MAC Wrestling ChampionshipHere is the second half of IA Wrestle’s MAC tournament preview, starting at 165 pounds through heavyweight. Here’s a link to the first half of our preview, just in case you missed it.

1. Tristan Warner, Old Dominion
2. Cooper Moore, Northern Iowa
3. Harrison Hightower, Ohio
4. Jordan Wohlfert, Central Michigan
5. Mikey England, Missouri
6. Tyler Buckwalter, Kent State
7. Shaun’Qae McMurtry, Northern Illinois
8. Devan Marry, Eastern Michigan

Panther Outlook: Cooper Moore has been on a bit of a mission this year despite an injured right elbow. He’s 18-5 on the year, with all but one of his losses coming to a wrestler currently ranked in front of him. He’s been ranked first in the MAC in every Coaches poll until the last one, after he dropped a 7-4 decision to ODU’s Tristan Warner who is currently the number one man at 165 and has the number one pre-seed for the MAC tournament. While Moore has been wrestling injured most of the year, he only has one bonus point win in a dual, although the point gap as been widening since he took off the brace that helped him deal with his injury. Moore would get Northern Illinois’ Shaun’Qae McMurtry in the opening round, a rematch from a 5-3 dual win that Moore secured. If Moore gets by McMurtry he’ll more than likely face Ohio’s Harrison Hightower, another rematch that Moore one more comfortably in Ohio 7-1. Although Hightower’s first round opponent, Tyler Buckwalter from Kent State, already has win over Hightower this season, a 4-0 decision. However I think that Hightower gets by the first round, and I think Moore wins both rematches and makes it to the final against Warner with little trouble.

The Rest of the MAC: Warner is the class of 165 this year. He chased Moore in the standings all year, but when the Panther didn’t drop any conference matches Warner couldn’t advance. Until they wrestled in the West Gym in the last dual meet of the year and Warner walked away the winner. Despite Warner having the number one seed, I think he has the tougher road to the finals. He has yet to face the 8 seed, Devan Marry from Eastern Michigan, this year and also hasn’t faced the 5 seed in Missouri’s Mikey England. England dropped a 4-2 sudden victory decision to his opening round opponent in Wohlfert, so it’s not a guarantee that he’ll even get past the first round. As I said before, Hightower has lost to Buckwalter this season, and if even if he picks up the first round win, losing to Moore would probably put him in a win-or-go-home match with Wohlfert or England. One man is going to be left out of a guaranteed spot at this weight, and I personally think it’s going to be Wohlfert, although it shouldn’t really matter, because whoever is left out will probably get an at-large bid.

Semifinals: Tristan Warner wins by decision over Mikey England, Cooper Moore wins by decision over Harrison Hightower

Finals: #1 Tristan Warner (Old Dominion) vs #2 Cooper Moore (UNI)

NCAA Qualifiers – 4 at 165: Tristan Waner, Cooper Moore, Harrison Hightower, Mikey England

1. Johnny Eblen, Missouri
2. Cody Walters, Ohio
3. Jordan Ellingwood, Central Michigan
4. Caleb Marsh, Kent State
5. Trace Engelkes, Northern Illinois
6. Austin Coburn, Old Dominion
7. Curt Maas, Northern Iowa
8. Kayne MacCallum, Eastern Michigan

Panther Outlook: Curt Maas is the second of two Panthers with a seven pre-seed, and it will be a tough road for him to qualify. Maas had a good start to the season, going 17-3 through his first twenty matches and sticking to fourth in the MAC coaches rankings through January. Since January 9th however he has only won two matches and dropped seven. Maas has only three wins against MAC opponents, with one of those wins coming against Kent State’s Caleb Marsh, so the potential is there for him to score the upset win. In order to get to the NCAA’s though, he’ll have to upset everybody, starting first with Ohio University’s Cody Walters. Although Walters hasn’t been particularly strong against opponents at or around his weight, he should deliver a loss to Maas. This would more than likely put Maas against Old Dominion’s Austin Coburn, who he just lost to 3-1 in their dual and I think that Maas can turn that loss around to a win. From there he would face the loser of the Eblen/Marsh semifinal, and if it is Marsh Maas may find himself in the third place match, as I said before Maas already has victory over Marsh. There he could see either Ellingwood again or NIU’s Trace Engelkes, and I could see him getting the win on either of them. The problem for Maas is there are a lot of “maybes” in this bracket, and while I could see him placing third, I could also see him dropping his first two matches.

