Darren Miller, Hawkeye Sports
Settle in, folks. It's about to get chatty up in here.
Ben from BSD and I sat down and shot the shit about the 2013 Big Ten Wrestling Tournament, hitting each weight with the intelligence (maybe) and irreverence (definitely) that you've come to expect from our wrestling chatter. Part one, covering 125-157, is up on the friendly confines of BHGP, while part two, covering 165-285, is up over at BSD. Go check it out, won't you?
1) Did the coaches get it right with the pre-seeds here?
RossWB: Well, Tessari being out screws up my pick of a Tessari-Ness final. Assuming everyone else moves up a slot with Tessari's absence (sidenote: what team rule did he break? did he not spend enough time in the tanning beds?), I like Grajales to wrestle Ness in the finals. Grajales has some, uh, weird losses on his resume this year, but I like the way he's been wrestling lately and I think he ekes out a win over Alton in the semis. I'm probably not the best person to answer this, since it worked out in my guy's favor, but I think they did OK with what is essentially an impossible situation. There are three very good, very evenly-matched opponents here. They all wrestled each other and the results of those matches were inconclusive: McD beat Mega, Mega beat Delgado, and Delgado beat McD. They each have at least one loss in non-conference competition. I guess you could say Mega has an edge because he went 7-1 in B1G duals while McDonough and Delgado each only went 6-1 because they sat out a dual, but I'm not sure that should be enough to be the deciding factor here -- especially since one of Megaludis' wins was via forfeit. So I'm OK with the Big Ten coaches invoking the Ric Flair Rule here: "to be the man, you gotta beat the man." No one in the Big Ten has been able to definitively prove that he's better than McD, so I'm fine with him getting the benefit of the doubt for now.
bscaff: This is supposed to be a happy occasion! Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who. I could mention that Nico is 8-1 in the Big Ten with two wins over Delgado this year, if the NWCA All-Star match counted. But I, too, have a man crush on McDonough, so I think they got it right putting him #1. I just wish they had done something different with the 4 thru 7 seeds. Make that the 7th seed. Little Thorn could be a tough out at the quarterfinals for Nico. It wasn't that long ago that Thorn made the Round of 12 at 133. I'd rather have seen Boyle, Triggas or Eppert at 7. Nico hasn't wrestled Boyle, but he's hung bonus (or nearly so) on Triggas and Eppert this year. I don't think he gets bonus on Thorn because Thorn will go ear-to-ear with him and fight the full seven.
2) Can anyone crack the McD-Mega-Delgado triumvirate?
RossWB: I don't think so. Those three went a combined 19-0 against B1G opponents that weren't themselves. They're a cut above the rest of the B1G at this weight.
bscaff: Boyle and Triggas don't have the neutral offense. Eppert? Just...no. And that goes for everyone from Purdue. But Nico needs to be ready for a fight from Thorn. Thorn had a 3rd period lead (briefly) over McD in the first dual (yes - thanks to a missed throw by McD). He pulled an upset over Bonnano early in the year (by fall). And his mediocre 10-7 record is misleading - he's had a ton of tough bouts this year. But even if he snuck past Nico in the quarters, I don't think Thorn's a good matchup with Delgado's quickness in the semis. And McDonough wouldn't drop a final to him. That'd be three miracles if he pulled it off, which qualifies him for sainthood. So no.
3) How good do you feel about your guy getting to the finals?
RossWB: With the way McD has looked for most of this season, I'm still nervous. He has Dom Malone in R1; he's never faced him before, but Malone has had a few close losses -- he only lost to Delgado 4-0. Triggas gave him a little trouble in the dual earlier this season, too, so I won't feel great if that's McD's semifinal opponent. Still, I feel a lot better than I would if he had to go through Delgado or Megaludis just to get to the finals.
bscaff: You've got nothing to worry about. McDonough makes the finals on cruise control. Dom Malone of just Northwestern? A guy that holds 5 losses in conference without wrestling Nico or McD, and was majored 10-0 by Eppert? McD gets bonus in that match and you're feeling a lot better heading into the semis.Nico? He's got what I consider an R12/low AA guy in his first match; a national semis guy in his second match; and a 2-time national champ in the final. Thanks. Meanwhile, Alan Waters is chilling on a couch eating Cheetos. All that said, the only guy as tough as McDonough, for my money at least, is Nico. So I'll put him in the final, but it's no gimmie.
