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NCAA Wrestling Tournament Preview: The Lower Weights

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The best of the best of collegiate wrestling head to St Louis this week, and we’re previewing 125-157!

Photo courtesy of GoPSUSports

How to Watch:

Day Session Round Time TV
Day Session Round Time TV
Thursday I First 12:00 PM ESPN U
Thursday II Second 7:00 PM ESPN
Friday III Quarterfinals 11:00 AM ESPN U
Friday IV Semifinals 8:00 PM ESPN
Saturday V Medal Round 11:00 AM ESPN U
Saturday VI Finals 8:00 PM ESPN

All sessions will be broadcast on ESPN3 simultaneously with the live tv broadcast. The Penn State radio network’s Jeff Byers will also have the call, but the links to those broadcasts are not yet live.


125

Pick to Win

Cari: Thomas Gilman, Iowa Gilman was a few blocked shots away from a national title last year - and I'm not complaining, far from it. But he's the lone undefeated in this weight for a reason, and he'll be tough to beat, even if Virginia Tech's Joey Dance finally does well at a national tournament.

bscaff: Gilman There are 4 guys who have given Thomas Gilman a serious match - Suriano, Lizak, Terao, Dance - and they're all on the opposite side of the bracket. Gilman cruises to the final, and takes the title.

Clay: Gilman Gilman has been solid as can be in his senior season for the Hawkeyes. He's the only undefeated wrestler in the bracket and holds career wins over the each of the top-nine seeded wrestlers in the bracket. Dance has beaten him once and wrestled him close once, but I like the way Gilman has progressed more and I have doubts over Dance making the finals.

Our guy: Nick Suriano (freshman)

Cari: If Suriano wasn't coming in injured, he'd be my pick to win it all; I'd like his matchup with Dance, and he very nearly upset Gilman at Carver Hawkeye earlier this year (his only non-injury loss of the season, and only loss since the start of high school). But he is hurt, his first injury of his career, so the best I'm hoping for this year is All-American; Nick is better than most of the field even gimpy, so that's an obtainable goal - if he’s at least 60%, which is an if.

bscaff: I'll be surprised if Nick Suriano wins a match. Maybe his opener against Buffalo's Kyle Akins, because Akins default from the MAC tournament. But I don't believe Suriano has two good wheels, and NCAAs is the last place on planet Earth you should look for mercy and kindness.

Clay: Nick Suriano should be the two seed and should be a favorite to make the finals. Instead, his ankle decided otherwise and sent the entire tournament into a frenzy. I have serious doubts about Suriano's health. If he's able to go and can reach AA status, I expect he'll be a finalist. But if he's not in the finals/semis, I doubt he places and he may not even win a match.

Sleeper All-American pick*

Cari: Josh Terao, American University Terao’s brother came out of nowhere last season to finish fourth, having entered Madison Square Garden seeded fifteenth. Does his brother have his magic? Why not? He’s seeded higher than his brother was when he upended then-undefeated Nathan Tomasello.

bscaff: Freddie Rodriguez, SIU-Edwardsville SIUE became a full-fledged Division 1 program in 2014. Freddie can become their first D1 All-American.

Clay: Rodriguez Rodriguez is a former JuCo champ who looks like he could meet Suriano in the second round. Given Suriano's health concerns I like F-Rod's chances of making the QF's and then it's a crap shoot from there.

133

Pick to Win

Cari: Seth Gross, South Dakota State What? I'm picking against NaTo? Yup. Tomasello's had an impressive bump up into this weight this year and is undefeated on the season, but he's looked shaky at times this year - and he's on the same bracket side as Iowa's Cory Clark, Michigan's Stevan Micic (who would meet in the quarters), and Illinois' dangerous Zane Richards. Oh, and he was undefeated last year headed into the tournament, too - and then proceeded to finish third. Gross has two wins over OK State's Kaid Brock this season, and he too hasn't lost in regulation this year - with his only defeat coming at the hands of Nebraska's Eric Montoya, in sudden victory, back in December. Gross would have to go through Brock a third time to get the crown (if both make it that far), but I like his chances.

bscaff: Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State NaTo has a really difficult half of the bracket. More than likely, he'll need to win 5 matches against top 15-ish guys to take the title, because Korbin Myers - his first round opponent, as (effectively) the 32-seed - is composite-ranked 17th. And it only gets worse from there. But when in doubt, choose the guy with the lefty high c. High crotches win matches.

