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LET'S TALK WRESTLIN': BHGP and BSD Preview the 2013-2014 Season (Part 2)

We're talking wrestlin'? Yes, we are.

That's an arm bar.
That's an arm bar.

What can you say? It's fun talking wrestling with RossWB and the Black Heart Gold Pants crowd. So we took a look at the wrestling scene for our two squads, as well as the national landscape, weight by weight. Part One, covering 125 thru 157 is over at BHGP. Below is part deux, 165 thru big boy. Let's get to it.

165 LBS

1) Unlike Jesse Delgado (125) and Derek St. John (157), David Taylor isn't the defending NCAA champion at this weight (Kyle Dake says hello!), but he is a three-time NCAA finalist and a former NCAA champion, so his bona fides are pretty well-established at this point. Getting back to the question we asked of Delgado and DSJ, what are the odds of him repeating? (Even though, technically, he's not really repeating; let's just acknowledge that in a universe without Kyle Dake wrestling at 165 last year, David Taylor would be the defending NCAA champion at this weight.)

RB: 100%. I think there are real reasons to question the ability of Delgado and DSJ to repeat; they're very good wrestlers, but they also had good runs (of performance and luck) in the NCAA Tournament on their way to the finals. Taylor, on the other hand, is just in another galaxy compared to the other guys at this weight now that Kyle Dake's one-year run here is over. He's not losing to anyone here.

BS: In the semi-finals last year, VaTech's Pete Yates momentarily knocked Taylor for a loop. It looked like Taylor was concussed, frankly. Taylor took 30 seconds of injury time, and then reversed Yates and pinned him in the 1st. So, I'm not going to even deduct percentages for injury. Well, maybe one, for anti-jinx purposes: 99%

2) There's no point in discussing a dark horse champion at this weight (Not. Gonna. Happen.), so let's phrase it a little differently -- who might be a dark horse contender to make the NCAA finals opposite Taylor (wherein he will lose)?

RB: How about Iowa State's Mike Moreno? I'm a little skeptical of a guy whose season mainly came down to him just getting really hot in the NCAA Tournament and finishing 5th, but he did tech fall Michigan's Taylor Massa and get a decision win over Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell earlier in the season, two guys who figure to be among the top contenders to get pwned by Taylor in the NCAA finals. So there's definitely something there with him. Plus, my other choice would be the man, the myth, the never-seen-until-March legend that is Steven Monk, and that's a bridge too far for me.

BS: Whew. I'm not sure I can divine a reasonable argument for a darkhorse, other than the one you just made (Moreno). Virginia's Sulzer is pretty good - but he gets pwned by Caldwell. Caldwell's slip-up last year versus Moreno aside, I think he's a pretty clear favorite for 2nd place.

3) Nick Moore is the guy here for Iowa, right? Can he make the podium in 2014?

RB: I think Moore is the man here for Iowa, yes. I qualify that because if Mike Kelly isn't going at 149 (and, duh, he's not going at 157 with Derek St. John there), there's a chance he could go back up to 165 (where he wrestled a bit during his redshirt season a few years ago) and challenge Moore for this spot. They were pretty evenly-matched a few years ago and Moore hasn't exactly done much the last few seasons to definitively stake a claim here, so I can't say Moore has this spot on lockdown. But assuming he is the guy, can he make the podium? Man, I hope so. He was one of the stars of Iowa's 2010 recruiting class (#11 overall in d1 college wrestling's rankings) and a 4-time Iowa state champion, but his college results have so far not lived up to that pedigree. And anyone who watched him last year would be hard-pressed to say "Now there's a kid who looks like a future All-American." He has ability, but he's also not very consistent and he tends to struggle against quality opponents at this weight; until he shows evidence of greater consistency AND an ability to beat quality opponents at this weight, I can't feel good about picking him to be an All-American.

BS: I think he does, in that 6 - 8 range. He was a redshirt sophomore (?) last year, but it was his first go-round in the lineup. He didn't really have any horrendous losses. Even his NCAA disappointment came against Moreno and Josh Veltre, the 9-seed. Moore doesn't have the OMG-athleticism or flash, but he's tough. With a little more experience and consistency, I think that's enough to get there.

4) So David Taylor. Yeah. Just how dreamy is he? Is the goal for him not just an undefeated season and Big Ten and NCAA titles, but also getting bonus points in every single match this year? I mean, there's not much else left to challenge him.

