What: The Greatest Three Days in Wrestling
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, March 15-17, 2018
Watch: ESPN – See below for the full TV schedule, all mats/matches streaming on ESPN3
Now this should be interesting, as the Penn State parade of national champions is over and Ohio State isn’t around here.
Wait, what’s that? Bo Nickal is still in the tournament? Are you sure? Oh and Myles Martin is the 2 seed?
Well, that about sums up the weight here. Over the last two seasons Nickal has only lost to Martin, and this season Martin has only lost to Nickal, so it seems inevitable that they meet in the finals this season. Though there are some wildcards in there, namely in Michigan’s Domenic Abounader (lost to Nickal, only 5-2, and Martin only 5-3) and Ryan Preisch (lost to Nickal 3-2 in December). Other than that Pete Renda has looked good for NC State, but he did lose to Martin 8-1 in the OSU/NC State dual.
UNI – #8 Drew Foster
First Round Opponent: Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State)
Next Round: #9 Max Dean (Cornell)/Dylan Gabel (Northern Colorado)
Drew Foster joins Josh Alber, Max Thomsen, and Jay Schwarm as UNI wrestlers in line to face the #1 seed at their respective weights pretty early in the tournament. Foster has Arizona State’s Kordell Norfleet in the first round, a rematch from their team’s dual meet back in January. Foster was a winner by major, 9-1, and there’s not a real reason to think this match would be flipped in such a short amount of time, especially with Foster riding a 15 match win streak and coming off a Big 12 Championship.
Foster’s second round match would be a little more interesting with Max Dean getting the nine seed. The pair have wrestled twice this season, splitting their matches with Dean winning the first 9-7 and Foster winning the second at the Southern Scuffle 9-5. The winner here gets to face the aforementioned undefeated number one seed Nickal, but would have a much shorter path to becoming an All-American.
I think Foster gets by Dean, which sets up another Southern Scuffle rematch between Foster and Nickal. In that match Foster wasn’t able to get to any offense at all, which would have to change if he wants to flip the result. The junior made a huge stride last year in the NCAA tournament, becoming an All-American when no one thought he would. Could he make another stride this season? I don’t know, but I’m not going to be shocked when he returns next season as a two-time All-American.
Iowa – US Mitch Bowman
First Round Opponent: #15 Canten Marriott (Missouri)
Next Round: #2 Myles Martin (Ohio State)/Bryce Gorman (Northern Illinois)
Mitch Bowman received a bear of a draw, first with the 15 seed in Canten Marriott, then with a win the 2 seed in Martin. After seeing Marriott wrestle recently I think that if good Bowman shows up (the one that beat Keegan Moore in the Oklahoma State dual) I think Bowman can upset the Tiger. If the not-so-good Bowman shows up (like the one that went 1-3 in the Big Ten tournament) then he could be facing a long road on the backside of the bracket.
It’s worth pointing out that both teams in the first match here, the Hawkeyes and Tigers, will be in the running for a team trophy, and both men need to win to help that cause. Whether it’s on the front or the back it’s guys like this that can make the little extra difference in taking home hardware for their squad.
197 pounds is only the second weight where three Iowa-connected wrestlers are in the field, which is exciting for me since it means more typing! But really the best chance for a medal here would be Willie Miklus, followed by Wilcke followed by Holschlag.
The draws here aren’t particularly good, and the weight is fairly top heavy with Ohio State’s Kollin Moore and Cornell’s Ben Darmstadt getting the one-two seeds. Moore has a loss to Penn State’s Anthony Cassar which could prove interesting, if Cassar was in the field. Cael Sanderson went with their other option at 197 pounds in Shakur Rasheed, whom Moore defeated for the Big Ten title two weeks ago.
Looking ahead a little bit, I kind of like the favorites here, with Moore and Darmstadt. I also like the aforementioned Rasheed (because PSU fun) and maybe, maybe Miklus to upset the three seed and make the semifinals.
Missouri – #6 Willie Miklus
First Round Opponent: Jacob Holschlag (Northern Iowa)
Next Round: #11 Corey Griego (Oregon State)/Nathan Traxler (Stanford)
The two-time All-American from Southeast Polk Willie Miklus sees a fairly desirable draw as the 6th seed. Miklus is riding a 10-match win streak, and won his first conference championships two weeks ago at the MAC tournament in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Despite taking an early season loss to Iowa’s redshirt freshman Jacob Warner Miklus has had a solid season, going 22-3 overall, and he wouldn’t see Daniel Chaid until the finals, or Ben Darmstadt until the semifinal, both of whom have wins over the Tiger this year as well.
If everything goes to seed Miklus, if he gets by UNI’s Holschlag again, should see Corey Griego in the second round, and then Jared Haught in the quarterfinals. With a win there securing his place on the medal stand, I have little doubt that he could see Darmstadt in the semifinal and maybe even seeing Miklus wrestle Saturday night.