Clay: Tomasello Until somebody beats NaTo, I'm picking NaTo. That being said, I think about four or five different guys in this bracket can beat NaTo, three of which are on his side in Zane Richards, Stevan Micic and Cory Clark. It won't be a walk in the park for the affectionately named Superjacked Chipmunk.

Sleeper All-American pick

Cari: Earl Hall, Iowa State Hall was granted another year of eligibility, and is a returning two-time All-American. He comes in seeded lower than he's been in a while, but he was able to score beaucoup bonus last year in the tournament. He's always dangerous.

bscaff: Korbin Myers, Edinboro or Scotty Parker, Lehigh

Clay: Stevan Micic, Michigan While just the five seed, I think Micic could really win it all. The redshirt freshman is extremely talented, particularly from neutral, and appears to be getting better as the season progresses. He took third in Bloomington and lost to Tomasello by just one point in the semifinals, his second such lost to NaTo on the year. Don't be surprised if he makes a run at the title.

141

Pick to Win

Cari: Joey McKenna, Stanford McKenna fell to a surging out-of-nowhere Bryce Meredith last year, who took his momentum into the finals against Dean Heil. The Cardinal came back and placed third. McKenna's even better this year, with his only loss in sudden victory to UNC's Joey Ward.

bscaff: Dean Heil, Oklahoma State When you get over the fact that he wrestles close matches, you'll notice two things: 1) he doesn't lose any of them; 2) he's a better athlete than just about everyone he wrestles.

Clay: Kevin Jack, NC State Picking against Dean Heil is really stupid. I know I shouldn't do it. But I'm going to do it regardless. Jack has been wrestling as well as anybody in the country and his length combined with his skill in scramble situations presents a unique set of problems for his opponents.

Our guy: Jimmy Gulibon (senior)

Cari: I'm sorry. I didn't believe in the power of the curse two weeks ago, and Jimmy Gulibon paid the price. My prediction is that he goes 0-2 in St Louis, after having to face MSU's Javier Gasca to start the second straight tournament. Welp.

bscaff: There's a chance - there's always a chance - that Jimmy makes a magical run to the podium. But this weight is too deep and unforgiving. I think (2-2), round of 16, is the non-partisan ceiling.

Clay: I don't want to talk about. I have no clue what to predict. I think he goes 0-2, but if he beats Gasca and maybe wins a match or two on the backside later on I wouldn't be completely shocked.

Sleeper All-American pick

Cari: Randy Cruz, Lehigh Cruz was an All-American last year (defeating OSU's Micah Jordan in the process), so why not again this year? He kept it close with Anthony Ashnault and defeated Gulibon and is NC State's Kevin Jack's only loss on the season. While I was tempted to pick Bryce Meredith in his second straight upset tournament, he's not an unknown anymore - and Cruz can overcome a likely second round loss to McKenna to do major damage in the wrestlebacks.

bscaff: Colton McCrystal, Nebraska 10-seed Bryce Meredith, a returning national finalist, is an obvious choice. But I'm taking 9-seed Colt McCrystal. This is probably a dumb idea. He's not a spectacular athlete. But he does enough "weird" stuff that I think he can surprise a few guys ahead of him.

Clay: Jayden Eierman, Missouri Eierman looked good at 133 before making the bump to 141. He'll have a tough road with Nebraska's McCrystal in round two before seeing Heil in a potential quarterfinal. But Heil wrestles close matches and Eierman is very sound positionally. An upset wouldn't blow my mind.

149

Pick to Win

Cari: Zain Retherford, Penn State He's vying for the most dominant wrestler for the second year in a row. He'll blow through the competition; the only hiccup is Iowa's Brandon Sorensen in his half of the draw, which means that he likely won't get bonus in the semis (yes, I'm thinking Sorensen gets revenge on Micah Jordan in the quarters). But this should likely be a Zain-Stallica final, with an easy Zain victory.

bscaff: Zain The Zain Train bonuses his way into the final, and takes out Anthony Collica for the individual title - and the team title, too.