BS: He almost achieved that as a sophomore - Brandon Hatchett early in the season when Taylor had the flu (then he tech'ed Hatchett in the finals); and I think one of his two matches with DSJ ended as a regular decision that year. But yeah, pretty dreamy. And if he wins, he's only a 2x champ. How nuts is that? The rumor is he's already committed to the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (along with Ruth) after college ends (he's a Dean's list guy, too, with some stupid 3.9 GPA or some crap, as if we needed that to further emasculate us all).

5) Prediction time -- who are the finalists at this weight at the Big Ten Tournament? Who wins?

RB: Daivd Taylor and It Doesn't Matter, who wrestles for Who Cares University. Taylor is going to become a 4-time Big Ten Champion; the only question is whether or not he can bonus point his way all to the title. As far as who's going to be on the other side of a whupping in the finals... I'd like to say Nick Moore, but I can't say that with any amount of confidence. So give me Michigan's Taylor Massa; he was a hot-shit recruit who had an up-and-down freshman season a year ago, but he did make the R12 at the NCAA Tournament. He might be a top dog at this weight in the future, but for now he's going to have to take his lumps like everyone else.

BS: No more Yawns! There all gone, man. Wooo! Finally. All. freaking. gone. No more Polz or Dongs either, I suppose. So I think it comes down to your guy Moore and Taylor Massa. I don't think they wrestled last year? Massa looked like a true freshman at times (that's science). Flip a coin. But I'm pulling for Moore, because at least he (sort of) wrestled Taylor in the dual. Polz's strategy in the Big Ten final last year was play dead, and it sucked.

6) Prediction time -- who are the finalists at this weight at the NCAA Tournament? Who wins?

RB: David Taylor and It Still Doesn't Matter, who wrestles for I Don't Give A Fuck University. While I think a lot of non-Penn State fans would get a little schadenfreude out of seeing the Golden Boy fail to win an NCAA title again, it's just not going to happen. Kyle Dake is gone, David -- he can't hurt you any more. I suppose, technically, there's always the chance of him getting Bubba'd by someone, too, but... no. It's not going to happen. He's going to win the title here and he's going to score a ton of bonus points in doing it. End of story. But if I have to pick a sacrificial lamb for his championship match slaughter, I'll say Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell, whose defense is strong enough that he can probably (maybe) avoid getting bonused by Taylor in the finals. Which is almost like a win, right?

BS: Yup, Taylor vs. Caldwell. I'm thinking Taylor goes out in style, with bonus. In his last 10 NCAA matches, he has 8 falls, 1 tech fall, and the 1-point loss to Dake. But Tyler Caldwell ain't Kyle Dake.

174 LBS

1) Thanks to Andrew Howe, defending champ Chris Perry is not even the pre-season top dog in his own conference. What odds would you give Chris Perry at repeating as NCAA champion at this weight in 2014?

BEN: Perry, like DSJ, won the title without a takedown last year. Of course, Perry didn’t surrender one, either. Similarly, Howe wasn’t exactly Dr. Offense before the Olympic redshirt season, but dang he’s tough to score on. That fact, along with Storley, Evans, Kokesh, and Brown all capable of beating Perry (and Storley did already) – not much separates the top 6 in my opinion. I’d put it at 17%.

ROSS: On one hand, it’s nice that Howe isn’t in the Big Ten anymore, having traded Wisconsin’s red-and-white for Oklahoma’s red-and-white (sorry, crimson-and-cream), since it’s one less bull for the other B1G bulls at this weight to butt heads with. On the other hand, it kinda sucks because it means we probably won’t see much of Howe until NCAAs (hopefully he’s at the Southern Scuffle or Midlands). And it would be really interesting to see how guys like Perry, Storley, Kokesh, Brown, and Evans all stack up against him. Alas, we’ll have to wait until March to see him against most of those guys (except Perry; they’ll probably be downright sick of one another by March). Anyway, to cut to the chase: I’d give Perry about 10% odds of repeating. He deserves credit because he did win it all last year, but he wrestled so many matches that he could have lost if they’d gone just a hair differently -- and that was without a brute like Howe in the fold here. I know Perry is an excellent scrambler and his defense is sensational, but I still think the odds are far more likely that he gets tripped up at some point this year.

2) Who is your surprise All-American?

