After our on-par performance at the Big Ten Conference Tournament we automatically launched eight guys into the NCAA tourney. A day later, Sam Stoll was asked to attend as well. That was a bit of a head scratcher move, but we’re thankful the committee saw it the Hawkeye way.
Now that the entire field was announced, it came down to the committee to seed all 33 wrestlers and get those brackets into our greedy little hands. The committee succeeded and released these coveted documents Wednesday evening and… what the hell? Well that’s a head scratcher too. The 133 and 184 pound brackets, in particular, make me wonder what the committee was drinking mid-week when they threw this together.
The three day tournament kicks off Thursday, March 21 and concludes Saturday, March 23.
ESPN will be covering all one million sessions, including the finals.
Now let’s overreact together.
Quick Reaction: For the most part, this one looks pretty good from top to bottom. After Lee lost for the second time to #1 Sebastian Rivera (NU) we knew he wasn’t going to snag a #2 seed, especially with Nick Piccininni (OKST) going undefeated. But I have to ask, what more does #4 Ronnie Bresser (ORST) have to prove? He’s 30-1 on the year with his lone loss coming to Rivera. It makes me wonder if he shouldn’t jump above Lee for the #3 seed. I think Lee’s major over #6 Sean Russell (Minn) in the semifinals of the B1G’s may have solidified his #3 seed. Either way, Spencer Lee’s 2019 Revenge tour is set up perfectly. If he runs the table, he’ll meet Piccininni in the semis then get his shot at redemption against Rivera in the finals. And that’s exactly what the committee had in mind when they made this.
Quick Reaction: This bracket is an absolute mess. Fix (OKST) came out on top with the #1 seed, as he should, but the NCAA gifting Stevan Micic (Mich) the #2 is beyond questionable, it’s ludicrous. Micic medically forfeited out to SIXTH place in the B1G’s, but what does he get for “ducking”? A #2 seed, of course. Suriano (RUT) can only wrestle who is in front of him, so with Micic forfeiting, Suriano wins the Big Ten, but still comes in below Micic. Hmm.
Now for our boy DeSanto, he comes in at a #7 seed, even though he spent the last month and a half in the top five of the rankings. In the B1G’s he loses a tough rematch with Suriano and drops a bad bout with Lizak (Minn) for 3rd place, who he beat earlier in the year. It’s hard to argue against that other than Luke Pletcher having a lower RPI and getting that forfeit win over Micic to launch him into the finals, thus he gains a #5 seed because of it. Seems like him and Micic were both rewarded when they shouldn’t have been.
Either way, this is a tough draw for DeSanto. After round one he’s going to immediately bump into #10 Roman Bravo-Young, again, in round two. After that, it’s going to set up a huge match with Micic that will see the winner, presumably, against Suriano in the semis.
Quick Reaction: Max Murin received a the #22 seed, well, this is about as favorable as a draw as we could’ve hoped for. Murin will face #11 Tristan Moran (Wisc) in the first round. Both of these guys lost in the quarter finals of the B1G’s, but Moran won his first match on the backside over #6 Mikey Carr (Ill), whereas, Murin lost and faced Carr and beat him as well for 7th. Moran would go on to get pinned by #8 Kanen Storr (Mich) to get sixth place. The point is, Moran is very beatable. If Murin gets passed the opening round he’ll have a rematch with Mikey Carr in R2. Carr seems to be hobbled by injuries at the moment. He was the #1 seed going into the B1G’s and went home 8th. If Murin gets out of R2 alive, he’ll have another rematch with #3 Nick Lee (PSU). He thoroughly beat Murin so I’m inclined to believe he’ll repeat once more, but this should give Max a relatively decent road to the quarterfinals, where he’ll drop and need one more win on the backside to get himself in the All-American talk. He can do it and this is as good of a road as we could’ve asked for.
Oh and back to Carr, how does he get a #6 seed when he lost to both #11 Moran and #16 Chad Red (Neb)? One of life’s many mysteries.
Quick Reaction: Pat Lugo draws a #10 seed, despite coming home in 3rd place in the Big Ten tourney. I guess that shows us how much those early season losses hurt him at the end of the year. The only thing of note is that Lugo beat Kaden Gfeller (OKST), 7-4, in the dual a few weeks back. Gfeller went on a role and won the B12 tourney and earned himself a #7 seed.
