPEAT ODDS: Zero, since Stieber has moved up to 141 lbs. this year.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: While there are a lot of good wrestlers at this weight, this really feels like a 3-man race between Colon, Ramos, and Schopp, who I suppose we need to include since he did beat Ramos earlier this year.  I'm not at all convinced that he can (or will) beat either Colon or Ramos at this event, though.  Morrison and Graff are also solid wrestlers on the top half of the bracket, but Colon seems too good, and too explosive to fall to either of them, while Ramos and Schopp look like the class of the bottom of the bracket.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: None, really.  This ended up being a fairly straightforward bracket: Colon, the #1 seed, has wins over several guys seeded below him, including the #2 seed (Schopp) and the #3 seed (Ramos).  Schopp's only loss this year was to Colon (in the Midlands semifinals), while Ramos' only losses this year were to Colon and Schopp.  Jon Morrison has a shiny 25-1 record, but he lost to Ramos and didn't wrestle Colon or Schopp.  Beyond that, things are fairly orderly as well.

IOWA ANALYSIS: There's a bit too much talent at 133 to say that Tony got an easy draw, but he did get a manageable one.  Most importantly, the seeding committee put him on the opposite side from Colon (who pinned him in the Midlands final) and Graff (with whom Ramos has had a series of agonizingly close matches in recent years).  Schopp beat Ramos earlier this season, but Tony manhandled him last season and should be chomping at the bit for a rematch in the semifinals.  Mason Beckman could be a tough out in the quarters as well; Ramos only beat him 2-0 in a dual meet earlier this season.  Illinois' Zane Richards and either Devon Lotito or Shelton Mack will be Ramos' likely opponents in the first two rounds; he's never wrestled any of them before.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: As usual, this is a weight where Iowa will be expecting big things.  Ramos looks like Iowa's best shot at an individual national champion this year and it would be really swell for Iowa's team title aspirations (as well as for Tony himself, of course) if he could claim that elusive title.  Minnesota's David Thorn is seeded to make the podium for the Gophers (#8), but he'll have to do a fair amount of damage in the consolation bracket if he's not able to upset Colon in the quarterfinals.  Penn State will have a difficult time getting too many points out of James Gulibon; he has a very difficult opening round match against Jon Morrison and if he's not able to win that, he faces a long path through the conso rounds to get onto the podium.  This weight is an enormous opportunity for Iowa to pick up points on its two biggest rivals.

141

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Mitchell Port JR Edinboro 26-0
2 Logan Stieber JR Ohio State 25-1
3 Zain Retherford FR Penn State 29-1
4 Devin Carter JR Va Tech 14-0
5 Chris Mecate SO Old Dominion 27-7
6 Chris Dardanes JR Minnesota 25-6
7 Zach Horan SO Central Mich 30-4
8 Luke Vaith SR Hofstra 28-6
9 Evan Henderson JR North Carolina 33-6
10 Todd Preston SO Harvard 22-8
11 Joey Lazor SR UNI 16-5
12 Richard Durso JR Frank & Marsh 34-3
13 Steve Dutton JR Michigan 8-4
14 Edgar Bright FR Pitt 18-9
15 Anthony Collica FR Okie State 28-7
16 Joe Spisak JR Virginia 19-12

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Kendric Maple, SR, Oklahoma

REPEAT ODDS: None, as Maple has moved up to 149 lbs. this year.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: This feels like a three-man race, between Port (undefeated, but also somewhat untested), Stieber (up from 133, but just as dominant), and Retherford (a freshman phenom with a 1-1 record against Stieber). Port made the finals a year ago and hasn't missed a beat this year, although Stieber and Retherford are very dangerous threats; the best news for Port is that he'll only have to deal with one of them because they're on the other side of the bracket.  And the dark horse, so to speak, is Carter.  Carter was supposed to be lost for the season due to injury, but he made a surprise return at the ACC Tournament two weeks ago and looked pretty good in winning a title there.  Can he hold up for three days at this event?  Can he knock off Port or Stieber/Retherford?  That's unclear, but he has the talent to make things even more interesting here.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: The strangest decision here concerns The Citadel's Ugi Khishignyam, who went unseeded despite finishing 4th at this weight a year ago and having a 22-3 record this year (per the NCAA).  Ugi missed time earlier this season because of an NCAA eligibility snafu, but it's still hard to figure why he wasn't one of the 16 seeded wrestlers at this weight.

