3/2: The Big Ten official pre-seeds were released after this article was published. For this weight, in order, they are: Brooks (PSU), Weiler (WI), Malczewski (MSU), Webster (MN), Poznanski (RU), Venz (NE), Lyon (PU), Braunagel (ILL), Brands (IA), Jordan (OSU), Cochran (MD), Bullock (MI), Halvorsen (NW), Cantu (IN)
Welcome to 184 lbs., where the transitive property has been tied to a chair and forced to stare at itself in a cracked funhouse mirror. We have a clear favorite and...an awful lot of uncertainty. There are 8 bids to give out and, as with every other weight, the conference is deep enough to merit consideration for multiple at-large bids.
- Aaron Brooks (#2)—Penn State Nittany Lions: Your clear favorite. The former #1 overall recruit stormed on the scene last year, going 15-1 and winning the B1G title as a freshman. Brooks defeated Taylor Venz in the title match, avenging his only loss on the season. If he doesn’t repeat, it will be a major surprise.
Let’s remove losses to Brooks and wins over anybody in Cluster 3. What do we have? With some trepidation, here’s my guess:
2. Weiler (3-1: W-Venz, Lyon, Braunagel; L-Jordan)
3. Malczewski (2-1: W-Jordan, Webster; L-Lyon)
4. Webster (3-1: W-Lyon, Braunagel, Poznanski; L-Malczewski)
5. Poznanski (2-1: W-Jordan, Lyon; L-Webster)
Malczewski > Webster > Poznanski seems simple enough, but what do you do with Weiler, who wrestled none of these guys? Well, Webster also has a loss to Nebraska’s backup Nathan Haas, so Weiler has to be ahead of Webster. And he has 3 good wins to Malczewski’s 2, so give Weiler the #2 seed and let him and Malczewski settle it in the semis, if they both get there (only one will).
Let’s use the same recipe as above (but grab a stiff drink first):
6. Lyon (3-4: W-Malczewski, Brands, Braunagel; L-Weiler, Jordan, Poznanski, Webster)
7. Braunagel (2-4: W-Jordan, Brands; L-Venz, Weiler, Lyon, Webster)
8. Brands (2-2: W-Venz, Jordan; L-Lyon, Braunagel)
9. Jordan (2-4: W-Weiler, Lyon; L-Malczewski, Brands, Braunagel, Poznanski)
10. Venz (1-2: W-Braunagel; L-Weiler, Brands)
Everybody just **knows** that Venz is better than this, but the record this year doesn’t show it, so he has to get the 10-seed. Similarly, Lyon is the only one with three quality wins, so he deserves the 6-seed. And that actually makes 7-9 easier, since, among those three, there’s a clear 2-0, 1-1, 0-2 mini-round robin.
11. Bullock/Embree—starter last year (Embree) or this year (Bullock); 11-seed either way
12. Cochran (4-5 on year, but only win over wrestler in this bracket is Harris)
13. Jessen (only win is over Harris)
14. Harris (Indiana has no wins at this weight all year)
What to expect?
I actually mocked-up a bracket with these seeds and filled it out. I’m buying into the narrative that Venz will right the ship. If he beats Braunagel, then Weiler, that really upends that half of the bracket. Ultimately, I have it: 1) Brooks, 2) Venz, 3) Weiler, 4) Malczewksi, 5) Webster, 6) Poznanski, 7) Lyon, 8) Brands. Braunagel will get an at-larger and Jordan might, but he’ll have a nervous wait.