Penn State entered this weekend's Big Ten Wrestling Championships as a decided underdog. By seeds, Penn State slotted to a 4th place finish, behind Iowa, Ohio State, and Minnesota. Reconciled with the possibility that our Lions might not take a 5th straight championship title, we fans debated which of the two favorites, Iowa and Ohio State, we'd prefer to win (again - assuming Penn State would not).
The obvious choice between those two was "asteroid". If Penn State wasn't going to win, and one of Iowa or Ohio State might take the title, then please let an asteroid strike planet Earth. Anything other than one of those two teams, actually, would have sufficed.
Instead, as Rambler noted, the asteroid lost. The asteroid got hammered.
Not only did Penn State not wrestle to its standard this weekend, not only did one of Iowa or Ohio State claim the title - BOTH of Iowa AND Ohio State claimed the (co-) title. The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes finished tied, with 120 team points.
Performance To Seed
In the table below, we compare a wrestler's bracket seed to his final placement. If a wrestler was seeded fourth but finished 2nd, he gets a +2. If he was seeded 4th but placed 7th, he gets a (-3). Sum each of the ten weights, and we get a sense for how well (or not-well) a team performed.
|WT||Penn State ||Iowa ||Ohio State||Minnesota||Michigan|
So yeah - not too good. Here is a link to the full brackets.
Our Guy: Jordan Conaway came achingly close to wrestling for 1st. He beat 4-seed Tim Lambert (Nebraska) decisively in the quarterfinal, 7-4, and led 1-seed Thomas Gilman (Iowa) in the semifinal, 4-3, with just 30 seconds remaining. But then he gave up a takedown, to trail 5-4. And then he got ridden. Thiiiis close (//holds index finger and thumb in close proximity) to a breakthrough win, a great seed at NCAAs, and a clear path to getting on the podium.
The Rest: Jesse Delgado couldn't beat the field with just one arm. He lost his semifinal to Tomasello, won his wrestleback to make the consolation final vs. Conaway, and then default. Nebraska's Lambert, the 4-seed, finished 6th, and will have to hope for a wild card selection later this week to make the NCAA field.
Our Guy: Jimmy made the semifinals, and held a late 3rd period lead over Ryan Taylor (Wisconsin) the 2-seed. But a stalling point tied the match, and then he gave up a takedown in overtime. In the consolation semi-finals, Jimmy held a late 3rd period lead over 4-seed DiJulius (Ohio State), but got headlocked lost the match. In the 5th place bout, Jimmy - you guessed it - held a lead over 6-seed Zane Richards (Illinois), but lost the match. So, he went from being 20 seconds away from wrestling for the title, to losing out and placing 6th. It wasn't a fun Sunday.
The Rest: the 2nd thru 6th place-winners are more or less interchangeable. That should make for a fun NCAA seeding and placement exercise.
Our Guy: Kade Moss entered as the 9-seed. He gave up an escape with 4 seconds remaining in his opening bout against Purdue's 8-seed Lawrence, which forced overtime. He gave up a takedown in OT to lose. He lost his next match in the wrestle-backs to 7-seed Oster (Northwestern). And he lost his 9th/10th place bout to Michigan's George Fisher. That's an oh-for-3. Kade will now have to hope for a wild card bid to make the NCAAs - but, that does not seem very likely. He's 3rd in line for a wild card in his own conference, and there are only 4 wild cards to hand out nationally.
The Rest: Logan Stieber became a 4-time Big Ten champ. He tech falled Iowa's Dziewa (who made an improbable run) in just over 3 minutes.
Our Guy: All things considered, Zack got the job done. He entered as the 6-seed, and placed 5th, grabbing the last automatic bid to NCAAs from this weight class. But, like Gulibon, Zack was less than 30 seconds away from making the semi-finals, and gave up a last second reversal to Ohio State's Hunter Stieber, dropping a 5-4 decision. That put Zack into the wrestlebacks. He advanced to the consolation semi-finals, but lost another heartbreaker to Alec Pantaleo (Michigan) whom Zack had beaten in the regular season. He was set to face Hunter Stieber for the 5th place match, and the final spot to NCAAs, but Stieber medically default. So, Zack's headed to Nationals.
The Rest: Hunter Stieber's junior season is most likely finished. Whatever injury he was nursing heading into Big Tens clearly got tweaked. By the consolation semifinals, one arm hung limply from his side. He got pinned, and then forfeit. That put a small dent in Ohio State's quest for a Big Ten title, but also a hit to their hopes at Nationals.
Our Guy: Luke Frey started things well. As the 9-seed, Luke drew former All-American Anthony Perrotti in the first round - and beat him, 7-5 in overtime. He got steamrolled by wunderkind Isiah Martinez (Illinois) in the second round, which put him into the consolations. Luke needed to win his consolation bout against Maryland's Lou Mascola to get the final bid to NCAAs. But he came up short. In the wrestle-offs for 9th place, Luke majored Wisconsin's TJ Ruschell, but lost to Iowa's Mike Kelly. He finished 10th, and with only a handful of matches at 157 lbs, it's unlikely that Luke will receive a wild card spot to Nationals.
