The selection committee will announce the NCAA Wrestling Championships field tomorrow at 5 PM God’s time, but until then, let’s speculate! A couple guys underperformed their seeds at Big Tens and will be hoping for at-large bids.
You have 7 available slots and 9 ranked wrestlers on the outside looking in. #15 Eric Barnett of the Wisconsin Badgers, #7 Liam Cronin of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and #21 Fabrian Gutierrez are locks. #17 Justin Cardani of the Illinois Fighting Illini is an interesting case. He’s 2-9 on the year, but he faced 11 ranked wrestlers. So he has no bad losses, but no great wins either. The two wins were Brock Hudkins who lost two matches and then must’ve gotten hurt because he didn’t wrestle again and Eric Barnett who turned around and majored him in the Big Ten tournament. Many of his losses were tantalizingly close, but still, are they going to take a 2-9 record? Probably. Should they? Eh. I think all the guys above make the cut except Rider and Roes because the EIWA already has provided enough cannon fodder for the field.
Six bids, fourteen ranked guys. However, only two of them are Big ten guys, and the highest ranked still comes in seventh behind the field. A spot was cleared when Sammy Alvarez was withdrawn for postseason competition. Ohio State’s Jordan Decatur was ranked 21st by the coaches’ poll before conference championships, but forfeited out without wrestling. He’s 6-4 on the season, with wins over three national qualifiers and losses to Byrd, Bravo-Young, and Alvarez, but also Jack Medley. The Michigan Wolverines’ Medley, thirty-third, went 4-3 at 133 pounds, including a 1-2 and a 10th place finish at Big Tens. His best win is Decatur. Of the two, Decatur has the better chance at a bid, despite the head-to-head loss. I’d give him 60-40 odds to hop one of the other guys.
Twelve ranked guys are vowing for six at-large spots, including two Big Ten wrestlers. Frankly, this one is pretty cut and dry. The Minnesota Gophers’ Marcus Polanco, ranked twenty-first, went 2-4 against qualifiers during the regular season, defeating Filius and Valdiviez. He had a poor tournament, losing to Cayden Rooks in the opening round and again in the 9th place bracket, but no way can six guys provide a better resume. #33 Dylan D’Emilio of Ohio State should also get a fair shake, going 2-2 against qualifiers in the regular season (but losing to Illinois backup Danny Pucino). His tournament losses came to runner-up Nick Lee and eighth place finisher Drew Mattin, who he beat in the regular season. However, I don’t think D’Emilio will get in, based on the coaches’ previous ranking. Maybe in a year where the allocations weren’t… flustered. Wait, I can swear here. Darned!
Eleven ranked guys compete for six spots, including five Big Ten wrestlers. The withdrawal of #6 Mikey Carr opened a spot for the field, but with four of the top six searching for a seed coming from the Big Ten, it’ll likely be net zero for the Big Ten. #5 Max Murin of the Iowa Hawkeyes is a sure shot. He’s 4-3 on the year, with losses to the Big Ten’s first, second, and third-place finishers, and a win over the fourth. He also beat Carr. #12 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern finished eighth, falling one place short of auto-qualifying, and he also shouldn’t have too much trouble winning a bid. He’s 2-4 against the NCAA field this season, though, and also lost to Carr. Then comes the Penn State Nittany Lion’s Beau Bartlett, who has beaten only Valdiviez among the qualifiers. However, his losses come to Sasso, Blockhus, and Yahya Thomas. And Peyton Omania has a losing record on the year, though all of his losses come to qualifiers, and he has wins over Kanen Storr and Mike Van Brill (both thanks to headlock throws). Certainly one of those two will make it, and there’s a chance both do. Drew Scharenbrock of the Wisconsin Badgers has almost no case, however, arguably not beating a starter all year. He won two dual matches, but neither guy he beat was submitted for postseason competition, and he beat Illinois’s Christian Kanzler in the tournament, but Kanzler was a last minute substitution. He also has a loss to Luke Gardner, who Bartlett beat out for a spot on Penn State’s team.
This may be the only spot where the Big Ten doesn’t get anyone at-large. Six spots, eleven ranked guys, and the Big Ten guys are eight and ten. Wisconsin’s #26 Garrett Model and #32 Elijah Cleary of Ohio State split on the season, with Model winning at the dual and Cleary winning in the quarterfinals of the championships. Model also lost to Coleman, Berge, Lee, Deakin, and Saldate on the season, while only scoring a wing against Caleb Licking among NCAA qualifiers this year. He’ll have the better chance of the two. Clearly lost to Robert Kanniard, Saldate, Coleman, Lewan, Berge, Deakin, and Licking, with his best win coming against Model. He’s likely out.
Ten ranked wrestlers hoping for 7 spots. Someone is going to be unhappy. Mekhi Lewis, Kennedy Monday, and Danny B will be All American contenders with a lot of good wins on the season. They’re locks along with Sparks and Formato. Michigan fans ought to hope Formato and Amine aren’t in the same quarter of the draw, amirite? Because, you know, michigan loses to Appalachian State often. The last two should go to South and Mosley. They’re ranked higher because they are better and neither looked too bad in their conference tourney.
Twelve guys are going for seven spots here, and two of them are Big Tenors. Figaro. #22 Jackson Turley of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights went 3-2 on the year, and 2-2 against tournament-tier opponents, beating Drew Hughes and Jake Allar and losing to Labriola and Allar in the tournament. He also placed ninth in the extra tournament at Big Tens. He should be in safely. #28 Jared Krattiger of Wisconsin is just on the outside. He’s 2-0 against Jake Allar on the year, and his losses all come to qualified wrestlers. His worst loss came in the wrestlebacks when he was pinned by Drew Hughes, the eventual eighth place finisher.
Oooof, lots of ranked guys and only six chairs left when the music stops. Not a surprise given the randomness that is 184 would be the weight with the most upsets and therefore, the most ranked guys needing spots. The two Big Ten guys should be in comfortably. After that, like all things 184, it’s kind of a crapshoot. I’ll just say the top six guys get in because who the hell knows?
This is an interesting weight. It has seven at-large bids, and the Big Ten got their fewest allocations here at just six. So, among the eleven fighting for spots, the Big Ten guys could be given preference. #16 Thomas Penola of Purdue finished seventh in the Big Ten, and #27 Billy Janzer of Rutgers finished eighth. I’d guess they’re both safely in. Then, with #22 Matt Wroblewski and #23 Gavin Hoffman highly ranked, there’s a chance that the Big Ten gets another two in. Usually the committee likes to spread out their bids across conferences, but usually the allocations aren’t so darned. Hoffman and Wroblewski split on the year, and were each other’s best wins (though Hoffman did beat Janzer). If only one got in, it’d be Hoffman.
Eleven guys are vying for six spots, including… oh, just one Big Ten guy. Yeah, and he’s in, obviously. Tough tournament for #9 Luke Luffman, having regular season decisions reversed by Christian Lance, Tate Orndorff, and Trent Hillger. He finished eighth, but the Big Ten only auto-qualified seven because of aforementioned darning.