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NCAA Tournament Wrestling Preview: The Roundtable

We’ve got a ton more content coming your way live from Cleveland, but with a day to go, here’s our staff’s takes on the tournament!

FloSports: FloWrestling Penn State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

In this portion of our preview, we break down our picks for the team champ, as well as some wrestlers we think may surprise both in good and bad ways.

We also discuss which non-PSU wrestler to thank WHEN the Nittany Lions upend the Buckeyes and who we feel will be the most entertaining wrestlers in the field, both of the Penn State and non-Penn State variety.

Be sure to leave your comments below, tell us what we got right, what we got wrong and why Tom Ryan’s squad will under-achieve for him.

Make sure you check out our weight by weight breakdowns:

125 -157

165 - Heavyweight

How To Watch

What: The NCAA Division I Wrestling Tournament

Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

When: 12 pm Thursday, March 15: Session 1: Pigtails / Champ R1

7 pm Thursday, March 15: Session 2: Preliminaries / Consi R1 / Champ R2

11 am Friday, March 16: Session 3: Champ Qtrs / Consi R2 & Consi R3

8 pm Friday, March 16: Session 4: Champ Semis / Consi R4 & Consi R5

11 am Saturday, March 17: Session 5: Consi Semis / 3rd, 5th, 7th Place Bouts

8 pm Saturday, March 17: Session 6: Champ finals

Audio: Free, Jeff “Ironhead” Byers; all sessions free via GoPSUsports

Video: ESPN (for Sessions 2 & 4), ESPN 2 (for Session 6), ESPN U for all other sessions

LiveBlog: BSD, for all sessions, pbp scorekeeper volunteers welcome & deeply appreciated.

First things first: who will win?

Bscaff: I’ll take Dear Old State, of course. But I think it’s a whole lot closer than last year. Should be a real hoot.

Cari: Penn State. And it’ll be decided before the midpoint of the Saturday evening session, if not before the third place matches are over.

And no other Big Ten team besides OSU and PSU will make the top four (Michigan places fifth behind Missouri and Arizona State).

Clay: Penn State. This is March. This is Nationals. This is what Penn State does.

JP: I never thought I’d say this this year, but Luke Pletcher and Joey McKenna scare the hell out of me. Pletcher’s really good, and at times in East Lansing it looked like he was even efforting!

Ke-Shawn Hayes: also scary, in that field of debris left behind Zain.

I called for MyMar to bring big bonus and Rasheed looked a little tense in Lansing against 1-seed Kollin Moore. Round all those bros out with Bo & Micah Jordan, Nathan Tomasello and Captain Freakin America, and that stacked last-chance buckeye lineup is downright frightful!

But here’s the thing: they’re not going to win.

Friday Night’s when it all goes down. Penn State will be leading in Bonus Points, probably 22 to 16 or so. But the 7-point Placement + Advancement combos at stake are where the gap will be made.

Spencer Lee over Nathan Tomasello. Ohio State: nil new points. Stevan Micic over Luke Pletcher for another stagnato. Nick Lee with a surprise upset over Bryce Meredith, to negate Joey McKenna’s defeat of Kevin Jack. Ke-Shawn Hayes gets stonewalled and blocked from the podium by Old Yeller Jason Tsirtsis, while Zain Retherford majors Troy Heilmann for a +8pt gain. Nolf gives Micah the major decision beating Micah eluded in that February dual that Ohio State still managed to lose anyhow.

Vincenzo inside trips a fast and loose Hokie David McFadden. Mark Hall remains technically solid and advances past Mizzou’s Daniel Lewis, while Bo Nickal & Myles Martin each advance at 184. Kyle Snyder will defeat a much-less-woofy-this-year Jacob Kasper, but Rasheed will put a nail in the coffin by dialing up the antics of the Antbeast Anthony Cassar and send my buckeye seat-mates to the pub to drown their tears.

It’ll be glorious.

And not at all unfamiliar to the stunned onlookers who will openly wonder how can Cael ever be defeated.

Penn State.

After winning the conference title, Ohio State is favored in front of a likely home crowd. If the Lions end up winning, which two non-Penn Staters will have contributed the most to the margin of victory?

Bscaff: I’ll cop out and take Lehigh, the Enginerds. Darian Cruz vs Tomasello in the consis. Scotty Parker to knock off Luke Pletcher in the quarters. Luke Karam to take the starch out of Joey McKenna in round 2 with a long, torturous ride. Jordan Kutler to push Bo Jordan down the podium. Ryan Preisch to upset Myles Martin in the semis. Chris Weiler to surprise Kollin Moore Saturday morning. Come on, Lehigh. Do it for Pennsylvania.

Cari: Bo Jordan, who doesn’t wrestle to seed. And Malik Amine, whose ridiculous handfighting knocks Ohio State’s Hayes out in the first round. And all of the Missouri and Arizona State wrestlers who face OSUers before Penn Staters.