4) Who wins this weight? Does McD make it 3 in 4 years or is there a new champ crowned at 125?
RossWB: HOMER ALERT! I'm taking McD. He's not nearly the same guy that he was the past few years, but I still think he'll grind his way to another Big Ten championship. Although part of that belief is based on my hunch that Megaludis beats Delgado again. Nico is an incredibly difficult opponent, no doubt, but Delgado's quickness scares me just a bit more.
bscaff: Nico got to McD's legs - finally - in the dual. There were two different times I thought he'd come out with the takedown. The period ended one shot, and I think the other stopped on a stalemate call. So close. But I think McDonough's rested and up to 158lbs - or what Hawk fans know as Robles with two legs - by the final, which is somewhere around 12 hours after the last weigh in.
1) Did the coaches get it right with the pre-seeds here? More specifically -- did Conaway get screwed by getting seeded 4th, behind Graff (who he beat)?
RossWB: I kind of hate this seeding -- and not just because I'd rather see Ramos face Conaway in the semis than Graff. It feels to me like Conaway is being punished for wrestling a harder schedule -- he had to face Stieber and Ramos (and lost to both, but there's no shame in that with the way they've been wrestling this year), while Graff didn't. Iowa didn't face Wisconsin this year and Stieber was out when Ohio State wrestled Wisconsin (and Graff got to beat up on Stieber's back-up). I'm also leery of giving Graff too much credit for his work at 141 to start the season.
bscaff: I figured Conaway for the 5th seed, so that shows you what I know. He beat Graff in the dual, but...Graff simply wrestled like dogshit the last 45 seconds of the third period. Or, more accurately, didn't wrestle at all. Conaway got three go-behinds in the last 30 seconds of the third, and first 20 seconds of overtime, because it appeared that Graff couldn't be bothered to lift his head off the mat after diving for an ankle. One bad minute is how I looked at it. Besides that minute, Graff's overall body of work....wait a minute. His overall body of work isn't too great. What in the hell? Now I'm pissed. Give Conaway the 3 seed (but only if they also swap Quiroga and Thomas).
2) Can Ramos and Stieber pin their way to a showdown in the finals?
RossWB: Can they? Based on their track records this year, yes. Will they? Probably not. Ramos is looking at a quarterfinal match-up with Dardanes and while he does have pins over him in two of their last three matches, he wasn't able to secure a pin until the final ten seconds of the match each time -- that's cutting it awful close. And pinning Graff in a potential semifinal match would be stunning. I actually think this draw sucks for Ramos' chances to get bonus points, which in turn is going to hurt Iowa's ability to contend for the team title, since Ramos has been our top bonus points guy this year.
bscaff: Stieber probably will pin his way to the final. He worked Conaway like a rented mule in the dual, and that's his projected semifinal. Ramos? I don't see him sticking Graff, even if he quits wrestling in the last minute. That's a pretty tall order.
3) Ramos vs. Stieber: who ya got?
RossWB: I want so badly to pick Ramos. I want to see him finally topple that damn Oompa Loompa. I want to see him get some hardware. I want to see his incredible wrestling this season pay off with a win over Stieber and a title. And yet... I can't bring myself to pick it. Ramos narrowed the gap against Stieber in each of their matches last year and he's improved this year -- but Stieber looks better, too. I think Tony loses a heartbreaker here, unfortunately.
bscaff: I'm predisposed to hate Ramos for the way he's killed Penn State in duals the last three years. But putting that hatred aside - the way Stieber handled Conaway in the dual, it was...wow. He's better than last year without question. I have to take Stieber, but Jim Delany could charge a separate ticket fee for that match. It'll be a blood feud.
