There are 3.6 million blogs on SBNation. Two of them talk college wrestling. BSD teams up with Black Heart Gold Pants to take a passably sane look at the upcoming Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
The first part of this conversation can be found on BHGP.
BSD took Pants honcho and wrestling prognosticator extraordinaire RossWB
to a nice steak dinner and never called him again traded thoughts with BSD on the upcoming Big Ten Wrestling Championships. Below you'll find 165 thru Big Boys. The first half is also found somewhere on BSD and/or BHGP. So, uh, go look for it. After you've read this one, I mean. Hope you enjoy.
1) What did you think of the seeding here?
RossWB: Admittedly, I'm a homer, but I wasn't crazy about Nick Moore getting the 4-seed. For one thing, it means he's staring at a semifinal match with David Taylor, which, uh, sucks. (Hello, wrestlebacks.) But it's another case where schedule inequality is rearing its ugly head. Massa didn't face either Polz or Taylor in duals (although he did see Polz at Midlands) and he was injured (apparently) when Iowa faced Michigan. I know, you wrestle who's on your schedule, but it's still frustrating. And it's only going to get worse with the Big Ten adding more teams -- they really need to look into adding a few more conference dual meets to the schedule.
BSCAFF: Couldn't agree more with adding some conference duals. It's stupid that PSU didn't wrestle Minnesota this year. But as far as seeding, I couldn't be happier that Moore and Yawn are on Taylor's half of the bracket.
2) Can anyone keep it to a decision with Taylor?
RossWB: No. I know Polz kept him to a 13-7 decision earlier this year (sidenote: how did he pull that off?), but I don't see him doing it again if they meet in the finals. Taylor is just too damn good and a level (at least) beyond everyone else at this weight. That said, it would be kind of fun to see him take on the "other" Taylor at this weight, Massa. Massa was another super-hyped phenom and while he's run into a few speedbumps this year, he's had a lot of impressive wins. It would be fun to see the present vs. the future at this weight.
BSCAFF: Dake can, but he's not in this bracket. Polz pulled off the feat when Taylor went too hard for a turn at the end of the 3rd period, and Polz reversed him to his back for 5 points at the buzzer. The bad news for Polz, should they see each other again, is that Taylor wasn't too happy at the end of that match.
3) Other than Taylor trying to tech fall everyone at this weight, what are you most interested in seeing here?
RossWB :Honestly, I want to see who emerges as the second banana to Taylor at this weight. Is it Polz? Is it Massa? And can Moore get up to 3rd at this weight? To do that, he'll probably need to beat either Polz or Massa... but he's going to have to beat guys like that at the NCAA Tournament if he wants to get on the podium there -- no time like the present to start that process.
BSCAFF: I'd like to see more of Massa. I've only managed to catch one match of his, a yawner versus Ohio State's Martin. In that one, Massa looked a lot like 149-Grajales, which is not at all what I expected with Donny Pritzlaf on the Michigan bench now.
1) Any beef with the seeding here?
RossWB: Not really. There are a lot of good wrestlers at this weight but a) most of them wrestled each other and b) most of the results were straightforward. Storley beat everyone. Evans beat everyone but Storley. Kokesh beat everyone but Evans and Storley. And so on.
BSCAFF: I have zero beeves to give. Unlike 149, everyone here met, which makes things simpler.
2) Given the depth of quality at this weight and how close so many of the matches at this weight were, this weight still feels like it might be ripe for an "upset" or two. Who's your upset special at this weight?
RossWB: I'm not sure a 3-seed is exactly a big upset, but I think Kokesh could take this weight. He lost to Evans and Storley, but the Storley match was very close (3-1 in OT). Evans has given him a lot of problems over the last two years, but it's not impossible for him to beat The 'Stache. In their match this year, he was close on several shots; Evans' scrambling ability just carried him to safety. If Kokesh can actually score a few of those takedowns, then he could come out on top in the match.
BSCAFF: I think all of the top 6 are capable of winning the title. Even Blanton. He probably beats Storley at the Barn last month if his takedown doesn't get reversed by the officials. I think Brown takes out Heflin and Storley, but drops the final to the 'Stache. I like Kokesh a lot, but unfortunately for him, he's in the bottom half with Evans, who has been Kokesh cryptonite. Kokryptonesh.
3) How do you feel about your guy at this weight?
