The Big Ten Tournament is just around the corner (Saturday, to be precise) and this year we're doing the preview a little bit differently. I enlisted the aid of our friends bscaff (from Black Shoe Diaries) and Dan Vest (from Land-Grant Holy Land) and we worked together to preview all ten weights. You can find their entries in the 2015 Big Ten Wrestling Tournament group.
|3||NR||Hunter Stieber||Ohio State||JR||1-2||1-1||1-1||33%||NR|
|6||14||Zack Beitz||Penn State||SO||16-10||7-7||4-5||62%||14|
|12||NR||Nick Trimble||Michigan St||JR||5-14||1-7||1-6||26%||NR|
Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern. I know that Brandon Sorensen beat T-shirt at the Iowa-Northwestern dual in January. So why am I picking T-shirt to win the title here? Sorensen did win that match, but it was hardly a conclusive or decisive win. He won 3-2 on an escape in the second set of tiebreakers -- I'm not sure that's a great blueprint for repeat success. Sorensen also beat T-shirt in the friendly confines of CHA. There's also the fact that we know how T-shirt responds when the pressure ramps up: he won Big Ten and NCAA championships a season ago and added a Midlands title to his collection earlier this year. Sorensen has had an excellent redshirt freshman season -- better than I ever dreamed -- but we still don't know how he's going to react under the big lights of the tournament. For now, Tsirtsis seems like the safer bet.
...but, obviously, Brandon Sorensen is a completely legitimate contender to bring home a title at this weight. After all, he did beat Tsirtsis once this year (and while I'm leery of Sorensen duplicating a win in a match where he didn't have a takedown, it's not as if T-shirt came all that close to scoring on Sorensen, either) and he has wins over the other top guys at this weight as well. It would not surprise me in the least if Sorensen brought home Iowa's first Big Ten championship at this weight since Brent Metcalf in 2009.
THE DARK HORSE
If his health was less of an issue, Hunter Stieber would be in the preceding section and probably every bit as likely to win a title as Sorensen or Tsirtsis. But his health is an issue -- a big damn issue. Stieber has wrestled just three matches all season against D-I opponents -- and he lost twice. Even if his injury (believed to be a shoulder or elbow ailment) is completely healed, his conditioning is a huge question mark -- Stieber gassed badly against Brandon Sorensen is one of his first forays back in January. He's barely wrestled a match since then, so it's hard to believe his conditioning is going to be close to peak form this weekend. That said, if Stieber is healthy and his conditioning is at least OK... well, he certainly has the ability to win this weight. He was an NCAA runner-up (at 141 lbs) two seasons ago and he has the skill on offense and defense to compete with the big boys at this weight class.
Did you know? There have not been back-to-back Big Ten champions at 149 since Frank Molinaro in 2011 and 2012.
Jake Short has been on the losing end a lot this season (see: that 11-9 record), but almost all of those losses have been very close, even against top-ranked guys like Jason Tsirtsis and Brandon Sorensen. Short was a top-20 recruit in 2013 and he's displayed flashes of quality this year to justify that ranking; sooner or later, he's going to start turning those close losses into wins -- it could happen in Columbus this weekend. At the very least, no one is going to enjoy seeing Short in their bracket.