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Big Ten Announces Wrestling Pre-Seeds For Big Ten Tourney; Time To Preview!

 As expected, the Big Ten announced their "pre-seeds" yesterday for this weekend's Big Ten Tournament.  "Pre-seeds" is a strange concept to wrap your head around if you're accustomed to hoopyball bracketology, but it's essentially what you'd get if the NCAA selection committee released a rough draft of their picks on Monday and then issued a final draft on Friday -- only there's often not much change from the rough draft to the final draft.  Last year, the pre-seeds and the final seeds were identical at every weight except 157, where Dustin Schlatter's injury threw a monkeywrench into the proceedings*.

So how important is seeding at the Big Ten Tournament?  Pretty damn important, actually.  Upsets are a fact of life, especially in tournaments, but lately they've been a bit more prevalent in the NCAA Tournament than the Big Ten Tournament.   Over the last five years, here's the breakdown of how many wrestlers at each seed have gone to be finalists and/or winners:

1 seeds: 42 finalists, 25 winners
2 seeds: 31 finalists, 17 winners
3 seeds: 16 finalists, 7 winners
4 seeds: 4 finalists, 1 winner
5 seeds: 4 finalists, 0 winners
6 seeds: 2 finalists, 0 winners
7 seeds: 0 finalists, 0 winners
8 seeds: 0 finalists, 0 winners
Unranked: 1 finalist, 0 winners

So, yeah, you want a high seed if your goal is to win it all.  50% of the winners have been 1-seeds.  84% of the winners have been 1 or 2 seeds.  And only 1 winenr out of 50 has come from outside the top-3 seeds.  So if you like a dark horse guy at the 5 or 6 seed... don't bank on it.  The odds are not in his favor.  The recent trends have been even more favorable to the 1-seeds.  In the last three years, only two 1-seeds haven't made it to the finals: Chad Beatty at 197 last year (he was coming off an injury that kept him out most of the dual season) and Dan Dennis at 133 the year before (he just plain got upset).  And 1 or 2 seeds have won all but three of the thirty total individual championships awarded in those years. 

So what's mean? 

Well, on paper, it's great news for Penn State, since they have a league-leading five 1-seeds: Andrew Long at 133, Frank Molinaro at 149, David Taylor at 157, Ed Ruth at 174, and Cameron Wade at HWT.  Iowa has only a single 1-seed (McD at 125), but they do have a host of 2-seeds (Marion at 141, DSJ at 157, Lofthouse at 197) and 3-seeds (Ramos at 133, Gambrall at 184, Rasing at HWT).  In fact, at least in terms of placement points, Iowa's overall depth is enough to match Penn State's incredible strength at the top: both teams are projected to get 99 placement points if everyone wrestles to seed.  If that happens (and it won't, but humor me), the championship would come down to advancement points (difficult to accurately predict because of the variability at 5th-8th) and bonus points (impossible to predict).  The other two teams in the mix figure to be Wisconsin (who is like a slightly poor man's Penn State in that they have a very top-heavy lineup: 3 1-seeds and one 2-seed, but not a lot of quality depth) and Minnesota (who has depth but not enough elite quality: they have someoned seeded at every weight, but no 1-seeds and half their seeds are 5 or lower).  For either Wisco or Minny to get in the mix, they would need some surprisingly good performances from their own guys and/or some really disappointing efforts from a few Iowa and Penn State guys.

Let's look at it weight-by-weight (thanks to commenter twade70 for help with the win-loss records):

125 (Big Ten dual meet win-loss records listed, since that's the primary factor in seeding)
1. Matt McDonough, Iowa (8-0)
2. Brandon Precin, Northwestern (7-1)
3. Zach Sanders, Minnesota (7-1)
4. Brad Pataky, Penn State (1-1)
5. Sean Boyle, Michigan (5-3)
6. Justin Brooks, Indiana (4-4)
7. Camden Eppert, Purdue (3-5)
8. Tom Kelliher, Wisconsin (3-5)