IOWA ANALYSIS: Gulp.  Dziewa's ramshackle end to the season wound up costing him a seed -- and got him a pretty tough first round match in #13 seed Dutton.  Dutton owns two wins over Dizewa in the last month (3-2, 7-0) and he could easily start Dziewa's tournament with a loss.  Even if Dziewa can finally get past Dutton, he'll likely see #4 Devin Carter in the next round.   Dziewa appears to have a very uphill battle in front of him at this tourney.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: That's unfortunate for Iowa, because 141 and 149 figured to be Iowa's two biggest swing weights.  Iowa probably needs solid points out of at least one of those weights, maybe both.  Jeva will need to be at his very best to get many points here, though.  He's likely going to need to do a lot of damage in the consolation bracket.  141 is a weight where Penn State should be able to get quite a few points, given the presence of super-frosh Zain Retherford, but the fact that he got the #3 seed and will have to go through Logan Stieber to get to the finals is a boost for Iowa.  If Stieber can take care of business like he did at the Big Ten Tournament, that will be one fewer NCAA finalist for Penn State, denying them of some vital points.  Minnesota has #6 Chris Dardanes at this weight, but he has a sneaky-tough draw: Purdue's Danny Sabatello waits in the first round (Dardanes beat him 2-1 earlier this year, but Sabatello has been wrestling well of late), UNI's Joey Lazor is streaky but capable of pulling off an upset if they meet in the second round, and Penn State's Zain Retherford figures to send Dardanes packing to the consos if they meet up in the quarters.  Still, Minnesota needs Dardanes to be an All-American... and probably one a bit better than his #6 seeding.

149

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Drake Houdashelt JR Missouri 34-1
2 Nick Dardanes JR Minnesota 32-3
3 Chris Villalonga SR Cornell 31-2
4 Kendric Maple SR Oklahoma 22-4
5 Jason Tsirtsis RS FR Northwestern 27-3
6 Jake Sueflohn JR Nebraska 29-4
7 Augustus Sako SO Virginia 18-3
8 David Habat JR Edinboro 26-4
9 Eric Grajales SR Michigan 20-10
10 Zach Neibert SR Va T ech 22-7
11 Josh Kindig JR Okie State 20-8
12 Dylan Cottrell RS FR App State 26-1
13 Brody Grothus SO Iowa 23-10
14 Scott Sakaguchi SR Oregon State 29-9
15 Mitch Minotti RS FR Lehigh 22-8
16 Alexander Richardson SO Old Dominion 25-8

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State

REPEAT ODDS: None; Oliver graduated after last season.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: The big kahuna at this weight, so to speak, is Missouri's Houdashelt, who lost only to Ohio's Tywan Claxton; he also pinned Dardanes and beat Maple and Sueflohn.  Dardanes seems over-seeded at #2 (see below), but he's a dangerous opponent.  Villalonga went 1-1 against Maple this year and suffered an oh-so-close loss to Dardanes.  Maple has dominated 149 the way he did 141 last year, but he's still very dangerous and very capable of some big wins.  Tsirtsis won a Big Ten title a few weeks ago and looks poised for big things at this weight, while Sueflohn is the #6 seed and very capable of giving the guys seeded ahead of him a run for their money.  The #1 ranking at this weight was a hot potato for several weeks this year before Hoobastank managed to settle things down, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a very wide open race here.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: You got some 'splainin to do, NCAA.  I mean... Nick Dardanes, #2 seed?  Nick Dardanes, 3rd place finisher at the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago?  Dardanes does have a win this year over the #3 seed (Villalonga) and he went 1-1 against Tsirtsis... but you'd think the fact that Tsirtsis beat him a few weeks ago (at the Big Ten Tournament) would hold a little more weight than it apparently did.   After all, #3 Villalonga and #4 Maple also went 1-1 in head-to-head competition... but Villalonga got the more recent win and the higher seed.  Tsirtsis also seems low at the #5 seed; he won a Big Ten title (facing the toughest field at 149), beating Dardanes and Sueflohn to do so.

