Wrestling will kick off this Thursday at 10AM Central time on ESPNU with the first round, and the second leg of the round will be at 1PM. Action will move over to ESPN2 for the rest of the night as the second round will start at 5PM and again at 8PM. Quarterfinals will also be split into sessions, beginning at 10AM Friday morning on ESPNU, and then against at 2PM on the same channel. Friday evening will have the semifinals on ESPN2 at 7PM. The medal rounds will be at 10AM Saturday morning on ESPN2, and the finals will be at 6PM on ESPN. Full info is available on the NCAA’s website.
You can also find the brackets for all weights here.
This was one of the weaker weights for the Big Ten, though it was led by the number one wrestler in the country, Sammy Sasso. However, three other conference champs, two of whom are undefeated, will have their sights on him. Meanwhile, the Big Ten only has one other guy in the top eight, and likely won’t get more than four All-Americans.
Big Ten Wrestlers:
Sammy Sasso, Ohio State Buckeyes (1); Ridge Lovett, Nebraska Cornhuskers (5); Mike Van Brill, Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10); Kanen Storr, Michigan Wolverines (11); Max Murin, Iowa Hawkeyes (12); Michael Blockhus, Minnesota Gophers (14); Griffin Parriott, Purdue Boilermakers (15); Graham Rooks, Indiana Hoosiers (21); Yahya Thomas, Northwestern Wildcats (25); Peyton Omania, Michigan State Spartans (28)
Ten Big Ten wrestlers, but Lovett faces Omania and Murin faces Rooks in the first round, with the winners facing each other in the second round. Parriott would face second-seeded Austin O’Connor in the second round, and Blockhus would get the three seed, Brock Mauller. Kanen Storr could line up with Bryce Andonian, the six-seed, and Yahya Thomas starts off against eight-seed Jaden Abais.
Not Big Ten Wrestlers:
Second-seeded Austin O’Connor of North Carolina has been ranked first over Sasso according to some, and should be the favorite to face him in the finals. Their best point of reference would be against Pat Lugo last year, where O’Connor went 0-1 and Sasso split their two matches. He would likely face third-seeded Brock Mauller of Mizzou in the semifinals. Mauller is the undefeated MAC champion, and he All-American’d as a freshman in 2019, when he lost to O’Connor for fifth place. Standing in his way could be six seed Bryce Andonian, a sophomore with an 8-2 record out of the ACC. Both of his losses came to O’Connor, and he has a reputation for being a bit of a risk-taker on the mat.
On the other side of the bracket is four-seed Boo Lewallen, sporting a 16-1 record at Oklahoma State. His only loss this year came to Mauller in tiebreaks, and he would match up with Ridge Lovett in the quarterfinals, should they both wrestle to seed. Assuming he’s victorious, he’ll await Sammy Sasso.
We’ll start with the Big Ten guys. Yahya is gonna have a tough first two matches, and I expect him to hit the wrestlebacks early. Griffin Parriott will have his hands full with Iowa State’s Jarrett Degen, all for a match with Austin O’Connor. Mike Van Brill gets Northern Iowa’s Tristan Lara, then likely the Southern Conference champion Jonathan Millner of App State, but I think he gets through both into the quarterfinals. I think Storr also makes the quarterfinals, upsetting Andonian. Then, in the Big Ten group, I have Murin getting through Rooks to face Lovett, who matches up well with Omania. These two are very even, but I have Murin winning the rematch.
Sammy Sasso will coast to the semifinals, where he’ll get Lewallen. O’Connor will do the same, up to Brock Mauller, and then both favorites will advance to the finals. I favor Sasso very slightly here. I think there’s a big gap between the two and the three, and between four and the field. Sasso, Murin, and Storr earn All-American honors. The loser of the Big Ten quarter will likely see the winner of Van Brill-Millner for an All-American spot, so maybe the Big Ten grabs another. Let’s say Lovett caps his great season with a top eight finish.
Ryan Deakin was unmatched in the Big Ten, but he’ll face steeper competition at NCAAs. He’ll join seven other Big Ten wrestlers in facing the field, where they’ll be met by four undefeated wrestlers.