QUICK THOUGHTS: Not much to argue here; McD went 8-0 and no one else did, so it's obvious that he'd be the 1-seed.  McD, Precin, and Sanders are clearly the class of this weight; it would be shock if any of them failed to make the semis.  This looks like it's setting up for McD-Precin III in the finals -- let's hope it goes more like the sequel than the original. 
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: Kelliher, Boyle/Pataky, Precin.  McD didn't face Kelliher this year.  He beat Boyle via fall (3:56) at the dual earlier this year.  He didn't face Pataky this year, but he did beat him via decision (7-2) last year.  We all know the score against Precin: Precin won the first match via decision (3-1) and McD surprised him with a pin (6:11) in the rematch.  Precin's defense is incredible, so lord knows how the rubber match might go.  I wouldn't shed a tear if Sanders managed to upset Precin in the semis.  He'll have a decent shot at bonus points against Kelliher and Boyle/Pataky.
PREDICTED FINISH: 1st (I ain't gonna bet against McD)
FINALS: McD over Precin

1. Andrew Long, Penn State (6-1)
2. Tyler Graff, Wisconsin (7-1)
3. Tony Ramos, Iowa (8-0)
4. BJ Futrell, Illinois (6-2)
5. Levi Mele, Northwestern (5-3)
6. David Thorn, Minnesota (4-4)
7. Zac Stevens, Michigan (3-5)
8. Ian Paddock, Ohio State (???)

QUICK THOUGHTS: This is one of the few weights where Iowa might feel a little aggrieved by the seeding: Ramos went 8-0 (no one else did) and handed the 1-seed his only loss this year.  On the other hand, Long handed Graff his only loss and they both have more pedigree (and better overall records) than Ramos: Long was the national runner-up at 125 last year and Graff was an All-American.  There's not much difference between the 2 and the 3 seed -- though there is between the 1 and the 3 seed.  This is a tough weight to predict; Long is wrestling great right now, but Graff is legit, Ramos is wrestling well, and Futrell is solid (he handed Ramos one of his few losses this year).
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: Thorn/Graff/Long.  It's not going to be easy for Ramos.  He beat Thorn via decision &-3) at the dual meet this year and also beat Long via decision (4-3) at a dual meet.  He didn't wrestle Graff.  Thorn is a longtime rival (dating back to high school) and wrestles him tight and both Graff and Long are very good. It will be rough for Ramos to get bonus points out of that run, although he might be able to push a win over Thorn to a major decision.
PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd (I think Graff nips him in the semis, but Tony bounces back to finish 3rd)
FINALS: Graff over Long

1. Kellen Russell, Michigan (8-0)
2. Montell Marion, Iowa (4-1)
3. Mike Thorn, Minnesota (6-2)
4. Jimmy Kennedy, Illinois (4-0)
5. Andrew Alton, Penn State (3-4)
6. Kaleb Friedly, Northwestern (5-2)
7. Jake Fleckenstein, Purdue (3-5)
8. Shane McQaude, Wisconsin (???)

QUICK THOUGHTS: An absolutely murderous division, since the top five guys are all ranked in the national top ten.  Marion edges past Thorn for the 2-seed on the basis of his win in the dual meet, but it doesn't really matter: they're going to have to get through each other to get to a rematch with Russell in the finals.  It would have been interesting to see where Kennedy would have slotted in if he'd been healthy: his injury absence (and the fact that he didn't wrestle Marion or Thorn) pushed him down to the 4-seed. 
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINAL: Fleckenstein/Thorn/Russell; coincidentally, these three were also the last three opponents Marion faced in dual meets this year.  He beat Fleckenstein via major decision (16-5), lost to Russell via decision in overtime (9-5), and beat Thorn via decision (4-3) with a last-second escape.  He should have little trouble with Fleckenstein, but rematches with Thorn and Russell figure to be absolute wars.  Fleckenstein should also be his best shot at bonus points.
PREDICTED FINISH: 1st (Marion is wrestling really well right now; he already has a win over Thorn and he was in control against Russell until a late mistake... I think he corrects that and wins it all here.)
FINALS: Marion over Russell

1. Frank Molinaro, Penn State (8-0)
2. Andrew Nadhir, Northwestern (7-1)
3. Kurt Kinser, Indiana (4-2)
4. Eric Terrazas, Illinois (4-3)
5. Cole Schmitt, Wisconsin (2-3)
6. Eric Grajales, Michigan (5-3)
7. Dan Osterman, Michigan State (6-2)
8. Danny Zilverberg, Minnesota (4-3)