Lugo faces #23 Josh Maruca (ASU) in the opening round. The head to head comparison favors Lugo (though he lost to Maruca in 2017) and I’m inclined to believe he gets it done and moves on to face Gfeller in the 2nd round. Considering Lugo has already beaten him this year, I’m also inclined to believe he can do it again. Once into the quarterfinals he gets a shot at #2 Micah Jordan.
For snagging a #10 seed Lugo has a decent path to the quarters, but beyond that it’s nigh-impossible to predict the outcome. He’ll more than likely drop that match and fall into the consolation rounds. Good news is, he’s only one win away from finding the podium.
Quick Reaction: This is a loaded bracket on the top half. Obviously #1 Jason Nolf (PSU) is the top dog and is heavily favored to win. But sitting with him is returning finalist #5 Hayden Hidley (NCST) and 2x All-American, #4 Alec Pantaleo (Mich). Then on the bottom side it’s 2x AA #2 Tyler Berger and everyone else. Which helps #6 Kaleb Young to an extent.
Young draws #27 Dan Reed in the opening round, I’m hoping and praying for bonus points here that’ll send him to meet #11 Ke-Shawn Hayes (OSU). Young majored Hayes in the B1G’s, so there’s a solid chance he can find the W here as well. After that he’ll run into #3 Ryan Deakin. Young has yet to beat Deakin, but this is his opportunity. If he gets by this rematch with Deakin, he’ll have another rematch with Berger. Young is right there with these guys, he can do it. HE CAN DO IT!!! Also, how did Deakin snag a #3 when he lost to #4 Pantaleo, 10-4, in the B1G’s? I don’t know either. And neither do you.
Quick Reaction: After Marinelli’s tear through the B1G’s, and the show he put on in the finals, and the complete destruction over previous #1 Joseph Vincenzo, 9-3, Marinelli IS THE NEW NUMBER 1!!! AGH!!! This is the first time we’ve had a #1 seed since Thomas Gilman took the top spot back in 2017.
Though, Marinelli is going to be tested and tested early on. The top half of this bracket is loaded.
Marinelli will probably face #33 Joe Smith (OKST) in the opening round. Smith is a 2x AA and had been wrestling at 174lbs this season, until OKST decided to shake things up. He took the plunge, and thankfully, he’s been struggling sense. He’s 5-5 over his last ten matches and just squeaked into this tournament with the 33rd seed at his new weight. This could also have huge team race implications! We are battling OKST for 2nd place. If Marinelli gets by him, he’ll face #17 Jonathan Viruet, who he beat in SV1 at the Midlands this season. In the quarters he’ll get #8 Mekhi Lewis, who is 23-2 on the year with one of his losses coming to #7 Isaiah White (Neb). If he gets by Lewis he’ll face #4 Evan Wick for the FOURTH time this season.
This is quite possibly the toughest road I’ve ever seen a #1 potentially face. If he pulls this off they better give The Bull the outstanding wrestler award, without hesitation.
Quick Reaction: Since we didn’t qualify anyone I’ll keep this short and sweet. Who cares? Okay, I’m joking. Kind of. For team race purposes, we need #3 Zahid Valencia (ASU) to start wrestling like the returning NCAA champion he is. I strongly believe he’s the only guy in this field that can knock off #Mark Hall (PSU) in the finals. Other than Zahid, it’d be nice if #2 Lewis (Mizz) would dispatch #7 Jacobe Smith (OKST) in the quarters. The Cowboys are going to be in the hunt with us for 2nd place, so dropping any of their guys into the cons is a welcome gesture of good faith.
Quick Reaction: This is another weight that has people pulling all their hairs out. Anyone’s hairs. All of them. Out.
#2 Shakur Rasheed (PSU) is 18-0 on the season, but forfeited out of the B1G finals to take 2nd place. At this point, it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t ducking #1 Myles Martin (OSU). If he loses he still may be sitting at this same seed, but it sets an awful precedent. Last year, Jason Nolf and our very own Michael Kemerer were raked over the coals after forfeiting out of the same tourney. I just don’t get it. Moving on.