IOWA ANALYSIS: Grothus earned a #13 seed and faces West Virginia's Mike Morales in the first round; they've never wrestled one another before.  If he gets by him, Grothus will likely face Maple in the Round of 16; if that match goes down, I hope Brody brings his scrambling shoes, because he'll need them to elude Maple.  If he was able to get past Maple, though, Grothus would probably see Tsirtisis.  Grothus did beat him earlier this year, but T-shirt beat him pretty decisively in the rematch.  Still, the truth is that Grothus is going to have to beat some difficult opponents at some point -- either in the championship bracket or the consolation side -- if he wants to make the podium as an All-American this year.  If he can channel the form he found during the Midlands tournament, he can do just that.  Otherwise... well, the Curse of 149 might not be ready to call it quits yet.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: Minnesota would receive big points if Dardanes wrestles up to his (bullshit) seed.  He got a favorable draw, too, with Houdashelt, T-shirt, and Maple all being placed on the opposite side of the bracket from him.  Villalonga and Sueflohn are the toughest opponents for Dardanes on his side of the bracket.  Iowa could really use a nice run from Grothus at this weight, but again, that depends on whether or not Brody can re-discover the fine vein of form he was in in late December and early January.  As for Penn State, well, they qualified sixth-year senior Jim English at this weight -- that's nice!  I  don't expect Gentleman Jim to procure too many points for the Nittany Lions, though.

157

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 James Green JR Nebraska 29-1
2 Derek St. John SR Iowa 25-4
3 Alex Dieringer SO Okie State 27-1
4 Ian Miller SO Kent State 27-4
5 Isaac Jordan RS FR Wisconsin 27-5
6 Nestor Taffur SR Boston 35-2
7 Brian Realbuto FR Cornell 33-7
8 R.J. Pena SR Oregon State 33-4
9 Dylan Ness JR Minnesota 19-5
10 Blaise Butler SO Virginia 20-6
11 Taylor Walsh JR Indiana 34-5
12 Luke Smith SO Cent Mich 19-10
13 Dylan Alton JR Penn State 18-5
14 Joey LaVallee FR Missouri 27-8
15 Cody Pack JR So Dakota St 28-6
16 Zach Brunson RS FR Illinois 22-12

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Derek St. John, SR, Iowa

REPEAT ODDS: I'd give DSJ decent odds of doin' the damn thing and repeating, even with the loaded field at this weight... but only if you also told me that Green was going to suffer from food poisoning and fail to make the finals.  So, no, I don't exactly feel great about DSJ's odds of claiming another title -- not as long as the title itself goes through Green again.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: The biggest threat here is certainly Green, given his nigh-unstoppable freight train double leg takedown.  Alex Dieringer is a threat at #3, though, and Isaac Jordan, while just a freshman, has oodles of skill (see: the weekend where he beat Green and DSJ back-to-back).  Ian Miller is tough and under the radar at #5 and Dylan Ness (at #9) is always a threat to put his opponent on his back and get a fall out of nowhere.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: Nothing to bitch about here, really.  Green claimed a hard-fought win in the Big Ten Tournament a few weeks ago and picked up his second win this year over St. John, who handled Dieringer (the #3 seed) his only loss on the year.  That win, plus DSJ's status as defending national champion probably elevated him to the #2 seed.  But they key win for DSJ was his rematch win over Isaac Jordan at the Big Ten Tournament; without that win, he's no better than the #4 or #5 seed and possibly staring at a semifinal showdown with Green.