1) Is this the weakest overall weight?
bscaff: Yes, and it's not that close of a call. You get one past All-American, one past qualifier, and 10 guys who've never been to Nationals. Maybe that's not totally accurate. Whatever. It's pretty close to being correct, and that's good enough for me.
RossWB: My first thought was "what about 197," but after thinking about it I'd say that weight (while not great) is still better than 141. Q is far better (and more accomplished) than anyone at 141, Schiller is looking like a serious All-America candidate there, and maybe the third-best guy (Gonzalez) is the defending Big Ten champion. Meanwhile, 141 has Stieber (probably the weakest undefeated wrestler in the country) and Dardanes and Ballweg, who are consistently inconsistent: sometimes very solid, and sometimes bafflingly weak. And past those two guys it's a whole lot of "huh?" So yeah, 141 is weaksauce.
2) How do you feel about your guy heading in?
bscaff: I'm pulling for Pearsall hard - more than any other guy on the Penn State roster. He never placed at States in high school, and went 3-21 his first season (attached) at Penn State. The guy's been given nothing. And now he's 6-1 in conference, with a clear path to NCAAs. Plus, since the Ballweg debacle, he's 3-0 with two falls. I like him to wrestle to seed.
RossWB: Um, not as good as I did a month ago, that's for sure. Ballweg is riding a three-match losing streak and I can't even remember the last time he even got a takedown in a match. Losing to Port, a top-5 guy at the weight, like that was one thing. Losing to Nevinger and getting destroyed by Dardanes? That's a problem. He looked totally out of sorts heading into this two-week break before Big Tens. I really hope you used it to get his head right because we need Ballweg to wrestle like the guy who beat Dardanes and took Stieber to the wire earlier in the season.
3) Can anyone take out Stieber?
bscaff: I don't see it happening. Dardanes and Ballweg are the only two with a shot, and Stieber won't see one or the other until the final. Dardanes has wrestled him close the last two years, and Ballweg dropped a 2-point decision to him as well. But I'm not sure he's ever even trailed in those matches. From my perspective, they were close because Stieber was content with a decision. If he couldn't get the major - and he wasn't going to - then what's the difference between a 2-point win and 6-point win?
RossWB: 4-6 weeks ago, I would have thought that Ballweg had a shot; he'd given Stieber a good run at their match in the dual meet and he was wrestling at a pretty high level and looking really solid. Then the bottom fell on him and now I just hope he doesn't suffer a really embarrassing loss at the Big Ten Tournament. I thought Dardanes looked really good at National Duals (but, hell, the whole Minny team did), but he also didn't see anyone as good as Stieber there. I think he'll make the finals and give it a game effort, but Stieber will win a comfortable decision, something like 8-4.
1) Any issues with the seeding?
bscaff: Yes, please. Ness, Tessari, and Alton have all missed matches this year, so that screws things up from the start. But there are some other strange goings-on here. First, with Lopouchanski. It's not his fault, but Lopouchanski didn't wrestle Ness, Sueflohn, Tessari or Alton. He has a 6-10 loss to Grajales, and his best win was a 9-1 major over a back-from-injury Dan Osterman. But he gets the 3-seed. Perhaps beating that one for head-scratch-ability, Ness goes just 3-1 in Big Ten duals, with a major loss to Ervin, and gets the 2-seed. Having said all of that, I don't actually have a better seeding proposal because no one's wrestled anyone. But there you go.
RossWB: The seeding here is pretty whack, but I'm not sure what a better alternative would be. You could draw the top-6 guys out of a hat and probably come up with seeding that was just as valid as what the coaches came up with here. It's frustrating, but between the injuries and weird scheduling here, it's really hard to figure out how this weight should be seeded. Re: Ness, it seems like he was another beneficiary of the tendency to default to past accomplishments to break ties/muddled situations. He was runner-up at the BTT and NCAA Tournament last year, so he gets the benefit of the doubt here.