BEN: I think the field for AA’s runs out to 15. It’s a crazy deep class. Lee Roy Munster – the most un-Northwestern name of all time – turned heads 2 years ago as a freshman, with his Midlands title. But I’m taking a flyer on Tony Dallago of Illinois, via PA’s District III. Intermat says he’s dropping from 184 to 174, which makes me think he might be interested in wrestling his senior season.

ROSS: I’m gonna keep it in the state of Iowa and go with Iowa State’s Tanner Weatherman. He went 20-9 last year and beat a pair of seeded B1G wrestlers in Michigan’s Dan Yates and Illinois’ Jordan Blanton (the latter in a WILD 16-14 match). Then he got pounded by Matt Brown and his hands o’ stone (13-5) and dropped a R12 match to Ohio’s Cody Walters. I think he makes it a step further this year and sneaks onto the podium.

3) The ‘Stache had a bummer tournament two years ago at 165, and then followed it up with a great year at 174 last season. What’s this year’s expectations?

ROSS: He dropped out of the championship bracket on Friday morning, falling in Yet Another Close Match to Logan Storley (3-2 this time) and after rebounding nicely on Friday evening (8-0 win over Missouri’s Todd Porter and 5-2 win over the aforementioned Walters), things kind of fell apart in the consos on Saturday morning: a 3-2 loss to Kokesh (a guy he’d been undefeated against in the past) and a 2:10 pinfall loss to Ohio State’s Nick Heflin. I believe he suffered an injury at some point along the way (his leg was wrapped up and banged up by Saturday), but honestly that part of the NCAA Tourney is one big, disappointing blur for me. That said, he still finished 6th and given the quality at 174, that’s not too bad.

This year… well, I think the hope is that he can get over the hump against guys like Perry and Storley. He’s done well against Kokesh in the past (last year’s NCAA Tourney notwithstanding) and he’s split his matches with Brown. But he hasn’t been able to beat Storley or Perry yet; the ability to do that is probably the difference between a top-4 finish in March and another bottom-half of the podium showing. I’m optimistic that The ‘Stache gets it down, but time will tell.

4) So Matt Brown made the final before losing to Perry. What’s the forecast for this season?

BEN: Like a well known artist, Brown had three different seasons last year. There was the early season "Hulk Hands" phase, where he pulled on opponent heads until they came off, en route to bonus point victories. There was his January-February "shhhh" period, where he made some inexplicable moves to fall in the rankings (I still don’t know how he didn’t finish that takedown on Evans at Carver…). But he pulled it together in March, winning Big Tens and falling just short in OT vs. Perry – the "redemption" phase. Not bad considering he was only a year removed from his Mormon mission. I’m hoping for a single, "Hulk Hands" phase this year. The guy definitely works hard at it. He carries something stupid like a 3.9 GPA, and is in ROTC to boot. Taking a homer route on this one, I’m penciling him in for a top 4 finish, while secretly believing he can take home 1st.

5) Who are the Big Ten Finalists and Champ?

BEN: Give me Dallago vs. Munster. No, not really, although I suppose that’s not impossible. The top 4 – Kokesh, Storley, Evans, and Brown – are a hair or two above that pair. But they’re also so darn close to each other. I’ll take Kokesh over Storley, and I don’t know why. Kokesh doesn’t wrestle Brown, while the other 3 all wrestle each other at least once. Maybe that’s my reasoning.

ROSS: Man, seeding in this weight could be an absolute bear, since there’s not that much separating Storley, Brown, Kokesh, and Evans. Without knowing how things will shake out on that front, I’m going to put my marker down on Brown and Evans. I think the semis are Brown-Storley and Evans-Kokesh and I think ol’ Hulk-Hands and The ‘Stache come out on top in those clashes this time. As for a winner, allow me to indulge in my homerness again and grab Evans. I think he finally gets a medal.

6) National Finalists and Champ?

BEN: I’d like to see Howe vs. Perry, but not for a final. Finals should be fun, point-scoring affairs, in which legitimate offensive shots are taken. But, I feel like at least one of them makes the final. So give me Howe vs. (homer alert) Matt Brown, but with Howe winning the title in his last go-round.

ROSS: Howe vs. [insert B1G wrestler from the other side of the bracket]. I guess it could be Perry, but like I said before: I just have a feeling that he gets tripped up before the finish line this year. I took Brown and Evans in the B1G finals, but I’ll go with Storley getting a little revenge and making the finals here, only to lose to Howe in a match that features 1.5 shots.

