Listen to Lars and Ross break down the NCAA tournament on the latest episode of Potentially Dangerous:
Returning 2016 All-Americans: #1 Isaiah Martinez, Illinois (1st at 157), #4 Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin (2nd), #6 Daniel Lewis, Missouri (4th), #5 Chad Walsh, Rider (5th at 157)
#11 Bryce Steiert, Sophomore, Northern Iowa – After beginning the season at 157 pounds, Steiert made the jump to 165 to fill the lineup with senior Cooper Moore going down with an injury. Once he moved up Steiert never looked back going 18-4 at the weight (19-4 overall) and earned the #11 seed this weekend. Steiert opens the tournament with Andrew Mendel of Army and should he win it will likely setup a MAC finals rematch with #6 seed Daniel Lewis of Missouri. In their two meetings this season Steiert won in the dual pinning Lewis, and at the MAC championships it was Lewis who came out on top 7-5. Not to overstate the obvious, but Steiert is going to need a high quality win if he wants to reach the podium and downing Lewis to punch his ticket to the quarterfinals will be his first opportunity. If not will need to make a backside run and if things go to chalk (which they rarely do) he would need to beat one of Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) or Dylan Cotrell (West Virginia). Steiert does own a win at 157 pounds over Cotrell from a year ago.
US Joey Gunther, Freshman, Iowa – Gunther heads to his first NCAA tournament picking up a wildcard after failing to finish top five at the Big Ten tournament. He enters unseeded and has a very winnable match with #13 seed Brandon Womack of Cornell in the first round. Womack has had a solid season going 32-8, and given Gunther’s ability to hang around in a match with everyone not named Isaiah Martinez or Logan Massa, he will have a chance to get his first win at nationals. A victory will advance him to likely face Wisconsin’s #4 seed Isaac Jordan, who beat Gunther 3-1 SV in the dual this year. A first round loss will put Gunther behind the proverbial eight ball and his ability to give Iowa any wins will be reduced significantly.
National outlook: All year this weight has belonged to the Big Ten with the top four seeds all hailing from the same conference. Top seeds Isaiah Martinez of Illinois looks to be well on his way to this third national title, despite a promising debut from Michigan’s #2 seed Logan Massa. Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) and Isaac Jordan make for a tough #3/4 seed, with the door starting to creep open below them.
2017 Projected All-Americans
1st: Isaiah Martinez (Illinois)
2nd: Logan Massa (Michigan)
3rd: Isaac Jordan (Wisconsin)
4th: Daniel Lewis (Missouri)
5th: Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)
6th: Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa)
7th: Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
8th: Drew Hughes (Michigan State)
Returning 2016 All-Americans: #3 Bo Jordan, Ohio State (3rd at 165), #4 Zach Epperly, Virginia Tech (3rd), #12 Casey Kent, Pennsylvania (4th), US Lelund Weatherspoon, Iowa State (6th), #11 Alex Meyer, Iowa (8th)
#11 Alex Meyer, Senior, Iowa – Meyer has had a solid season for the Hawkeyes. At 24-7 he defeated some of the best at 174, notably Lelund Weatherspoon from Iowa State, and Penn State’s Mark Hall. Meyer also dropped two matches each to Illinois’ Zac Brunson and Michigan’s Myles Amine, the second of each coming at the Big Ten Championships. His draw this season should work out better than last year’s, although I have him dropping to the backside of the bracket after the second round, falling to Ohio State’s Bo Jordan. Getting past the bloodround I think he’ll fall to Zack Epperly to drop to the seventh place match, but I have him meeting, and defeating, Weatherspoon again in on Saturday morning.. Alex Meyer will have to over perform again this year to become a two-time All American.
#13 Taylor Lujan, Freshman, UNI – Lujan has had a really nice freshman season for the Panthers. Going 27-4 and winning the MAC in his first year as a starter bodes well for the future. Lujan’s draw is tough but manageable; he has the #4 seed Zach Epperly from Virginia Tech in the second round. Lujan nearly upset Epperly in their dual meet match back in November, a 9-7 Epperly win. I think Lujan turns the tables on him this time, and meets Penn State freshman Mark Hall in the quarterfinals Friday morning. I have Lujan dropping a close match, but winning his bloodround match against fellow MAC opponent Trace Engelkes. Lujan’s run ends against Bo Jordan in the consolation semi’s, and he’ll face Hall again in the fifth place match.
#14 Leland Weatherspoon, Senior, Iowa State – Last season Weatherspoon went on a run at the NCAA tournament, coming in unseeded and knocking off the #2 Brian Realbuto in the opening round. This season will be a bit different, as the Cyclone comes in at #14, taking on Stanford’s Peter Galli in the opening round, then most likely facing Bo Jordan in the second. I think that’s where Weatherspoon’s run on the front side this season though. Falling to the backside I think he can win two matches, then gets by Myles Amine in a close one in the bloodround. In a rematch with Taylor Lujan, I think the Panther prevails and Weatherspoon matches up with Meyer in the seventh place match.