2) Kelly or Grothus? Surprise: Dziewa. Is this the right move? Can he make the top 8?
bscaff: Call me stupid, but I think he can. I remember him a bit from PA States; he also had an uber-hyped match against Alton one year (he lost). Back then, he had a high-tempo, aggressive style. I doubt that's changed from his time at Iowa. And, really, Brands isn't asking him to move mountains to get into the top 8: knock off Osterman. Seems like an imminently reachable goal.
RossWB: I think it is the right move. Kelly is still dealing with an injury (it kept him out of action in several duals in February and he looked worse than normal when he came back at National Duals) and Grothus is just an invitation for his opponent to rack up big points. I think the Dziewa move is a low risk, potentially high reward move. If he flames out? Eh, so be it -- it's not like we have any reason to think that Kelly or Grothus would do much better. But if he surprises a few guys and gets an upset or two? Hell yeah -- unexpected points, baby. As far as a top-8 finish... I think it all depends who he sees in the wrestle-backs. I think it's possible, but maybe not all that likely. I'd give it less than 20% odds.
3) Does #1 seed Grajales make the final?
Ed. Note: Apparently Tessari broke team rules, and will be replaced by Paddock. Figure Andrew Alton to bump to the 5th seed, away from Ness and into Grajales half of the bracket.
bscaff: Wooooooo! Woooooooo! First, I had Tessari in the final against Ness, so that wipes out that idea. But this is pretty cool from a PSU perspective. Alton gets a rematch against Sueflohn in the quarters, and Sueflohn owns a pinfall over Alton. But Alton was killing the boy named Sue before he just totally gassed and got decked. It was his first match back after a month off, too. I think he takes out Sueflohn, and then takes out Grajales in the semis to make the final. And I've been waiting all year to see Alton vs. Ness.
RossWB: Well, Tessari being out screws up my pick of a Tessari-Ness final. Assuming everyone else moves up a slot with Tessari's absence (sidenote: what team rule did he break? did he not spend enough time in the tanning beds?), I like Grajales to wrestle Ness in the finals. Grajales has some, uh, weird losses on his resume this year, but I like the way he's been wrestling lately and I think he ekes out a win over Alton in the semis.
1) Any issues just skipping ahead to the semis?
RossWB: I don't, although I will say that I'm glad that Josh Demas is on the opposite side of the bracket from St. John (he just gives him fits) and it's probably a good thing that Ryan Watts didn't get the 8-seed, considering that he and DSJ almost got into a fist-fight the last time they wrestled.
2) What's your case for your guy making the final?
bscaff: Alton's beaten Welch the last two times they've faced off. I don't believe that Welch has a single takedown against Alton in their 3 career meetings. That's usually a good sign. And Alton's really wrestling well lately. He's finished shots better - got his first takedown of DSJ in the dual - and his mat wrestling has picked up a notch or two. It's likely still a last-takedown type of matchup, but I like Alton to get that takedown.
RossWB: There's no one at 157 in the Big Ten that DSJ can't beat -- hell, he has wins over pretty much all of these guys already (either this year or last year), so none of them exactly scare me. St. John is also great at close matches (even if they give me a heart attack) and I think the loss to Bradley at National Duals will end up being a good thing for him -- it was the sort of loss that can really lead to a guy refocusing and performing much better. Green makes me a little nervous because he has the explosive takedown ability that has caused problems for DSJ, but as of the Nebraska dual a month ago, his gas tank was still a big problem for him. Until he gets that fixed, I'll take DSJ to beat him.
3) Who brings home the Big Ten title?
bscaff: It's my turn to use the homer alert. I'm taking Alton. He finally solved the DSJ defense in Iowa City, and had a ridiculously deep high crotch at the end of the match (which DSJ won on a scramble). If Alton circles instead of taking that last shot, I think he wins that match. They're very, very close, and I'm liking Alton's ability to get the next takedown just a hair better.
