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Previewing B1G Wrestling Championships - 149 pounds

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Is this Sasso’s to lose? yeah

Big Ten Championship
He lost a close one last year. Redemption?
Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

3/2: The Big Ten official pre-seeds were released after this article was published. For this weight, in order, they are: Sasso (OSU), Murin (IA), Parriott (PU), Thomas (NW), Storr (MI), Blockhus (MN), Lovett (NE), Van Brill (RU), Rooks (IU), Omania (MSU), Bartlett (PU), Scharenbrock (WI), Kanzler (ILL), North (MD)

The Big Ten will have 6 allocations for NCAAs in addition to the champions autobid, meaning at least 7 Big Ten wrestlers will be competing in nationals at 149 pounds. However, the NWCA coaches poll ranked TWELVE 149ers from the Big Ten, and that’s not including Penn State’s Beau Bartlett, who just made his collegiate debut. We’re gonna see some at-large bids, and some heartbreaks. This class is lead by Sammy Sasso, the Intermat #2, and contains seven others in the Intermat top 20. The wrestlers are listed in what I expect to be their seeding order.

Nearly a sure thing:

  1. Sammy Sasso, Ohio State Buckeyes: Undefeated and second-ranked Sasso is the clear favorite here. He’s 9-0 on the season, with three pins and a tech fall (including pins over Murin and Carr). He will likely win, and certainly finish no worse than second. The Buckeye finished second at Big Tens to Pat Lugo last year as a freshman. He’s seen nearly the entire field already this regular season, and only had close matches against Peyton Omania and Beau Bartlett.

Qualifiers, maybe contenders:

2. Max Murin, Iowa Hawkeyes: With Storr’s loss to Omania last Friday, Murin became the front-runner for the second-seed. While I have been critical of him in the past, I think he’s really adjusted well to the move from 141 pounds this season. The junior is 4-1, losing by a late fall to Sasso in a match where Murin was generating all the offense, but getting his single leg attacks stuffed and turned into cradles. He does have wins over Carr, Blockhus, and Hardy, so I would put his floor at fourth, and his ceiling at first, but obviously second is more likely.

3. Mike Carr, Illinois Fighting Illini: Illinois’s Mikey Carr is 5-2 on the year, with losses to Sasso and Murin and key wins over Yahya Thomas and Michael Blockhus. He was pinned in the first period by Sasso and lost a 3-1 defensive battle to Murin. He is a two-time national qualifier at 141 pounds, and has the experience necessary to navigate a tough field. Though his key victories were close, I don’t see any reason for him to not be able to repeat them.

4. Kanen Storr, Michigan Wolverines: The Michigan senior had his plans upended by Peyton Omania, losing 15-8 in the final dual of the season thanks to two headlocks. He has one other loss on the season, to top-seeded Sammy Sasso (8-1), and has four wins. He hasn’t wrestled Murin or Carr before, and it took second tie-breaks before he could defeat Mike Van Brill. Storr is obviously a talented wrestler, but I don’t think he can finish higher than third if he gets the four-seed, because he just hasn’t shown anything capable of taking down Sasso.

Likely to qualify or earn at-large:

5. Griffin Parriott, Purdue Boilermakers: Parriott is looking for his third NCAAs qualification as a senior this year, and currently boasts a 3-0 dual record. He has a close win over Van Brill and bonus point wins over Omania and Rooks. He finished eighth at Big Tens last year, beating Yahya Tomas but losing to Kanen Storr.

6. Yahya Thomas, Northwestern Wildcats: Thomas, a junior, qualified for last year’s NCAAs and looks to repeat this year. His only loss on the season comes to Mikey Carr, and he has wins over Hardy, Rooks, and Scharenbrock, so he should be favored to make the quarterfinals. However, he’s fairly outmatched by the top four at the weight.

7. Ridge Lovett, Nebraska Cornhuskers: This one is a little tricky, as Lovett has only started two duals for the Cornhuskers. However, he won both his matches with bonus points (including a major decision over Omania). I think he’ll get the start for Nebraska, but where he’ll be seeded is a bit trickier.

8. Mike Van Brill, Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Van Brill is 1-3 on the year, not having wrestled since January as the Rutgers team has been on pause. A senior, he has a win over Blockhus in addition to losses to Parriott, Sasso, and Storr. He was the seventh place finisher at 157 pounds last year, qualifying for NCAAs in the process.

9. Michael Blockhus, Minnesota Gophers: Blockhus is a sophomore transfer from Northern Iowa. He is 5-4 on the year, with a notable win over Yahya Thomas, but losses to Van Brill and Nebraska backup Brock Hardy. Whether his win over Thomas was a fluke or not will decide how he does in this tournament.

10. Peyton Omania, Michigan State Spartans: Omania is a confusing 3-4, beating two backups but also Kanen Storr. His losses are to Sasso, Lovett, Blockhus, and Parriott, so I’ve placed him below them. Three of those four losses came by major decisions, and the only one that didn’t was a 6-7 loss to Sasso. He may be able to handle some of the lower seeds, but now that everyone knows he has a left headlock, it should be avoidable. He’s a third-year freshman, taking an Olympic redshirt last year to pursue the US Greco-Roman team.

Need a good tournament:

11. Graham Rooks, Indiana Hoosiers: Rooks is 2-2, with wins over Baxter and Penn State backup Jarod Verkleeren and losses to Parriott and Thomas. I could be totally off on his seed, but this seems fair to me. Regardless, he’s still in the mix for an NCAA bid, having qualified last year as a freshman.

12. Beau Bartlett, Penn State Nittany Lions: Bartlett is another difficult one to seed, having only wrestled the projected 1 and 14 seeds among the starters. He’s also a true freshman, so he has no record against the rest of the field. The ultimate wild card. Bastard.

13. Drew Scharenbrock, Wisconsin Badgers: Scharenbrock is 2-5 in duals, with wins over Purdue and Nebraska backups and a sudden victory loss to a Penn State backup. He wrestled in seven duals last year as a redshirt freshman but did not represent Wisconsin at Big Tens.

Maryland:

14. Hunter Baxter, Maryland Terrapins: Baxter is 0-5 in duals as a junior, and he’ll have an uphill climb to qualify for NCAAs. Unfortunately, this is another weight where Maryland just isn’t where they need to be as a Big Ten program.

While I think maybe only two or three guys can win this weight, nearly everyone is a threat to qualify. While the tiers as I have them are fairly segregated, Ridge Lovett, Peyton Omania, and Beau Bartlett can all perform well above or below their seed. I think Max Murin could be capable of beating Sammy Sasso, but he’s going to have to fire less often and keep the Buckeye off-balance to have a high conversion rate and avoid that cradle.

For my prediction, I have Sasso over Murin, Storr over Carr, Thomas over Parriott, and Bartlett over Lovett for the final bid. I think Blockhus and Omania both get at-large bids. I’m fairly confident in the top 4, but 5-13 is a mystery to me.