184 LBS

1) Is Ed Ruth an even bigger favorite at this weight than David Taylor is at 165? I mean, he hasn't lost a match in college since 2011, when Nick Amuchastegui used his Stanford nerd powers to cast a spell on Ruth's knee. Is the goal for Ruth to get bonus points in every match this year?

ROSS: I don't think so. Ruth has more hardware than Taylor... but he also benefited from the fact that he never had to tussle with Kyle Dake. If Taylor hadn't had to deal with the Dake roadblock last year, his numbers (and hardware count) would be virtually identical to Ruth's. And Ruth has shown more vulnerability at 184 than Taylor has at 165 (to non-Dake opponents); five of his wins last year were by decision, including an 11-9 win over Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), a 5-3 win over Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), and a 4-1 win over Steve Bosak (Cornell). Most of those guys are gone and the guy that isn't (Kevin Steinhaus) suffered an ACL injury last summer. Ruth also has a knack for widening the gap on opponents when he sees them a second time; he beat Hamlin 11-9 early in the season last year... and thumped him, 12-4, in the NCAA Tournament final. So yeah: he's still a very big favorite at 184 this year -- he's just not quite as overwhelming as Taylor is at 165. But I'll place him as an 95% favorite to repeat (again).

BS: I don't think anyone can touch Ed when he's "on" - but Taylor's still the bigger favorite of the two. As you point out, Ruth still has Steinhaus and Lofthouse, plus Maryland's Sheptock, and UNI's Loder to deal with. I don't know if Travis Rutt is starting the season at 197 with an eye on coming down to 184, or not. But if Rutt does end up at 184, he'd be another tough dude to deal with. 95% counting injury seems about right to me.

2) Does Ethen Lofthouse really have a chance to finish runner-up at this weight?

ROSS: As strange as that it is to say... yes. With the departure of Hamlin, Bosak, and Central Michigan's Ben Bennett, there's a definite gap at the top of the heap at 184 after Ruth. Could Lofthouse fill that void? I don't see why not. He has wins over two of the other guys who figure to be top challengers at 184: Steinhaus and Maryland's Jimmy Sheptock. One key to a Lofthouse run in March may be the draw he gets. Obviously, he needs to stay on the side opposite Ruth to make the finals, but can he avoid Steinhaus as well? Lofthouse and Steinhaus could see each other three times this year; I don't trust Lofthouse to sweep all of those matches. There's also the small matter of UNI's Ryan Loder and Oklahoma's Travis Rutt, who are easily the class of their respective conferences and might rack up gaudy records on their way to the NCAA Tournament. (NOTE: Although Rutt appears to be going at 197 this year instead. Welp.) There's also the matter of Lofthouse having a tendency to drop matches he shouldn't in December and January; if he does that again this year, that could cost him when it comes to seeding the NCAA Tournament. Still, based on ability and track record, Lofthouse certainly has the potential to finish second to Ruth.

3) Where does Eddie Ruth rank among Penn State's all-time greats right now? Where will he rank if this season goes as expected?

BS: Statistically speaking, Ruth will probably finish 4th all-time in wins; 3rd in falls; 2nd in bonus point wins; 1st in winning percentage; and could be PSU's first 3-time NCAA Champion, having been a big part of (again, maybe) 4 national championship squads.

One thing I love about Ruth is that he's improved his wrestling dramatically every year. As a redshirt freshman, you saw quickness, un-human grip, and his cradle. Then as a soph, he added some tilts. As a junior, he really improved his ride, despite the bump up to 184. In last year's final, against Hamlin, he logs north of 4 minutes riding advantage - and then, with around 30 seconds remaining, he hears Sanderson telling him to cut Hamlin. Ruth does, and gets two more takedowns, like they're nothing, to secure the major (and the team title). He just has crazy talent. He's been unbelievable to watch for three seasons now, and this last year is definitely bittersweet.

4) Give me a surprise All-American at this weight.

ROSS: How about Ohio State's Kenny Courts? He had a rocky freshman season, going 19-8 and wrestling at a few different weights. But he has a ton of natural ability and he was a highly-regarded recruit a few years ago. I think he can (and will) come good this year -- or at least good enough to make the podium in March.

