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 The Big 12 Conference
Where: Bok Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
When: Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4, 2018
Watch: FloWrestling ($)
Brackets: Link

UNI and Iowa State will both travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Big 12 conference tournament this weekend. For Iowa State, this is old hat, but it’s new territory for the Panthers. With UNI and Fresno State joining the conference this past off season, the Big 12 tournament will once again host twelve teams.

The pre-seeds (and brackets, apparently) came out earlier this week. Those may change, but according to NDSU assistant coach Jarrod Garnett, that will be pretty tough. The seeding meeting is Friday, so we’ll pass along any changes, if there are any, then.

As far as the team race goes, Oklahoma State will look to win their sixth straight Big 12 Tournament. The Cowboys biggest compeition will probably come from South Dakota State and UNI, but I’m not sure that either of those teams has the overall squad to challenge OSU for the top spot.

Below we preview each weight for both in-state schools, and we give you an overall look at each weight. Oh and I’ll be in Tulsa, along with our great photographer Cam Kramer, for all the Big 12 action so be sure to check back throughout the weekend for updates.

125 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 7 – Paul Bianchi (North Dakota State), Christian Moody (Oklahoma), Nicholas Piccininni (Oklahoma State), Connor Brown (South Dakota State), Jay Schwarm (UNI), Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley), Zeke Moisey (West Virginia)

1. Nick Piccininni (OSU)
2. Taylor LaMont (UVU)
3. Zeke Mosiey (WVU)
4. Christian Moody (OU)
5. Connor Brown (SDSU)
6. Jay Schwarm (UNI)
7. Paul Bianchi (NDSU)
8. Drake Foster (UW)
9. Sinjin Briggs (ISU)
10. Sean Williams (FSU)
11. Tony DeCesare (AFA)
12. Sean Cannon (UNC)

One other thing that Garnett shined some light on was that the coaches only vote on the top 8 seeds, while the last four are drawn in. This completely explains how Sinjin Briggs was given the 9th seed. Briggs has only one win on the year, and it is, of course, very admirable what he is doing for his team, but I don’t see him getting a 2nd win on the year in Tulsa.

Jay Schwarm, on the other hand, has a much higher chance of punching his way to his first NCAA tournament. Schwarm is the first of three Panthers to have a “preliminary” match, where he’ll be heavily favored against one of those drawn-in wrestlers. If the seedings hold up he’ll get West Virginia’s Zeke Mosiey in the quarterfinals, which could be the most scramble-est match of all time. If Schwarm gets through that he’ll probably get Utah Valley’s Taylor LaMont, a completely winnable match for the Panther to make the finals.

I feel like Schwarm is going to make the NCAA tournament, even if he does fall to Mosiey. I also feel like it’s fortunate for him to avoid Oklahoma’s Christian Moody, whom Schwarm has lost to twice in the last two years. Even if, somehow, Schwarm should not qualify he would be in a great place for an at-large seed. I think he can place as high as 2nd (I don’t feel like he can get past Piccininni) but could also get as low as his pre-seed.

The Big 12 doesn’t have the top horses at 125 pounds, but Piccininni and Mosiey are returning All-Americans, and LaMont and Brown are both really good freshman. The top six at this weight are solid, top-20 wrestlers, and I only see the 7th spot as the one up for grabs between the bottom five.

133 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 5 – Rico Montoya (Northern Colorado), Cam Sykora (North Dakota State), Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State), Seth Gross (South Dakota State), Montorie Bridges (Wyoming)

1. Seth Gross (SDSU)
2. Montorie Bridges (UW)
3. Kaid Brock (OSU)
4. Rico Montoya (UNC)
5. Matt Schmitt (WVU)
6. Cam Sykora (NDSU)
7. Jake Rubio (OU)
8. Isaac Jiminez (AFA)
9. Jack Wagner (UNI)
10. Durbin Lloren (UVU)
11. Markus Simmons (ISU) 
12. Trevor Williams (FSU)

This is an unfortunate weight for the in-state schools. Neither man here earned an allocation or a seed, putting them in the bottom four. Starting with Jack Wagner, the Panther hasn’t been afraid of going after anybody this season. The slightly-slim Wagner has put himself in some good positions this season, especially during the first period of matches, but just hasn’t been able to finish on those opportunities and hasn’t put a whole match together.

