The Big Ten released the brackets for the 2016 Big Ten Wrestling Tournament this afternoon and they are... not great for Iowa, for a variety of reasons. Let's break things down weight-by-weight so I can explain further.
125 -- #2 Thomas Gilman (JR, 21-0)
FIRST ROUND: BYE
QUARTERFINALS: versus winner of #7 Youtsey (Michigan) vs UN White (Northwestern)
Thomas Gilman got a bye in the first round -- which we did not want because it denies him a chance to have a match against an easier opponent and potentially earn bonus points. Worse, Ohio State (Tomasello) and Penn State (Megaludis) did get opponents in the first round, so they will have chances to earn bonus points. Tomasello didn't wrestle Thornton this season, but Megaludis earned a major decision over Rogaliner at the dual earlier this year.
Gilman will see the winner of the Youtsey-White match in the quarterfinals. He didn't face Youtsey this season, but beat him 6-1 in the dual last year. He pinned White in 0:54 at the dual earlier this year.
133 -- #2 Cory Clark (JR, 19-1)
FIRST ROUND: BYE
QUARTERFINALS: versus winner of #7 Johnni DiJulius (Ohio State) vs #10 Anthony Giraldo (Rutgers)
Cory Clark also got a bye in the first round, although we knew that he would. Because the Big Ten has 9 automatic qualifiers for the NCAA Tournament at this weight, the conference seeds all 14 wrestlers at this weight. From there, the weight is treated like a standard 16-item bracket, with the #1 and #2 seeds receiving byes. In this case, Clark is the #2 seed, so he receives a bye. Here again, Ohio State (DiJulius) and Penn State (Conaway) did not receive byes. DiJulius has a potentially tricky match against Giraldo, but Conaway faces #14 Sam Brancale (Minnesota), who has lost via fall or technical fall five times this season.
Clark will see the winner of the DiJulius-Giraldo match in the quarterfinals. He didn't face DiJulius this season, but he went 2-1 against him last year, losing to him 7-5 at the dual meet, but winning 2-0 and 2-1 at the Big Ten Tournament. He defeated Giraldo via 11-2 major decision at the dual earlier this season.
141 -- UN Brody Grothus (SR, 4-5)
FIRST ROUND: #1 Micah Jordan (RS FR, 20-1, Ohio State)
QUARTERFINALS: #8 Jimmy Gulibon (Penn State)
The bad news kept rolling for the Hawkeyes at 141, although it was of a different flavor here. Grothus didn't get a bye... but he does have to face the #1 seed at this weight in the first round. Ouch. Given Grothus' performances so far this season, I'm not sure who would have been a "good" draw for him -- maybe #7 Danny Sabatello (Purdue), who he beat 6-0 earlier this year at the dual. But Jordan is definitely a bad draw.
if Grothus fails to beat Jordan, he'll drop into the consolation bracket. He'll receive a bye in the first round of the consolation bracket, then face (likely) Sabatello. Again, Grothus did beat him 6-0 earlier this year, so that would be a decent draw. If he wins that match, he would then likely face #6 Anthony Abidin (Nebraska) in the next consolation round. Grothus didn't face Abidin at the dual this year, but Abidin is not entering the Big Ten Tournament with much in the way of positive momentum -- he lost 4 of his last 6 matches, including his final 3 matches in a row. If Grothus wins that match he'll be assured of finishing no lower than 6th, which also means that he will earn an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. If he loses that match, he would fall into the 7th place match. He would need to win that 7th place match because the Big Ten is only guaranteed 7 automatic bids at 141 lbs.
Meanwhile, OSU (Jordan) did not receive a bye at this weight (obviously), but Penn State did -- which actually works to their benefit because Gulibon has been in a slump heading into the Big Ten Tournament and this bye will make it easier for him to finish in the top 7.