Big Ten Wrestlers:
Ryan Deakin, Northwestern Wildcats (1); Kaleb Young, Iowa Hawkeyes (5); Brayton Lee, Minnesota Gophers (6); Kendall Coleman, Purdue Boilermakers (9); Brady Berge, Penn State Nittany Lions (12); Will Lewan, Michigan Wolverines (14); Chase Saldate, Michigan State Spartans (15); Caleb Licking, Nebraska Cornhuskers (28)
Deakin should snooze through his first two, where he’ll meet either Kendall Coleman or eight-seed Jared Franek of North Dakota State (barring major upsets). We’ve seen how Deakin dispatches Big Ten competition, so I expect him to be through easily to the semifinals. Kaleb Young will wrestle first Caleb Licking, and then either Berge or Navy’s Andrew Cerniglia. He should also make the quarterfinals. Will Lewan starts with an undefeated wrestler out of the EIWA, Holden Heller of Hofstra. Heller was 12-14 last year, but started this season by pinning Markus Hartman. The winner will face David Carr, undefeated Big 12 champ from Iowa State. Brayton Lee gets Virginia Tech’s Connor Brady, then likely Arizona State’s Jacori Teemer. Chase Saldate starts off with Cade DeVos out of South Dakota State, hoping to earn a bout with Hayden Hidlay.
Not Big Ten Wrestlers:
Kicking off the bottom of the bracket is Hayden Hidlay, the undefeated ACC champion from NC State. Hidlay is a senior, two-time All-American, and the biggest threat to Ryan Deakin. However, he has quite the draw ahead of him. In the second round, he could face Chase Saldate, a dangerous-but-inconsistent wrestler. Win that, and he could get Brayton Lee or Mizzou’s Jarrett Jacques, who lost only to Dellavecchia and Carr this season. Awaiting him in the semifinals could be David Carr, Iowa State’s redshirt sophomore (and two-time Big 12 champ) at the three-seed. His only loss last year came to Deakin, and he beat Young and Coleman.
The four-seed is Jesse Dellavecchia, a sixth-year senior who won the MAC title and is unbeaten. Dellavecchia hasn’t exactly faced a murderers’ row in the MAC, with his toughest bout being a 3-2 decision over seven-seed Jarrett Jacques, but even last year he only lost to Quincy Monday and two-seed Hayden Hidlay.
I happen to like how Young matches up with Dellavecchia, but regardless, Deakin should handle the winner. I don’t think Hidlay can survive his draw, so I have Deakin defeating Carr for the title. Deakin, Young, Lee, and Coleman all can make All-American, but Lee and Coleman will have to do it on the backside, as both should lose their quarterfinal match.
Big Ten Wrestlers:
Alex Marinelli, Iowa (1); Ethan Smith, OSU (7); Peyton Robb, Nebraska (14); Danny Braunagel, Illinois Fighting Illini (15); Gerrit Nijenhuis, Purdue (19); Joe Lee, PSU (23); Andrew Sparks, Minnesota (24); Jake Tucker, MSU (25)
Robb and Nijenhuis just got done wrestling in the consolation semis at B1G and will square off in the opening round. Robb won 6-3 and will likely repeat. Tucker has a tough opening draw against Stanford’s Griffith and Braunagel gets Northern Illinois Husky Izzak Olejnik, also a tough out. Joe Lee will get sent to consis right off the bat by Oklahoma State Cowboy and 10 seed Travis Wittlake. Sparks will take on Luke Weber from NDSU and I’m picking Sparks for the surprise upset there. Ethan Smith should cruise against Andrew Nicholson from Chattanooga. Marinelli awaits the winner of the pigtail match to start his tournament run.