IOWA ANALYSIS: It's not an easy draw for DSJ, but that was always going to be the case at this weight, given the depth of quality that's present here.  And, really, it could have been so much worse -- all three guys to beat St. John this year (Green x2, Jordan, Dylan Ness) are on the top half of the bracket and away from him 'til the finals.  Joey Napoli is an unusually good opening round opponent -- he was a top 10 wrestler at 157 a year ago -- although he's also suffered through injuries and a handful of losses this year.  DSJ also beat Napoli 6-0 a year ago.  St. John has never faced either of his second round opponents, South Dakota State's Cody Pack or The Citadel's Aaron Walker. Realbuto, DSJ's likely quarterfinal opponent, has a handful of close losses to top guys at 157 on his resume (like Green and Dieringer), but he also doesn't have many big wins and has been struggling of late.  Dieringer probably looms in the semis and while he'll be an extremely difficult opponent, DSJ does have a 3-0 lifetime record against him.  And if he faces Green in the finals, well, we know how hard that will be for DSJ...

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: This is another weight where Iowa is expecting big things.  Given the draw and his experience, DSJ is probably Iowa's second-best bet at making the championship finals on Saturday night, although winning there may require him to knock off Green, his nemesis.  But this is also another weight where Iowa could gain a lot of ground on Penn State and Minnesota.  Minnesota has Dylan Ness seeded #9 and while he's an exceptionally dangerous wrestler and very capable of pulling some upsets, he's also prone to the odd upset himself and may be dealing with health issues (he injury defaulted out of the Big Ten Tournament after losing to Green in the semifinals).  So Minnesota could get a lot of points out of Ness (especially bonus points, given his proclivity for falls)... or they could get not much at all.  There's a lot of variability in play with Ness.  Penn State has Dylan Alton, who had a disastrous Big Ten Tournament and tumbled to a #13 seed.  He could see Michigan's Brian Murphy in the first round; Murphy lost a tight 3-1 decision to Alton in sudden victory at a dual earlier this year, but could easily pull the upset.  If he gets by Murphy, he'll probably see Kent State's very dangerous Ian Miller, the #4 seed.  Beat him and he'll probably get Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan, the #5 seed... that's an exceedingly difficult path for Alton and one that figures to make it hard for him to make the podium.

165

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 David Taylor SR Penn State 29-0
2 Tyler Caldwell SR Okie State 24-3
3 Nick Sulzer JR Virginia 32-1
4 Steven Monk SR No Dakota St 31-1
5 Nick Moore JR Iowa 21-3
6 Corey Mock JR Chattanooga 30-3
7 Pierce Harger JR Northwestern 26-7
8 Michael Moreno JR Iowa State 26-7
9 Joseph Booth SR Hofstra 32-7
10 Cooper Moore RS FR UNI 26-6
11 Turtogokh Luvsandorj SR Citadel 35-6
12 Jackson Morse JR Illinois 25-6
13 Dan Yates SR Michigan 18-7
14 Dylan Palacio FR Cornell 29-7
15 Danny Zilverberg SR Minnesota 19-13
16 Jim Wilson RS FR Stanford 33-6

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Kyle Dake, Cornell

REPEAT ODDS: Zero, since the Dakester's amazing college career finally came to a close last year with his win over Taylor in the finals.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: David Taylor.  Period.  End of story.  Unless someone is able to catch him by surprise and stick him the way Bubba Jenkins did in the finals back in 2011, no one is beating Taylor here.  The only real intrigue is whether or not he can get bonus points over everyone he sees here.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: I would like to rage against Nick Moore being #5 here, but honestly I figured he would be the #4 anyway and there isn't a lot of difference between those seeds.  That loss to Steven Monk at the Midlands final was a really costly loss for Moore in terms of seeding.  That said... Tyler Caldwell, #2 seed?  Does he get bonus points for so effectively turtling up that he was able to hold Taylor to just a 5-2 decision win in their last meeting?  Did he get a bump because the NCAA Tournament is in Oklahoma City?  I imagine what put him over the top was his head-to-head win over #3 Sulzer and the fact that Monk suffered one of the worst losses of any of the top five guys (to #10 Cooper Moore), although he also avenged that twice-over.