149 -- #2 Brandon Sorensen (SO, 23-0)
FIRST ROUND: BYE
QUARTERFINALS: winner of #7 Andrew Crone (Wisconsin) vs UR Cody Burcher (Ohio State)
Another weight, another bit of bad luck for Iowa -- Sorensen got a bye, when (like Gilman at 125) we would have preferred to see him face an actual opponent (and hopefully get bonus points). Sigh. He'll face the winner of the Crone-Burcher match. Burcher is replacing Hunter Stieber in the Buckeyes' lineup; injuries have unfortunately forced a premature end to Stieber's season (and career). Sorensen beat Crone via 6-3 decision at the dual earlier this year, but did not face Burcher.
Meanwhile, neither OSU nor PSU received a bye at this weight. OSU was never going to get a bye (Burcher is unseeded), but it's more bad luck for Iowa that Retherford didn't receive a bye for Penn State -- he faces Kyle Langenderfer (Illinois), who he pinned earlier this season.
157 -- #5 Edwin Cooper, Jr. (SR, 14-7)
FIRST ROUND: UR Anthony Petrone (Northwestern)
QUARTERFINALS: #4 Jake Ryan (Ohio State)
Iowa actually did get some good fortune at this weight -- Cooper didn't get a bye and he drew probably the worst wrestler at this weight. Petrone went 0-13 this season; Cooper pinned him in 1:22 at the dual earlier this season. Of course, he probably will need to get a pin just to keep pace with Penn State at this weight, because their wrestler (Jason Nolf) also didn't get a bye here. He'll face Doug Welch (Purdue) in the first round; he beat him via technical fall at the dual earlier this year.
If Coop beats Petrone, he'll see #4 Jake Ryan (Ohio State) in the quarterfinals. He and Ryan have never wrestled one another. The winner of that match will likely face #1 Jason Nolf (PSU) in the semifinals.
165 -- #8 Patrick Rhoads (SR, 10-9)
FIRST ROUND: UN Bryce Martin (Indiana)
QUARTERFINALS: winner of #1 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) vs UN Luke Norland (Northwestern)
Rhoads did not a receive a bye, either. He'll face Bryce Martin (Indiana) in the first round; he beat Martin via 4-2 decision at the dual earlier this year. If he beats Martin again, he'll likely face #1 Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin) in the quarterfinals. Jordan beat him via 6-1 decision at the dual earlier this year. Assuming he doesn't pull off the shocking upset and beat Jordan, Rhoads will fall into the consolation bracket and likely face UN Brandon Krone (Minnesota). Rhoads and Krone have not wrestled before. Assuming Rhoads beats Martin and loses to Jordan, he will need to win two matches in the consolation bracket in order to guarantee himself at least a 6th place finish and one of the Big Ten's automatic bids for the NCAA Tournament at this weight. Like Grothus at 141, Rhoads needs to finish in the automatic qualifying spots -- he is not likely to receive an at-large invite.
Meanwhile, Penn State did not receive a bye at this weight, either -- #7 Geno Morelli will face Krone (Minnesota) in the first round. They have not wrestled this year. Ohio State (#2 Bo Jordan) did receive a bye at this weight, which is a disadvantage to them -- Jordan would have been expected to earn them some bonus points in his first round match.
174 -- #2 Alex Meyer (JR, 21-2)
FIRST ROUND: BYE
QUARTERFINALS: winner of #7 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) vs #10 Mitch Sliga (Northwestern)
Meyer received a bye at this weight, although like Clark we knew it was coming -- this was the other weight where the Big Ten had 9 automatic qualifiers, meaning that they would need to seed all 14 wrestlers at the weight. Meyer, like Clark, was the #2 seed, so a bye was inevitable. And given his patchy form of late, a bye isn't the worst outcome for him -- I don't know that we would have had a lot of confidence in him earning bonus points even if he did have a R1 match.
He'll face the winner of the Wanzek-Sliga match in the quarterfinals. He beat Wanzek via 10-1 major decision at the dual earlier this year and beat Sliga via 16-0 technical fall at the dual earlier this yaer, so in theory either man should be a good draw for him. In practice, Wanzek has looked a lot better on the mat lately (he just got a big win over #3 Zac Brunson a few weeks ago) and Meyer has looked so inconsistent lately, that a Meyer-Wanzek match would definitely have "upset alert" written on it.