If Wagner can get by his first opponent, which would be Isaac Jiminez based on the pre-seeds, he would see NCAA runner-up Seth Gross, and that’s a mountain that’s too big to climb. If, IF, Wagner gets a few breaks in more than one match he might make the fifth place match with a chance to qualify, but I don’t see him getting that close.

As for Markus Simmons falling in the 10-11 seed range isn’t the worst thing ever. He would avoid Gross until the final, and if he could flip a close 6-2 loss against Kaid Brock he would be one win away from securing his spot in the NCAA tournament. However Simmons is pretty hot and cold this season, so he could go 0-2 on the weekend and be done.

Gross is pretty far and away the best man at 133 in the conference. I expect it to go mostly to see, with maybe Jake rubio as an outside chance of getting an allocation. Look for Cam Sykora to place in the top five as well, as he did earn the allocation.

141 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 3 – Dean Heil (Oklahoma State), Josh Alber (UNI), Bryce Meredith (Wyoming)

1. Bryce Meredith (UW)
2. Dean Heil (OSU)
3. Josh Alber (UNI)
4. Ian Parker (ISU) 
5. Henry Pohlmeyer (SDSU)
6. Alec Opsal (AFA)
7. Christian Monserrat (WVU)
8. Matt Findlay (UVU)
9. Ben Polkowske (UNC)
10. McGwire Midkiff (NDSU)
11. Mike Longo (OU)
12. Chris De Loza (FSU)

141 pounds ties for the lowest allocations in the conference with 157 and heavyweight this season. With only three spots available here both Josh Alber and Ian Parker will need to either upset the two-time defending NCAA champion, or the current number one wrestler at 141 pounds to guarantee their spot in Cleveland. Barring that the two are set to meet in the third place match, with the winner earning the final allocation.

That match was supposed to have happened a couple of weeks ago, when the Cyclones came to Cedar Falls for the dual against the Panthers. Parker was sidelined for a while though with a knee injury, and ISU, having no other options at 141 pounds, forfeited the weight.

Alber has yet to wrestle for a conference championship, earning third last season and not placing the year before. Alber needs to avoid the early upset; he dropped a match against Buffalo’s Bryan Lantry last season at the MAC championship to fall to the backside of the bracket. Now a loss to Heil or Meredith wouldn’t be considered an upset, but a quarterfinal loss to either McGwire Midkiff or Alec Opsal would.

I’m putting off making a judgement about Parker until I see him wrestle again in the Big 12, because his last match out – against Iowa’s Vince Turk, a 13-5 loss – might have been an aberration. If he returns to the form that he was before his absence, the form that saw him defeat Heil 3-1, then he should give Meredith all he can handle.

149 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 5 – Khristian Olivas (Fresno State), Jarrett Degen (Iowa State), Kyle Gliva (North Dakota State), Boo Lewallen (Oklahoma State), Max Thomsen (UNI)

1. Max Thomsen (UNI)

2. Boo Lewallen (OSU)
3. Khristian Olivas (FSU)
4. Jarrett Degen (ISU)
5. Sam Turner (UW)
6. Davion Jeffries (OU)
7. Kyle Gliva (NDSU)
8. Dane Robbins (AFA)
9. Kyler Rea (WVU)
10. Matthew Ontiveros (UVU)
11. Jimmy Fate (UNC)
12. Colten Carlson (SDSU)

141 pounds is the first of three weights where UNI has the top seed. Max Thomsen has a had a good year, not the great year that some (cough me cough) were expecting, but still a solid year. He’s mostly won the matches he was “supposed” to, but had a more than a couple of real close losses that keep him on the outside of the top tier of guys nationally at 149 pounds. I don’t expect him to have any trouble with his quarterfinal match though and I think he’s (obviously, based on his seed) the favorite to win the conference title.

One of the keys for Thomsen to winning though will be to wrestle complete matches. If he takes even 15 seconds off he could lose a match. That happened against Missouri’s Grant Leeth, where Thomsen dropped a 4-3 decision in the last 5 seconds of the match.

