It’s tournament time! Below, we’ll preview the five lightweights, and tomorrow, we’ll give you the heavyweights. If you haven’t already, check out the tournament pick’em, so you can say that you’re smarter than us!
Also, preseeds are out here!
How to watch:
The Big Ten Network always does a great job of covering the tournament, and this year appears to be no exception. If you only have BTN, you can tune in at 9AM on Saturday for the start of whip-around coverage. That will run from nine until 1PM for the first session. The Big Ten Network won’t be picking up any consolation coverage, so you’ll have to wait until 6:30PM for the start of the semifinals. On Sunday, the championship bouts begin on BTN at 3:30PM.
Now, if you (like me) don’t live in the Midwest and don’t have access to BTN, but DO have BTN+, you can check out the quad box or individual mat coverage for session 1 on Saturday and the wrestlebacks starting at 4:30. On Sunday, you can start at noon with the consolation semifinals, and stay on BTN+ for 3rd and 5th place matches.
If you have both, my suggestion would be to start on BTN+ for the quad box and the start of consolations, make your way over to the Big Ten Network at 6:30 on Saturday night for the semifinals, watch the consi semis on BTN+ Sunday at noon, and then watch the finals on your TV while streaming all the other matches on your phone or laptop. I’m gonna try to find a bar in Houston that has BTN for the championship bouts (paging Dr. MNW) (no really, he actually is a doctor) (well, not actually a doctor, but you know what I mean)
Atinat: The Spencer Lee weight. All kidding aside, yes we obviously have a pretty strong (3x national champion) front-runner, but we also have a couple competitive tiers within this weight. The Big Ten has six of the top ten in the country at 125, and five of those guys aren’t named Spencer Lee. To start, #3 Liam Cronin of Nebraska had a couple tough losses early in the season, but hasn’t lost since the Cliff Keen Invitational to anyone but Lee. That includes wins over #6 Eric Barnett, #7 Pat McKee, #9 Michael DeAugustino, and #10 Malik Heinselman. His only competition for the 2-seed would be #4 Matt Ramos of Purdue, who is also unbeaten since the new year excluding the Lee match. Ramos beat Barnett and McKee, but didn’t get to wrestle Heinselman or DeAugustino. I would give the edge both in seeding and in the potential semifinal matchup to Cronin, who also has wins against the #8 and #12 guys nationally.
Things get a little muddy after that, as Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett is the next highest-ranked guy, but has a confusing loss to #17 Jack Medley. He did beat DeAugustino and McKee, though, and DeAugustino beat Heinselman. So give Barnett the four. DeAugustino and McKee have similar records in conference, but DeAugustino has the better win in Heinselman. He does have a worse out-of-conference record, and has had some injury woes, but I think he gets the five-seed regardless. So that leaves McKee the six, and Heinselman the seven, right? Well, except those two didn’t wrestle, and Heinselman only has two Big Ten losses on the year (but way fewer quality wins). I don’t know how it shakes out.
Regardless, the Big Ten has 9 allocations here, and a very clear front-runner in Spencer Lee. In terms of finishes, give me Lee first, Cronin second, Barnett third, Ramos fourth, McKee fifth, Heinselman sixth, Brown seventh, DeAugustino eighth, and Medley grabbing the final spot at ninth. I think Peterson finishes tenth and grabs an at-large bid.
HWAHSQB: If it wasn’t for Spencer Lee, the surest thing in the B1Gs would be a Roman Bravo-Young (RBY) title. The dude hasn’t lost since the B1G final in 2020. This year, he’s 13-0 with 11 bonus point wins. So, who are the contenders for second place? First, you need to be on the opposite side of the bracket from RBY so that likely rules out Ragusin (UM) and Cannon (NW) who are likely the 4-5 seeds and they ranked 11th and 12th nationally. I don’t see any of the guys seeded 6 or lower getting through both the 2 and 3 seeds. It looks like those spots will go to sensational OSU freshman Jesse Mendez and Illinois’ Lucas Byrd. They are ranked 8th and 9th respectively and Mendez beat Byrd 3-2 back in November at the MSU Open. That victory should give him the 2 seed despite a couple of recent losses to highly ranked guys.