QUICK THOUGHTS: As expected, Iowa didn't get a seed here; that's kind of what happens when you post hardly any wins in Big Ten competition.  This division looks like it shapes up to be a Molinaro-Nadhir showdown; they haven't wrestled yet this year.  As an unseeded guy, Iowa's entry (likely Mark Ballweg) will draw a first-round (or pigtail) match against one of these guys, although we won't know against who until the brackets are released later this week (likely Friday).  I'm not really sure who would be a good option for Ballweg to face here; maybe Kinser (he only beat Matt Ballweg 2-0) or Zilverberg (Ballweg wrestled him close at the dual last week).  As noted in WMBY last week, the Big Ten qualifies eight wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament at this weight, so all Ballweg needs to do is win one match to punch his ticket to Philly.
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: N/A, both because we don't know who he's facing and because -- let's be real -- it's not happening.  Mark would need to win four matches against Big Ten opposition to do that; Iowa's options at 149 have barely won that many matches combined in duals this year.  He's outsized and overmatched this year; let's just hope he can steal a win in one of his first two matches and get to the NCAA Tourney.
PREDICTED FINISH: 8th (I think he does get that one win, but that's it.)
FINALS: Molinaro over Nadhir

1. David Taylor, Penn State (8-0)
2. Derek St. John, Iowa (7-1)
3. Jason Welch, Northwestern (7-1)
4. Colton Salazar, Purdue (5-3)
5. Paul Young, Indiana (3-4)
6. Brandon Zeerip, Michigan (5-3)
7. Sean McMurray, Michigan State (3-4)
8. Matt Mincey, Minnesota (???)

QUICK THOUGHTS: Controversy-free from an Iowa perspective: Taylor beat DSJ who beat Welch.  Voila.  The real question is whether or not anyone here can actually slow down the Taylor juggernaut.  He's PSU's not-so-secret weapon in the race for the team title because he is an absolute bonus point machine... and bonus points could very well determine the title this year.  DSJ's looked much improved since his iffy performances in December, but whether his "much improved" is good enough to handle Taylor's excellence is a whole 'nother question.
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: McMurray/Welch/Taylor.  That's not too onerous.  DSJ didn't wrestle McMurray this year (he had a tight 9-7 decision win over David Cheza at the dual this year), but he did face Welch (a 4-2 decision win) and Taylor (a 12-4 major decision loss). 
PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd (I think he gets by Welch again but still can't solve the Taylor riddle -- although he does keep it to a decision loss this time.)
FINALS: Taylor over DSJ

1. Andrew Howe, Wisconsin (0-0)
2. Colt Sponseller, Ohio State (7-1)
3. Cody Yohn, Minnesota (6-2)
4. Aaron Janssen, Iowa (5-2)
5. Conrad Polz, Illinois (5-2)
6. Dan Yates, Michigan (5-2)
7. Ryan LeBlanc, Indiana (3-4)
8. Kevin Bialka, Northwestern (3-5)

QUICK THOUGHTS: Remember the Schlatter situation I referenced at the top of this post?  Well, there's a chance we could see a reprise of it this year with Howe in the Schlatter role.  Howe is the unquestioned kingpin of this weight -- he's the two-time defending Big Ten champion, a two-time NCAA finalist, and the defending NCAA champion -- but he's also been hobbled this year.  He hasn't wrestled since the National Duals in early January, so it's anyone's guess what kind of condition he's in or how much he'll be able to wrestle.  The guess if that if he's at all limited that he'll do only the minimum here to qualify for the NCAA Tournament; three straight Big Ten titles would be nice, but it's not quite the same as back-to-back NCAA titles.  Of all the weights, this is the one most prone to being shaken up on the official bracket. 

If this weight stays the same, though, and Howe is limited (and competes), there's a chance that things could break very well for Janssen.  If he can get by Polz, he'd be slotted to face a possibly weakened Howe; if Howe's already done enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, Janssen might even benefit from an injury default (which would also be huge from a team title race standpoint).  That's all spitballing and it probably won't happen that way... but it could. 
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: Polz/Howe/Sponseller or Yohn.  Janssen didn't wrestle Polz or Howe this year, but he lost a pair of close decisions to Sponseller (5-3 in OT) and Yohn (6-4).
PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd (if Howe is in decent shape) or 2nd (if Howe isn't) -- and assuming they don't muck with the brackets.  As is, Janssen has a good chance to get to the finals if Howe is hobbled; if not, I think he gets bounced by Howe and bounces back to finish 3rd.
FINALS: Howe over Yohn

1. Ed Ruth, Penn State (8-0)
2. Nick Heflin, Ohio State (5-2)
3. Scott Glasser, Minnesota (5-3)
4. Luke Manuel, Purdue (7-1)
5. Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa (3-4)
6. Ben Jordan, Wisconsin (3-4)
7. Justin Zeerip, Michigan (5-3)
8. Curran Jacobs, Michigan State (???)

