Welcome back to part two of our round table discussion on this weekend's National Duals. If you missed part one, click here. Once again, I'm joined by two Friends of the Pants, bscaff from Black Shoe Diaries, and Dan Vest from Land-Grant Holy Land. This time we talk more about the actual teams and wrestlers in action this weekend and make some predictions.
4) Which individual matchups are you most looking forward to seeing over the course of National Duals this weekend?
bscaff: I'm most interested to see if Alan Waters or Jesse Delgado take the mat. Delgado's wrestling with only one arm, and Mizzou's Brian Smith is (in)famous for sitting guys to protect their seed in March. But that could be an outstanding dual. Illinois matches up pretty well with Mizzou, and I wouldn't be shocked if they knocked off the Tigers.
If Illinois pulls the upset, that would make it (most likely) an All Big Ten semi-final, where the only matchup we have not already seen is Ohio State vs. Illinois. Everything else would be a repeat, including all Finals scenarios - which is fine by me, but I could see where some fans might not be completely enthusiastic about that.
So, I'm pulling for both Mizzou and Cornell Saturday morning. I'd get Sammy Brooks vs. Gabe Dean, and Gilman vs. Garrett in one semi. Plus the other would give me Tomasello vs. Waters (maybe), Stieber vs. Mayes (maybe), and Snyder vs. J'Den Cox (maybe). Those would all be a lot of fun (maybe).
Dan: OK, for simplicity's sake, I'm going to assume everyone (except Hunter Stieber) is healthy here. Speaking from a purely Ohio State perspective, there are a handful of really great possibilities. Nathan Tomasello could end up with rematches of close matches against Gilman and Waters, or even a first-ever bout against Jesse Delgado. We'll see Johnni DiJulius taking on Beckman and Clark or Dardanes. There aren't a lot of great matchups for Bo Jordan since he has already convincingly beaten Moore, but I'm excited for a National TV audience to get a chance to see him. If somehow Minnesota gets by Iowa, Dardanes v. Stieber part two should be another barnburner.
The one wrestler I'm really excited to watch this week, though, is Kyle Snyder. He's potentially looking at J'Den Cox in the semifinals and then a rematch with Nathan Burak in the final. Coming off wins over McIntosh and Schiller, Snyder has a ton of momentum and if he could somehow knock off both Cox and Burak, that #1-seed come NCAAs becomes more realistic. Not bad for a true freshman.
Moving outside of my Buckeye bubble, I think I'm most excited to watch the 125-pounders. Is Jesse Delgado truly back? We'll find out in the very first round. Toss in Gilman, Garrett, Waters, and Tomasello and we'll see some great matchups both in the championship and consolation rounds.
Ross: Alan Waters could have one hell of a weekend: he could see #1 Jesse Delgado, #7 Nathan Tomasello, and #5 Thomas Gilman. Hell, if Cornell can rise up and shock the world, he could see #3 Nahshon Garrett instead of Gilman in the finals. Anyway, Delgado-Tomasello-Gilman would likely be a tougher stretch than he'd even see in the NCAA Tournament from the quarterfinals on. Of course, what those matchups offer in rankings is not necessarily what they'll offer in excitement -- all four of those guys have been known to wrestle very... let's just say cagey, for the sake of politeness... matches against top-tier competition.
The matchup I really want to see is #1 Dylan Ness versus #2 Isaiah Martinez at 157, but with Minnesota and Illinois on opposite sides of the bracket, that seems pretty damn unlikely. It looks like we'll have to wait until the Big Ten Tournament final for that one. J'Den Cox versus Kyle Snyder isn't quite a #1 versus #2 matchup (yet?), but it would still be a humdinger and a possible NCAA finals preview -- and it's a match we could actually see, assuming neither Brian Smith nor Tom Ryan rest their guy to protect a seed.
