Tables, charts, graphs, brackets, seeds - all of that stuff is fine and dandy for some. But this is the Friday before the Big Ten Wrestling Championships. We can talk about this stuff for hours.
So we did. Ross from The Pants, Dan from the Holy Land, and I rambled along in conversation about each of the weights. As is customary, 125 thru 157 can be found at BHGP. Below is 165 thru Big Boys. We hope you enjoy hanging out with us.
ROSS: Where is the intrigue here, seriously? Is it in seeing if Taylor can get bonus points in all of his wins? Is it to see who can most effectively turtle up against him? Taylor is a remarkable, brilliant, absurdly fun wrestler to watch and he's going to join elite company in becoming a four-time Big Ten champion but, honestly, the biggest disappointment is that there just doesn't appear to be anyone in the Big Ten who can really push him. As fun as watching Taylor put on clinics with those sick ankle picks and ridiculous tilts is, it would be nice to see him get punched in the mouth (figuratively speaking, of course) and have to battle back. I think the closest we've seen to that is probably last year's NCAA final versus Dake. Maybe the biggest intrigue is just seeing how badly he tries to punish Jackson Morse for having the temerity to score on him if they meet up again.
BEN: Morse is one of a handful - and calling it a handful might be generous - of wrestlers who've scored a takedown on Taylor. And Morse has done it in two different matches: the dual this season, and two or three years ago at the dual, as well. Now, Taylor ended up bonusing him anyhow. But outside of Okie State's Caldwell choosing to ride Taylor in the 3rd period while he trailed by 6 points, Morse definitely gave Taylor his best match - and they could see each other in one semifinal.
But I think the intrigue here might be with Zilverberg. Goldy needs him to make a bit of a run if it wants to take the team title. He pulled a couple of upsets at last year's Big Tens, as I recall. Do you think he could get past Harger or Moore?
ROSS: Zilverberg scares me quite a bit more than Harger as a potential semifinal opponent for Moore, frankly. Moore beat Z at the dual this year, 3-2, and honestly he was pretty much just stalling his way out at the end. Moore's had a lot of really solid wins this year, but that was not one of 'em. By comparison, he's 3-0 lifetime against Harger (7-2 last year, 7-3 and 7-4 this year); I think he just gets Harger completely and won't have too many issues with him if they square off in the semis. But Z? That would make me a bit more nervous.
Honestly, I can't think of anything else to say about this weight. Moore seems like the clear #2 guy at this weight in the Big Ten -- he beat everyone seeded below him except Morse (they didn't wrestle this year) and most of them convincingly... but he still seems like he's light years behind Taylor. So it goes. I'm looking forward to next year when we've got Moore and Morse battling it out and add Taylor Massa (Michigan) and Bo Jordan (Ohio State) to the mix. Then we might actually have a race at 165 again. This year is just an extended coronation.
BEN: Bo Jordan might ruin your plans for a race. He's been flat out murdering everyone.
DAN: Listen, I’m not saying that Bo Jordan is going to win four straight Big Ten titles, but I’m not not saying it either. Seriously, though, Jordan comes to Ohio State with limitless potential, and all indications are that he doesn’t plan on squandering it. Against admittedly sub-par competition, he’s earned bonus points in just about all of his matches this year and stories about his effort in practice and the weight room are already making the rounds. So hopefully, if he stays healthy and stays focused, four years from now we might be able to mention him in the same sentence as that other 165 pounder from St. Paris Graham.
BEN: Here is how I almost started this off: "for the last two years, the top 4 guys haven't lost to anyone in the conference other than each other. So should we just start this weight at the semi-finals?" And then I remembered last year's Big Tens, where Dan Yates upset 1-seed Logan Storley in the quarterfinals, 3-2, followed by Nick Heflin beating Storley in the consolations, with Storley finishing 7th. Yates dropped down to 165, and Heflin went up to 197 - so those guys are out of the mix. But which premise is right? Should we start at the semis? Or should we be wary of any surprise upsets?
ROSS: I guess it depends how highly you think of Tony Dallago or Mark Martin. Dallago seems to put himself in some bad positions at times -- he's been decked three times this year, by some pretty unassuming dudes (guys from Bloomsburg, Kutztown, South Dakota State) and he got absolutely housed by Kokesh and Brown (18-2 and 12-2, respectively). That does not inspire a lot of faith in his ability to get by Storley, frankly. I think Martin probably has the best upset potential since he has Evans and The 'Stache, much as I love him, has still not developed much in the way of solid offense from neutral in four years, which makes him more vulnerable. That said, he's also really damn tough to score on and Martin has some weird losses on his resume (Lelund Weatherspoon? That sounds like Lee Munster's Northwestern-appointed butler).
Are you happy that Brown only has to get through one of either Storley or Kokesh? He hasn't had the best track record against those dudes (10-7 loss to Kokesh last year in their only meeting, 2-2 versus Storley in their career), whereas he's 2-1 against Evans and seems to be widening the gap in their matches; their clash earlier this year was one of the more lopsided 4-1 wins I can remember seeing in a while. I never felt like The 'Stache was that close to scoring on Brown.
