Huh. Didn’t see that coming. After looking solidly like the third-best team in the Big Ten this year, the Michigan Wolverines stepped up for the conference tournament in a B1G way. They lead a tight team race after day one 116-111.5-109, with all ten wrestlers still alive and five finalists. the Iowa Hawkeyes took themselves out of the three way race, medically forfeiting Ayala, Eierman, Kemerer, and Cassioppi, so it was down to just the Wolverines and the favored Penn State Nittany Lions. Michigan went 2-3 in the finals, getting a clutch win from Myles Amine over Aaron Brooks and a dominant major decision victory from Suriano at 125 pounds. They also cleaned up on the backside, with only eleventh-seeded Kanen Storr finishing worse than 5th (he got 8th place). Meanwhile, while Penn State did get four individual champions, they had two fewer wrestlers going into day two. To their credit, they only lost one match (184 final) all day, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Wolverines.
Champions not from those schools include Austin Gomez (Wisconsin, 149), Ryan Deakin (Northwestern, 157), Alex Marinelli (Iowa, 165), and Gable Steveson (Minnesota, 285). Iowa had three runners-up, with DeSanto losing another high-action, low-scoring bout with RBY (which are getting less and less fun to watch) and Eierman and Cassioppi medically forfeiting their bouts. Only Wisconsin also had multiple finalists, with Eric Barnett taking second place at 125 pounds. Now, let’s talk about this weight-by-weight
With the exception of DeAugustino knocking out Hildebrandt in round two, the championship side of this bracket was fairly chalk. In fact, 9-8, 5-4, and 7-2 were the only seeding upsets. On the backside, 8-seed McKee worked his way to third place by MFF over 7-seed DeAugustino, and second-seeded Hildebrandt went 0-2 to shock the Nittany Lion faithful. Heinselman got fourth over Schroder (MFF), Shawver got seventh over Ayala (MFF), and Suriano got a 12-4 MD over Barnett for the crown. With 10 AQ spots in the conference, the bottom six battled it out in a non-scoring bracket for the last two spots. Hildebrandt and Cardani were victorious there, though Hildebrandt likely didn’t need to be.
This one was also pretty chalky in the winners’ bracket, with 9-8 and 5-4 as the only seeding upsets. Byrd gave DeSanto a good fight, but the Hawkeye got a third-period takedown to make the finals, losing in a similar manner to RBY there. Jake Gliva made a good run for a 12-seed, finishing eighth and eliminating 6-seed Brock Hudkins. He lost to Matt Ramos in the seventh place match. Chris Cannon, the 7-seed, won the fifth-place match over Foley by MFF, and Dylan Ragusin had a shocking sudden victory upset over Lucas Byrd to take third place. Two more NCAA bids were won in the ninth place bracket, going to Joey Olivieri and Brock Hudkins.
Finally, we got some champ-side upsets, with Cayden Rooks knocking off 4-seed Chad Red in the first round, and 11-seeded Parker Filius doing the same to Stevan Micic. The cost of that, though, was having only one bout decided in the semifinals and final, with Nick Lee winning his semifinal over Jakob Bergeland by technical fall. Eierman advanced over SeaBass by MFF (they STILL have never wrestled), then himself MFF’ed to Lee in the finals. I get that it’s important to save your body for NCAAs, and quite a few guys (especially for Iowa) have acquired injuries this year, but MFFs were clearly a trend this year, and something the NCAA (or Big Ten) should probably address. I don’t know what the solution is just yet, but this is not okay.
Micic rebounded from his first-round loss all the way to the third-place bout, where he lost to Jakob Bergeland. Chad Red did not, going 1-2 on the day with a loss to Parker Filius. Filius himself lost the next round, then in the eighth-place match to Frankie Tal Shahar, who secured the final NCAA bid. D’Emilio took fifth place by MFF over SeaBass, who did not wrestle after his session one quarterfinal win.
This was also a very chalky champ side bracket, but Austin Gomez redeemed the whole thing by himself. He pinned Ridge Lovett in 20 seconds, the fastest of the tournament, to make the finals, then took down Sammy Sasso THREE TIMES to win his first Big Ten title. I have no idea the implications this has for NCAA seeding. 5-seed Yahya Thomas went 0-2, getting eliminated by Kanen Storr in an 8-7 decision. Beau Bartlett beat Storr for seventh place and the final AQ bid after pinning Christian Kanzler and losing a tiebreaker to Mike Van Brill. Van Brill lost to Max Murin in the consi semis, then MFF’ed to Blockhus to take sixth place. Murin received a MFF from Ridge Lovett to take third place.