Other than that, I'm just rooting for some fresh matchups, especially for Iowa. The Hawkeyes wrestled a ridiculous gauntlet in the regular season dual meet schedule, so we've already seen them face Minnesota, Ohio State,and Illinois. And with the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments being what they are, more rematches there are likely on tap. Give me Iowa-Cornell and Iowa-Missouri instead, both for pure novelty and to answer some questions about guys. How well can Gilman cope with Nahshon Garrett's quick twitch action and overall speed? How far is Sammy Brooks from being able to topple Gabe Dean? Can Brandon Sorensen add another top-10 scalp (Chris Villalonga) to his collection this year? Can Gilman push the pace enough to wear out Waters? At 141, Lavion Mayes (#5) and Josh Dziewa (#6) could both be crucial unheralded pieces for their team in the quest for a national title -- who's got the upper hand? Rinse and repeat re: Sorensen and more top-10 scalps (#4 Drake Houdashelt). Just how legit is Johnny Eblen's #5 ranking at 174? And so on. Those would be two fun, unpredictable dual meets. Give me that over reheated matchups any day -- especially reheated matchups that don't really mean a thing (outside of seeding).
5) Rate the upset potential for each quarterfinal matchup. Will any of the higher seeds stumble at the first hurdle on Saturday?
bscaff: Illinois over Mizzou (40%), Cornell over Minnesota (5%), Lehigh over Ohio State (1%), and UTC over Iowa (0%). I'll put Mizzou into the semis, 18-17 over Illinois.
Dan: Illinois over Mizzou (33%), Cornell over Minnesota (8%), Lehigh over Ohio State (5%) UTC over Iowa (Is there a number lower than 0%). I think we're in agreement that Illinois has the best shot to pull it off, but I'm not ready to pick them. I think they fall just short.
Ross: I'm surprised y'all are so down on Cornell's potential to upset Minnesota. Maybe I'm overrating the Big Red because I really have no desire to see an Iowa-Minnesota rematch (mainly because I expect to see several Iowa-Minnesota rematches anyway at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments), but I feel like they have a shot at stunning the Gophers. They need big bonus points at the weights where they have significant advantages (125, 149), they need to limit damage at weights where they have unfavorable matchups (133, 141), and they need an upset or two, but... I feel like it's in play. I still think the Gophers win, but I'll give Cornell a 39% shot at the upset.
The only other potential upset is Illinois over Missouri. Barring an outbreak of food poisoning, neither UTC nor Lehigh are upsetting Iowa and Ohio State. I'll set those upset odds at 0.1% and 3%, respectively. Illinois has some interesting matchups against the 'Zou, but they need basically everything to go right to beat the Tigers -- the superfecta of wrestling results, basically. Still if they can win the first three weights (141 would be the only real upset, although on current form #2 Waters looks significantly better than #1 Delgado at 125) and get bonus points from Richards at 133, they could put some pressure on Missouri. They also need I-Mar and Morse to go nuts at 157 and 165... and a Brooks Black upset at heavyweight, wouldn't hurt, either. I'll give them 34% odds of pulling things together for a win.
6) If the seeds hold, we could get a pair of matchups in the semifinals that are both rematches: Iowa knocked off Minnesota earlier this year, 23-12, and Missouri beat Ohio State, 20-19, thanks to a tiebreaker point. How do you see the rematches playing out (assuming we get them) -- will there be different outcomes this time?
bscaff: I still have Iowa over Minnesota, 6 bouts to 4. But Mizzou isn't beating Ohio State a second time. The 165 match goes from a Mizzou win in December, to Ohio State bonus in February.
Dan: I think Iowa is a step above Minnesota as a dual meet team. They beat the Gophers again comfortably. As for Mizzou/OSU, I think the Buckeyes get them this time. Last time a confluence of events occurred to get Missouri that tie. Ohio State was without Bo Jordan and the Buckeyes' backup lost in OT. This weekend, Bo likely gets bonus against Mizzou's 165-pounder. That's at minimum a seven-point swing. Kenny Courts also didn't wrestle in that match and his backup got majored. Let's say Courts still loses, but doesn't get majored. That's another lost point for Mizzou. Then you also had an obviously injured Hunter Stieber get pinned by Drake Houdashelt. If Randy Languis (or Stieber if he somehow gets back ahead of schedule) can keep it to a major, that's two less points for Mizzou. Add that up and it's a ten-point difference. As long as Nick Tavanello is back, and all indications are that he will be, I expect the Buckeyes to take out Mizzou this time around.
