Before continuing on, actually I guess it doesn’t matter for you rebellious folk, but please check out Part 1 of our preview to get the low down on the lower weights.
165lbs: #2 ALEX MARINELLI (20-0)
The Competition: 9 Allocations
165lbs is one of the deeper weight classes as the B1G is guaranteed to send nine guys to the NCAA’s. Leading the way is #1 Vincenzo Joseph (21-0) who is already a 2x NCAA champ, entering into his 3rd postseason as a junior. Joseph is not unbeatable though. He’s lost six times so far in his career with one of those loses coming to the hands of #2 Alex Marinelli, last year. He’s also had a few close calls this season, beating #4 Isaiah White (16-5) 2-0, Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) 6-5, and needing overtime against #5 Logan Massa (16-4).
Alex Marinelli takes a perfect record into the B1G tournament for the second consecutive year, coming in at 20-0. By my eyes, he looks improved in all three positions and what’s more impressive is he’s avenged his embarrassing loss to Evan Wick in last year’s NCAA’s, twice this year. He beat #2 Wick in the Midlands finals, 4-3 and again in the dual, 6-4 SV1.
We’ve been here before with Marinelli so there’s cause for concern. Last year, he had an epic collapse that saw him lose three times in the Big Ten’s then three more times in the NCAA’s. I’m positive he’s looking to avoid a similar fate and I’m sure he will. He’s wrestling like a man possessed.
He should draw a first-round bye and will see the winner of #7 Martin/#10 Morland in the quarters. Assuming he punches his ticket to the semi’s he’ll once again run into Evan Wick. If he can beat Wick three times in one season, he’ll get another crack at upsetting Joseph. Regardless, whoever wins this weight class will take the #1 seed into the NCAA’s.
174lbs: #10 MITCH BOWMAN (8-5)
The Competition: 8 Allocations
The Bowman Experiment is coming to a close and we’re still not sure what we have. Considering Bowman has only been wrestling at 174lbs since the Midlands in late December, his sample size against B1G competition is lacking. Regardless of it lacking, he’s been struggling down at this weight and has yet to show that he can beat the top tier guys. For what it’s worth, it’s going to take a Herculean effort to get himself into the 8th place match and book a ticket to his 2nd NCAA’s. If he can’t do this, then his season will be done. I can’t see him getting a wild-card berth if he doesn’t find some magic.
Luckily for Bowman, and perhaps 11 other wrestlers, everyone seeded #3 and down have a shot at extending their season past this weekend. #1 Mark Hall (23-0) and #2 Myles Amine (15-2) are the big horses in this tournament and everyone else is battling for the six remaining auto-bids. And it’s a jumbled mess.
Hall is a 2x finalist and NCAA champ and Amine is a 2x AA, claiming 4th his freshman year and 3rd last year. With these two leading the charge, they pretty much have both sides of the bracket locked down and are on a collision course for the finals. FYI, Hall is 3-0 against Amine with all three wins coming by a one-point decision. Amine is right there with him and I’d love to see him knock Hall off at least once in his career.
If the brackets hold up, Bowman is going to face #7 Ryan Christensen (11-6) in the opening round. Christensen has been battling injuries throughout the year, but he is a 3x NCAA qualifier, so Bowman better be ready to go. If Bowman can pull off a win he’ll face Amine. I don’t see that going too well for us, so Bowman’s best bet is getting it done on the backside of the bracket. But, the only way he pulls off any win is if he wrestles smart, weathers his 1st period follies, and finds some offense. I will forever be grateful for Bowman and everything he’s done for this squad, but it’s go time and we need him more than ever.
184lbs: #5 CASH WILCKE (17-4)
The Competition: 8 Allocations
With the departure of Bo Nickal to 197lbs in the preseason, this has become #1 Myles Martin’s year and so far he’s been up to the challenge, running his record to a perfect 17-0. Martin is a 3x AA, 2x finalist, and was a champion in 2016. He is hands down, the favorite to walk through this bracket, though #2 Shakur Rasheed (17-0) will try to upend Martin’s applecart if they meet up in the finals.
As for #5 Cash Wilcke, he draws #12 Brandon Krone in the opening round, who he handled 9-2 in the dual back in mid-January. Once he plows through Krone for the 2nd time, he’ll get the winner of #4 Parker/ #13 Jasenski. Wilcke has already beaten Jasenski twice this year, so it would be the ideal scenario if he pulled through, but I doubt we’ll get that lucky. More than likely, he’ll face Parker, who he lost to, 4-1, in their only previous meeting.
If you remember, Wilcke beat #3 Venz, 5-2, so has the ability and talent to beat elite competition, but that’s if he can get past his own mental block and get to his offense early and often. When he presses the issue, changes his level, and attacks with angles, Wilcke is an incredibly tough out and can hang with anyone late. I don’t see him getting by Martin in the semis, but if he makes it there he’s already done his job and will advance onto the NCAA’s.