Jarrett Degen is in a semi-simliar position in that he’s had quite a few close losses this season, including one to Thomsen at the ISU-UNI dual meet, and both the other men seeded above him. Degen is kind of a weird 149 pounder – he’s very lanky – and that can cause problems for opponents.

Here’s another weight where I expect things to go about as seeded. Oklahoma’s Davion Jeffries should not be slept on to snag an allocation though, and I think Dane Robbins has the potential to surprise people.

157 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 3 – Clayton Ream (North Dakota State), Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State), Archie Colgan (Wyoming)

1. Clay Ream (NDSU)
2. Archie Colgan (UW)
3. Luke Zilverberg (SDSU)
4. Jonce Blaylock (OSU)
5. Logan Ryan (UNI)
6. Chase Straw (ISU)
7. Justin Thomas (OU)
8. Alex Mossing (AFA)
9. Zachary Moore (WVU)
10. Greg Gaxiola (FSU)
11. Tyler Kinn (UNC)
12. Raider Lofthouse (UVU)

This is the weight where I think the UNI wrestler has the best chance to steal a spot. Logan Ryan has been improving each match at 157 pounds for the Panthers, and the way the seeds shook out he avoids the wrestler he had the toughest time with – South Dakota State’s Luke Zilverberg. If this weight had one more allocation I would definitely put Ryan in the running to snag one, but the potential rematch with Zilverberg in the 3rd place match makes me hesitant, and he would have to get by Jonce Blaylock as well.

I don’t know anything about Iowa State’s 157 guy.

[Editor’s Note: Straw’s 2017-18 record is a pretty good summation of the type of wrestler he is. Sitting at 14-13, he comes in just over the .500 mark and is sitting three spots back from stealing a qualifying spot. Outside of top seed Clay Ream of North Dakota State, Straw has had close matches with every wrestler currently sitting in front of him including his 4-3 upset over Wyoming’s Archie Colgan. Overall, like UNI’s Ryan, Straw is probably in one of the better situations to steal a spot for the Cyclones. – Ross] 

This is another weak weight for the conference nationally. Clay Ream is top-ranked man in the Big 12, but he’s only 9th nationally. There’s a log jam there, as Ream, Colgan at 10th, and Luke Zilverberg at 11th are bunched together and all three are seniors looking to qualify for the final time. There’s not a lot separating those three guys, but I’ll take Colgan over Ream in the finals, and Zilverberg getting that third spot.

165 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 6 – Keilan Torres (Northern Colorado), Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State), Dawaylon Barnes (Oklahoma), Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State), Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley), Branson Ashworth (Wyoming)

1. Branson Ashworth (UW)
2. Chandler Rogers (OSU)
3. Demetrius Romero (UVU)
4. Andrew Fogarty (NDSU)
5. Keilan Torres (UNC)
6. Dawaylon Barnes (OU)
7. Alex Lopouchanski (AFA)
8. Nick Kiussis (WVU)
9. Skyler St. John (ISU)
10. Isaiah Patton (UNI)
11. Logan Peterson (SDSU)

This is a weight where the final four (well, final three, since Fresno doesn’t have a 165 pounder) draw in really doesn’t make sense, as UNI’s Isaiah Patton should be the final seed, as he lost to Logan Peterson in the UNI-SDSU dual earlier this season. But it really doesn’t matter too much.

As it sits Patton will have an extremely tough time getting anywhere in this one. He’s just 10-13 on the year splitting time filling in for the redshirted Bryce Steiert with Dan Kelly. Though the conference did earn 6 allocations, so if he can string two wins together this weekend he won’t be out of the running.

The Cyclones will roll with junior Skyler St. John, despite getting a strong showing from Brady Jennings late in the season. Although Jennings owns a win over #4 Andrew Fogarty, St. John earned the spot through a wrestle off. Based off of his coach’s comments St. John is doing a lot better physically and mentally heading into the postseason, but like Patton St. John has his work cut out this weekend.