BS: 'Lil Kenny - nice. To show you how dumb I am, I'm taking a guy from the ACC who wrestled 174 last year - senior Jon Fausey, Virginia Wahoos. He lost 4-0 to Perry in the second round, and then got bounced by Mizzou's Todd Porter 8-7 in the wrestlebacks. Fausey makes the podium as a senior.

5) Prediction time -- who are the finalists at this weight at the Big Ten Tournament? Who wins?

ROSS: Ruth wins. Who's he beat in the finals? I think the other semifinal is Lofthouse and Steinhaus, so Ruth faces the winner of that match. Lofthouse has proven that he can beat Steinhaus (see: last year's NCAA Tournament) and I'm wondering if Steinhaus is really going to be all-systems-go after his ACL injury last summer, so allow me the benefit of a touch of homerism... Lofthouse to the finals.

BS: I think Steinhaus finishes runner-up at Big Tens.

6) Prediction time -- who are the finalists at this weight at the NCAA Tournament? Who wins?

ROSS: The second question is easy: Ed Ruth wins. In a romp. Ruth hasn't been defeated (ever) at 184 and the toughest guys at this weight -- Hamlin, Bosak, and Bennett -- are gone. Steinhaus is an intriguing opponent -- Ruth beat him only 5-3 in their lone career meeting (at last year's Big Ten Tournament finals), Or he would be if I wasn't leery about his recovery from that ACL injury. Is he going to be operating at 100% by March? Maybe, but I'm skeptical. I think Lofthouse could make the finals (and lose to Ruth), but I'm also leery about trusting EL to go that far in the NCAA Tournament. So I'm going to go with a slight wildcard for now: UNI’s Ryan Loder. He was on the podium last year, but he was thisclose to being in the NCAA semifinals on Friday night -- he lost a 2-1 squeaker to Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin. Given the way this weight has cleared out, I think he can slide all the way into the finals this year.

BS: A healthy Steinhaus is a clear #2 for me, despite his flameout at last year's tournament (assuming Rutt stays at 197). But since I can't know how healthy he'll be in March....any of Lofthouse, Sheptock, Loder - maybe even Max Thomusseitt, could come out of the non-Ed Ruth side of the bracket. Seeding is going to be key for those guys.

197 LBS

1) The top 3 from last year graduate. Who is your favorite?

BEN: It’s probably Oregon State’s Taylor Meeks. He dropped a close 6-8 decision to Kilgore in one national semi-final last year, and majored Goldy’s Scott Schiller to make the 3rd place match (where he got tech’ed by Pitt’s graduating Wilps). Plus, he doesn’t have to wrestle half the guys in the top 15 until NCAA’s, owing to his decidedly west coast orientation. That is, he should arrive healthy, happy, and with the 1-seed.

2) Who is your surprise All-American?

BEN: Stall-tastic Nick Heflin. Yes, he’s already a 2x AA, but that was 23lbs ago. So if you raised your eyebrows about Heflin skipping right over 184 on his way to 197 – and I did – then I think it’s acceptable to tab him as a surprise AA at this weight. If that’s not cool, though, then give me Richard Perry – Bloomsburg, the Intermat pre-season #10.

ROSS: Can I be a homer and say my guy, Nate Burak? OK, OK, I’ll hold off on talking about him until the next question. This is hard because this weight is SO unpredictable (just four returning All-Americans). Plus, you already grabbed Heflin, who I think has a great shot to make the podium if he’s been hitting the BEEFCAKE to make this weight. How about Bloomsburg’s Richard Perry so I can make some "Fridge" jokes? No? Screw it, just give me Illinois’ Mario Gonzalez. There’s no way a guy who won a Big Ten Championship (2012) never even makes the podium at NCAAs, right? He got a bum draw last year and still made it all the way to the R12 -- I think he betters that this year.

3) So Burak the Younger had a pretty awesome run at NCAA’s last year. Does he make the podium this season?

ROSS: I mean, he’s got a good chance. This is another weight where half of last year’s All-Americans have been cleaned out, including all of the top-3 (Quentin Wright, Dustin Kilgore, Matt Wilps). There are moves to be made here. Burak was losing to some… let’s be polite and say "unheralded" guys at the start of the season, but he turned it on pretty well by the end of the season. His run to the R12 at the NCAA Tournament was really awesome, especially considering he drew freaking Kilgore in R1 of the championship bracket. He won three matches in a row after that, including a first-period pin over the 7-seed, Nathan Schiedel of Binghamton. The trick for him is just getting more consistent and figuring out how to actually turn all his shots and half-shots into actual takedowns. I think he has good offense -- it just wasn’t very refined last year. Also, he probably needs to be a little better on the mat; you do need to know how to ride a guy pretty well in folkstyle, especially at the upper weights. But I really like his trajectory and I do think he sneaks onto the podium this year.