Penn State also received a bye at this weight (Bo Nickal is the #1 seed at the weight), while Ohio State's #4 Myles Martin faces #13 Shane Shadaia (Michigan State). Martin beat Shadaia via 19-4 technical fall at the dual earlier this year.
184 -- #3 Sammy Brooks (JR, 20-4)
FIRST ROUND: UN Matt Irick (Indiana)
QUARTERFINALS: winner of #6 Kenny Courts (Ohio State) vs UN Regis Durbin (Northwestern)
Brooks did not get a bye at 184 and faces Irick in the first round; he beat Irick via 23-8 technical fall at the dual earlier this year. That's a solid draw for Iowa. If Brooks wins, he'll face the winner of the Courts-Durbin match in the quarterfinals. He did not face Courts this season, but went 2-0 against him last year, winning 2-0 at the dual and 4-1 at the Big Ten Tournament. He pinned Durbin in 4:10 at the dual earlier this year.
#2 Matt McCutcheon did receive a bye for Penn State, which prevents him for earning them any R1 bonus points. But the bye is also beneficial to them because he's banged up and avoids further wear and tear on his body for one match. Even when they "lose," Penn State wins.
197 -- #3 Nathan Burak (SR, 20-1)
FIRST ROUND: UN Eric Peissig (Wisconsin)
QUARTERFINALS: #6 Mark Martin (Ohio State)
Burak also did not get a bye in the first round; he faces Peissig in the first round. Burak beat Peissig via 20-7 major decision at the dual earlier this year -- hopefully he's able to match or improve upon that result. If he wins, Burak will face #6 Mark Martin (Ohio State) in the quarterfinals. Burak and Martin have never faced one another before (Martin was a 174 lb wrestler until this season).
Penn State also did not get a bye at this weight; #1 Morgan McIntosh faces Indiana's Jake Masengale in the first round. McIntosh beat Masengale via fall at the dual earlier this year.
285 -- #3 Sam Stoll (RS FR, 20-3)
FIRST ROUND: UN Youssif Hemida (Maryland)
QUARTERFINALS: winner of #6 Collin Jensen (Nebraska) vs UN Tyler Kral (Purdue)
Of course, the one Iowa wrestler we would have liked to see get a bye didn't get one. Normally Stoll having a R1 match would be good because he's shown a propensity to get bonus points (and pins) against lesser heavyweights. Unfortunately, given his injury concerns, it would probably have been better for him just to get a pass into the quarterfinals and avoid further stress on his knee. So it goes. At least in Hemida he gets a weaker opponent -- Hemida is replacing Maryland's normal heavyweight starter, Dawson Peck, who is out for the year due to injury. Hemida has a poor record and has given up bonus points in 7 of his losses.
If Stoll wins, he'll face the winner of the Jensen-Kral match in the quarterfinals. Stoll beat Jensen via 6-2 decision at the dual earlier this year and pinned Kral in 4:04 at the dual earlier this year. But, again, the big question for Stoll is his health -- how limited will he be by his knee injury? We should find out tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Ohio State got a bye (which is a big disadvantage for them, because #2 Kyle Snyder would have a strong favorite to earn them bonus points), while #8 Nick Nevills (Penn State) faces UN Brock Horwath (Wisconsin) in the first round. Horwath is a fairly weak opponent, but he may be decent enough to avoid giving up bonus points.
So the final tally in terms of byes:
IOWA: 125, 133, 149, 174
PSU: 141, 174, 184
OSU: 157, 165, 197, 285
The byes hurt Iowa, but we knew that they would be getting byes at 133 and 174 due to the bracket mechanics at those weights. Ohio State was probably even more disadvantaged by the byes than Iowa because they received four byes and none of them were at weights where the mechanics of the bracket dictated that they receive a bye. They just had some really poor luck. Iowa and Ohio State were also hurt by some of their best point-scorers receiving byes in R1 (125 and 149 for Iowa, 165 and 285 for OSU), while PSU really only lost one of their best point-scorers (174). Penn State was already the favorite to win the Big Ten title this year, but the way the bracket broke for them (and against Iowa and Ohio State) in R1 only increased their advantage. According to the saying it may be better to be lucky than good, but it's best to be lucky AND good.