Wrestling's version of March Madness is set to get underway Thursday in Omaha Nebraska this year. Quick side note next years championships will be in Philadelphia, hopefully Penn State will be fielding a pretty solid squad. Since the Big Tens the wild card bids were announced no Penn State wrestlers got automatic bids, including Adam Lynch, which wasn't too much of a surprise. So Penn State will head to the tournament with just a six man contingent. It's tough to expect a strong finish when you're getting points from only six guys. However, I still think Penn State has a good shot at a top ten finish since all six guys have potential to score some serious points in this tournament.
You can find brackets here. Below I'll detail the seeds and brackets for each Penn State guy. Later in the week I'll post some predictions for each weight class.
125: Unseeded Brad Pataky
I was a little surprised Brad didn't get seeded and I think he probably would have had he won the consolation final against Sanders at the Big Tens, which only makes blowing a 6 point lead harder to swallow. That being said he got seeded in a pretty interesting spot. He gets 9th seed Jarrod Petterson from Oklahoma in the first round. Pataky lost to Petterson 8 6 in a dual early this year. However in that bout Pataky had plenty of time to tie it at then end and somehow thought incorrectly that he was ahead in the bout. I think while it's a tough draw it's a very winnable bout for Pataky. Should he win there he's gets 8th seed Matt Steintragger from central michigan in the 2nd round. As far as I know he and Pataky haven't wrestled this year but one of Steintragger's three loses is to Sanders from Minnesota. It's another match I think Pataky is capable of winning if he wrestles well. A win there and he'll face off with top seed Angel Escobedo that will be the end of Brad's run through the winners bracket. But winning those first two bouts will set him up with a little better road in the consolations toward earning all american honors. It's a tough draw but it's a manageable one.
149: #5 seed Frank Molinaro
Frank got an absolutely fantastic seed, for starters Metcalf is on the other half of the bracket which will be huge for him. He should have no problems in his first match, a win there and he likely faces Mario Mason from Minnesota who he's already beaten convincingly this year. In the quarters his likely opponent is Ruschell from Wisconsin who he's already beaten this year and was beating at the Big Ten's before being caught and pinned. The top seed in the bracket went to Big Ten champ Lance Palmer from Ohio State. I think the chances of Frank beating him are pretty slim although they're better than they would be against Metcalf. All in all I think Frank's in great shape in my opinion he could realistically make it to the semifinals, before dropping into the consolation brackets.
157: #4 seed Cyler Sanderson
This seemed to be another pretty favorable draw for Penn State. Cyler should be favored in his first two bouts setting him up for a potential match up with #5 seed Steve Fittery, a bout I think Cyler is capable of winning. The top seed in the bracket is JP O'Conner from Harvard he beat Cyler 8 2 in a dual at the beginning of the year. That being said I think he's beatable and Cyler definitely has a shot against him. This weight is full of parity so I think there's a good chance you'll see some guys with low seed surprise and make a run here. The good news for Cyler is the guys who have given him a lot of trouble namely Schlatter and Dong are on the other side of the bracket. Schlatter who injury defaulted his way through the Big Ten tournament got the 6th seed.
165: #6 seed Dan Vallimont
I'm looking forward to seeing how this weight class plays it is absolutely loaded. That being said I really like where Dan ended up in the bracket. For one he's on the opposite side of the bracket of Andrew Howe from Wisconsin who has beaten Dan twice this year. But he's still got some work to do he actually lost to his first round opponent earlier this year Epperly beat Dan 4 3 at the Virginia duals. Dan had a terrible weekend at the duals and seems to be wrestling much better now it's a winnable match. A win there sets him up with dangerous PA product Rick Schmelyun that match could be extremely difficult for Dan, and honestly I would label it a toss up. If he gets through that he likely will get 3 seed Nick Marable. As far as I know those two haven't wrestled yet, but Marable would likely be a heavy favorite. However the fact that they haven't met has worked in Dan's favor, in the past people have commented after wrestling Dan for the first time he's much quicker on his feet than he looks. A win there which would be a huge upset would match him up with Jarrod King for the 3rd time this year. King won both the previous matches but Dan was in both matches and should have won the first meeting. I don't really see Dan getting past his quarterfinal match with Marable but he's got a high ceiling at this weight. He could very well end up in the finals.
184 #11 seed Dave Erwin
Dave beat his first round opponent Eric Schmditke 8 3 at the Virginia duals, obviously he'll be the favorite to win that bout. A win there matches him up with Max Askren, Askren has never really impressed me much, he's certainly not as good as his brother. But that's a tough tough match for Erwin. A win there gets him a rematch with Kilgore from Kent St who beat Erwin at the Virginia Duals. In that bout Kilgore came storming out of the gate and nearly blew Erwin out of the gym. Once Erwin got things settled down he came back nicely in that match but it was too little too late. This is another weight where it seems Erwin has the potential to make a big run realistically I don't expect him to get past Askren but he could get as far as the semis where he would likely meet Dergo who he lost to in overtime. He'll need to wrestle much better than he did at the Big Tens but the weight class sets up well for him to make a run. I see him losing to Askren but wrestling back through the consolations to become an all american. This weight class has been the early talk of the tournament as two former All Americans meet in a pig tail bout, when Mike Miller and 10th seed Mike Pucillo face off.
Hwt Unseeded Cameron Wade
Wade got the worst draw of any of the Penn State guys he'll get #3 seed Zach Rey from Lehigh right off the bat. Rey beat Wade 5 2 in the first match of the season. I don't see Wade winning this bout. I think at best for Penn State he'll drop to the consolations and win 1 maybe 2 bouts. Worst case which could very well happen he won't win a bout.
So it's a tough road for Penn State as it is for most teams but the opportunities are there, they've been saying all year they were going to peak for the post season. That didn't happen at the Big Tens if a few guys get hot and make some runs to the semis I think Penn State can finish in the Top Ten. If they manage to just wrestle to seed I still think they'll likely finish in the top 20 around 15th but I think many people Cael included would consider that a disappointment with the caliber of guys that they have wrestling this weekend.