National Outlook: With Bo Nickal going to 184 this year that has opened the door for some new blood at the top of 174. Zahid Valencia has burst onto the scene for Arizona State this year, going 33-0 and giving the #2 seed, Brian Realbuto, his only loss on the year. The wildcard is probably Penn State freshman Mark Hall. Hall is 26-3 on the year, running through the Southern Scuffle undefeated and then taking second in the Big Ten Championship. I think Valencia, Hall, Jordan, and Realbuto all make the semifinals, with Valencia and Realbuto making the finals.
2017 Projected All-Americans:
1st: Brian Realbuto (Cornell)
2nd: Zahid Valencia (Arizona State
3rd: Zack Epperly (Virginia Tech)
4th: Bo Jordan (Ohio State)
5th: Mark Hall (Penn State)
6th: Taylor Lujan (UNI)
7th: Alex Meyer (Iowa)
8th: Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State)
Returning 2016 All-Americans: #1 Gabe Dean, Cornell (1st), #6 Myles Martin, Ohio State (1st at 174), #2 Bo Nickal, Penn State (2nd at 174), #7 TJ Dudley, Nebraska (2nd), #4 Nolan Boyd, Oklahoma State (4th), #9 Nate Jackson, Indiana (5th at 174), #3 Sammy Brooks, Iowa (8th)
#3 Sammy Brooks, Senior, Iowa – The Hawkeye comes in on a eight match winning streak which includes capturing the 184 Big Ten Title. Brooks went 24-2 on the season but that won’t be enough for him in his senior year. Brooks’ draw as some worried – Gravina is a tough opponent in the opening round, and if he gets by him Dakota Geer in the second round is no cakewalk either, but then things get a bit more interesting. Brooks could have Myles Martin Friday morning, and then will probably have Bo Nickal in the semifinals Friday night. Everybody remembers what happened the last time these two met, and despite the outcome I really think Brooks can beat Nickal. I couldn’t put the Hawkeye down for the win though, and I have him falling to the backside facing Oklahoma State’s Nolan Boyd in the consolation semifinals, and taking third against Virginia Tech’s Zack Zavatsky.
#12 Drew Foster, Sophomore, Northern Iowa – I don’t think there’s anybody who expected Drew Foster to explode on the scene at 184 this season outside of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Foster went 22-4 this season after going just 13-19 last year at 174. The sophomore earned the #12 seed on the back of a strong Southern Scuffle performance and finishing runner-up in the MAC. He and the conference champ Jack Dechow split matches this season – Dechow won at the tournament but Foster beat him in the dual. Foster has the winner of the pigtail match between Minnesota’s Robert Steveson and Colorado State’s Nick Corba. In the second round he’ll most likely have Zavatsky, where I think the Panther will fall to the backside. Unfortunately, if Foster advances to the bloodround on the backside he’ll most likely have TJ Dudley or Bo Nickal, and I think he’ll fall one match short of becoming an All-American.
National Outlook: Nickal’s jump to 184 is probably the strongest test to the defending two-time NCAA Champion Gabe Dean. Nickal’s only loss on the year came at the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State’s Myles Martin 6-4 but came back and took 3rd. The Nittany Lion wouldn’t see Martin until the semifinals, but I have Brooks getting by the Buckeye though don’t count Martin out. I don’t think Dean gets a real challenge in the top half of his bracket as he gets to the finals easily, but maybe Zavatsky or Nolan Boyd could give him a close match. Martin, Brooks, and Nickal are all fighting for the other finals spot.
2017 Projected All-Americans:
1st: Gabe Dean (Cornell)
2nd: Bo Nickal (Penn State)
3rd: Sammy Brooks (Iowa)
4th: Zack Zavatsky (Virginia Tech)
5th: Myles Martin (Ohio State)
6th: Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State)
7th: TJ Dudley (Nebraska)
8th: Jack Dechow (Old Dominion)
Returning All Americans: #1 J’den Cox, Missouri (1st), Brett Pfarr, Minnesota (3rd), Jared Haught, Virginia Tech (6th), US Brett Harner, Princeton (8th)
US Cash Wilcke, RS Freshman, Iowa – After initially thinking he would be sitting home for the NCAA tournament, Cash Wilcke got a pleasant surprise Wednesday morning. Jake Smith of West Virginia announced he would be pulling out of the tournament due to injury, opening an extra spot after the initial wild cards were drawn in. Wilcke actually pulled a decent draw in #13 Tom Sleigh of Bucknell. The two haven’t faced off this year.Should Wilcke win he will likely draw #4 seed Jared Haught, should he lose he will face the winner of a pig-tail match between Utah Valley’s Tanner Orndorff or Cal State Bakersfield’s Matt Williams.If the Hawks can pick up a few wins from Cash, it would be a great boost for their team aspirations.