Clay: Thank you very much Nate Rotert, because if Kollin Moore wins it all then Penn State may be in some trouble.

JP: Spencer Lee. Because he’ll set the tone Friday night. Penn State fans will need the energy of those Iowa fans, who are desperate for a big, tone-setting win at the nationals. One of the many, many cool things I’ve seen in the arena at the three national tourneys I’ve been to is the odd alignment of typically opposing fanbases when the team race indicates they share an interest. I’m personally quite psyched to lock arms with my Hawkeye brethren in rooting for Lee over Tomasello.

The other is Yianni Diakomihalis, because “the nationals” are way more fun with the occasional Big Red bro doing something big, and because it won’t be surprising at all if Joey McKenna makes it to the raised stage opposite him on Saturday night. Those four thwarted Placement Points could end up being extra helpful to the Nittany Lion margin of victory, which is more commonly known as “dominance” in wrestling contexts.

Which Penn State wrestler are you most looking forward to seeing compete at the NCAAs?

Bscaff: Zain’s the safe pick - always leaves PSU smiling. But I’ll go with Nolf. I’ll enjoy watching him tear out the beating hearts of all non-PSUers, and lift them high like the crazy shaman guy from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Kali-mah, shook-dee-day.

Cari: Nick Lee. I think he’ll surprise some folks out there and wrestle well above seed.

And also Zain, because it’ll be the last time we get to see this national treasure in a Penn State singlet.

Clay: I’m most intrigued by Shakur Rasheed, but I can’t handle the ulcers he may give me. I’ll go Nolf, because I think he’s closer to healthy than some think and I believe he reminds the wrestling world just how much better he is than the rest of that weight.

JP: Nick Lee or Shakur Rasheed. They’re our two newest bookends to our returning AA’s and the greatest hope we have to thwart Tom Ryan’s last-chance lineup before Cael really reloads next year. I’m still a little shook a by how thoroughly Lee got dominated in the B1G semis before bouncing back for third, although some trusted mat-head, Cael included, have been instrumental in talking me out of what I thought I saw. Rasheed can do some mad crazy damage to his relatively weak bracket, and Penn State’s gonna need him to.

Which non-Penn State wrestlers are you most looking forward to seeing compete?

Bscaff: I’m forward to watching Mizzou wrestlers implode from their (generally) outrageously high seeds. John Erneste, Grant Leeth, Joey Lavallee, Canteen Marriott, come on down.

Cari: Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, up until the finals - he should be fun. And Olympian Kyle Snyder’s always a blast to watch; plus, I did love Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith’s Cinderella story a few years ago, so I can’t wait to see him wrestle in person again.

Clay: Spencer Lee, Iowa. Dude is a mini Zain on top and is going to put some serious hurting on unsuspecting 125 pounders in the early rounds.

JP: For B1Gs, I picked a bunch of Nebraska wrestlers because PSU hadn’t wrestled them in the dual season, but that was unrewarding. Except for Chad Red’s dad coaching from the front row of the stands. That guy was entertaining, and not obnoxious, which sometimes go hand-in-hand in #WrestleDadLyfe.

So for The Nationals, It’s gotta be Missouri. Contenders or Pretenders? Their schedule and history point to the latter, but I want to see what kind of offensiveness they present in person. I’m suspicious that Scaff’s skepticism is warranted, but I need to get my eyes on them.

What is the biggest surprise for you after the brackets/seeding have been released? Ie, biggest overseed or underseed.

Bscaff: The biggest overseed is the direct impact head coaches have on all administrative things. Imagine giving Pat Narduzzi decision-making authority for the football regular season, scheduling, how points get scored, game rules, tournaments vs bowls, choosing which teams make the postseason, and how they’re seeded. Because that’s what wrestling’s had for 40 years. It’s absurd, and it’s largely why the sport of wrestling’s limited successes have occurred mostly in spite of itself.

Cari: Jason Nolf dropping to the three seed is just silly. And while I logically get Joey McKenna at the four, I still think a returning third-place finisher who upped the ante with his coaching staff change should get more of a benefit of a doubt over those with a similar record.

Clay: Kollin Moore getting the one seed is pretty ridiculous, but Joey Lavallee getting the two is absolutely egregious. In the past, the committee has talked about how losses don’t matter and it’s all about quality wins. Lavallee has exactly one quality win. I don’t understand how you can possibly reward that type of scheduling.

JP: Chance Marsteller getting the 9-seed. Not beefing with it necessarily, because he did lose in his conference final, and it’s a wicked deep weight but a 40-2 record to the 9-seed looks pretty wild. Chance is also my 3-seed answer to Question #2, behind Spencer & Yianni.

Now, give us your takes, BSD wrestling community! Who’ve you got in the team race, and who are you looking forward to seeing? Let us know in the comments.