Also, how annoying is it that Kokesh has only seen one of the Big Ten's top four dudes this year (Evans)? Stupid Nebraska not wrestling either Penn State or Minnesota. Dumb Big Ten schedules. Also, Nebraska? Show up at Midlands or the Scuffle, dudes -- don't bail on both of 'em.
BEN: I'm not worried about Hulk Hands (aka, Matt Brown) from this perspective: he's always going to bring it. He'll beat on your head and neck for 7 minutes, and mix in some nice singles while he's at it. He won't lose to any tomato cans, ever. The only concern, for me at least, is that he doesn't have the quickest feet, and he doesn't have that weird gyro-6th-sense that Storley was born with, which allows him to come out on top in all the scrambles. The deal for Storley (and Evans) against Brown is to withstand the pounding to the head and neck, and stop Brown's first move. Do both, and turn his shots into scrambles, and they have an excellent chance (like Evans did in the dual 2 years ago, and Storley did at Minny this year). Fail to turn Brown's shot into a scramble (like Evans at the dual this year), and fugheddaboudit. Kokesh, on the other hand...I think ol' Bob will take some shots of his own, and attack Brown's feet. Completely different deal for Hulk Hands. Of the three, I'm least inclined to want to see Kokesh.
But all you have to write about Nebraska is two words, brother: Mark Manning. Done, and done. Stupid Big Ten schedules aside (hey! maybe we should write a post abou--- nevermind), I think Tom Ryan skipped both as well. But OSU went to Cliff Keen, and hosted National Duals.
Come to think of it, what in the world did Nebraska do over the break? ///looks at Nebraska's schedule....wow - they, too, hit Cliff Keen, and - wait for it - the Reno Tournament of Champions.
On second thought, instead of slamming them, I'll let them be, I guess. Diversity, spread the wealth, all of that good stuff. Mark Manning, this is your one get out of jail free card from me.
ROSS: Mark Manning probably just had a time-share in Reno he really needed to use.
Anyway, you'll be tearing up that card in record time after Kokesh beats Brown in the finals and Manning starts running around like a complete ass. But you're absolutely right that Evans needs some scrambles if he's going to score on Brown (or Storley or Kokesh, for that matter). He just doesn't have any really good, go-to shots in his arsenal. Hopefully he comes out on top in a few scramble situations this weekend. And if he can inflict a little pain on guys from the top, hey, all the better.
ROSS: There are two things that interest me about this weight: seeing Ed Ruth take on TJ Dudley in the semis and seeing if Ethen Lofthouse can prove that his win over Steinhaus at last year's NCAA Tournament was no fluke. Like 165, this seems like another weight where things are preordained: Ruth is gonna win his fourth Big Ten title and he's gonna win it in a walk, although Steinhaus might be able to make him sweat a little bit (Ruth only beat him 5-3 in the Big Ten finals last year). But Ruth-Dudley interests me because Dudley seems like one of the clear future challengers at this weight (Ruth, Steinhaus, and Lofthouse are all seniors, so there's gonna be a big clear-out here next year) and he's an exciting wrestler to watch. I don't think he'll sit back and do nothing against Ruth and Ruth is always more fun to watch when he's actually pushed a little bit; he has a tendency to coast otherwise.
As for the Haus/House battle... I gotta admit, I'm cautiously optimistic. Lofthouse has looked pretty solid (and, like, 15% more aggressive) when he's been on the mat this year and he seems recovered from the knee/ankle/leg/lupus injury that kept him out of commission for a big chunk of the Big Ten season. And the buzz about him out of the practice room has been pretty positive lately. Couple that with the fact that Steinhaus has had a few head-scratching losses so far this year and seems like he might be a little more vulnerable than he's been in the past, and yeah... I can see Lofty edging him out for a spot in the finals here. What about you? What are you looking forward to here?
BEN: Ed's stated goal is to win, but leave healthy. I think the bad knee his freshman year plays a role in that. Speaking of which - do you remember the naysayers after Ruth defaulted against Amuchastegui? Called him soft, and said he faked the injury to get out of the match? I hope someone reads that message board fodder to Ed again this weekend.
I'm looking forward to Haus/House as well. I'm fully out of the closet as being a huge Steinhaus fan, and it's crazy to me to think that he'll likely finish his career with zero Big Ten titles, and zero National titles. Speed, strength, a sweet duckunder, solid in every position, technically precise, and smart enough to stay out of the JRob African safari youtube...love me some Haus of Stein, particularly if he wore a blue singlet with a stylish white faux-belt.
So I'm on the Haus side of the Haus/House debate. And I'll throw one more parting shot in there - Ethan only scored that takedown in last year's quarters because he caught Steinhaus looking at the clock. No peeking at the clock this year, Kevin.
ROSS: But where would Steinhaus wrestle if was wearing a blue singlet with a faux-belt? Up at 197? I will say, though: Steinhaus and Brown back-to-back in a lineup would be two of the brick shithouse-ingest dudes ever. Anyway, go #TeamHouse. Complete your recovery from lupus* with a win over Steinhaus.