IOWA ANALYSIS: We were really hoping that Moore could somehow finagle a #2 or #3 seed and avoid Taylor until the finals, but that was probably always a pipe dream.  Being on the same half of the bracket as Taylor (and facing him in the semifinals) isn't ideal, but it could be worse.  Moore avoids Caldwell and Sulzer, two dangerous opponents, and gets to go on a mini-revenge tour: his first round opponent is Bloomsburg's Josh Veltre, who eliminated him from the NCAA Tournament in Moore's disappointing run at year ago and he could see Monk and Taylor (the only two men to beat him) in the quarter- and semifinals here.  #12 Jackson Morse could be a difficult out for Moore in the Round of 16, though, so he better not be looking ahead to matches with Monk or Taylor.  Assuming a loss to Taylor (which is, um, likely), it looks like Moore would still be well-positioned to wrestle for 3rd place, which would be good for Iowa.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: This weight will be huge points for Penn State; there's no way around that with Taylor being such a huge favorite to win the title and his amazing ability to get bonus points.  Penn State will get big points here; there's no point in fighting it.  Moore can help Iowa mitigate some of those points if he's able to make a deep run and finish high on the podium, which does seem very possible.  Minnesota has Danny Zilverberg at this weight and while he's a scrappy guy, he has a tough draw with a likely second round match-up with Caldwell.  He's going to need to do a lot of damage in the consolation rounds for Minnesota to make hay here.

174

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Chris Perry SR Okie State 25-1
2 Andrew Howe SR Oklahoma 24-1
3 Robert Kokesh JR Nebraska 32-1
4 Mike Evans JR Iowa 25-4
5 Matt Brown JR Penn State 28-4
6 Logan Storley JR Minnesota 30-5
7 Tyler Wilps JR Pitt 28-5
8 Cody Walters SO Ohio 12-2
9 Elliot Riddick RS FR Lehigh 23-10
10 Mike Ottinger JR Cent Mich 25-5
11 Stephen Doty SR Virginia 27-8
12 Tanner Weatherman SO Iowa State 22-14
13 Hayden Zillmer SO No Dakota St 27-6
14 Mark Martin SO Ohio State 27-11
15 Billy Curling SR Old Dominion 17-8
16 Matthew Miller SO Navy 21-4

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Chris Perry, SR, Oklahoma State

REPEAT ODDS: That probably comes down to who you think will win the rubber match in the Bedlam series between Okie State's Perry (#1 seed) and Oklahoma's Andrew Howe (#2 seed).  Howe won round one in a dual meet earlier this year, but Perry won the rematch in the Big 12 Tournament finals.  Of course, they also have to both GET to the finals to make that rubber match a reality, which is easier said than done...

MAIN CHALLENGERS: ...because the Big Ten contingent at the top of this weight (Kokesh, Evans, Brown, and Storley) could also make some noise and upset one or both of the B12 boys.  Kokesh had a narrow 3-2 loss to Howe earlier this year (and could get a rematch in the semis here), while both Evans and Brown have been close to grabbing a win over Perry in their showdowns over the last few years.  And Storley certainly isn't chopped liver, either.  From the semifinals on, this weight appears very close to call.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: There's nothing worth getting worked up about at this weight, frankly.  1-6 are the wrestlers that matter here and they were seeded appropriately, based on the most recent results this year (i.e., Perry beat Howe at Big 12s, Kokesh beat Evans at Big Tens, Evans beat Brown at Big Tens, etc.).

