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NCAA Wrestling Championships preview: 174-285 pounds

Looking at the Big Ten guys who look to find their way to the podium this weekend

U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Wrestling
In order to level the playing field, Gable will be wrestling this NCAAs on his hands
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

You can view all our other NCAAs coverage here! You can also view the NCAA brackets here.

174 Pounds

B1G Qualifiers: 1. Carter Starocci, Penn State | 3. Logan Massa, Michigan | 5. Michael Kemerer, Iowa | 7. Ethan Smith, Ohio State | 9. Mikey Labriola, Nebraska | 21. Bailee O’Reilly, Minnesota | 23. Troy Fisher, Northwestern | 25. Gerrit Nijenhuis, Purdue | 32. Dominic Solis, Maryland | 33. Connor O’Neill, Rutgers

Atinat: Surprise, another strong weight for the Big Ten. They’re led by defending national champion Carter Starocci, who is undefeated since his title win over Michael Kemerer last year. Starocci will see his first B1G opponent in round one, as Dom Solis and Connor O’Neill meet one another in the pigtail. Then comes Logan Massa, who is the three-seed thanks to a second-place finish at Big Tens. He doesn’t have any potential Big Ten foes until the semifinals, but he does have a chance to see Mizzou’s Peyton Mocco or Okie State’s Dustin Plott in the quarterfinals, and they’re a couple of dangerous guys. Kemerer is the five-seed, and starts with Benjamin Pasiuk of Army. He could see Bailee O’Reilly in round two, if O’Reilly can get past Cade DeVos of SDSU, the 12-seed. 7-seed Ethan Smith starts with Tyler Eischens of Stanford, and could get Northwestern’s Troy Fisher in round two, but Fisher would need to upset Clay Lautt of North Carolina. Mikey Labriola gets Iowa State’s Joel Devine in round one, and then he too could see a Big Ten foe if Gerrit Nijenhuis can upset Michael O’Malley of Drexel.

Outside of the Big Ten, the biggest threat is 2019 national champion Mekhi Lewis, who beat Marinelli, Wick, and Vincenzo Joseph to win the 165-pound bracket that year. Injuries ended his season last year, but this year he’s 20-1, with a lone loss coming to Hayden Hidlay, the four seed, which he avenged at ACCs. Hidlay is also quite the talented dude, and the biggest (human) obstacle to seeing a final Starocci-Kemerer bout in the semifinals. The other obstacle would be Kemerer’s shoulder. I think Peyton Mocco is a low seed to watch. He has five losses on the year, but four are to top-ten seeds (and three of those by 1-point or tiebreaks).

Obviously Starocci is the favorite here, but between Kemerer and Lewis, I think this weight is relatively open. Labriola and Smith both have decent chances to All-American, and Massa should be able to get to the semifinals before meeting Lewis.

184 Pounds

1. Myles Amine, Michigan | 2. Aaron Brooks, PSU | 7. Kaleb Romero, OSU | 9. Zac Braunagel, Illinois | 10. Taylor Venz, Nebraska | 13. Kyle Cochran, Maryland | 18. Abe Assad, Iowa | 19. Isaiah Salazar, Minnesota | 20. John Poznanski, Rutgers | 22. Layne Malczewski, MSU | 26. DJ Washington, Indiana | 29. Chris Weiler, Wisconsin | 30. Max Lyon, Purdue | 33. Jack Jessen, Northwestern

HWAHSQB: You know which wrestlers from the B1G aren’t represented at NCAAs this year? No, both Maryland and Indiana made the cut. All 14 184s made the tournament, which is the first time that has happened. Unfortunately, that means there is no one for us all to point our fingers at and laugh.

When you have 14 guys in a 33 man draw, you will definitely have B1G on B1G action, but we’ve only got 2 and perhaps a 3rd in the first round. Jessen is in the pigtail match. If he wins, his prize is an ass-kicking from Myles Amine. We also get Cochran/Poznanski and Romero/Washington. The winner of Romero/Washington likely gets Venz in the 2nd round. Assad gets Brooks in the second round and an upset there would be huge for Iowa, but yeah, Brands and Co better hope that Assad does some damage on the back side.