* It wasn't lupus. It's never lupus.
BEN: Wow do I love the pre-seeds here for McIntosh. I think the top 3 most dangerous are all on the other half of the bracket. But maybe I'm selling Burak short. Can he take out Atwood? Or do you agree that Schiller, Heflin, and Gonzo are the rest of the top 4 (assuming Gonzo's healthy)?
DAN: Sure, Burak could take out Atwood, but I’m not picking it to happen. In fact I have Atwood making it through to the consolation finals. McIntosh is a pretty clear favorite to win the weight. He has the easier half of the bracket and he’s already soundly beaten Schiller once.
ROSS: Braden Atwood sounds like the name of one of the 60s great lost folk singers. I can picture him with a droopy mustache and some dirty brown slacks already. Burak has a career record of 0-2 against Atwood, so history favors the train-lover in this one, but Burak barely lost their last match, 5-4. I think he could beat him, but it's hard to have too much confidence in Burak right now because his recent matches have not blown any doors off. Outside of a 19-1 demolition job over Lehigh's Austin Meys (who gassed out badly and seemed to be getting the start only because it was Senior Night), he's had a series of close, ugly wins. And even if he does get by Atwood, I don't exactly fancy his chances against McIntosh. Schiller destroyed him 16-5 and a lot of his points came off easy counters to Burak's offense; I could see McIntosh doing the exact same thing, unless Burak decides to just be extremely cautious and not attack much.
I think Gonzalez is among the fourth most talented guys at this weight -- dude did win a Big Ten title a few years ago at this weight, even if it was one of the weaker years for this weight -- but I have no idea what his health status is here. And getting Schiller in the first round is a pretty rotten draw for him. To claim another title here, he'd likely have to beat Schiller, Heflin, and McIntosh (in that order). Not happening. I think there's a top three at this weight and then a drop-off. But tell me more about Heflin, Dan -- he's exploded over the last few weeks and looks awesome. Where did this come from and can he keep it up through tournament time?
DAN: I had an incredibly tough time predicting the Schiller/Heflin semifinal tilt. Heflin went up big early in their first matchup, and seemed to be holding on for dear life for the rest of the bout. Then again, Heflin became a two-time All-American by holding on to win close matches. Still, I think that Schiller gets his revenge this weekend as Heflin comes up just short. It’s hard to pick against Nick, who is one of the more likeable guys on the team, but his nickname is "The Darkhorse," I can’t exactly make him the favorite.
Now if Heflin does end up beating Schiller,that gives us a very interesting matchup with McIntosh in the finals. Heflin would probably be the underdog, but not by much. What do you think?
BEN: The Heflin - Atwood match finally officially ruined Heflin for me. Heflin goes for a throw, misses, and Atwood ends up with a 5-point move. I figure the match is over given Atwood's ability to ride. Nope. Heflin absolutely destroys Atwood, getting 3 or 4 straight takedowns to retake the lead heading into the 3rd period. But then - that's it. Heflin takes a 1-point lead, and totally shuts down. A stall call forced overtime. And in overtime - boom. Heflin attacks, and scores the winning TD. Why in the hell wouldn't you just wrestle that way all 7 minutes? Frustrating. The ability to wreck everyone in this weight class is there, but I don't think shutting down will work out against McIntosh, who won't stop no matter the score.
ROSS: With 7 out of the 10 guys ranked in the national top ten, a lot of Big Ten teams have a horse in this particular race... except you two guys, all due respect to Jon Gingrich and Nick Tavanello. As an Iowa fan, I'm too invested in Telford and trying to figure out how he's going to beat Nelson and Coon and McMullan to win a title at this weight. I don't see how unless he figures out how to start taking actual shots before there are thirty seconds left in the third period. But give me some outsider perspective on how you think things might shake out at this weight?
BEN: Outsider perspective? I don't qualify. As a PSU fan, I too have a big boy who will stand, lean, and push on a collar tie for 7 minutes. I'll give you a hot take on Nelson, though - I think his "slump" came about, in part, because he actually tried some offense for once. Now that it's tournament time, that silly foray into the risky and dangerous world offense is concluded. Get ready for hours of spiral riding. I actually picked McMullen to win purely out of spite, because he's the lone oddball who will take shots at this weight.
ROSS: Also, how much does it suck that a weight with so much starpower -- seriously, throw in NC State's Nick Gwiazdowski and you might have the NCAA quarterfinals in two weeks -- is pretty much destined to be boring as hell? We're gonna get to watch guys who are the best at what they do... but what they do isn't very entertaining, unless you like 10-minute matches with maybe one takedown and hardly any actual shots.
BEN: Hate the heavies. One move, and that's generally it with this crowd. I had hope for Adam Coon, when I saw him take shots early in the year. But he's quickly devolved into Nelson and Telford. Depressing. They really ought to just skip the first 7 minutes, and put them in sudden victory.
Your link to ddownloadable brackets is right here.