US Jacob Holschlag, RS Freshman, UNI – The Union graduate Jacob Holschlag has been a great boost for UNI, qualifying after splitting time with Drew Foster at 184. The Panther freshman is probably a true 174 pounder, but is stuck behind two panther studs in Taylor Lujan and Drew Foster. Holschlag has a relatively tough draw in #8 seedeRyan Wolfe of Rider. Wolfe and Holschlag have not met this year, should Holschlag win he will likely have #9 seed Nathan Rotert of South Dakota State. Should he lose he likely draws North Carolina’s Daniel Chaid. Holschlag hasnt seen much action at 197, so he does not have many common opponents other than within the MAC.
US Marcus Harrington, RS Sophomore, ISU – Harrington has had a tough season, but has came on strong as of late and was a great surprise for the Cyclones at Big 12’s. Harrington was able to take fifth at the conference tournament, becoming the Cyclones only automatic qualifier. Harrington draws in #6 seed Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State. Despite being in the same conference, the two have not met this year. Weigel won the Big 12 tournament last weekend, majoring Nathan Rotert in the finals. Should Harrington win, he will likely wrestle Ben Honis of Cornell.
National Outlook: Senior J’den Cox is looking for his third national title in four years, and it would take a David over Goliath sized upset for Cox to lose. While Cox has had close matches this season, we fully expect him to show up big when the lights are brightest. For those that dont remember, Cox took bronze at this August’s Olympics.The field is deep however though, with battle tested senior Brett Pfarr and freshman phenom Kollin Moore in the field. Cox defeated #4 seed Jared Haught this year 2-0, defeated #2 seed Brett Pfarr by a takedown, and defeated #3 seed Kollin Moore 6-5. Moore and Pfarr are set to have their fourth meeting this year, a series in which Pfarr owes a 2-1 lead. One wrestler I think could outplace his seed is #6 seed Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State. Weigel just steamrolled through Big 12’s and has one of the best top games in the weight class.
2017 Projected All-Americans:
1st, J’den Cox (Missouri)
2nd: Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
3rd: Brett Pfarr (Minnesota)
4th: Jared Haught (Virginia Tech)
5th: Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)
6th: Matt McCutcheon (Penn State)
7th: Aaron Studebaker (Nebraska)
8th: Nathan Rotert (South Dakota State)
Returning All Americans: #1 Kyle Snyder , Ohio State (1st), #3 Ty Walz, Virginia Tech (4th),#8 Michael Kroells (7th), #2 Connor Medberry (4th in 2015)
US Ross Larson, Oklahoma – The Ankeny alum Ross Larson qualifies for his fourth NCAA championship, and draws in #15 Ryan Soloman of Pittsburgh. Should Larson win that match, he will have #2 seed Connor Medbery of Wisconsin. Larson has had a strong season thus far, finishing third at the Big 12 Championship’s. Larson is a quick and athletic heavyweight, and is a matchup problem for many heavyweights with his low level attacks and scramble ability.
National Outlook: If it would take a David over Goliath size upset for J’den Cox to lose; it would take David beating Goliath twice for junior Kyle Snyder to lose. Snyder comes in this year a returning NCAA champion, and an Olympic champion this August. Although Snyder is terrific, he does have some stiff competition. #2 Connor Medbery of Wisconsin has a clear weight advantage, and battled Snyder to an 8-5 loss in the Big 10 finals. Medbery was an All-American in 2015, placing fourth. #3 Ty Walz of Virginia Tech and Medbery had a close overtime bout in November at the Cliff Keen Invite, and I fully anticipate another rematch from these two. #4 Jacob Kasper of Duke came in to this season relatively unknown, but proved himself this year with a big win over Ty Walz and a Southern Scuffle title back in early January. Penn State will look from a boost #5 Nick Nevills, as he looks for his first All-American honors. I see the top five as a step above the rest of the competition, and would be surprised to see any of those wrestlers not place in the top five. I fully expect Snyder to roll, and defeat the winner of Walz-Medbery.
2017 Projected All-Americans:
1st: Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)
2nd: Connor Medbery (Wisconsin)
3rd: Ty Walz (Virginia Tech)
4th: Nick Nevills (Penn State)
5th: Jacob Kasper (Duke)
6th: Austin Schafer (Oklahoma State)
7th: Denzel Djournette (App State)
8th: Tanner Hall (Arizona State)