One of the deepest weights in the conference, the top of 165 pounds doesn’t exactly strike fear into the nationally-ranked top 10. Chandler Rogers is the highest ranked nationally, coming in at 7th, while Wyoming’s Branson Ashworth comes in at 13, despite owning the head-to-head win over Rogers earlier this season. No other Big 12 wrestler is ranked in The Open Mat’s top 20. So while the weight has 6 allocations, the majority of those who earned them are just on the outside of the top 20. Maybe that evens the playing field a little bit and allows for a chaotic weight? We’ll see.

174 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 5 – Yoanse Mejias (Oklahoma), Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State), David Kocer (South Dakota State), Taylor Lujan (UNI), Kimball Bastian (Utah Valley)

1. Taylor Lujan (UNI) 

2. Yoanse Mejias (OU)
3. David Kocer (SDSU)
4. Jacobe Smith (OSU)
5. Kimball Bastian (UVU)
6. Kyle Pope (UW)
7. Michael Billingsley (AFA)
8. Parker VonEgidy (WVU)
9. Dylan Urbach (NDSU)
10. Seth Bogulski (UNC)
11. Dominic Kincaid (FSU)
12. Danny Bush (ISU) 

This could be the most exciting weight for Panther fans as Taylor Lujan gets the number one seed after going undefeated in conference wrestling. But there’s one big caveat: Lujan hasn’t wrestled the 2nd or 4th seed this season. When the Panthers were down in Stillwater Lujan wrestled Cowboy backup Hestin Lamons, and similarly when UNI wrestled Oklahoma the Sooners put out backup Jeremy Thomas. Starter Yoanse Mejias wrestled the day before and the day after the dual, but was said to have been nursing an injury.

So we’ll see if Lujan can get it done against wrestlers who he hasn’t gotten his hands on before. This can work to Lujan’s advantage too, as he’s an extremely funky wrestler and can very nearly get out of any situation you throw at him. One thing that I would like to see from Lujan is to not let up off the gas when he has an opponent on the ropes. If he does see Mejias in the final, you can expect that to be a close match; Mejias has had just two matches he’s wrestled this year decided by bonus points, and he’s 1-1 in those matches.

Danny Bush got drawn into the 12th seed, and it’s hard to see a path to an allocation for him, unless he can somehow get both Parker VonEgidy (side note, I can’t decide if that’s a great last name or the greatest last name) and Dylan Urbach in the wrestlebacks, as he has defeated both those wrestlers this season.

The top four are pretty solid at this weight, and I would hope to see them all in the All-American battles at the NCAA tournament in Cleveland. Look for Kyle Pope to steal a spot here too.

184 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 4 – Dylan Gabel (Northern Colorado), Keegan Moore (Oklahoma State), Martin Mueller (South Dakota State), Drew Foster (UNI)

1. Drew Foster (UNI) 

2. Martin Mueller (SDSU)
3. Dylan Gabel (UNC)
4. Keegan Moore (OSU)
5. Chaz Polson (UW)
6. Gary Jantzer (WVU)
7.  Dane Pestano (ISU)
8. Zen Ikehara (AFA)
9. Brenden McRill (WVU)
10. Tyler McNutt (NDSU)
11. Richie Brandt (FSU)
12. Matthew Waddell (OU)

I do kind of think it’s odd that two of the UNI #1 pre-seeds see Oklahoma State wrestlers as the four seed. I’m not claiming conspiracy or anything, I just think it’s odd. Anyway, Drew Foster comes in as the number one pre-seed here, after going undefeated against Big 12 competition all season. Foster has improved a lot throughout the season, and he hasn’t dropped a match since losing to Bo Nickal in the finals of the Southern Scuffle back in January.

For me the biggest question is whether or not Foster can repeat the wins he’s gotten so far. The returning All-American has had a target on his back all season, but now as the top seed that target will be even bigger. He’s set to face Keegan Moore in the semifinal and Martin Mueller in the finals, after having defeated both in the last month and a half. I think Moore has a lot of upside though, and it would not surprise me at all to see Moore give Foster all he could handle.

After qualifying at this weight as a sophomore, Dane Pestano’s senior campaign has left many wanting more as he enters the conference tournament with the seven seed and needing to jump up three spots to steal a qualifying spot. This season saw Pestano wrestle a lot of close matches, and while it certainly possible for him to reverse some of those narrow losses, his inability to close matches out, or find a way to come from behind this season have been wanting.