Cash Wilcke earns a #12 seed, which is about right. All year we’ve been saying he’s a round of 12 guy and sure enough, the committee thinks so too. Luckily, for him and us, he has a winnable path into the quarters. Up first he gets #21 Nick Gravina (RUT) who he was supposed to face at the B1G’s, but Gravina forfeited that 5th place match (looks like he was punished, weird, eh?). In the 2nd round he’ll face #5 Maxwell Dean (Corn) who is a returning AA (8th) and the younger brother of former champ, Gabe Dean. This is a pretty even matchup between these two, but if Wilcke finds his offense and wins he’ll get a reshot at #4 Emery Parker (Ill) in the quarters.
Cash has never beaten Parker, but both matches this year have been close. If he can’t beat him he’ll need one more win on the backside to solidify AA status.
Quick Reaction: Warner draws a #5 seed, which is roughly the same ranking he’s had all season. #1 Bo Nickal (PSU) and #2 Kollin Moore (OSU) are obviously the top two guys at this weight, but after that it’s a toss-up for 3rd and Warner is firmly in that mix.
Warner gets #28 Drew Phipps (Buck) in the opening round. This is one of the few matches Iowa can snag bonus points early and we need Warner to deliver. In R2 he’ll get a shot at redemption against #12 Rocco Caywood (Army). Caywood beat Warner, 5-3, at the Midlands, but that was also at the beginning of the year when Warner was struggling with his endurance. I’m telling myself he’s rounded into form and that won’t be an issue for our redshirt freshman this time around.
In the quarterfinals he’ll then bump into #4 Patrick Brucki (Prin), who also beat him in the Midlands last year, 4-2. Brucki has a slightly better RPI and even majored Tanner Sloan at the Midlands, the same Tanner Sloan that teched Warner at the same tournament. This is a hard match to guess, but the winner will face Nickal and inevitably drop to the backside. Similar to a lot of our guys, Warner could fall in the quarters and have to rebound in the cons to find the podium.
Quick Reaction: Previous #1 Gable Steveson throttled Derek White (OKST), 8-2, earlier in the year. Derek White beat Cassar (PSU) 3-2 in the Southern Scuffle tourney, then Cassar went on to beat Steveson in the B1G finals to get first place. This was a three-way round robin with all of them having one loss, but only one guy beat the former #1 ranked wrestler. So who gets the #1 seed you ask? Derek White, duh. Wait, what? Yes, White comes out on top with Cassar at #2 and Steveson falling to #3. As much as I dislike Steveson, this is baffling to me. There isn’t a huge difference between a 2 and 3 seed, but it’s more a badge of honor and somebody got hosed.
So Big Ol’ Sam Stoll backed his way into the tournament and earned an at-large berth. He corralled the #29 seed and promptly takes on #4 Jordan Wood (Leh). If I were Wood, I’d be a bit upset that I have to face a 2x AA in the opening round. But then again so does Marinelli, so I’m going to throw my empathy in the trash. Stoll arguably has the better career wins, so if this were a healthy Stoll I’d say he pulls it off. But he is not healthy and his collapse in the B1G’s is evidence enough that he’s really struggling on the mat.
Ah… with that said, Stoll still has a chance to turn this bracket upside down. He’s still strong enough on his feet that he’s going to make this a low scoring slug fest and if White comes in thinking he’ll roll Stoll, he could find himself counting the lights in Pittsburgh. If Stoll prevails, he’ll get #12 Conan Jennings (NU) in the R2. Stoll is 5-0 lifetime against Jennings. I like our odds. Once into the quarterfinals Stoll will probably draw the redshirt freshman, #5 Mason Parris (Mich). Parris had a rough go at the B1G’s and face-planted into 7th place after receiving the #3 seed. Parris lost a high scoring match to Jennings, then lost again to #17 David Jensen (Neb) a couple rounds later. He’s young and the big lights may have gotten the best of him. So, here’s to hoping it happens again. Wait, how did he get a #5 when he lost to the #12 and #17 in the same tournament? Another one of life’s many mysteries.
It’s entirely possible, but not probable, that Stoll can push himself into the semi’s and face off with #1 Derek White. If Stoll can somehow scrap together three good matches he’s going to AA and that will be a huge lift to this team.
So what did I miss? Probably nothing. Probably everything. What do you folks think? Our Hawks received some favorable draws followed by some controversial ones. I’m cautiously optimistic, especially with Stoll, but I’m going to expect the unexpected, expectedly. There are always big upsets in March, but the goal it making sure there are none on our end. With some hard wrestling and a little bit of luck, we could push nine guys into the quarters. Perhaps with even more good fortune we force five more into the semis. If that happens, what a glorious tournament this will be.