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.
|5||7||Jimmy Lawson||Penn State||SR||12-1||5-1||5-1||92%||NR|
|9||11||Nick Tavanello||Ohio State||SO||13-8||0-3||0-2||62%||8|
|12||NR||Chris Nash||Michigan St||JR||9-7||2-5||2-4||56%||NR|
Ding dong, the witch is dead. Tony Nelson, master of the spiral ride and three-time Big Ten champion, is finally out of eligibility, which means it's time to crown a new king of the shaved bears in the Big Ten. But good luck finding a favorite among the challengers to Nelson's throne. #4 Bobby Telford owns wins over #1 Connor Medbery and #3 Mike McMullan already this season... but he also has losses to #2 Adam Coon and #3 McMullan, too. Coon has a win over Telford and a loss to Medbery. Medbery has been the most consistent wrestler among the B1G boys. The top four at this weight are extremely well-matched and any one of them could easily be standing atop the podium on Sunday.
What I just said above applies in full here, too. Medbery, Coon, McMullan, and Telford are your contenders here -- in whatever order you carer to place them. Based on in-season results, the order chosen by the Big Ten makes sense (even if it still rankles a bit to see Telford ranked behind tow guys that he beat earlier this year), but there's barely any space between them. You could call them 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d and I wouldn't bat an eye. Given that, the bracket matchups could prove critical. In that sense, Telford definitely caught a break, with Medbery (0-2 career against Telford) the top guy on his side of the bracket and McMullan and Coon (two guys who have had a lot of success against Telford) on the other side of the bracket. Medbery is very good, but historically he's a guy that Telford has been able to score on (unlike Coon and, to a lesser extent, McMullan), which bodes well for Bobby.
Having McMullan and Coon on the other side of the bracket is also interesting because it finally sets up a match between the two of them (in the semifinals). Despite being two of the best heavyweights in the Big Ten over the last two seasons, the paths of McMullan and Coon have never crossed on the mat -- that should change in Saturday night's semifinals. If McMullan can get the win in that first-ever meeting, I think Telford has a real shot at adding a Big Ten championship to the Midlands championship he won a few months ago. But if Coon gets by McMullan, I think the Michigan man will claim his first Big Ten crown -- he's just a miserable matchup for Bobby.
THE DARK HORSE
On one hand, it's really hard to see anyone outside of the top-4 at this weight breaking through and making a run at this weight. On the other hand, this is still heavyweight and virtually every match is still going to come down to one takedown... so you never know. Nelson's successor, Michael Kroells, has had several close losses this year; if everything finally clicks for him, he might be able to make some noise this weekend.
Per d1cwrestling, Adam Coon was the #2 overall recruit in the class of 2013. Brooks Black was the #9 overall recruit in that same class. Black has plenty of time left to come good, but that should serve as a healthy reminder that not every highly-touted recruit hits the ground running and is world-class from the get-go.
When almost every match comes down to a takedown or riding time point, the line between victory and defeat is perilously small. It also means that nearly every match at this weight is, at a certain level, a potential upset -- one slip and you could give up the decisive takedown and find yourself in the loser's half of the bracket. That said, Nick Tavanello (if healthy) and Collin Jensen have the ability to push some of the top guys at this weight and make things a little more interesting.