RossWB: I'm also going homer alert -- St. John impressed the hell out of me last year by winning the Big Tens on one good leg, so I'm certainly inclined to take him with two good legs. A match with Alton would have my heart in my throat (and you know it would come down to a takedown late in the third or in overtime), but I still have a lot of faith in DSJ's ability to grind out those close wins. If it's all the same, though, I'll be rooting for Welch to beat Alton.
Again, CLICK HERE to read Part Two.
A few overall thoughts from both of us...
1) OK, who wins?
RossWB: Penn State. Iowa needs to wrestle out of their minds, get unexpected bonus points AND hope that upsets fell Penn State (and probably Minnesota) wrestlers along the way. That's a lot of moving pieces that all need to click into just the right places for Iowa. So Penn State caps off their three-peat.
bscaff: Two years ago PSU took it by a single point. Last year I thought Penn State blew it when they went Oh-fer in the semis at '84, '97 and big boys in the final Saturday round. Many a promising young beer lost its life that night. Then on Sunday the squad redeemed itself by going something like 10-2, with the title in the bag by the time Molinaro finished teching Ness. I think this year falls somewhere between those two.
2) Wrestler of the tournament?
RossWB: It's a five-man race, in my estimation: Logan Stieber, Tony Ramos, David Taylor, Ed Ruth, and Quentin Wright. Stieber and Ramos could dominate their respective competition on the way to the finals and they'll have the benefit of knocking out another top guy in the finals, which is a huge credibility booster. 125, 157, and 174 could also see some top-5 throwdowns in the finals, but I don't think the guys at those weights will look as dominant as Stieber and Ramos could (and likely will, at least in Stieber's case). Taylor and Q won't have the ability to claim any big-name scalps at their respective weights, but they could absolutely torch the field (especially Taylor). And if Ruth is in full-on beast mode AND smokes Steinhaus, well, it's going to be tough to deny him top honors.
bscaff: Can you tell me who the winners are first? If Ramos beats Stieber, then he gets my vote - Dardanes is an AA, Graff a 2xAA, and Stiebler, as we call him at BSD, the defending National Champ. (Big Tens are a freaking meat grinder.) If he doesn't pull that off, and So Fresh So Clean majors Herr Steinhaus, then hand it to Ruth. Failing both of those things, give it to the Magic Man, because he's likely to have tech falled everyone.
3) Name 2-3 matches you can't wait to see.
RossWB: Hmm, I'm going to go with...3) 285: Tony Nelson v. Bobby Telford: WOO CATCH THE EXCITEMENT.
Ok, but seriously, 184: Kevin Steinhaus v. Ed Ruth: They've been the two best guys in the Big Ten at 184 over the last two years but they've never wrestled (mostly because Ed Ruth was at 174 last year, but hey). I'm always intrigued when two top guys lock horns.
2) 174: Mike Evans vs. Logan Storley: I'm not sure this will be the most exciting match at 174 (my gut says no, actually), but I can't wait to see if The 'Stache will finally be able to get one over on Storley. Also, part of me can't wait to see what Storley does to add to his King of the Douchebags resume.
1) 133: Tony Ramos vs. Logan Stieber: Well, duh. Someone's 0 must go! This is going to be a goddamn showdown and a half.
(NOTE: I'm omitting McD vs. Delgado/Megaludis because that match -- if it happens -- is just going to give me an ulcer. Ditto DSJ vs. Alton, if it happens.)
bscaff: 3) I desperately want to see three (re)matches: Nico vs. McD; Alton vs. DSJ; and Brown vs. 'Stache. Since they're all on opposite sides of the bracket, they couldn't meet until the finals. But at least one of those. Please.
2) The first 5 minutes of Andrew Alton vs. Dylan Ness. Wild assed throws galore. The over/under gets set at 40.
1) Ramos vs. Stieber. Part of me wants to see Stieber pull it out on a shitty call just to see if Ramos murders him, the ref, the assistant ref, and Tom Ryan before flying into the stands and chewing on a couple of spectators. Jim Delany hits Ramos with a tranquilizer dart, and Terry Brands puts him back into his travel cage. Are you not entertained? I am.
Don't forget to read part two of our epic chat over at BSD!