IOWA ANALYSIS: After several consecutive losses to his fellow Top 6 wrestlers at this weight, Mike Evans won two out of his last three matches against them, grinding out a 2-1 win over Storley at the dual meet and then dropping Brown 3-2 at the Big Ten Tournament (in a match where Evans, not Brown, got the decisive takedown).  He fell to Kokesh in the Big Ten finals (6-4), but he's definitely closed the gap on the top guys at this weight.  The job at the NCAA Tournament will be doing it again -- he'll likely have to go through Brown in the quarters again and then should get a crack at Perry in the semis.  All told, though, this is probably a favorable draw for The 'Stache -- he's never wrestled Howe before and Kokesh has given him fits this year (7-3 loss, 6-4 loss).  Prior to Brown, Evans would wrestle Cal-State Bakersfield's Bryce Hammond and either North Dakota Sate's Hayden Zillmer or Bloomsburg's Miek Dessino; he's never wrestled any of them before.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: Big.  This is the only weight where Iowa, Penn State, and Minnesota all have a wrestler ranked in the top-6 so all three teams will be gunning for a lot of points here.  In terms of the team race, the team that can place its wrestler highest on the podium here will definitely get a leg up.  There's also the potential for head-to-head competition here; Evans should see Brown in the quarters and there's a good chance of these three locking horns down in the consolation bracket, too.

184

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Jimmy Sheptock SR Maryland 28-0
2 Ed Ruth SR Penn State 29-1
3 Gabe Dean FR Cornell 35-2
4 Max Thomusseit JR Pitt 18-2
5 Ethen Lofthouse SR Iowa 20-3
6 Jacob Swartz SR Boise State 13-1
7 Kevin Steinhaus SR Minnesota 21-6
8 T.J. Dudley RS FR Nebraska 25-6
9 Domenic Abounader FR Michigan 15-9
10 Kenny Courts SO Ohio State 29-7
11 Lorenzo Thomas SO Penn 25-8
12 Ophir Bernstein JR Brown 33-8
13 Jack Dechow FR Old Dominion 17-4
14 John Rizqallah JR Michigan State 20-10
15 Ryan Loder SR UNI 12-2
16 Nick Vetterlein SR Va Tech 25-8

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Ed Ruth, SR. Penn State

REPEAT ODDS: Pretty good... unless you think Cornell's super-frosh Gabe Dean can pull off another stunning upset of the previously all-but-unstoppable Ruth.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: The winner of this weight figures to be the winner of the Dean-Ruth semifinal on Friday night. The top wrestlers on the other side of the bracket are Jimmy Sheptock, Max Thomusseit, and Ethen Lofthouse; no offense to any of them, but they're not in Ruth's league.  Ruth has multiple lopsided wins over Thomusseit and Lofthouse in his career, as well as a pair of wins over Sheptock (albeit decisions only).  The finals outcome would be less predictable if it's Dean in the finals (Sheptock did beat him earlier this year, 5-3), but if the Dean who beat Ruth shows up, he'll be awfully hard for anyone to beat.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: It's not really a blunder because I understand the logic behind it (Sheptock is undefeated and has wins over #3 Gabe Dean, #4 Max Thomusseit, and #5 Ethen Lofthouse, but he doesn't feel like the #1 seed at this weight.  Probably because Ed Ruth is still at this weight.  Kevin Steinhaus still seems better than the 7th best wrestler at this weight, but based on his accomplishments at this weight (and the accomplishments of other guys at this weight), a #7 seed is probably fair for him.  T.J. Dudley does seem a bit high as the #8 seed after crashing and burning out of the Big Ten Tournament, though.

IOWA ANALYSIS: We could scarcely have asked for a better draw than this for Lofty.  Ruth, Dean, and Steinhaus are all on the opposite side of the draw from him, which is excellent news.  Thomusseit and Sheptock will be very solid challenges for him, but he's beaten Sheptock in the past and Thomusseit, while very good, is certainly less scary than Ruth (or Dean, frankly).  I don't know if he'll make it or not, but Lofthouse has a genuinely good to make the finals at this weight -- which is pretty remarkable.  Still, he does have a very solid first round opponent, Edinboro's Vic Avery and he could see Brown's Ophir Bernstein (yes, the Brown Bears have a wrestler named Bernstein; THIS IS FANTASTIC) in the second round, who would also be a good test, so Lofty will need to be at his best to advance through this bracket.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: Like 174, this is another weight where Iowa, Penn State, and Minnesota all have three highly-seeded wrestlers: #2 (Ruth), #5 (Lofthouse), and #7 (Steinhaus),  I expect Penn State to get the most points here since Ruth is the best bet to finish highly AND rack up bonus points (although it may be tough for him to pour on the bonus points; his likely quarterfinal (Steinhaus) and semifinal (Dean) opponents are pretty stingy).  They key between Iowa and Minnesota will be maximizing the remaining points.  Lofthouse getting to the finals would be a tremendous boost for Iowa, but if he gets tripped up before then he needs to battle back in the consolation bracket and get Iowa as many points as possible.

