You read that correct, the Big Ten Conference Tournament begins tomorrow! It’ll be two days worth of scraps in the world-renowned wrestling venue that is Assembly Hall, what’s not to love?
The schedule is as follows: Session I: 10 a.m. Saturday. Session II (semis): 6 p.m. Saturday. Session III: 12 p.m. Sunday. Session IV/Championship finals: 3 p.m. Sunday. Info to follow is at the bottom of this post — there’s a reason they put milk in the back of the grocery store!
We took a look at the 125, 133, 141, and 149 weight classes on Wednesday, and we’ll round things out here today. As was the case earlier this week, these projections are based on the tourney pre-seeds. The real seeds and brackets are scheduled to come out today, so I’ll throw an update in the comments when they do.
157 — Michael Kemerer, No. 2
Well, here it’s Jason Nolf, Kemerer, Tyler Berger, and the field. Barring any weirdness with byes/early upsets (this applies to the rest of the weights you’ll read about), the 25-1 freshman will face John Van Brill of Rutgers to start things off, likely followed by No. 3 seed Tyler Berger of Nebraska.
Those two have wrestled twice this season, the first meeting coming in the Midlands final, which Kemerer took 6-5 in TB2. The second came when the freshman again bested Berger with a 3-2 decision to close the dual season against the Huskers. Both bouts have been won by razor-thin margins, with the latter of the two almost going the other way due to a takedown review. But alas, it didn’t, and Berger was quick to delete his tweet calling Kemerer a ‘marked man’ following the match.
Anyways, Berger’s a dangerous opponent, and unfortunately a win over him is the furthest the realist in me sees Kemerer going. I’m still not sure how Kemerer kept it to just a decision in the Penn State dual, and think it would take a Herculean effort to knock him off in the finals. The homer in me, however…
165 — Joey Gunther, No. 5
For all the Alex Marinelli talk this year, Gunther quietly had himself a decent redshirt freshman campaign. He finished with a 17-6 record, won 3 of his last 5 bouts, and was a takedown in overtime away from making that 4 of 5 with a win over a top-5 opponent. The hiccup against Edinboro in the National Duals could’ve been avoided, but I see Gunther’s best wrestling as still ahead of him. Whether that’s this weekend or next year at lord knows what weight, we’ll find out.
Gunther’s 6-4 against the field, and will draw Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, who beat him 7-4 this season, in the first round. If he pulls a rabbit out of his hat there, All-Everything Isaiah Martinez of Illinois looms. That’d probably be not fun for Hawkeye fans to watch.
Which brings us to an important point — wrestlebacks are important! Yes, Penn State’s the heavy favorite going into this tournament and it’s going to take Iowa knocking some Nittany Lions off the front side to win the thing, but a bunch of third-place finishers to go along with a champ or three would wonders for that team score. Let’s hope everyone stays in the green until the end, but if they don’t, well, you get the point.
174 — Alex Meyer, No. 5
Meyer will get his second shot of the year at Michigan’s Miles Anime, whom he dropped a tight 6-5 decision to this year. If there’s one Hawkeye I’m taking to finish above his seed, it’s Meyer. This weight isn’t as ridiculously talented as it was a year ago, and would you look at that, Meyer picked up three bonus-point victories in his current five-match winning streak to finish the year.
The seeding might get shaken up a bit here — I’m not convinced Mark Hall will stick at the No. 2 spot — which could affect who Meyer faces if he defeats No. 1 Bo Jordan or, more likely, on the backside. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, or something.
Anyways, Meyer seems to be wrestling at the highest level of his career, and could sneak his way into a third-place match if he’s unable to complete the unenviable task of defeating Jordan. If Iowa’s going to be competitive in the team race, this guy’s going to have to put in some work.
184 — Sammy Brooks, No. 2
Let’s get this out there right now, Brooks *earned* his way to the two seed in this tournament. This is the deepest weight class in the Big Ten, if not the nation, and the senior did a damn fine job all year, compiling a 25-4 record with his only conference loss coming at the hands of Bo Jordan.
He’ll likely get Nick Gravina (2-0 against), followed by a rubber match with Indiana’s Nate Jackson assuming he advances. They split a pair of bouts at the 2016 Midlands, with Brooks getting the second match to take third at that tournament. What should be longer than a 38-second rematch with Bo Nickal is the most likely final, for my money.
Nebraska’s T.J. Dudley is a wildcard in this bracket, and oh yeah, Myles Martin’s pretty damn good too. All eyes are going to be on 184 this weekend, let’s hope Sammy’s right up there at the top. If he’s not, well, at least he’ll get another shot in a few weeks at NCAAs — but it’d be great to send him off as a two-time Big Ten champ.
197 — Cash Wilcke, No. 7
Wilcke will face No. 2 Kollin Moore of Ohio State to start things off. Moore majored him in the dual earlier this year, and I don’t expect anything different here. Win some in the consols, how ‘bout it, Cash?
How To Watch, Follow, Stream
TV/Stream: Sessions I-III: BTN Plus. Session IV: BTN
Radio: KXIC 800, Hawkeye Radio Network
Follow: @IowaWrLive, @Hawks_Wrestling, @Andy_Hamilton, @kjpilcher, @IAwrestle, @cuellarchris, @RossWB, @rossbcheck, @DI_Sports_Desk, and, as always, @BHGP.