RossWB: Pretty good. He's got Munster in the quarters, then probably Kokesh in the semis, and Storley in the finals. He hasn't wrestled Munster before, but he shouldn't have too much difficulty with him. While I think Kokesh could beat him in the semis, I still like Evans' odds in that match -- he just seems to match up very, very well with Kokesh. As far as beating Storley goes... well, that won't be easy, either, but their matches have been achingly close so far -- Evans just needs to be able to finish his shots against Storley.
BSCAFF: Well I just ruined any surprise to this answer. Matt Brown, aka Hulk Hands, has taken down all of these guys (except Evans - don't get me started on that match). If he can avoid the one or two mental lapses that we've seen him have, there's no reason he can't make the final. In other words, I feel pretty good too.
1) Can Steinhaus make it interesting against Ruth?
RossWB: By "interesting" I primarily mean "can Steinhaus prevent Ruth from getting bonus points." And I think the answer to that is yes. Steinhaus is a big, tough dude with some nasty defense. Of course, he's never really faced a dude like Ed Ruth, either, who's so big and so fast he looks like he should probably be playing free safety for PSU. But I think this is just a really intriguing match, too. As best I can tell, they've never wrestled before so it's always interesting to see two highly-ranked guys who've never tangled before.
BSCAFF: 'Interesting' = less than a major? I think so. But I also think it's up to Ruth what the final score is. I'm a big Steinhaus fan - he's got an awesome duckunder that I wish he'd use more often, and he's just a really good, strong, mentally tough, technically precise wrestler. So it's nothing personal. Ed Ruth, aka So Fresh So Clean, just has some freakish gifts.
2) So Lofthouse: good call or bad call?
RossWB: Good call, I guess. The argument for Gambrall is basically that he's done really well at this weight in the past -- but that was two years ago. Since then he hasn't done much at all and this year he's struggled a lot. Since he didn't qualify an NCAA slot at this weight for the Big Ten and since he wouldn't have much hope of getting an at-large bid from the NCAA selection committee, Gambrall would have needed to finish at least 5th in this event. That probably means winning 2, maybe 3 matches. I... don't exactly have faith in him pulling that off. Lofthouse isn't an exciting pick here and I don't think his ceiling is all that high, but he is a safer pick. He should beat the guys he's expected to beat and he probably won't lose in embarrassing fashion to the guys better than him.
BSCAFF: I like Gambrall better than Lofthouse, so I'm glad Brands went with the albino. Tough call, though. I think Gambrall's ceiling is higher than Lofthouse's - but his floor might be lower too. And, as you noted, given that Gambrall doesn't bring an auto qualifier to the bracket like Lofthouse does, the risk doesn't match the reward.
3) What are the odds of any funny business at this weight?
RossWB: Low. There might be a little intrigue in Ruth-Steinhaus, but I'd still give Ruth a 90% shot of winning this weight -- and probably doing it in spectacular fashion. And I'll be equally as shocked if Steinhaus and Ihnen aren't 2nd and 3rd at this weight. It feels like there's a definite drop-off from Ruth to them and from them to everyone else at this weight.
BSCAFF: Ihnen could pull an upset over Steinhaus. He was awfully close in last year's Big Ten final. And don't overlook PA District III's (717 represent) Tony Dallago. Yes, he looks lazy at times. Bored, even. But he's funky enough to catch Ihnen or Steinhaus - both of whom are uber-technical and nearly devoid of funk. And he's got Mark Perry in his corner.
1) The Top 10 at this weight all made the final Coaches Poll. Would you have guessed that from watching the duals this year?
RossWB: I would not, but I think it really just points out the weakness of this weight at a national level. It ain't like the B1G is overflowing with really good 197ers this year. There's Q and Schiller and maybe Gonzalez and... uh... yeah. On the other hand, this gives me hope that the Big Ten guys can do some real damage at this weight at the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks.
BSCAFF: It's astounding. Michigan State's Luke Jones, who split time with McDiarmid, went 1-2 in the Big Ten (and didn't look good doing it), finished 18-8 on the season, ranked #32. This weight brings as many qualifiers - eight - as the loaded 174lbs class. It makes no sense.
2) Wright's the obvious favorite. Who can take him out?
RossWB: Gonzalez fluked his way to a Big Ten title last year mainly because Sonny Yawn got upset in an earlier round. Unless the same thing happens to Q this year (pretty please?), I don't exactly like his repeat hopes. I think Schiller is the only guy who has a realistic shot at upsetting Q, but I don't think he has the offense to do it.
