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Big Ten Wrestling Tournament Preview: The Upper Weights

Part two of two of our preview of the tournament, where we take on 165 through heavyweight.

Courtesy of GoPSUSports

Since 2007, the winner of the Big Ten tournament has also won NCAAs. That’s a full decade already on the books. It’s what math nerds call a “trend”.

This year, three programs have a shot, led by your #1 Penn State Nittany Lions, an unstoppable death machine motoring at ramming speed all season long. The other two who kinda have chance, but probably not really, are #4 Ohio State and #3 Iowa. Here’s how the pre-seeds, released earlier this week, break down from a team point perspective, before bonus.

1-Penn State: 138.5, 2-Ohio State: 111.5, 3-Iowa: 109

And that’s pretty much it. For the wrestling newcomers (welcome friends!), the projected 27-point lead for PSU is equal to one super stud on a two-day rampage. If Ohio State’s weakest weight, say 157lbs, currently seeded 11th, suddenly went on a pinning spree and won the conference title, that guy would score roughly 27 team points, unexpectedly. And the Buckeyes would tie PSU.

That doesn’t sound like too much to overcome, right? Just one guy out of nowhere. Has that ever happened? The short answer is lolnope. It’s actually an absurd ton-o’-points lead.

These guys have been wrestling each other since November. If you’re seeded 11th (out of 14), it’s for good reason. And that reason is that it’s much more likely that you’re the one getting decked, rather than the one who does the pinning. Consider this, too: in the last 5 years of B1Gs, we’ve seen exactly 7 wrestlers seeded lower than 4th even make the conference final. That’s 7 out of 100 chances (because there are 2 guys in a final, 10 weights, 5 years...(using calculator...) yep, 100). Just 4 of those 7 have won.

Each of those 7, by the way, was actually seeded. The lowest-seeded to make the final was 2016’s 141lb 8-seed, a guy by the name of Jim Gulibon, wrestling for Penn State, who had gone oh-fer-February before putting together his 2-day run in March. Three 6-seeds, and three 5-seeds make up the rest of the 7%ers. And that’s it. The lowest seed to win in the last 5 years was 2012’s 157lb 6-seed, Derek St.John, a returning All-American who was only seeded that low because of a knee injury.

Thus, as you might guess, it pays to have high seeds. And that’s why we’re pointing out the following table:

Big Ten Tournament Seeds

1's 3 3 1
2's 3 1 3
3's 1 1 1
4's 2 1 0
TOTALS 9 6 5



Pick to Win

Cari: Isaiah Martinez, Illinois I could see any of the top four guys win this one, as they’ve clearly separated themselves from the pack; not just in the conference, but in the nation. That being said, I have to give the edge to the returning NCAA champ, who knows what it takes to win and learns from any small mistake he makes every time he gets out on the mat.

bscaff: Martinez

Garrett: Martinez IMar will win his third straight title, and will probably make a fool of himself doing it.

Clay: Martinez

Our guy: Vincenzo Joseph (redshirt freshman)

Cari: Cenzo has what it takes to win this weight, and was incredibly close (ie, smelled the victory) against third-seeded Ike Jordan, and kept his match with IMar within striking distance until the final seconds. In order to really out perform his seed, though, he’ll need to wrestle strong through the first session, and then beat IMar in the semifinals – no small task.

bscaff: I love the way Cenzo's wrestling, and think he's an excellent pick for the NCAA podium. But he's the 4-seed here despite being ranked 4th nationally, because the top 3 are also in his conference.

Garrett: Blowing that match against Isaac Jordan hurts Cenzo’s seeding here, forcing him to see IMar in the semis. I think Cenzo avenges his loss to Jordan, albeit in the consolations for third.

Clay: Cenzo, due to an unfortunate loss to Jordan of Wisconsin, gets a bit of a rough draw here seeing Martinez in the semifinals. These four will likely be seeded 1-4 in St. Louis as well so it's important for Joseph, if he can't win it all, to wrestle back for third and stay opposite Martinez in the national tournament.

Sleeper pick

Cari: Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin Another dude who’s been there, done that – but hasn’t gotten the college crown yet. At least this year he wouldn’t be facing his cousin, Bo, as he’s done the last two years.

bscaff: Jordan The 2x 165lb Big Ten Champ and returning national finalist, Cousin Ike Jordan, is healthy and rested. He'll finish 4th.

Garrett: Nick Wanzek, Minnesota Tough to pick a sleeper in this weight when there’s such a big gap between 1-4 and the rest. I’ll pick Wanzek, as high quarterfinal opponent Jordan has a tendency to wrestle close matches, and maybe could be vulnerable to an upset, if any of those top four are.

Clay: Drew Hughes, Michigan State Not really sure any of the top four can be considered sleepers and I don't think anyone outside the top four has a chance at winning, but Hughes is a fun guy to watch wrestle in his true freshman season.


