The NCAA announced the field of wrestlers for the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Tournament at all ten weight classes today, including the at-large or wildcard bids at each weight. Those reveals were particularly relevant for Iowa because the Hawkeyes only qualified wrestlers at seven weights (125, 133, 149, 157, 174, 184, 197) through their performances at the Big Ten Tournament last weekend. The wrestlers at the other three weights (141, 165, 285) would need to receive at-large selections to compete in next weekend's NCAA Wrestling Tournament. One was a good bet to do so (Sam Stoll at 285), one had a chance (Patrick Rhoads at 165), and one had basically no chance (Brody Grothus at 141).
As expected, Stoll got an at-large bid and as somewhat less expected, Patrick Rhoads did as well. Brody Grothus did not and his season (and Iowa career) is unfortunately over. Rhoads' case was buoyed by the fact there were few wrestlers at 165 who underachieved at their conference tournaments (which also serve as qualifying events for the NCAA Tournament) and would need to use an at-large bid to get into the NCAA Wrestling Tournament. That increased Rhoads' odds, as did the fact that he had no bad losses on his record, and was Top 30 in RPI as of February 27. The fact that he finished 7th at the Big Ten, just one spot out of the automatic qualifying places, probably didn't hurt his case, either.
So Iowa will be sending 9 wrestlers to the NCAA Tournament, same as the tournament favorite, Penn State. (They received one at-large bid, for Geno Morelli at 165, but did not receive one for Nick Nevills at 285.) Two other Big Ten teams, Nebraska and Rutgers, will be sending a wrestler at each weight to New York City, which is a testament to the top-to-bottom strength of their teams -- there are no glaring weaknesses in their lineups.
The seeds and brackets for each weight will be revealed tomorrow night at 5 PM CT on NCAA.com, but for now let's do a little speculating about how things might shake out at each weight.
125: Thomas Gilman (JR, 24-1)
1) Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State
2) Joey Dance, Virginia Tech
3) Nico Megaludis, Penn State
4) Thomas Gilman, Iowa
5) Ryan Millhof, Oklahoma
6) Eddie Klimara, Oklahoma State
7) Ronnie Bresser, Oregon State
8) Barlow McGhee, Missouri
This weight seems pretty straightforward. Tomasello is undefeated and won the Big Ten Tournament. Joey Dance won the ACC Tournament and also has a win over Megaludis from earlier this season. Gilman lost to Megaludis in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. This would set up a Tomasello-Gilman match in the NCAA Tournament semifinals, followed by a likely finals match-up with either Dance or Megaludis -- that's a tough path, but it was going to be tough for Gilman no matter what. The top guys at this weight are very, very good.
133: Cory Clark (JR, 22-1)
1) Nahshon Garrett, Cornell
2) Cory Clark, Iowa
3) Zane Richards, Illinois
4) Cody Brewer, Oklahoma
5) Jordan Conaway, Penn State
6) George DiCamillo, Virginia
7) Ryan Taylor, Wisconsin
8) Earl Hall, Iowa State
Garrett is undefeated with several quality wins, so he's the no-brainer top seed. The 2-4 seeds are a little trickier to untangle. Clark split the season series with Richards, but just beat him to win the Big Ten Tournament. He also has wins over Taylor (twice) and Hall. Brewer has two losses, but one was to Garrett and the other was to Oklahoma State super-frosh Kaid Brock (who got hurt shortly after that win). He also won the Big 12 and is the defending national champion at this weight, if that matters. It wouldn't stun me to see him at #2 and Clark at #3, frankly. The seeds up above would set up a third Clark-Taylor match, which would be nervy -- Taylor looked much-improved at the Big Ten Tournament last weekend and his offense gave Clark fits. It would also set up a Clark-Richards rubber match in the semifinals, which would also be a very nervy match after how tight their Big Ten Tournament final was. Of course, a match with Brewer would be no picnic, either, given what he did against Clark in the NCAA finals last year. This is just a tough, tough weight class -- Clark is going to need to be at his best to get back to the finals and (hopefully) win a championship.