QUICK THOUGHTS: A little odd to see Manuel so far down, frankly.  Ethen's losses to Manuel and Glasser the last two weeks of the season ended up being really costly, as predicted.  He already had a win over Heflin, so if he just manages to hold on in the third period of those matches, he could have locked himself up a 2-seed and avoided Ruth until the finals.  Now he's looking at a semifinal match with Ruth -- and that's only if he can get the better of Manuel this time; no sure thing with the inconsistent way Ethen has been wrestling of late.
LIKELY PATH TO FINALS: Manuel/Ruth/Glasser or Heflin.  Tough road for Ethen here; he lost via decision to Manuel (6-5), Ruth (10-3), and Glasser (7-5) and beat Heflin via decision (3-1)
PREDICTED FINISH: 6th (This is dependent on whether we get Good Ethen or Bad Ethen.  If Bad Ethen shows up, he could be 0-2 pretty easily; at the very least, he won't get by Manuel.  Although even if Good Ethen shows up, I'm not sure that's enough to get by Ruth.  I just don't trust him, frankly.)
FINALS: Ruth over Glasser

1. Travis Rutt, Wisconsin (7-0)
2. Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota (6-2)
3. Grant Gambrall, Iowa (7-1)
4. Ian Hinton, Michigan State (5-3)
5. Tony Dallago, Illinois (4-4)
6. AJ Kissel, Purdue (3-4)
7. Cody Magrum, Ohio State (4-4)
8. Quentin Wright, Penn State (3-4)

QUICK THOUGHTS: No real surprise here.  It would have been interesting to see if Gambrall would have gotten the nod over Rutt for the 1-seed if he had beaten Steinhaus last week; my guess is probably not, since Rutt has been a bit more consistent this year and has generally looked stronger.  In that sense, the loss to Steinhaus didn't really matter too much; there's not much practical difference between the 2-seed and the 3-seed.  Wright's tumble to an 8-seed is kind of surprising, although not really when you see the way he's struggled of late; he looks like he could easily go 0-2, which would be bad for Penn State -- they're likely counting on a few points out of him.
LIKELY PATH TO FINALS: Kissel/Steinhaus/Rutt.  Gambrall didn't face Kissel or Rutt and he lost a 5-4 decision to Steinhaus when they met at the dual.  Like Ethen at 174, it's hard to know what to expect out of Gambrall here.  When he's good, he's been very good.  But when he hasn't been that good, he's struggled.  Often he's been good and bad within the same match: good for a period or two, then falling apart in the third.  Let's hope he has his cardio in shape this weekend.
PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd (As close as he was to beating Steinhaus at the dual, I don't think he gets it done here, either -- Steinhaus is relentless and Gambrall has been too vulnerable in the third period this year.  But he rebounds to finish third in the consos.)
FINALS: Rutt over Steinhaus

1. Trevor Brandvold, Wisconsin (7-0)
2. Luke Lofthouse, Iowa (7-1; includes forfeit)
3. Logan Brown, Purdue (6-1)
4. Matt Powless, Indiana (6-2)
5. Sonny Yohn, Minnesota (1-1)
6. Anthony Biondo, Michigan (4-4)
7. Joe Barczak, Illinois (4-3)
8. Peter Capone, Ohio State (3-5)

QUICK THOUGHTS: Ah, good ol' Uncle Luke.  On the heels of his strong closing stretch to the season, he's rocketed all the way up to the 2-seed, which is mighty impressive -- and well-deserved after the way he's been wrestling.  Finally getting over the hump against quality competition appears to be have given Lofthouse some much needed confidence.  His win over Yohn might have been bigger for Yohn than himself, though; without that loss, Yohn likely takes the 2 or 3 seed; instead he fell to a 5-seed and has to deal with a possible semifinal match with Brandvold.  I think Lofthouse probably would have been a 2 or 3 seed regardless.
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: Barczak/Brown/Brandvold.  Strangely, Lofthouse hasn't wrestled any of them yet this year.  Iowa didn't have duals against Illinois or Wisconsin and Brown sat out the Iowa-Purdue dual (though he did compete in the Michigan State-Purdue dual two days later so HMMM).  He lost to Brown 3-1 in OT last year and to Brandvold 4-2 last year, so he's been close against them -- he's just never broke through for the win.  But this year's Stormin' Mormon is a much different beast than last year's version.
PREDICTED FINISH: 1st (I think Lofthouse is wrestling great right now -- as well as anyone on the team not named "Matt McDonough" -- and I can absolutely see him getting to the finals.  Brandvold will be very difficult, but with the way Uncle Luke is going right now, I like his odds to get the upset.)
FINALS: Lofthouse over Brandvold