4) Penn State loses Quentin Wright and his 6.8 billion tournament points. With whom do the Lions replace him?

BEN: Morgan McIntosh has spent the last 12 months wrestling Q, Cael, and Jake Varner. Those are his workout partner options. He’s probably going to be pretty good this year, coming off of redshirt. But beyond Q’s propensity to score pinfalls at NCAAs and make finals, Q was also a team leader and steadying influence. That last part is especially difficult to replace, and probably not within Morgan’s purview anyhow. But keeping it to the mat? I have no earthly idea. The rumor board is rife with ‘superstar’ speculation. But that’s mostly all it is at this point. It’s a question mark for which I think we have a great answer – but it’s still a question mark.

5) Big Ten Finalists and Champ?

BEN: Give me Schiller and Heflin. It pains me to put Heflin here, but I think 197 actually fits his style better than 174. And since I hate Goldy, might as well give – scratch all of this. Give me Burak and McIntosh. No, wait. Give me Schiller and McIntosh in the final, with Schiller pulling it out.

ROSS: Copycat alert: I’m going with Schiller and McIntosh, too. I think Schiller is (for now) the best guy in the Big Ten at this weight and I’ll stick with him making it this far until proven otherwise. I think McIntosh has a ton of potential and I think he’ll be in much better shape to tap into that potential after a redshirt season. So let’s go with them to make the finals, with McIntosh toppling Schiller.

6) National Finalists and Champ?

BEN: I’ve never seen a Taylor Meeks match. I’ll have to hit Flo to fix that. Until then, it’s hard to consider Meeks as a sure thing. Like Big Tens, I think this weight is up in the air – no runaway favorites, with a pack of dudes all capable of notching that winning takedown in a surprise quarterfinal or semi-final upset. And since that’s the case, I’m going to take experienced seniors: Travis Rutt over (God I hate myself) Blake Rosholt. That’s pre-season #5 over pre-season #7 – there’s not another weight where I’ve gone that stupid deep. Hopefully I don’t look like a moron.

ROSS: I don’t know why I’m feeling so much love for Iowa State in this preview, but I have a fever and the only cure is more Cyclones. I think Kyven Gadson is the real freaking deal. He battled back from an injury (and some traumatic personal issues; his father died just days before the NCAA Tournament) last year and made it all the way to 6th place last year. I think he does much better than that this year and makes it to the finals, where he gets Oregon State’s Taylor Meeks. Meeks is kind of a West Coast mystery man, but he’s very good, he’ll have a great record, and he’s definitely good enough to move up a slot with Kilgore (who he barely lost to last year, 8-6), Wright, and Wilps out of the picture. As for a winner… let’s say Gadson, putting the cherry on top of his comeback sundae.

285 LBS

1) What are the odds that someone actually figures out how to stop Tony Nelson's Spiral Ride of Doom and prevents him from becoming a three-time national champion? Also, is Nelson's dominance more a reflection of his own excellence or a lackluster period of heavyweight wrestling?

ROSS: I've been waiting over two years now for someone to figure out how to get out of Nelson's unstoppable ride and actually beat him (or at least beat him when it matters most; he lost a match last year and two matches two years ago, so he's certainly not invincible); I'm not sure what evidence there is to suggest that someone is finally going to end his reign in March. As far as his dominance goes... a little from column A, a little from column B? Nelson deserves credit for winning back-to-back Big Ten and NCAA championships -- that sort of hardware haul deserves respect and Nelson is undeniably a very good wrestler. But it's hard to watch him and think that he might be one of the all-time greats at heavyweight; he's been able to exploit his two greatest skills (that ride from top position and his defense from neutral) to a sparkling record, but I'm not persuaded that he would be good enough to beat some of the best heavyweights of yore.