Deakin winning the title was never much of a question, but I promise other stuff happened. For one, Brady Berge didn’t find much a problem with his seed, knocking off the second-seeded Kaleb Young twice, along with 4-seed Coleman and 7-seed Model en route to third place. Young got fourth, with Robb and Coleman finishing 5 and 6, respectively. Garrett Model beat Chase Saldate for seventh place and the last AQ bid.
Here’s some fun. The 10 and 11-seeds advanced the in the first round, with Creighton Edsell beating Hayden Lohrey and David Ferrante advancing by injury default over Danny Braunagel. Cam Amine knocked off 1-seed Carson Kharchla in the semifinals, but lost to Marinelli 2-1 in the final. Dean Hamiti would win the highly-anticipated bout with Kharchla in sudden victory, taking third place. Ferrante would get fifth place after Bubba Wilson MFF’ed, and Cael Carlson would take the final AQ bid by pinning Caleb Fish for seventh place.
Starocci would cruise to the title, with Kemerer MFF’ing their semifinal date and Logan Massa crumbling to a 5-1 defeat in the finals. Kemerer forfeited to sixth place, advancing Troy Fisher to the third-place bout and giving Mikey Labriola fifth. Labriola lost to Ethan Smith, who finally made the impact we’ve been waiting for after his bump from 165 last year, finishing third. Dom Solis of Maryland finished seventh, beating 13-seed Connor O’Neill. Both earned NCAA auto bids. Six-seed Bailee O’Reilly injury-defaulted his quarterfinal match with Labriola and MFF’ed out of the tournament, so he will need an at-large bid if he is able to compete at NCAAs.
Check your raffle ticket to see if you were one of the lucky winners of an automatic qualification for NCAAs, courtesy of the Big Ten Conference. Not only did the placewinners qualify, but so too did the top four of the 9th place bracket, plus a fan in section EE and one of the concession guys. Okay, seriously, those bids come from individual wrestlers putting together NCAA-worthy bodies of work, so the fact that there were 12 at this weight just means the Big Ten is really, really deep here. Only Max Lyon and DJ Washington didn’t get an auto-bid, and DJ may have a chance at an at-large bid. 12-seed Zac Braunagel got third over Kaleb Romero, Taylor Venz took fifth over Kyle Cochran, and Abe Assad took seventh by MFF over Isaiah Salazar.
Another 11 spots got handed out here, so in addition to placewinners Dean, Schultz, Brucki, Warner, Penola, Caffey, Bulsak, and Hoffman (in that order), the Big Ten also qualified Davison, Amos, and Foy from the 9th place bracket.
This weight was chalk until sixth place, where Luke Luffman finally won a big match or two to take sixth as the 9-seed. Six-seed Christian Lance got seventh, beating 8-seed Tate Orndorff. A ninth AQ was given out to 7-seed Trent Hillger, so this weight finished 1-2-3-4-5-9-6-8-7. Still, there were some fun matches, with Cassioppi getting a reversal in the final seconds of his semifinal match with Kerkvliet to force sudden victory, scoring the winning takedown moments later. Kerkvliet confirmed his win over Parris was no fluke, taking the Wolverine down twice in a 5-3 decision but falling short of the necessary pin for a team championship.
Hey, thanks for making it this far. We offered two fantasy competitions on fairly short notice, so I wanted to mention the winners here. In a standard pick’em contest, commenter Mattinglywasking took first place of 16 entries, scoring 43 of a possible 60 total points. Second place went to JODOKO, who will come up again in a second, for his 41 points, and third was a tie (what is this, the Olympics) between boilerlion31 and Thegrappler126 with 35 points each. Thanks for competing, all. Also, while not its own competition, mbailey71 was closest on the team champion’s point total, guessing 141.5. JODOKO was second with 140, three points behind Michigan’s 143.
The second contest was a little more complicated. It was a fantasy format, where participants could “draft” one wrestler from each seeding line (so one 1-seed, one 2, etc.). Our winner here, both for most points and fastest entry, was the aforementioned JODOKO. Have yourself a day! He scored 144.5 points with his selections of Steveson, DeSanto, Caffey, Murin, Robb, Ayala, Model, McKee, Duncan, Berge, McNally, Z. Branaugel, Lyon, and Wroblewski. It’s worth noting that his total beat the actual team champion Wolverines by a point and a half, which is pretty cool. He was the only one to do so, as second-place finisher Thegrappler126 scored 140.5. Third was boilermaker5 with 140, followed closely by boilerlion31 with 139.5. Yours truly is absent because I forgot to enter the contests that I made.
I’m going to bed now (I write these at night, not at the 7am it’s published at), but I’ll see you all in Detroit (symbolically, as I’m not going there and you probably aren’t either). And probably a few times in between as we talk about at-large bids and brackets and stuff.
Most dominant performance
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Ryan Deakin? IDK other
Least expected champion
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