197

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Nick Heflin SR Ohio State 24-1
2 J'Den Cox FR Missouri 33-2
3 Morgan McIntosh SO Penn State 27-3
4 Scott Schiller JR Minnesota 29-4
5 Kyven Gadson JR Iowa State 25-2
6 Richard Perry SR Bloomsburg 31-1
7 Travis Rutt SR Oklahoma 21-5
8 Phillip Wellington SO Ohio State 33-3
9 Christian Boley SR Maryland 22-4
10 Jace Bennett JR Cornell 29-9
11 Nathan Burak SO Iowa 16-5
12 Taylor Meeks JR Oregon State 27-6
13 Daniel Mitchell SR American 24-7
14 Chris Penny SR Va Tech 25-11
15 Braden Atwood JR Purdue 25-10
16 Alex Polizzi JR Northwestern 24-10

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Quentin Wright, Penn State

REPEAT ODDS: Zero; Q has finally used up all his eligibility at Penn State.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: This is a deep, deep weight, full of challengers.  Fresh off his Big Ten title, Nick Heflin is the #1 seed, his only loss this year a baffling slip-up against Wisconsin's Timothy McCall.  J'Den Cox is the #2 seed; he finished highly at the Southern Scuffle and has a pair of wins over Morgan McIntosh on his resume.  McIntosh is the #3 seed and has a win over Schiller.  Schiller is the #4 seed and started the year 24-0 before losing 4 of 7 to McIntosh, Heflin (x2), and Gadson.  Gadson is the #5 seed and has wins over Schiller and Cox.  Bloomsburg's Richard Perry is the #6 seed and has the best record at this weight (31-1), but has also faced the weakest competition among the top guys.  And #7 seed Travis Rutt is a dangerous opponent who could get hot and knock off a few guys at this weight, too.  There's a lot of different ways this weight could shake out.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: Kyven Gadson, the #1 ranked wrestler in InterMat's most recent rankings is the #5 seed here.  WTF.  He has two losses but both were to Minnesota's Scott Schiller (#4) and he avenged them by winning the third match between them.  He has a win over Missouri's J'Den Cox (#2).  I can maybe see not giving him the #1 seed.  But dropping him to #5?  Baffling.  Truly, truly baffling.

IOWA ANALYSIS: Burak earned the #11 seed, which is probably about right.  He gets Wyoming's Shane Woods in the first round; they've never faced one another before.  If he wins, he'll likely face #6 Richard Perry in the second round; they've also never faced one another, although Burak's older brother (Micah) went 2-0 versus Perry when he was at Penn.  Maybe he can give Nathan a few tips... If he gets by Perry, Burak would likely see #3 McIntosh, who he lost to by a very narrow 3-2 decision in overtime at the Big Ten Tournament.  There are certainly worse draws that Burak could have received.  Still, more than likely Burak will need to do his damage in this tournament in the consolation bracket.  If he could make the podium and get All-America honors, that would be a big boost for Iowa.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: 197 looks like another weight where Minnesota and Penn State should outdo Iowa in terms of points; McIntosh is the #3 seed and Schiller is the #4 seed.  It would certainly be advantageous for Iowa if those guys could fall victim to some upsets here.  At the very least, hopefully their seeds hold and both fail to make the finals on Saturday night.  From Penn State's perspective, I think they need some combination of Retherford (at 141), Brown (at 174), and McIntosh (at 197) to make the finals to boost their team title aspirations.