1) Dean Heil, Oklahoma State
2) Joey McKenna, Stanford
3) Kevin Jack, North Carolina State
4) Matt Manley, Missouri
5) Anthony Ashnault, Rutgers
6) Micah Jordan, Ohio State
7) Solomon Chishko, Virginia Tech
8) Joey Ward, North Carolina
Iowa, of course, did not qualify a wrestler at this weight. Penn State's Jimmy Gulibon had an incredible run to the finals at the Big Ten Tournament, but I don't think that is enough to overcome so many middling results from earlier in the season, which is why I doubt that he gets a Top-8 seed. If Oklahoma State is going to be a legitimate title contender this year, this is a weight where they absolutely have to have big results, so a lot will be riding on Heil. Like the Big Ten Tournament, though, this weight could see some wackiness.
149: Brandon Sorensen
1) Zain Retherford, Penn State
2) Brandon Sorensen, Iowa
3) Alec Pantaleo, Michigan
4) Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern
5) Jake Sueflohn, Nebraska
6) Evan Henderson, North Carolina
7) Lavion Mayes, Missouri
8) Michael DePalma, Kent State
All hail the Big Ten, king of 149 lbs. Lavion Mayes would have cracked the Top-5 at this weight, but he had a miserable MAC Tournament, losing one and medically forfeiting another match. He also lost to Sueflohn a few weeks before that event. Retherford is the clear #1 and with Sorensen the clear #2 in the Big Ten, he also looks like a clear #2 here. Pantaleo beat T-shirt twice at the Big Ten Tournament and looks like a good bet at the #3 seed. He'll be a very tough semifinal opponent for Sorensen if both make it that far.
157: Edwin Cooper, Jr.
1) Isaiah Martinez, Illinois
2) Jason Nolf, Penn State
3) Thomas Gantt, North Carolina State
4) Ian Miller, Kent State
5) Joe Smith, Oklahoma State
6) Nick Brascetta, Virginia Tech
7) Cody Pack, South Dakota State
8) Dylan Palacio, Cornell
Cooper had a nice run in the Big Ten Tournament, finishing 4th, but I don't think he did enough to crack the Top-8 at this weight. I'd guess he'll be in the 10-13 seed range instead. This is a challenging weight to seed, given that I-Mar and Nolf split their two matches with one another this year. Gantt went undefeated in the ACC and Miller's only loss was an injury default in the MAC Tournament (he medically forfeited two other matches at that event). It seems crazy that I-Mar and Nolf wouldn't be #1 and #2 at this weight... but the NCAA has done crazy things in the past and Gantt's 24-0 perfect record could help him slide up the rankings. If he just moves up to #2 and pushes Nolf to #3, then that wouldn't really change much, but if he moves all the way to #1 and puts Nolf and I-Mar at #2 and #3 (in some order), that would be a big deal -- and a bit outrageous, frankly. (Although it could help Iowa in the team race if I-Mar was able to knock off Nolf in the semifinals.)
165: Patrick Rhoads
1) Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State
2) Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin
3) Bo Jordan, Ohio State
4) Steven Rodrigues, Illinois
5) Anthony Perrotti, Rutgers
6) Daniel Lewis, Missouri
7) Max Rohskopf, North Carolina State
8) Chad Welch, Purdue
Rhoads is not going to be seeded, which is fine -- we're just happy he got an invitation to the dance. That didn't seem like the most likely outcome a few weeks ago. The best we can hope here is that he gets a reasonable first round draw (i.e., probably none of the guys listed there) and is maybe able to make some hay in the consolation bracket. Dieringer will almost certainly be the top seed at this weight, but Jordan has an interesting case -- like Dieringer, he's undefeated, but he defeated everyone in the Big Ten gauntlet (Welch, Perotti, Rodrigues, and his cousin Bo -- twice) and wrestled a much more difficult schedule. I don't think it would be absurd if he got the #1 seed here.