Ross: Iowa got a surprise pin from Nick Moore at 165 and a very controversial win from Mike Evans at 174, but if you amend those results, Iowa still wins 17-15. If Thomas Gilman only gets a major decision instead of the spirit-crushing tech fall he inflicted on Lizak up in Minneapolis, then it's only a 16-15 Iowa win. It's hard to see the results of the other matches changing too much -- although I'd give Cory Clark and Nathan Burak slightly better odds of flipping their losses into wins than I would any of the Minnesota guys doing the same (sans Storley). The wildcard might be Dylan Ness -- he almost loss to Mike Kelly up in the Twin Cities, but he's also very capable of sticking Kelly on his back. If he gets a pin, those points could swing things for the Gophers. I think Iowa wins again, although it's closer than the 23-12 scoreline we saw last time.
My initial reaction was that Ohio State would definitely flip their loss against Missouri into a win in the rematch -- after all, OSU lost on a freaking tiebreaker point the first time and they didn't have Bo Jordan in that dual. Jordan's presence alone should be worth a six-point swing (OSU lost in OT without him and he'd be favored to win his match -- and likely get bonus points -- now). But there were other things that went OSU's way in that dual that might not this time. They got six points from a forfeit at 141; Missouri doesn't have a great option to actually run out at that spot and even if they did, Logan Stieber could certainly pin him anyway. But it's not out of the question that Stieber has to settle for "only" a major or a tech fall, either, if he actually has to wrestle. OSU also got a 4-point major decision win at 197; that could be a 7-point swing the other way if #1 J'Den Cox actually wrestles for the Tigers at his natural weight instead of bumping up to heavyweight again. OSU also got a win at 174 in that dual, but Missouri didn't wrestle their guy who's ranked #5 at that weight (John Eblen) against OSU, either. Then there's the toss-up weights like 157 and 184, too -- OSU and Missouri split those weights at the first dual, but the results there could go any direction in the rematch, I think. When you break down this dual weight-by-weight, it's a tough one to predict. I lean OSU because I think having BoJo back is a huge boost and they seem to have a few more studs and a bit better chance to rack up bonus points... but I would also not be surprised one whit if Missouri wins again.
7) Who are the finalists? And who's the last team standing on Sunday?
bscaff: I'll take Ohio State 18, Iowa 15. Unless Iowa wins both 125 and 133. Then I'll take Iowa 18, Ohio State 15.
Dan: I'm going with an all Big-10 final: Iowa and Ohio State. This is going to be another tight dual as the margin between the two teams is razor thin. Iowa won the first meeting 18-14 behind three one-point wins by Thomas Gilman (125), Sam Brooks (184), and Nathan Burak (197). If the Buckeyes turn two of those results around, that's a 12-point swing. But if you look closer, Johnni DiJulius won close over Cory Clark and Josh Demas needed a late takedown to beat Mike Kelly. Then there's the fact that Hunter Stieber wrestled Sorensen tight. Will Randy Languis be able to do the same? There are plenty of swing points out there for Iowa too.
As far as my pick goes, at this point I think that I have to go with Iowa. My reasoning? The two teams wrestled once this season and Iowa won. It was the only time Ohio State had its full lineup all season long, so the injury excuse isn't there like it is with Missouri. The Buckeyes are certainly capable of beating Iowa, and it wouldn't surprise me if they did. However, until they prove it on the mat, I have to go with the Hawkeyes.
Ross: Like I said above, I'm going with Iowa over Minnesota and Ohio State over Missouri in the semifinals. That gives us an Iowa-Ohio State rematch in the finals, which would not be my preferred pairing. My lack of interest in that matchup is mostly the rematch factor -- we've seen it already six weeks ago and, like Iowa-Minnesota matchups, we're probably going to see a few more Iowa-Ohio State showdowns at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. I'd rather see a novel matchup like Iowa-Missouri. But I digress.
Iowa beat Ohio State 18-14 the first time they met, but it's not at all hard to imagine Kyle Snyder reversing his loss to Nathan Burak at 197; do that and the dual turns into a 17-15 win for Ohio State. On the other hand, Cory Clark could also reverse his loss to Jonni DiJulius at 133 and Brandon Sorensen might be able to get bonus points for Iowa at 149 if Hunter Stieber is out of commission this weekend. Kelly-Demas is another toss-up match at 157, too. Ultimately, I like an 18-14 Iowa win again, with Snyder beating Burak, but Iowa getting a win out of Clark or Kelly to balance that out and leave the end result the same.
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Thanks for stopping by, Dan and bscaff. See you again for the Big Ten Tournament.