BSCAFF: Campolattano has the athleticism to do it; I just don't know if he has the offense, yet. Gonzalez is athletic as well, and is the returning champ; but he hasn't looked too hot lately. And then there's Goldy's Schiller. Schiller gave Q a good match at the Southern Scuffle, losing by a tight 9-5 score. But I don't see any of them taking him out. Quentin's undefeated, which is unusual. He's been wrestling loose and happy all season long, pinning guys with youth wrestling moves for the heck of it. I hope he keeps it up for his last 10 or so matches.
3) Can Burak make a run, and is it necessary for him to make one for Iowa to win the team title?
RossWB: I guess you'd have to define "make a run." Make the finals? Eh, that's might be a bit too much to hope for out of Burak. Finish above his seed? That seems doable. He's the 6-seed, but I don't think there are five 197ers definitely better than him. I can see him making a nice run in the consolation bracket and finishing 4th or 5th. Of course, to do that he's going to actually have finish some takedowns, which he's struggled with at times this year.
As far as Iowa needing him to make a run... I think you're right. Iowa needs points out of unexpected sources and of all the Iowa guys not seeded to make the finals, he probably has the best shot to throw a monkeywrench in things (other than Ballweg, but a #3 beating a #2 is not exactly a Cinderella story). Moore, Lofthouse, and Telford are all on the same side as the #1 seeds in their respective brackets and any upsets they pull would be legendary (moreso for Moore and Lofthouse than Telford, obviously). It's unlikely that Burak pulls a run like that... but it's also not impossible.
BSCAFF: Burak's on a losing streak - but yes, he could make a run. Nebraska's Kolb wrestles like a heavy. I think Kolb has three takedowns all year long (unconfirmed). Then he'd likely see Gonzalez again. Gonzalez looks ripe for an upset to me. If Burak pulls that one off, then he gets a rubber match with Schiller. Burak got blowed out at National Duals, but he probably should have won their first meeting. And there you go - some good wrestling with a tiny bit of luck, and the Herman Munster of 197-lbers is in the final. And the Hawkeye contingent is probably smiling.
1) So - how happy are you that Nelson and Telford are on the same side of the bracket?
RossWB: I hate it, but I knew it was going to happen. Bobby's been behind the 8-ball ever since he dropped that stupid loss to Capone and was too sick to wrestle at Michigan and Michigan State. He didn't have a chance to wrestle either Medberry or McMullan, but I think with a 7-1 record and his past accomplishments (B1G runner-up last year) he would have bumped one of them for a 2/3 seed and been on the opposite side of the bracket from Tony Nelson and his Spiral Ride of Stalltastic Doom. Maybe this will finally be the match where Bobby figures out how to beat Nelson. (NOTE: not holding my breath.)
BSCAFF: I'm super pleased. First, only one of them can make the final (by my math). That's nice. And it also means I won't have to watch Nelson spiral ride Telford for six and a half minutes as the capstone to a great tournament. We're all winners, in that regard.
2) Most dangerous heavy not named Nelson is.....
RossWB: Brock Lesnar. I mean, can you imagine him F5-ing one of these losers and -- oh. You meant in the Big Ten. Um. Medbery sounds like the real deal, but it's tough for freshmen heavies to make a big impact (I was stunned at what Telford did last year, honestly). I'm gonna go with McMullan from Northwestern. He schooled Medbery (9-3) when they met earlier this year.
BSCAFF: Connor Medberry. Oh sure, he looks fat, slow and plodding like a Badger offensive guard - but he isn't. He's probably more naturally athletic than some of the CrossFit wonders like McClure and Chalfant. The best part about Medberry? He takes leg shots, and converts some of them. That's really cool.
3) Where does your guy finish?
RossWB: I think good ol' Bobert finishes 3rd. I have no confidence in him getting by Nelson in the semis, but I think he bounces back on Sunday and finishes 3rd, just above his seed.
BSCAFF: Seventh seed Jimmy Lawson. I'd like to project a run for him. I'd like to put him in the final, actually. All it takes at this weight is 3-points per match. That's not asking for much. But Jimmy's got a rough rode to hoe, with 2-seed McMullan and 3-seed Medberry to get there. I'm not that much of a homer, though I'll still put Jimmy at 5th or 6th. Wrestling above seed with this group, where there are no easy matches after the prelims, ain't too shabby.
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