197 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 4 – Jacob Seely (Northern Colorado), Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State), Nate Rotert (South Dakota State), Jacob Holschlag (UNI)

1. Preston Weigel (OSU)
2. Nate Rotert (SDSU)
3. Jacob Holschlag (UNI) 
4. Jake Smith (WVU)
5. Sam Colbray (ISU) 
6. Tanner Orndorff (UVU)
7. Jacob Seely (UNC)
8. Anthony McLaughlin (AFA)
9. Andrew Dixon (OU)
10. Cordell Eaton (NDSU)
11. Josh Hokit (FSU)
12. Luke Paine (UW)

UNI’s Jacob Holschlag being the third seed here was maybe a little surprising, as the Panther is just 15-11 coming into the conference tournament. Sam Colbray’s win over Jake Smith though probably kept Holschlag in the top three, otherwise the Mountaineer and Panther would probably be flipped, leaving Holschlag with a tougher first round matchup.

As it sits though Holschlag will have either the 6 seed Tanner Orndorff or the 11 seed Josh Hokit. Either way Holschlag will be heavily favored in that match as he hasn’t wrestled either of those men before – and that favors the Panther. He’ll have the opportunity to turn a loss from the regular season into a win if he meets Nate Rotert in the semifinals, Holschlag lost 5-1 to the Jackrabbit at the UNI-SDSU dual. That will be a big match, because if he wins he’ll be going to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row, if he loses he’ll have to win one more match, probably against Iowa State’s Sam Colbray, for the right to get wrestle in the third place match.

Almost due to proximity of his seed relative to qualifying spots, Colbray has a very good chance at stealing a spot this weekend to punch his ticket to Cleveland. Overall Colbray’s resume isn’t super impressive, but we did see quite a bit of growth from the freshman over the course of the season. The wrestler sitting directly in front of Colbray is Smith, who he already has the aforementioned win over. Assuming Colbray repeats his performance from the dual against Smith, that should advance him to the semifinals with him only needing to win one of his next two matches to automatically advance.

285 Qualifiers
Auto-bids: 3 – AJ Nevills (Fresno State), Derek White (Oklahoma State), Dustin Dennison (Utah Valley)

1. Derek White (OSU)
2. Marcus Harrington (ISU) 
3. AJ Nevills (FSU)
4. Dustin Dennison (UVU)
5. Dan Stribral (NDSU)
6. Alex Macki (SDSU)
7. Carter Isley (UNI)
8. Sam Eagan (UW)
9. Matt Wagner (AFA)
10. Robert Winters (UNC)
11. Connor Webb (OU)
12. Brandon Ngati (WVU)

Heavyweight stacks up as kind of an odd weight. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Iowa State fight the seeds of either Marcus Harrington or Carter Isley to get them away from each other. Harrington had a solid year but not a great one, going 20-11, and while he never dropped a match that he wasn’t ‘supposed’ to, he never broke through and won a match he wasn’t supposed to either. The issue with wrestling Isley in the quarterfinals is pretty simple, Isley has defeated Harrington 2 out of 3 matches this season, including the two most recent.

Isley has been hot and cold this year, he has a similar record to Harrington (20-10) but has struggled with heavyweights who are bigger than him at times. But like I outlined above, where the bracket doesn’t favor Harrington it did Isley all the favors. He’ll wrestle UNC’s Robert Winters in the first round, and barring a big upset by the Bear, Isley will see Harrington again. With a win there he’ll be in the semifinals and just one win from qualifying for the the NCAA tournament.

Harrington really shook this weight up by defeating both Nevills and Dennison to earn the 2nd pre-seed here. Harrington did not qualify a spot for the Big 12, but on paper is favored to get one. It wouldn’t surprise me to see NDSU’s Dan Stribral to be in the mix as well.

6 thoughts on “Well Hello Tulsa – Big 12 Tournament Preview”
      1. It says that it’s on CFU (Ch. 24, 6:00 PM). Hope that’s right.

  1. Well done. Thanks for taking the time to write that. It’s very helpful.

    I just wish we had different options other than Flo to follow it.

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