174: Alex Meyer
1) Bo Nickal, Penn State
2) Brian Realbuto, Cornell
3) Ethan Ramos, North Carolina
4) Zach Epperly, Virginia Tech
5) Bryce Hammond, CSU Bakersfield
6) Blaise Butler, Missouri
7) Zac Brunson, Illinois
8) Mike Ottinger, Central Michigan
Meyer should be seeded (they seed out to 16 at the NCAA Tournament now), but he's not going to be seeded very highly -- probably in the 12-14 range. He just doesn't have a resume to warrant much better and he did lose two matches at the Big Ten Tournament. The question at this weight is whether or not anyone can slow down Penn State's Nickal, the clear choice for the top seed.
184: Sammy Brooks
1) Gabe Dean, Cornell
2) Domenic Abounader, Michigan
3) Zack Zavatsky, Virginia Tech
4) Vic Avery, Edinboro
5) Nolan Boyd, Oklahoma State
6) Blake Stauffer, Arizona State
7) Sammy Brooks, Iowa
8) T.J. Dudley, Nebraska
Brooks helped his case quite a bit with his run through the Big Ten Tournament last weekend -- he was looking at a seed in the teens before that, but now he should be seeded in the Top-8. If he can stay on the opposite side of the bracket from Gabe Dean, so much the better. I struggled a little with Abounader as the #2 seed, but his only losses this year were to Dean and Dudley and he has two wins over Zavatsky. But I don't feel all that confident in the projections of the 2-6 seeds here. This would be a decent draw for Sammy, though -- he beat Abounader (his possible quarterfinal opponent here) at the NCAA Tournament last season.
197: Nathan Burak
1) Morgan McIntosh, Penn State
2) J'Den Cox, Missouri
3) Nathan Burak, Iowa
4) Brett Pfarr, Minnesota
5) Conner Hartmann, Duke
6) Jared Haught, Virginia Tech
7) Aaron Studebaker, Nebraska
8) Reuben Franklin, CSU Bakersfield
The only question I have at the top of this weight is where Hartmann slots in. McIntosh and Cox seem like slam dunks as the #1 and #2 seeds. I think Burak gets the #3 seed by virtue of his win over Pfarr at the Big Ten Tournament. Pfarr gets seeded ahead of Hartmann because he has a win over Hartmann earlier this season. Cox would be a tough, tough semifinal opponent for Burak, but McIntosh, Cox, Pfarr, or Hartmann... they'd all be tough opponents at that stage.
285: Sam Stoll
1) Nick Gwiazdowski, North Carolina State
2) Kyle Snyder, Ohio State
3) Ty Walz, Virginia Tech
4) Adam Coon, Michigan
5) Austin Marsden, Oklahoma State
6) Denzel Dejournette, Appalachian State
7) Amarveer Dhesi, Oregon State
8) Michael Kroells, Minnesota
Hopefully another ten days off is enough to help Stoll's health improve a bit, although if he really did tear an ACL, that certainly isn't going to magically get healed by a week from Thursday. Let's just hope that Stoll gets some favorable match-ups in the tournament and is able to make the most of them. If he had been healthy and wrestled to a top-4 finish at the Big Ten Tournament, I think he would have earned a top-8 seed, but since he wasn't and he didn't, I think his seed is likely to be in the 9-12 range. The seeding for this weight was pretty straightforward, although let's just hit the fast forward button to get to Gwiz-Snyder on Saturday night -- that could be one hell of an exciting and action-packed match. The fact that it's going to take place at heavyweight only makes it even more remarkable -- if if it does, in fact, go down of course. Both guys will need to win several matches to get to that point. They should, but you never know...
Anyway, that's my guess at how things might look. We'll find out in less than 24 hours -- the final seeds and brackets at each weight will be revealed on NCAA.com at 5 PM CT tomorrow (Wednesday, March 8).