BS: I was shocked, and "so damn proud", that Nelson took shots - and scored - against McMullen in last year's final. That was awesome. It's a shame he isn't more aggressive from neutral; he has the athleticism and strength to get it done on his feet. But - yeah. I guess he figures that he's starting every match with a 2-0 advantage, thanks to his spiral ride of (yawn) doom. So why risk it? That strategy, however, doesn't put you in the all-time greats discussion - for me, at least - no matter the trophy case.

2) Is this the year Bobby Telford puts it together for Iowa?

ROSS: I mean... maybe? I guess it depends what you mean by "puts it together." He was an All-American two years ago, as a redshirt freshman. He certainly looked like he was on pace to better that 5th place result last year until he suffered an unfortunate knee injury in his first match at the NCAA Tournament (although his draw set up for a showdown with his nemesis, Oklahoma State's Alan Gelogaev, which may have been problematic). He's gotten better each of his first two years at Iowa and he seems to be really hungry to make his mark on this weight this year. Assuming he stays healthy, I don't see any reason he shouldn't be able to challenge for a spot in the finals of the NCAA Tournament this year.

3) Heavyweight has been one of the few stains on Penn State's otherwise-sterling resume during this recent national title three-peat. What's the deal with that? Who's going to be the man this year? What are Penn State's expectations at this weight?

BS: The deal? I blame loveable bear Cam Wade. He lost in the round of 12 three straight years, which had to be excruciating. And last, don't get me started. Jimmy Lawson's March was not one to remember. I still see Ben freaking Apland sticking Jimmy's foot into Jimmy's own ass, and bow-and-arrowing Jimmy for the entire 3rd period. Hopefully Jimmy had to watch that match all summer, and comes back with a vengeance, and scores more than 1.5 points at NCAAs this year. Could he make the podium? I suppose - he's preseason #10; it's not a ridiculous thought. But I wouldn't bet on it right now.

4) Who could make a surprising run in March and land on the podium?

ROSS: There are a lot of chances for fresh faces to earn All-America honors at 285 this year, considering that three-fourths of last year's top-8 finishers graduated. We're definitely going to see some new (or at least somewhat new) faces on the podium this year. But to answer this question, I'm going to say Doug Vollaro of Lehigh. He redshirted last season and was the #8 recruit in d1collegewrestling's 2012 recruiting class. This guess is based partly on that recruiting pedigree and partly on Lehigh's success with heavyweights in the not-too-distant past (see: Zach Rey).

BS: Not to pick at a wound, but I'm taking Joe Stolfi - Bucknell. He came up just short last season, losing to bleeping Jarod Trice in the round of 12.

5) Prediction time -- who are the finalists at this weight at the Big Ten Tournament? Who wins?

ROSS: Well, Nelson's going to be one of them -- I think that's a pretty safe bet. The other one will probably be either Telford or Northwestern's Mike McMullan, last year's NCAA runner-up (to Nelson). Telford and McMullan didn't cross paths last year and they split a pair of OT matches the year before that. They appear to be two exceptionally evenly-matched wrestlers, so picking a winner between them is tricky. A flip of the coin says McMullan gets the better of Telford this time.

BS: Then I'll cheer you up by taking Bobert opposite Nelson. Although, no - I don't think Bobert solves the sprial ride.

6) Prediction time -- who are the finalists at this weight at the NCAA Tournament? Who wins?

ROSS: The Big Ten is pretty deep at this weight -- in addition to Nelson, Telford, and McMullan, it's also home to Michigan State's Mike McClure, Indiana's Adam Chalfant, and WIsconsin's Connor Medbery, all of whom have the ability to make a run for the finals. NC State's Nick Gwaizdowski was an All-American two years ago and redshirted last year; who's to say things couldn't click for him in March and he could make a beeline for the NCAA finals and a match with Nelson. But I'm still partial to McMullan or Telford and another flip of the coin comes up heads for Hawkeyes this time. Can Bobby figure out how to beat Nelson in his last chance, on their biggest stage yet? I'd like to say "yes," but I don't feel comfortable saying that until I actually see Telford beat Nelson with my own two eyes. Until that happens... Nelson reigns supreme again.

BS: I'm actually taking Gwaizdowski opposite Nelson in the final. Gwaizdowski is a heavy who actually tries offense, and tends to hang some big scores. That gets him to the final, where he shoots and gets scored on by Nelson, and then ridden like a pony.

Woooo! Wrestling. There you have it, folks. Be sure to swing by BHGP to catch Part Uno.

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