285

SD NAME ELIG SCHOOL REC
1 Tony Nelson SR Minnesota 26-4
2 Nick Gwiazdowski SO NC State 38-2
3 Adam Chalfant SR Indiana 25-3
4 Adam Coon FR Michigan 30-3
5 Bobby Telford JR Iowa 22-5
6 Mike McMullan JR Northwestern 13-4
7 Mike McClure SR Michigan State 27-7
8 J.T. Felix SR Boise State 23-3
9 Connor Medbery SO Wisconsin 24-7
10 Jeremy Johnson SR Ohio 36-3
11 Austin Marsden SO Okie State 20-6
12 Spencer Myers JR Maryland 23-4
13 Ernest James SR Edinboro 27-5
14 Jon Gingrich JR Penn State 22-8
15 Adam Fager JR Utah Valley St 18-7
16 Amarveer Dhesi FR Oregon State 26-7

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Tony Nelson, SR, Minnesota

REPEAT ODDS: And so we come full circle.  At 125, I noted that Jesse Delgado's repeat odds may depend heavily on the willingness of referees to let him hang onto ankles and stall; at 285, Tony Nelson's repeat odds my depend heavily on the willingness of referees to let him do his patented spiral ride and stall.  Considering that few (if any) officials have dinged him for that over the last three years, it's hard to see why they'd start doing so now.  But Nelson's repeat odds are still somewhat low because at a weight were it often comes to a single takedown, there's always a chance that you're on the wrong end of that takedown -- especially this year, since Nelson has already lost to Coon, McMullan, Chalfant, and Telford.

MAIN CHALLENGERS: Yet another weight with a lengthy list of contenders; the top seven here -- Nelson, Gwiazdowski, Chalfant, Coon, Telford, McMullan, and McClure -- are all legitimate options to win the weight, considering they've managed to beat each other up so much.  It may come down to who gets hot this weekend.  I think we'll see an all-B1G final, though, with one of Nelson, Telford, or Coon facing either Chalfant or McMullan in the final.

EGREGIOUS SEEDING BLUNDERS: This was a difficult weight to seed, given the topsy-turvy results we've seen among the Big Ten contingent (who make up six of the top seven seeds here), but I think the committee did a reasonable job.  The biggest question mark is probably Gwiazdowksi at #2, especially given his 1-2 record against the Big Ten top dogs here (lost to Coon and Nelson, beat McMullan), but we knew the seeding committee was likely to go gaga over his 38-2 record.  Coon getting the #4 seed after crashing out of the Big Ten Tournament was also a small surprise, but his overall body of work this year (wins over Telford x2, Nelson, and Gwiazdowski) was strong enough to warrant it, I think.

IOWA ANALYSIS: It ain't easy for Bobert, but there was never going to be an easy draw for Telford at this weight.  He's never wrestled AJ Vizcarrando or #12 Spencer Myers, his likely opponents in the first two rounds.  After that, though, it's a who's who of familiar faces.  Coon looms as a likely quarterfinal opponent (Telford is 0-2 against him this year) and Nelson looms as a likely semifinal opponent (Telford is 1-6 against him in his career).  And if he's able to make it to the finals, a match with another Big Ten opponent likely awaits.  This is going to be an absolutely brutal weight, though, whether in the championship bracket or down in the consolation bracket.

TEAM TITLE IMPLICATIONS: This is far and away Minnesota's best shot at a national champion (as well as one one of two weights where they're seeded to have a finalist), so this weight certainly represents their best shot at big points.  Iowa needs Telford to grind out as many wins as possible, make the podium, and finish as high as he can there; if this title race is going to be a tight race (which seems possible), then every point could matter.  Penn State will have a hard time getting big points out of this weight, though; Gingrich had a surprisingly strong Big Ten Tournament performance, but they'll need an even better one for him to make noise at 285.

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