Ok, for my money the Amine-Brooks matches have been the highlight of the year thus far and I don’t see anyone on these brackets that are going to stop us from getting a round three. Of course, I’m going to pick Brooks because Cael always seems to have his guys peak for NCAAs. Beyond that, there are a bunch of B1G guys who could possibly make the podium and who could also go 0-2 and go home. Kaleb Romero definitely has the goods and I like Braunagel’s draw (also I might be a homer).

197 Pounds

1. Max Dean, Penn State | 3. Eric Schultz, Nebraska | 4. Pat Brucki, Michigan | 6. Jacob Warner, Iowa | 9. Cam Caffey, MSU | 11. Thomas Penola, Purdue | 14. Greg Bulsak, Rutgers | 21. Gavin Hoffman, Ohio State | 23. Braxton Amos, Wisconsin | 25. Jaron Smith, Maryland | 26. Michial Foy, Minnesota | 28. Andrew Davison, Northwestern

It all starts with Max Dean, but there’s about a dozen guys who could win this weight. Potential round two Big Ten matchups include Caffey-Smith if Smith can beat Lou Deprez, Davison-Hoffman in a pair of underdogs more likely to hit in consis, Schultz-Bulsak, Warner-Penola, and another pair of underdogs in Amos-Foy. Amos has a tough draw, going up against my dark horse pick in Iowa State’s Yonger Bastida. Foy has Rocky Elam, who is also really good, but what do you expect from a seven seed. Dean and Caffey could meet in the quarterfinals to settle a score, but Caffey will have to beat the aforementioned eight-seed Deprez. Brucki has a quarterfinal date with Nino Bonaccorsi, and both could absolutely take out Dean in the semifinals if they’re on their game. Schultz and Warner are poised for a quarterfinal matchup, and I don’t see any big obstacles to that happening.

Outside the Big Ten, I like the aforementioned Bastida and Bonaccorsi. Bastida would have to get through two-seed Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming, though, and he’s obviously also dangerous. There’s also Rocky Elam, but he’s got Bastida and Buchanan on his way. Shame all my underdogs are in one little quarterfinal box. I don’t think Dean’s round two matchup will be a breeze, as Jay Aiello of Virginia and Kordell Norfleet of ASU are both probably underseeded, but obviously I’m not gonna pick against him that early.

I’ll go big and say Bastida wins this weight. Why not. I also think Bonaccorsi finishes second, and the Big Ten is disappointed with their performances. Dean, Schultz, Warner, and Caffey all-American, and Brucki does not.

285 Pounds

1. Gable Steveson, Minnesota | 3. Tony Cassioppi, Iowa | 4. Greg Kerkvliet, Penn State | 7. Mason Parris, Michigan | 9. Lucas Davison, Northwestern | 12. Christian Lance, Nebraska | 13. Tate Orndorff, Ohio State | 14. Luke Luffman, Illinois | 17. Trent Hillger, Wisconsin

It’s Steveson’s world, and we’re all just living in it. Trent Hillger has a chance to experience that in round two, and then Lucas Davison could in the quarterfinals if he can get by eight-seed Matt Stencel. Orndorff and Kerkvliet are likely to meet in round two, as are Cassioppi and Luffman. Bigger potential matchups include Lance and Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force, who is undefeated and the five-seed, plus Parris and Cohlton Schultz of ASU in the quarterfinals.

I have Luke Surber upsetting Luke Luffman in round one, because I saw him live and was impressed. I have Parris “upsetting” Schultz in the quarterfinals to get a semifinal match with Cassioppi. I have Kerkvliet meeting and beating Wyatt Hendrickson in the quarterfinals. I have Steveson winning all his matches by as much as he wants to. I would also like to take a second to point out that the transfer Ohio State brought in at heavyweight, Tate Orndorff, is the thirteen-seed, and the guy they chased out, “Gas Tank” Gary Traub, is the eleven-seed. So, y’know, get fucked Buckeyes.

Quick, do the pick’em challenge before it closes tomorrow morning!