The Rest of the MAC: This is an odd weight for the MAC, as everybody seems to have a win over a top man. The top seed, Johnny Eblen, has not wrestled either of his potential semifinal opponents, Caleb Marsh or Trace Engelkes. I like Marsh to get out of the first round to face Eblen, and then Eblen taking care of business to get to the finals. The bottom half of the bracket could get a little crazy, as the 6 seed, ODU’s Coburn, already has a win over CMU’s 3 seed Jordan Ellingwood. 3-1 in sudden victory, so we could see a a 6-2 matchup in the semifinals. However I see Ellingwood getting the win in the first round, and then falling to Walters in the semis to set up another 1 vs 2 final. There is another big question for Maas: if he doesn’t get an auto bid, will he be an at-large? The MAC gets three auto-bids at 174, and Maas is ranked 29th in the RPI standings. The problem is that Eblen is not ranked in the RPI, essentially bumping up Maas one spot. So if Eblen takes a spot, does that leave Maas out in the cold?

Semifinals: Eblen wins by major decision over Marsh, Walters wins by decision over Ellingwood

Finals: #1 Johnny Eblen (Missouri) vs #2 Cody Walters (Ohio University)

NCAA Qualifiers – 3 at 174: Johnny Eblen, Cody Walters, Caleb Marsh

1. Willie Miklus, Missouri
2. Jack Dechow, Old Dominion
3. Jerald Spohn, Kent State
4. Andrew Romanchik, Ohio
5. Austin Severn, Central Michigan
6. Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa
7. Quinton Rosser, Northern Illinois
8. Mike Curby, Eastern Michigan

Panther Outlook: Cody Caldwell will be the last Panther I preview on the bottom half of a bracket. He comes in as the 6th pre-seed after not having wrestled since February 6th. As a result he hasn’t faced his opening round opponent in #3 Jerald Spohn. Caldwell’s backup at 184, Kyle Lux, beat Spohn in a dual meet early in February, and if Caldwell is getting the nod for the MAC tournament, there must be a feeling from the coaches that Caldwell can do the same. Caldwell comes into the tournament sitting in third in the coaches poll, but that doesn’t necessarily mean success. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Caldwell wrestle, and he’ll have to be on his game to beat the two seed in Jack Dechow from ODU, who beat Lux 4-2 in their dual meet two weeks ago. If Caldwell can get by Dechow though he’ll secure his spot in the NCAA tournament, as the MAC gets two men in at 184.

The Rest of the MAC: Willie Miklus is the best of the class, going undefeated in the conference, including pinning Caldwell in less than 30 seconds. Miklus’ closest conference match came back in November, when he won 9-7 in sudden victory over Dechow. He has yet to face either of his first round or semifinal opponents, so those fresh faces may test him. The 4/5 matchup has two men who haven’t faced off this year either in Andrew Romanchik and Austin Severn. I give the edge here to Romanchik, who has wrestled more matches on the year and is year more experienced than Severn. Dechow faces off against EMU’s Mike Curby, who he beat 4-2 in a dual meet earlier this year. I think Dechow wins again and then beats Caldwell to move to the finals.

Semifinals: Miklus wins by decision over Romanchik, Dechow wins by decision over Caldwell

Finals: #1 Willie Miklus (Missouri) vs #2 Jack Dechow (Old Dominion)

NCAA Qualifiers – 2 at 184: Willie Miklus and Jack Dechow

1. J’Den Cox, Missouri
2. Phil Wellington, Ohio
3. Anthony Abro, Eastern Michigan
4. Basil Minto, Northern Iowa
5. Shawn Scott, Northern Illinois
6. Kevin Beazley, Old Dominion
7. Cole Baxter, Kent State
8. Jackson Lewis, Central Michigan

Panther Outlook: I did not expect UNI’s Basil Minto to be seeded as high as his pre-seed is. At the 4 spot he’ll take on Northern Illinois’ Anthony Abro, an opponent he beat earlier this year 3-2. I would expect him to get the win again at the MAC tournament and move on to the defending National Champion J’Den Cox. Minto and Cox faced earlier this year in a dual meet, with Cox winning by major decision 10-0. Early on in that match Minto was able to hit his customary ankle pick, but was unable to score the takedown on the Tiger. It’s going to be important for Minto, not only in this match, but throughout the tournament, to wrestle a full seven minutes and not take periods off, which is something I’ve noticed he’s done in the past. Either way I don’t see him getting by Cox, but falling to the backside of the bracket. With a quarterfinal win however, Minto will have a trip to the NCAA’s locked up, otherwise if he loses his first match he’ll have to win one on the backside to get there, and if that happens he’d be taking on Central Michigan’s Jackson Lewis, who I expect he would beat again (8-2 the first time). If Minto does fall to Cox, he’ll most likely take on Kent State’s Cole Baxter who he lost to the first time around this year, but I expect him to get the win over him to put him in the third place match, a rematch with NIU’s Scott.