Pick to Win

Cari: Mark Hall, Penn State I get why Bo Jordan got the top seed here, I really do. But he’s had an underwhelming season recently, and his ducking of competition in order to preserve his ranking (nothing will convince me otherwise) doesn’t bode well to me. Hall, on the other hand, is another wrestler that’s come out on fire, and despite his debut loss to Alex Meyer in Iowa City, he’s had a pretty darn impressive freshman campaign.

bscaff: Hall

Garrett: Hall

Clay: Hall

Our guy: Hall (true freshman)

Cari: See above. He’ll make anyone wonder why they worried about his redshirt being pulled.

bscaff: Tournaments are different animals than duals. Mark Hall's made for tournaments, and he's winning this one in his first try.

Garrett: Hall is a great tournament wrestler, and I expect him to make a statement and win the conference title. He gets a really nice draw, and BoJo seems to be hobbled.

Clay: Mark got a bit of a favorable draw here as he'll see Brunson in the semifinals if he gets there, a guy he teched in Rec Hall just about a month ago. Given Jordan's injury issues I think Hall has the upper hand in a potential finals matchup as well.

Sleeper pick

Cari: Myles Amine, Michigan Bo Jordan isn’t really a sleeper pick, as he’s the #1 seed, so I’m going low here. Zac Brunson of Illinois may be higher seeded - but he has to face Hall in the semis if he gets that far, and Wreck just TFed him a few weeks ago. Iowa’s Alex Meyer could also make a run - but my money’s on the Wolverine redshirt freshman surprising some folks, and maybe even knocking Bo off in the semis.

bscaff: Amine He'll have a brutal road, but if #4 Myles Amine gets past #5 Alex Meyer in the quarters, I think he knocks off #1 Bo Jordan in the semis, because BoJo can't move his feet due to injury. Bo looks like he's wearing cement shoes.

Garrett: Amine Amine’s quickness could prove Jordan issues, provided he beats Alex Meyer in the quarterfinals.

Clay: Amine He may be the best athlete at the weight and if he can defeat Meyer of Iowa for a second time this season he'll face Jordan in the semifinals. Amine's quickness could cause a lot of issues for a guy who isn't moving particularly well right now.


Pick to Win

Cari: Bo Nickal, Penn State I can’t be the only one disappointed that Nickal let Myles Martin keep it close in their rematch of last year’s NCAA final; Bo’s been wrestling nasty this year, with the only thing looking to slow him down wearing a big “C” on his bright red singlet. He’s gotten falls over some of this weights top ranked wrestlers, and Bo’s versatility and funkiness allow him to take advantage of whatever his opponent gives him.

bscaff: Bo

Garrett: Bo

Clay: Bo

Our guy: Nickal (redshirt sophomore)

Cari: See above. He’s my favorite. And if you saw him on the Beaver Stadium field at halftime this fall when the team was honored for their National Title, you knew he’d be a wrecking ball this year.

bscaff: So you're the top seed at Big Tens, and your reward is to have two other national finalists (#4 Myles Martin and #5 Tim Dudley) on your half of the bracket. Ridiculous. But Bo's simply better. He's also kept the double overhooks on the shelf all year long, which, though I miss them, it's a good thing, because the only way he loses is if he beats himself.

Garrett: Kind of ironic that Bo is such a huge favorite in a tournament where the only two guys to beat him in college are also in the bracket. Bo will roll, though.

Clay: Each time I say Bo can't possibly remain as on fire as he has been this season, he goes out and proves me wrong. So I'm done betting against Bo Nickal on the wrestling mat.

Sleeper pick

Cari: Myles Martin, Ohio State The only guy who hasn’t given up bonus to Bo in their last two meetings, and the last one he lost to (the previous wrestler before that, Indiana’s Nate Jackson, is actually seeded one ahead of Martin). I’m not expecting this, by any stretch, but if anyone in this weight can do it, it’s Martin - a defending national champ.

bscaff: Nathan Jackson, Indiana He's really good.

Garrett: TJ Dudley, Nebraska I got to go with returning NCAA finalist Dudley as a five seed in this bracket as my sleeper to win the consolation bracket and take third.

Clay: Nick Gravina, Rutgers Gravina has had an up and down season but is a returning NCAA qualifier and has a number of quality wins. He's seeded seventh and opposite Iowa's Brooks. While I'd favor Brooks in that contest, an upset isn't out of the question.


Pick to Win

Cari: Kollin Moore, Ohio State Where did this OSU freshman come from? Burbank, Ohio. He’s looked damn impressive this year, and I’m just not very impressed with top-seeded Brett Pfarr. He’s beaten Moore twice already on the year, but I see Tan Tom getting Moore ready to go for a potential third conference title for the Buckeyes, and beating Pfarr the third time they meet up.

bscaff: Moore

Garrett: Moore I love his style, so I will go with Moore to beat Pfarr in the finals and win the tournament.