Other ranked B1G guys include Aaron Nagao (Minnesota 13) Joe Heilman (RU 15) Brody Teske (Iowa 18) Henry Porter (IU 20) Rayvon Foley (MSU 21) and Taylor Lamont (UW 32)
Obviously, I will pick RBY for the title and I’m going to homer pick Lucas Byrd to win a rematch with Jesse Mendez and finish 2nd. Mendez and Byrd are a really great matchup and is definitely must-see TV for me. I like Ragusin to take 3rd and Mendez 4th as the veteran Ragusin will be ready for the long tournament day, followed by Cannon, Teske, Nagao, Heilman, Foley, Porter, and Lamont.
There are 9 national qualifiers so Foley would place 9th and grab the final auto bid and leave Porter and Lamont sweating out the selection of wild cards.
Atinat: Real Woods has been a great acquisition for Iowa this year, as the three-time national qualifier has climbed to #2 in the Intermat rankings and is one of two undefeated wrestlers at the weight. He’s earned wins over Brock Hardy, Beau Bartlett, Jake Bergeland, and Frankie Tal-Shahar to cement his place atop the Big Ten, and will be the one-seed. Next, Bartlett and Hardy have not met, and have each only lost to Woods in the Big Ten. They’ll be your 2 and 3. A big group in the middle are Jake Bergeland, Frankie Tal-Shahar, Dylan D’Emilio, Joey Olivieri, Parker FIlius, and Danny Pucino. There’s a little circle of trash in that group, with Pucino losing to Bergeland, Bergeland losing to Tal-Shahar and Filius, and those two both losing to Pucino. Give Pucino the four, but all of these guys are going to have a tough road on the backside of this tournament to show where they belong in the Big Ten.
Give me Woods first, Hardy second, Bartlett third, Bergeland fourth, Pucino fifth, Tal-Shahar sixth, Filius seventh, D’Emilio eighth, and Olivieri in the final AQ spot at ninth. This weight is fun from top to bottom, though, so don’t count out guys like Joey Zargo, Cayden Rooks, or even Kal Miller. This one is a must-watch.
Who wins 141?
This poll is closed
Kind of...: Will Austin Gomez be available or not? He’s listed in the pre-seeds, but I’m doubtful that he goes, which makes me sad. Assuming he doesn’t, Sammy Sasso becomes the favorite, as no current B1G wrestler besides Gomez can boast a win over him.
However, with Sasso at 1 in the pre-seeds, if Gomez does go, then it’s Gomez/Yahya Thomas and Sasso/Max Murin as semifinal matchups. The biggest intrigue would be a quarter between Murin and 5-seed Shayne Van Ness of PSU. Van Ness is marked for greatness, but he’s a rsFR this year. Has his time arrived yet? Murin beat him 4-1 in the dual.
With 9 spots allocated, and 9 B1G wrestlers ranked, the consolation side should have plenty of interest. Graham Rooks, perhaps surprisingly, grabbed the 7-seed over Maryland from Ethen Miller. Michigan’s Chance Lamer got the 9-seed. So a Miller/Lamer opening round matchup will put the loser in some danger of potentially missing the NCAA’s.
That said, I think this will be pretty chalky. If Gomez can go, there’s still a good chance he MFF’s out, so my prediction will be: 1) Sasso, 2) Thomas, 3) Murin, 4) Van Ness, and I’ll predict the top 9 to all get bids (everybody mentioned above plus Minnesota’s Michael Blockhus).
Who wins 149?
This poll is closed
Kind of...: This is probably the B1G’s weakest weight, even though Peyton Robb is ranked #1, as 2-seed Levi Haines is a true frosh and 3-seed Kendall Coleman can be pretty shaky. The conference got 10 spots allocated, but plenty of those guys are unlikely to see the blood round.
Robb has to be the favorite, and most of the interest will be around what happens elsewhere in the bracket. If the opposite semi is Haines/Coleman, I fully expect Haines to apply some patented PSU witchcraft and make the final. But if the pre-seeds hold, 7-seed Mikey Carr should give Haines all he can handle in the quarters. As it typical, the 4/5 matchup should be good too, in this case Chase Saldate (MSU) vs. Cobe Siebrecht (Iowa). And Brayton Lee is certainly not your typical 11-seed if fully healthy. If seeds hold, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he went through 6-seed Will Lewan and 3-seed Coleman to reach the semis, at least as he has records of 2-0 and 2-1 against them, respectively.
I’ll call for Robb over Haines with Siebrecht taking 3rd and Coleman fourth. With 10 allocations, look 9-seed Garrett Model to hold on for a spot, but for Lee to get a nod, forcing 10-seed Derek Gilcher to hope for an at-large bid.