Iowa – #14 Cash Wilcke
First Round Opponent: Eric Schultz (Nebraska)
Next Round: #3 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech)/Jacob Seely (Northern Colorado)
Cash Wilcke’s draw is a bit unfortunate for Hawkeye fans looking to get a little somethin somethin for potential team points. His first place match is no picnic, going up against Nebraska’s Eric Schultz, but then a potential second round match with the three seed in Jared Haught means that Wilcke could be facing the backside of the bracket sooner rather than later. Schultz and Wilcke have never met, while Haught and Wilke have only met once, at last season’s NCAA tournament with Haught coming away the winner at 4-1.
If Wilcke falls to the backside against Haught that would mean extra matches for Wilcke but wouldn’t mean he’d be out of the running. A match he would be expected to win before seeing (potentially) Griego and then perhaps a rematch with Preston Weigel in the bloodround wouldn’t be out of the question. If Wilcke can flip a result or two from earlier this season he can expect himself to be an All-American.
UNI – US Jacob Holschlag
First Round Opponent: #6 Willie Miklus (Missouri)
Next Round: #11 Corey Griego (Oregon State)/Nathan Traxler (Stanford)
Like I said on Twitter the other day it’s really just bad luck that Jacob Holschlag was drawn against Willie Miklus. Holschlag and Miklus wrestled three weeks ago in the Missouri/UNI dual and saw Miklus win 8-4 over the Panther. Holschlag took fourth at the Big 12 tournament, with a 3-1 sudden victory loss to Nate Rotert in the semifinals that saw a very close takedown not called in Holschlag’s favor that would have won him the match.
Holschlag’s going to need some something different to get by Miklus in the first round this time. In their match a few weeks ago Miklus was unaffected by Holschlag’s ride, which is the main way the Panther scores points. Unable to ride, Holschlag was unable to win, but if he can keep Miklus off his feet he’ll have a chance in this one.
With a win he’ll get either the #11 seeded Corey Griego or Nathan Traxler. With a loss he could see either of them, or the winner of the consolation pig-tail match, Kyle Conel or Randall Diabe. Holschlag has a win against Conel but a loss against Traxler this season and has not seen the other two in competition.
With a first round win or loss, I like Holschlag’s chances of making it until Friday morning. After that it depends on his matchups, but if there’s any hope of him placing in 2018 he’ll have to pull of some major upsets.
You know how the past couple of years the NCAA has messed with the order of the finals in order to get the most compelling matchup of the night last on the docket? Well maybe they won’t have to do that this season as the two comets that are Kyle Snyder and Adam Coon rocket towards the finals at heavyweight. Coon upset Snyder in the their dual meet match last month, with Snyder getting the win back in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament.
And though I don’t see Snyder having any problems making the final, maybe Adam Coon will? Nick Nevills, the three seed, is a tough opponent and will be looking to help Penn State get points any way he can.
But I’m mostly just grasping. If there was a final match I’d stake my house on, it’d be Kyle Snyder vs Adam Coon.
Iowa – #5 Sam Stoll
First Round Opponent: Antonio Pelusi (Franklin & Marshall)
Next Round: #12 Youssif Hemida (Maryland)/Tyler Love (Virginia)
This is the first year that Sam Stoll has gotten through the regular season healthy, though he did miss a match here or there just to make sure he wasn’t taking any unnecessary risks. Stoll ended up with the 5th seed, drawing Franklin & Marshall’s Antonio Pelusi in the first round which should be a win for the Hawkeye.
Something that’s a little bit more intriguing than his open round match is his second round one, where he could meet Maryland’s #12 Youssif Hemida. This would have been one of the better matches during the Maryland/Iowa dual earlier this year, but with the dual firmly in Iowa’s favor (it was 40-0 at the time), head coach Tom Brands decided to forfeit heavyweight rather than risk an injury to Stoll.
Though Stoll and Hemida have since wrestled to a 8-1 Stoll victory in the Big Ten tournament, that match IS more interesting than the Pelusi match that Stoll will have in the first round.
Stoll will have to beat the number four seed in Jacob Kasper from Duke in order to wrestle Snyder in the semifinal match. That should be a good match, and with a win Stoll will guarantee his first All-American honors of his career. Either way I would be shocked if, unless he gets injured, Stoll is kept off the medal stand this year.
Session I: Thursday, March 15; 12 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Session II: Thursday, March 15; 7 p.m. on ESPNU
Session III: Friday, March 16; 11 a.m. on ESPNU
Session IV: Friday, March 16: 8 p.m. on ESPN
Session V: Saturday, March 17: 11 a.m. on ESPNU
Session VI: Saturday, March 17: 8 p.m. on ESPN2