The Rest of the MAC: This is Cox’s weight to lose as far as I can tell. He’s undefeated on the year, defending MAC and NCAA Champion, and number one in the country. The Tiger has looked very good this season, and there’s no reason to think he won’t make the finals. The 2 seed, Ohio’s Phil Wellington, has wins over the other three men in the bottom half of the bracket, although his opening round opponent, Kent State’s Cole Baxter, took him to tie breakers in their match earlier this year. I think Wellington beats Baxter and Abro on his way to meet Cox in the finals.

Semifinals: Cox wins over Minto by major decision, Wellington wins over Abro by decision

Finals: #1 J’Den Cox (Missouri) vs #2 Phil Wellington (Ohio University)

NCAA qualifiers – 6 at 197: J’Den Cox, Phil Wellington, Anthony Abro, Basil Minto, Shawn Scott, Cole Baxter

1. Blaize Cabell, Northern Iowa
2. Devin Mellon, Missouri
3. Mimmo Lytle, Kent State
4. Jake Henderson, Old Dominion
5. Gage Hutchison, Eastern Michigan
6. Adam Robinson, Central Michigan
7. Jesse Webb, Ohio
8. Arthur Bunce, Northern Illinois

Panther Outlook: The Panther’s sole number one pre-seed comes at the last (but not least) weight. Blaize Cabell has been running through his opponents this year, and is the most offensive heavyweight I’ve seen in years. He is undefeated in dual meets this year, and his last loss came early last December. Cabell gets Arthur Bunce from Northern Illinois first, an opponent he beat by tech fall 4 in their dual meet, and I expect him to pick up the win again. I have Cabell facing off against Jake Henderson, from ODU in the semifinals. Henderson sat out the dual against UNI two weeks ago, so this will be his first time going up against Cabell, but I don’t think that will factor into the match. If Cabell can continue hitting his shots, which means taking smart shots, and fending off opponents he’ll be on to the finals.

The Rest of the MAC: Missouri’s Devin Mellon secured the number 2 pre-seed, when he took Cabell to sudden victory; that’s Mellon’s only loss in conference on the year. Mellon will get Jesse Webb in the first round, a match he should come out on top of. And he’ll probably get Kent State’s Mimmo Lytle in the semifinals. Although the two haven’t met yet this year, I would expect Mellon to win and move on to the finals to face Cabell again. Mellon has lost twice to Cabell on the year, will the third time be the charm for the Tiger? On the backside of the bracket I have Lytle dropping a decision to Hutchison in the semifinal, and Henderson beating CMU’s Adam Robinson in the other semi, setting up a quarterfinal rematch.

Semifinals: Blaize Cabell wins by decision over Henderson, Mellon wins by decision over Lytle

Finals: #1 Blaize Cabell (UNI) vs #2 Devin Mellon (Missouri)

NCAA Qualifiers – 4 at 285: Blaize Cabell, Devin Mellon, Jake Henderson, and Gage Hutchison

Overall for UNI I have six total qualifiers for the NCAA tournament: Dylan Peters, Gunnar Wolfensperger, Jarrett Jensen, Cooper Moore, Basil Minto, and Blaize Cabell. Wolfensperger is the only man who has to wrestle better than his seed to make it, while the others need to only wrestle at least to their seed. If all six make it though that will be the second best team effort from the MAC, outside of Missouri. Old Dominion would come in a close third with give qualifiers, but they could easily qualify at 197 as well and make it an even six.

As for the team race, it’s pretty much a race for second right now, as Missouri seems to have a decided advantage with just the pre-seeds announced, but look for UNI and ODU to push Missouri for the top spot.

Have a question about why I feel a certain way about one wrestler or another? Don’t agree with me? Agree with me (I know that this one is unlikely)? Leave a comment below!

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