Not Big Ten Wrestlers of note:
Anthony Valencia, Arizona State (2); Jake Wentzel, Pittsburgh Panthers (3); Mekhi Lewis, Virginia Tech (4); Zach Hartman, Bucknell Bison (5); Keegan O’Toole, Missouri Tigers (6); Shane Griffith, Stanford (8)
Valencia is undefeated and Pac-whatever-number-it-is-now Champ. I think he is one of the weaker two seeds across all the weights. He didn’t AA his first two go rounds at the tourney and while he is very good, I don’t see him making it to the finals. Wentzel is a senior, but has never participated in NCAAs due to injuries/COVID. Lewis shocked folks by winning a title as an 8 seed and blew through the top three B1G guys along the way (Bull, Wick, Vincenzo) but he was hurt in a bout with Wentzel a month ago and we haven’t seen him since, so….
Marinelli might be one of the best wrestlers ever to not have a top five NCAA finish on his resume. How many guys have won three straight Big Ten titles and not gone on to more NCAA success. It seems ridiculous to say this of a B1G champ, but Marinelli didn’t look strong to me. He was recovering from COVID, so maybe his conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be. I don’t know, he just didn’t look quite right, so I’m picking him to finish third. We’ll get another shocking champ, but it will be Keegan O’Toole of Missouri this time around. Mekhi Lewis will be the runner-up with Valencia placing fourth. Rounding out your All-Americans will be Wentzel, Griffith, Smith, and Sparks wins a blood round match over Braunagel and placed 8th.
This is arguably the Big Ten’s strongest weight, with top-seeded Michael Kemerer, five of the top eight seeds, and nine wrestlers overall. The Big Ten could theoretically get six All-Americans, and almost certainly will have the champion.
Big Ten Wrestlers:
Michael Kemerer, Iowa Hawkeyes (1); Carter Starocci, Penn State Nittany Lions (3); Mikey Labriola, Nebraska Cornhuskers (4); Logan Massa, Michigan Wolverines (5); Kaleb Romero, Ohio State Buckeyes (7); Donnell Washington, Indiana Hoosiers (9); Jake Allar, Minnesota Gophers (24); Jackson Turley, Rutgers Scarlet Knights (26); Drew Hughes, Michigan State Spartans (32)
Hughes will be the first to wrestle, as he drew a “pigtail” matchup where he will wrestle Binghampton’s Jacob Nolan to face Kemerer in the first round. Jackson Turley and Romero wrestle each other, with the winner advancing to face either Mizzou’s Peyton Mocco or Oklahoma’s Anthony Mantanona. Jake Allar and DJ Washington also wrestle each other, with the winner likely seeing eight seed Daniel Bullard out of NC State. Logan Massa will wrestle Timothy Fitzpatrick of American University, then either Edinoboro’s Jacob Oliver or Cal Poly’s Bernie Truax. Labriola wrestles Northern Iowa’s Lance Runyon, then either North Colorado’s Hemauer or Arizona State’s Munoz. Should Massa and Labriola both win, they’ll see each other in the quarterfinals.
Not Big Ten Wrestlers:
The two-seed is Demetrius Romero, a sixth-year senior out of Utah Valley and the undefeated Big 12 champion. Romero qualified for the NCAAs his sophomore and junior seasons, but failed to All-American either time. While he’s certainly talented, and will All-American, I don’t know if he can get through Romero and Starocci to the finals.
The other two non-Big Ten wrestlers in the top eight are MAC champion Andrew McNally at six, and ACC champ Daniel Bullard at eight. McNally is a senior, three-time qualifier who was slotted at the 21st seed last year. He won an 8-7 decision over Mocco for the MAC, and he’ll need to convert that offense to beat Starocci. His only loss was by injury. Bullard is a senior, four-time qualifier who would have been the 15-seed last year. He lost in sudden victory to App State’s Thomas Flitz, this year’s 15-seed, early this season, but has wins over the 16 and 27-seeds.
I think the Big Ten does get six All-Americans, as Washington and Romero will lose their quarterfinal matchups against the top two seeds, and Labriola and Massa will face each other there, but Starocci and Kemerer will get through the quarterfinals, and I think the semifinals too, setting up a finals rematch. I think Kemerer is successful there, as he was in the Big Ten finals, earning his first national title.
Which Big Ten Champion can’t get it done?
This poll is closed