Clay: Brett Pfarr, Minnesota

Our guy: Matt McCutcheon (junior)

Cari: McCutcheon has had a surprisingly consistent junior season bumping up a weight, and he gets a pretty favorable seed. Pfarr seemed more beatable in their matchup (suiting better to Matt’s style) than either Moore or Studebaker, and if Mouse keeps his head down and wrestles tough – especially on top, where he’s really picked up his game – he could make the finals.

bscaff: My one hope for Mouse is that he exits B1Gs relatively healthy. Sure, he can upset Brett Pfarr in the semis, make the final, and win the whole spiel. But I don't really care about any of that. Just leave Indy with no more dents in the fenders than are already there. It's the NCAAs and the All-American podium that matters most.

Garrett: McCutcheon comes in as the #4 seed, and I think his final placing will be right around there, either third or fourth. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say third.

Clay: Cutch seems to be wrestling as well as he has all season and his win over OK State’s Preston Weigel was a nice confidence booster. He comes in as the fourth seed and probably matches up better with top-seeded Pfarr than he does second-seeded Moore of Ohio State. I expect to see this weight go chalk 1-4, but I could also see Cutch topping Studebaker in a third-place match.

Sleeper pick

Cari: Aaron Studebaker, Nebraska The Nebraska wrestler left an impression when he took advantage of a McCutcheon miscue and pinned him a few months ago. Since then, *results*. The premier matchup in this bracket could just be the semifinal opposite the Penn State wrestler.

bscaff: Christian Brunner, Purdue He's not winning it, but he's going to finish a lot better than 8th.

Garrett: McCutcheon The tournament sleeper is our own Matt McCutcheon! He wrestled a close match with Pfarr in the regular season and got to the legs a few times. If he can finish one of those attacks it could be a different result than the dual meet.

Clay: McCutcheon He could really make things interesting if Matt could knock off Pfarr in the semifinals. Stylistically it's a decent matchup as Pfarr thrives off of scramble situations and Cutch doesn't take too many bad shots. If it's a one shot match in the third we've already seen that he has the ability to go get it.


Pick to Win

Cari: Kyle Snyder, Ohio State He is an Olympic champion, and his closest NCAA match the last two years (and in much of international competition) was last year’s overtime NCAA final against Nick Gwiz. He’s absolutely demolished the competition at heavy, treating all of his opponents like rag dolls despite giving up dozens of pounds to every opponent, and this outcome is likely the most assured of the tournament.

bscaff: Snyder

Garrett: Snyder Kyle Snyder will win the Big Ten Tournament, which is like the 10th most impressive thing he’s won in the last two years. Long Live The King.

Clay: Snyder

Our guy: Nick Nevills (redshirt sophomore)

Cari: Nevills was given a gift by the scheduling gods to be seeded on the opposite side of the bracket from Snyder. If he blows through the rest of the bracket (and the way he’s wrestled this season, there’s no reason to think he won’t), he’ll face a very good Connor Medbery of Wisconsin in the semifinals – and I like Nick’s chances to get revenge in that rematch. But then he’d face Snyder again, who majored him in Columbus.

bscaff: What a difference a (healthy) year makes, huh? Nick entered B1Gs last year with an 8-seed, having all of 4 or 5 matches under his sizable belt after surgery for a torn pectoral had kept him sidelined since September. And the timing just wasn't there. Now he's ranked 3rd nationally, and I think he can make the final here - and then put on a much better show against Snyder for the B1G crown than he managed at the dual.

Garrett: Nevills will be focusing on beating Medbery, avenging a loss in a match he feels like he probably should’ve won. This is a HUGE match for seeding at NCAA’s in this weight. I ultimately think Medbery beats him again, and Nevills take third.

Clay: Nick topping Medbery in the semifinals here could be the difference between the second seed at the NCAA tournament and the fifth seed, with Ty Walz of Virginia Tech and Jacob Kasper of Duke right on his heels. He was close in the first matchup between the two, can he get it done when it counts?

Sleeper pick

Cari: None. Snyder won’t even really be challenged this year - and yet I still can’t hate him.

bscaff: None. The top 4 are set in stone. The real fun is the fight between 5 thru 9, for the last 3 tickets to the dance. Black (ILL) and Jennings (jNW) are full-sized, 285lb dudes who do very little out there. Jensen (NEB) and Hemida (UMD) are less-than full-sized dudes who actually attempt some forms of offense. Gross (RUTG) is not full-sized, but is a defense-only guy. So it'll be interesting to see which 3 get in, and which 2 get left behind.

Garrett: Collin Jensen, Nebraska I’m going to go with Jensen as the wrestler most likely to beat his seed, though not by much, as I don’t see him doing better than fourth.

Clay: None. Nobody outside of Snyder has a chance to win this thing and nobody outside of the top three is breaking into the top three.

Make sure you check out our lower weight preview, here.