197lbs: #3 JACOB WARNER (14-3)
The Competition: 5 Allocations
Similar to Jason Nolf, this is #1 Bo Nickal’s class, and then there’s everybody else. A long ways down. Coming into this year I thought that #2 Kollin Moore stood a chance at ruining Nickal’s bid for his 3rd NCAA title, but it’s going to take a miracle for that to happen because Nickal stuck Moore in 1:38, in their only previous encounter. And made it look easy. Nickal is 22-0 on the season with a 59 match win-streak in tow. What does this mean? It means there’s technically only four allocations left.
#3 Jacob Warner (14-3) is thankfully on the opposite side of the bracket of Nickal, but that also puts him into the direct path of Moore, who is 16-1. That lone loss, of course, is to Nickal-back. Normally, Warner would face the #13 seed, but considering this class isn’t seeded beyond #8, I’m not sure who he will face. Whoever it is, he should prevail and run into #6 Striggow (13-8) in the quarter finals. Even though Warner majored the Michigan product in last year’s Midlands, 11-3, he is certainly no pushover. Despite his 8 losses he’s only lost one time by bonus points, and guess what?, it was a pin to Nickal. This will be no easy match for Warner and he needs to be focused and ready to go. If he advances he will inevitably run into Moore in the semi’s. Moore only has nine losses in his career without a single bad one. If Warner knocks him off, I won’t say it’s a bad loss, but it’ll be arguably be the most surprising. Honestly, I don’t think this happens and Warner wrestles to his seed. Regardless, 3rd place finish will guarantee him a good seed for the NCAA’s.
285lbs: #8 SAM STOLL (8-3)
The Competition: 7 Allocations
- A healthy Sam Stoll would probably be a co-favorite to win this tournament. A healthy Sam Stoll would probably be a #1 or #2 seed and have a first-round bye. Alas, we do not have a healthy Sam Stoll. Instead, we have a very unhealthy Sam Stoll that is just fighting to finish the season and finish his career on his terms. With two busted up knees, no mobility, and an off season that earned him nothing but a bullet, Stoll is limping to the finish line of his career. He was unquestionably, the preseason overall #1, but has flatlined to #8 over the past few weeks. And en route we’ve seen him take three bad losses to #4 Hillger, #7 Jensen, and Derek White (Okie St), that has inexorably decided his low seed.
On the other hand, we have the redshirt-freshman-heavyweight-wrecking-ball, #1 Gable Steveson. In his first full year of competition he’s amassed an otherworldly record of 28-0, including 17 by bonus points. I’m speaking on behalf of all non-Minnesota wrestling fans, when I say, “I pray to the wrestling Gods, that one of these other seven seeded wrestlers hands him his first loss and first dose of humility.”
If he is to take that first loss, the guy that will get the first crack will be, none other, than Sam Stoll. Stoll will more than likely get through his opening matchup against an unknown opponent (at this time) and will immediately bump into the future of this weight class.
This is the young vs the old. The freshman vs the senior. One young lad with glory-lust in his eyes against one old grappler looking for one more shot to go out in a blaze of glory.
Outside of #2 Anthony Cassar (21-1), Stoll has the best chance out of anyone to take down the Gable-Machine. He’s still strong enough on his feet and has far more experience with his Greco background, that if Steveson tries to get cute with him, Stoll could put him on his back.
Do I think this happens? No. I think Stoll loses another close match and more than likely faces another unknown guy on the backside. Either way, he needs to find a couple wins in this tournament to punch his ticket to his 3rd NCAA’s. If he doesn’t, he hasn’t had the kind of season to earn a wild-card berth. Stoll either pulls through here and now or we unfortunately say goodbye to our big man.
We have a legitimate chance at sending ten guys to the NCAA’s for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. Currently, only two of those guys, Bowman and Stoll, are seeded lower than the auto-bids allow, but they each only need two wins to punch their ticket to March Matness. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I think all 10 guys get the job done.
We don’t have anyone seeded #1, so technically we aren’t favored in a single weight, but we have legit contenders in Lee, DeSanto, Marinelli, and I’m going to throw Lugo into the mix as well. This is assuredly Penn State’s tournament to lose, but team wise, if a few things go our way, we have a path to second place. If Lee can claim his first B1G title and we punch a couple more guys into the finals, that’ll put as right there in the mix. But everyone needs to do their jobs, all ten of them. Of course, we want first place and that’ll never change, but considering the adversity we’ve has faced this year, second would be quite an accomplishment.
Once more, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m excited to get this thing under way. There’s going to be some amazing wrestling up and down this tournament with letdowns and upsets, I just hope that we’re on the right side of things. The time for a spark plug has passed, now is the time for execution and grit. Now is the time to make their own fate.
How many do we send to the NCAA’s?
This poll is closed
ALL 10 BABY!!!
So you can get a jump start on your viewing plans, here is the broadcast schedule. Also note, that it will be on Flowrestling.