The Rest: So 157 has a new sheriff in town. The freshman Martinez destroyed the senior Dylan Ness in the final, and will likely be the nation's top seed in two weeks at NCAAs.
Our Guy: Garett entered as the 6-seed, and opened with a solid 8-2 victory over 11-seed Nick Visicaro (Rutgers). But in his quarterfinal bout against 3-seed Taylor Walsh (Indiana), he got into a scramble and was deemed to have pinned himself in just 39 seconds. You won't find a Penn Stater who thinks the call was reasonable.
Needing only to win his next match to qualify for Nationals, Garett dropped a stunner to un-seeded freshman Garrett (two R's) Sutton, of Michigan. Sutton was only in the lineup because Michigan's Taylor Massa had bumped up to 174 lbs. And just like that, your entire season vanishes.
Maybe. Maybe not. Garett advanced past Maryland's Alexander, but lost in the 9th place match to Nick Moore (Iowa). Both Garett and Moore will be hoping for a wild card entry. Both have strong cases for earning one - but Garett will fall behind Moore in the pecking order. And with just 4 wild cards to go around, this week will be a pensive one.
The Rest: In a weight featuring a ton of well established seniors, the two Jordan cousins cleared the field. But, the 3-, 4-, and 5-seeded seniors all finished in order. So chalk one up for the seeding committee.
Our Guy: Hulk Hands rolled into the final, but came up short against Nebraska's Kokesh for the second time this season. Matt, though, is looking strong for NCAAs.
The Rest: Iowa's Mike Evans placed third, but he did so without scoring a single takedown in the tournament. You'll have to check the video, but I don't believe Evans was ever called for stalling once. And that, friends, is a sad commentary on the state of collegiate wrestling.
Our Guy: How rough was Penn State's tournament? Matt McCutcheon performed far above his seed, but suffered what appeared to be a knee injury, and had to default from the consolation final, finishing 4th. Mouse, the 8-seed, beat 9-seed Rizqallah (Sparty) in the opener, and then turned in the match of the tournament, besting 1-seed Sammy Brooks (Iowa) in the quarterfinals. He dropped a closer-than-the-score decision (4-2) in the semifinals to Minnesota's Brett Pfarr - shrinking the gap from the dual meet substantially. In the consolation semi-finals, Matt was on his way to pinning (from my perspective) Nebraska's TJ Dudley. He led 9-1 in the final minute, had just scored three back points, and was working to turn Dudley again when he shrieked in pain, and the action stopped. Matt used all of his injury time, and then wrestled with one leg for the final 30 seconds of the match. He limped off the mat with a major decision, but forfeit the consolation final to place 4th. Matt's earned his way to NCAAs, but the health of his knee will be a big question for the next two weeks (and no - don't expect to learn anything about the injury from Cael).
The Rest: too depressed to discuss.
Our Guy: Congratulations to Morg on his first Big Ten title. He earned it, in convincing fashion, with a decisive 4-1 victory over top seed Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), avenging the dual meet loss.
The Rest: This weight went according to plan, from our blue-and-white tinted glasses. The top 4 were the top 4. Nebraska's Studebaker, the 5-seed, was overseeded thanks in part to a softer schedule (he wrestled none of the top 4). Atwood and Polizzi - both of whom are battling injuries - came only to win enough matches to secure a qualifying bid, and forfeit the rest.
Our Guy: Things were going pretty well. Jimmy Lawson opened his tournament with a fall over Sparty's Chris Nash. He got an escape against Bobby Telford (Iowa), but lost on riding time. Bouncing to the consolations, Jimmy put up bonus points (8-0 Major) against Nebraska's top 20 ranked Collin Jensen, and had a beautiful takedown in overtime against former All-American Spencer Myers (Maryland).
Then, in the consolation semi-finals, Jimmy opened with a takedown of Michigan's 2-seed Adam Coon - Penn State's first takedown of the giant since Jon Gingrich one year ago. But Jimmy appeared to injure his shoulder, and the wheels came off. Jimmy lost the match to Coon, 9-5, and then forfeit the 5th place match against Minnesota's Kroells. Just like with Mouse, we shouldn't expect to learn anything about Jimmy's shoulder injury from Cael this week. And no - Penn State cannot substitute Jon in place of Jimmy at this juncture. Every wrestler headed to NCAAs must have competed in a qualifying tournament. So that idea ist kaput.
The Rest: When it comes to end of season tournaments, bet on the seniors. Telford (4-seed) and McMullan (3-seed) worked past the underclassmen (Medbery and Coon) to make the final. Don't be surprised if that scenario repeats itself in two weeks.