1. Cameron Wade, Penn State (7-1)
2. Ricky Alcala, Indiana (7-1)
3. Blake Rasing, Iowa (5-3)
4. Tony Nelson, Minnesota (4-3)
5. Ben Apland, Michigan (4-4)
6. Eric Bugenhagen, Wisconsin (5-3)
7. Joe Rizqallah, Michigan State (3-2)
8. Ben Kuhar, Northwestern (3-4)

QUICK THOUGHTS: A messy division after the top two (Wade and Alcala both have only one loss and Alcala's loss came against Wade, so it makes sense to put him behind Wade), so it's hard to argue much with these seeds.  Those two wins Rasing got over Nelson and Apland the last few weeks were immense, though probably more so for confidence purposes than seeding purposes; this division seems so even in the Big Ten, that I'm not sure it would have mattered much who got seeded where.  While betting on scratch (or near-scratch) results is usually the way to go at Big Tens, this is one division that I could certainly see going totally haywire this year.
LIKELY PATH TO THE FINALS: Bugenhagen/Alcala/Wade.  Although, again, would I be that surprised if Nelson or Apland knocked off Wade?  Or if Rizqallah beat Alcala?  Nope.  Rasing didn't wrestle Bugenhagen and he had a pair of razor-thin decision losses to Alcala (6-5) and Wade (1-0).  Mind you, that was also before Rasing rattled off three straight wins (two with bonus points!), so we're not dealing with quite the same Blake Rasing now.
PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd (As tempting as it is to pick Rasing to win it all, I just can't quite pull the trigger on that here; he's going to have win three matches against good opponents in a division that is incredibly tight.  As always, I hope Blake proves me wrong.)
FINALS: Wade over Rasing

The Big Ten is a four-horse race this year: Iowa, Penn State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  Iowa and Minnesota have the best overall depth; Minnesota has seeded wrestlers at all ten weights and Iowa has seeded wrestlers at nine weights, with all but one a 4-seed or better (Wisconsin and Michigan also have nine seeded wrestlers, but they have many more guys at the bottom of the seedings).  Penn State and Wisco have the advantage of having studs: Penn State has five guys that are 1-seeds, while Wisconsin has 3 1-seeds plus another 2-seed.  No one else has enough talent to mount a serious challenge.  It's difficult to do a full preview for a number of reasons (hard to know who will be in the pigtail matches, hard to know how the consolation brackets will look), so I'll just go with predicted placements for the top four.  This will not include any possible bonus points because, again, it's impossible to predict those.



(There's a range in the possible advancement points because of the variability in the 5-8 placements.  Depending on how the brackets break down and where the extra, unseeded wrestlers are placed, there are different possible points for guys who finish 5th-8th.  You can earn 1-2 points for finishing 5th or 6th and 0.5-1.5 points for finishing 7th or 8th.)

Trust me, I was surprised as you that it came out to be such a relatively lopsided Iowa win.  I feel uncomfortable picking something that, on the surface, looks awfully homerish.  But is it really?  Four guys are picked to wrestle to seeds (McD, Ramos, DSJ, Gambrall).  Five guys are picked to wrestle above their seeds (Marion, Ballweg, Janssen, Lofthouse the Elder, and Rasing), but in each case it's by one spot and it seems defensible.  Can Marion win 141?  Absolutely.  Can Ballweg win one match at 149 and finish 8th?  That doesn't seem unreasonable.  Can Janssen finish 3rd?  Yes, especially if Howe is dealing with injury issues.  Can Lofthouse finish first?  I think so, given his recent form.  Can Rasing finish 2nd?  Based on his recent form and the general parity in the division -- yeah. 

