Early projections for Penn State's chances of winning the Big Ten Championship tournament this weekend in Evanston centered around the importance of wrestling to seed. With a top-heavy lineup of five #1 seeds, two unseeded weights, two wrestlers in very tough weights and a huge wildcard of a #8 seed, the pressure was on. We needed a whole lot of status quo, a limited number of disappointments, a few over-achievements and a little help from the 8 other non-contending Big Ten Schools not named Iowa or Minnesota. And, for the most part, we got what we needed. Team Scores after Day 1:
Penn State - 110.5
Iowa - 109
Minnesota - 96.5
Wisconsin - 78.5
Michigan - 67.5
Northwestern - 53
Illinois - 51
Ohio State - 49
Purdue - 44.5
Michigan State - 35
Indiana - 32
As you can see, it's a three-team race and is quite heated. Each of us, Iowa and Minnesota have nine wrestlers who can still score team points. There are a precious 4 team points available to winners of each Finals matches and we've got five who can add those to our team ledger. Iowa has four and Minny has three who can.
Here are tomorrow's Finals matchups, to be aired live on the BTN beginning at 4p, with a weight class recap after the jump.
125: (1) McDonough (Iowa) vs. (2) Precin (NW)
133: (1) Long (PSU) vs. (2) Graff (Wis)
141: (1) Russell (Mich.) vs. (3) Thorn (MN)
149: (1) Molinaro (PSU) vs. (6) Grajales (Mich)
157: (1) Taylor (PSU) vs. (2) St. John (Iowa)
165: (1) Howe (Wisc) vs. (2) Sponnseller (OSU)
174: (1) Ruth (PSU) vs. (2) Fauxhawk Heflin (OSU)
184: (8) Wright (PSU) vs. (2) Steinhaus (MN)
197: (1) Brandvold (Wis) vs. (2) Lofthouse (Iowa)
HWT: (4) Rasing (Iowa) vs. (3) Nelson (MN)
In the five non-PSU finals, I'll be cheering for Precin, Thorn (I think we can probably afford these Minny points and a Russell loss would leave the Wrestler of the Year Award for David Taylor), Howe, Brandvold and Nelson.
So, which of those seeds jumps out at you most? Yeah, given the very special return of fan favorite and recently slumping Quentin Wright, we'll start at 184.
184: Q obviously arrived in Evanston with something to prove, and he came right out the gate proving it by majoring Michigan's Hunter Collins 10-2. Then he followed that up by upending number 1 seed Travis Rutt, who pinned him in our dual a few weeks before, and scoring another 7 team points with the win. He tacked on another 7 in the semifinals by avenging another earlier loss to Illinois' Tony Dallago, 8-5. Another helpful development at this weight was Steinhaus defeating Gambrall and preventing Iowa another 7 team points.
125: Pataky had a weird day. He shot out to 15-0 TF over MSU's Olanowski, then got pwned immediately by Michigan's Boyle. In the consis he did the same: a 17-2 TF, followed by a disappointing 3-2 to 8th seed Kellihar. He's got a rematch with Olanowski for 7th place tomorrow.
133: Long looked shaky in round 1 (had trouble making weight?), but bounced back nicely against Futrell in the semis and is set for a rematch with Graff, who he dominated a few weeks ago. Special thanks to Graff for blocking Ramos from 7 Iowa points in their semi.
141: It must be so weird for a great young talent like Alton to be only the 5th best dude in this wicked weight class, but he keeps giving it a go. He had a bye then hung tough with #4 Kennedy before dropping a 6-2 dec. Kennedy went on to drop another to undefeated Russell in the semis and in the other semi, #3 Thorn came back strong after a wicked 5point move by #2 Marion to move on to the Finals against Russell. So, after scoring a much-needed TF in the consi quarterfinals, he's rewarded with a rematch with Marion, who's likely not to keen to be there himself.
149: Frank did his thing and marched through with a major over Zilverberg, a solid 4-0 decision over Terrazas to setup his match with Grajales, who upset Nadhir in the semis.
157: David Taylor continued his reign of bonus point victories with a pin of pasty Mincy of Minny and yet another major of poor Paul Young of Indy. On the other half of the bracket, Iowa's St. John continued his solid displays and looks ready to accept a fresh beat at the hands of the Magic Man, who one of TOM's announcers hilariously suggested had arrived on his unicorn. I'm actually mostly hoping for a competitive and classy match from both lads and coaches.
165: Vollrath didn't have it in him to upset #1 Howe in round one, getting majored 19-6, but he did pick up an important wrestleback win over #7 Leblanc of Indiana and is now set to face #8 Bialka of NW for 7th place. Also thankfully, Howe continued to look strong and hasn't defaulted like we hoped and at least went on to knock Iowa's Janssen out to the consis. At this weight, this is pure gravy.
174: Ruuuth came out strong with a nice major over MSU's #8 Jacobs in the quarters, but squeaked, squeaked, squeaked by Lofthouse the Younger 3-2 to move on to face the fauxhawk.
184: Did we mention the Quentin Wright Revival? So cool!
197: Ruggear did as expected here and scored zero team points going 0-2
HWT: I was worried about Cameron Wade coming into this tourney and he didn't disappoint! After starting out with a 7-0 win over #8 Kuhar, earning 7, but not 8 team points, he got pwned by Minny's Nelson, who we'll now be cheering for in the finals over Iowa's Rasing, 3-0. Thankfully, Quentin was there to carry Wade's having missed the finals.
Action kicks off at 2p tomorrow for wrestlebacks before the big Finals showdowns at 4p. Good luck tomorrow lads!