Clay: Zain

Our guy: Retherford (redshirt junior)

Cari:

bscaff: You see? You see? He's not a man, he's a machine.

Clay: Zain Retherford.

Sleeper All-American pick

Cari: Laike Gardner, Lehigh Gardner, one of Zain's many victims on the year, has some firepower of his own when he can use it. He underwhelmed last year in his second NCAA tournament, but I'm betting that a favorable draw and the knowledge that this is his last year in a Mountain Hawk singlet will edge him onto the podium

bscaff: Gardner

Clay: Anybody who can avoid wrestling our guy, from Penn State.

157

Pick to Win

Cari: Jason Nolf, Penn State Jason Nolf has a different kind of dominance than Zain Retherford; not so much pain as in tiring his opponents out until the third period comes, and they lose all will to move let alone try to escape. It's worked gangbusters for him, and he hasn't had a win as close as Zain's closest few. He's head and shoulders above the rest of this field, a far cry from his last year's NCAA tournament, and it would take a lot for him to lose this one.

bscaff: Nolf Did you know? This (150/157) is the only weight of the 10 weight classes that Penn State has never produced an individual national champion? Think of the names - David Taylor, Russ Hughes, Clint Musser, John Lange, Troy Sunderland, and on, and on. A PSU wrestler - including Jason Nolf last year - has finished 2nd at this weight 13 times. But never 1st. Until this year, that is.

Clay: Nolf

Our guy: Nolf (redshirt sophomore)

Cari:

bscaff: Pace, creativity, jiu-jitsu arm bars, Hannibal Lector masks - you get it all with Jason Nolf.

Clay: See above. Y’all know the drill.

Sleeper All-American pick

Cari: Sal Mastriani, Virginia Tech I would have picked Michigan's Brian Murphy, but he had to withdraw due to injury. And if the constraints we put on ourselves allowed it, I would pick Cornell's Dylan Palacio, because his twitter game is on point. Instead, I'll go with Mastriani, who's recovered nicely from a lackluster redshirt junior campaign last season to have a pretty darn solid senior one. His draw isn't easy - he gets Wisconsin's TJ Ruschell right away, and if he wins that, he's up against Iowa's Michael Kemerer - but he could do some serious damage in the consis.

bscaff: Russ Parsons, Army It's the senior's last go, he's firing on all cylinders, and he has a workable draw. He'll become a commissioned Second Lieutenant in a few weeks. Go Army Go.

Clay: This bracket kind of stinks. I envision the final being Nolf-Kemerer and can't really see anybody becoming a surprise All-American. Maybe keep an eye on Taleb Rahmani of Pitt who won a ACC tournament.

*We decided to go for sleeper All-Americans this year, instead of sleeper picks overall. It’s tough to have sleeper picks when there’s an undefeated wrestler in each bracket.


Team Prediction

Cari: Everything, or almost everything, that could go wrong for the Nittany Lions in Bloomington went wrong for the Nittany Lions in Bloomington - and still, Penn State almost pulled off the victory, despite the opposite (everything going right) happening for Ohio State. Neither of those two things are sustainable. Even if Suriano doesn’t wrestle to seed, there’s too many variables, and too many bonus points to be had, for the Nittany Lions not to come in the odds-on favorite. I was nervous two weeks ago. I’m not now. Penn State #1, Ohio State #2, Oklahoma State #3

bscaff: If you tell me how many of Suriano, Cenzo, Hall, Nickal, Mouse, and Nevills can go from the quarters to the semis Friday morning, and from the semis to the finals (or, bloodround to the podium) Friday night, then I'll tell you definitively who wins. I believe we'll have a pretty fun Friday, and, consequently, PSU will bring home the big boy trophy. But because injuries have tightened the gap, we won't get to celebrate until Saturday evening - probably around the time Zain gets his hand raised, again.

PSU 127

OKST 112

OHST 111

Clay: As I am far too lazy to actually go through the team point calculations for where I think Penn State's guys will finish, I will guestimate. Penn State will likely be too much to overcome given how top heavy it can be.

I have the Nittany Lions winning their sixth team title in seven years.

PSU 122.5

Oklahoma State 119

Ohio State 110