Moreover, I don't think those predictions slight Penn State all that much.  I still picked four of their five 1-seeds to win titles (Molinaro, Taylor, Ruth, Wade), with only Long faltering (but still finishing 2nd).   Is it unreasonable to think that their unseeded guys won't do anything?  Maybe, since I did pick Ballweg to make 8th at 149, but at the same time... Penn State's options at 165 and 197 have looked pretty unimpressive all season.  Is it unreasonable to predict Pataky and Wright to finish below their seeds?  Pataky just returned from an injury and I definitely don't think he can beat the top three seeds at 125 and Boyle's been feisty enough at 125 that I think he could get past Pataky.  As noted above, Wright has been in freefall the last few weeks; I'm not sure what evidenec is out there to prompt me to boost him higher. 

The Minny picks all have them wrestling at or slightly better than their seeds.  I don't think Sanders can get by either Precin or McD.  I don't think the younger Thorn can crack the top-4 at 133.  I don't think Thorn gets by Marion, although I concede that it's certainly very possible.  I picked Zilverberg 7th at 149; I don't think he can do much better than that.  Mincey has been pretty overmatched all year at 157; not sure he does better than 8th.  I picked the younger Yohn second at 165, though he could also win it all if Howe is hobbled.  I picked Glasser 2nd, which is up from his 3-seed, but I don't think he beats Ruth.  I picked Steinhaus to wrestle to seed; I don't think he gets by Rutt.  The older Yohn has a questionable gastank and possibly some injury issues based off his match with Uncle Luke a week ago; I don't think pegging him for 5th is too unreasonable as a result.  And I also picked Nelson to finish 3rd, a spot up from this 4-seed.

With Wisco, their entire title challenge rests on the ability of all of their studs (Graff, Howe, Rutt, Brandvold) to wrestle well and at least make the finals (though for Wisco to win the title, they likely need all four to win their weights and pick up some good bonus points along the way).  If Howe is less than 100% and can't defend his Big Ten title, their hopes are shot.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt in this prediction and that assessment may be generous.

Is this prediction a best-case scenario for Iowa?  Sort of, although not entirely; Ramos, Gambrall, and Rasing probably have the ability to win titles, but I didn't pick any of them to do that.  I didn't do anything borderline insane like pick David Taylor to lose.  I didn't pick Ethen Lofthouse to suddenly turn into a wrecking ball at 174.  Still, things could certainly go a bit worse for them.  McD could get beat by Precin again.  Ramos could lose to Futrell again and finish 4th.  Marion could lose to Thorn and Kennedy and finish 4th.  Ballweg could very easily fail to make 8th.  DSJ could get caught by Welch and finish 3rd or 4th.  Janssen could easily finish much lower.  Lofthouse the Younger could go 0-2 and not even place.  Gambrall could pull another disappearing act and struggle to make 7th.  Uncle Luke could finish 4th or 5th.  Rasing could revert to old Blake form and go 0-2 and not place.  None of these would be huge, fanciful leaps of logic.

My outlook for Iowa is positive -- and perhaps a bit generous -- but it's based on the strength of the team as they appear now.  And this is a team that, outside of recent consistency issues from Lofthouse the Younger and Gambrall (and the chronic undersized/overmatched issues facing Ballweg), is wrestling as all as anyone right now.  Impressive road dual meets wins against Penn State and Minnesota can attest to that.  Certainly, tournaments are a much different beast than dual meets (I've harped on that point all year) and Iowa's last tournament appearance (Midlands in December) didn't go so well.  But there are a few differences: their overall conditioning looks much sharper (with a few gas tank exceptions like Gambrall and, to a lesser extent, Lofthouse the Younger), their confidence is much higher (a product of solid performances in hostile environments in State College, Stillwater, and Minneapolis), and their overall performances have just plain looked better.  So, yeah, I feel good about Iowa's chances this weekend -- maybe not quite 30-point win good -- but still pretty good.

* J Robinson told the coaches that Schlatter was going to step on the mat for his first match and then injury default, which is all he would need to do to qualify for the NCAA Tournament; as a result, the coaches made him unseeded, moved everyone else up a seed, and swapped the former 2/3 seeds, Colton Salazar and Cyler Sanderson, go Salazar went from the 3-seed to the 1-seed and Sanderson wound up staying the 2-seed; in practice, it was much less confusing than it sounds.  It's my understanding that the NCAA has also rewritten the rules to prevent wrestlers from doing what Schlatter did (injury defaulting in the conference tourney and getting to the NCAA tourney anyway); if you want to make the NCAA Tournament, you have to actually compete (though frankly I'm not sure what's to stop someone from going hard for a few minutes and then injury defaulting, nor how the NCAA would be able to differentiate between "fake" injury defaults like that and "real" injury defaults).  But anyway.