HWAHSQB: Oh, what a shocker! It’s an upper middle weight class with a dominant Penn State Nittany Lion going to win a title?!? They did put Indiana Hoosier DJ Washington, who is the only active wrestler to beat Carter Starocci as the 17 seed so they could meet in the second round. Of course, when they wrestled early this year, Starocci buried Washington so let’s just go ahead and put Starocci as champ in Sharpie.
Past that, you’ve got some pretty great wrestlers at 2 and 3 with Nebraska Cornhusker Mikey Labriola and former champ Mehki Lewis. Mikey vs Mehki will be fun and is also fun to say!
Lots of good B1G guys in the mix for All-American honors in this class. Ethan Smith (OSU 6) is going to place. Bailee O’Reilly (Minnesota 8) Edmond Ruth (Illinois 9) and Nelson Brands (Iowa 11) along with the aforementioned Washington are all capable of making the podium. I hate to do this, but I really think O’Reilly and Brands earn All-American honors and Ruth falls just short in the blood round.
(As an aside, for those that are unfamiliar with wrestling, the blood round is my absolute favorite part of the NCAAs. The blood round is the guys who made the quarterfinals of the consolation side of the bracket which means there are 12 wrestlers left. The top four on the championship side are guaranteed All-American status and 8 guys who are wrestling for the last four AA spots. Win in the blood round and you are guaranteed a top 8 finish, but lose and you go home. These are all really good wrestlers, but no one is dominating like the Carter Staroccis or Spencer Lees. Great stuff. I would 100% skip the finals and watch the blood round if I had to choose one.)
Other B1G qualifiers include Troy Fisher (Northwestern 19) and Jackson Turley (Rutgers 30) Turley was an AA two years ago, but was injured last year and just doesn’t have it this year.
Mark me down for Starocci over Labriola in the finals, Ethan Smith 4th, Nelson Brands 6th and Bailee O’Reilly 8th.
Atinat: Well, I did complain after Big Tens that there’s never any drama at this weight. I guess royally screwing the seeding counts as drama? I made my thoughts clear in the brackets reaction piece, so let’s just move on. The two-time defending national champion is the three, despite having the same number of losses as the one and the two. Totally normal.
I’m gonna go really bold here and predict that the three seed wins here. The path for Brooks starts with Matthew Waddell of Chattanooga, continues to include either Binghamton’s Nolan or Clarion’s Feldkamp, and likely includes a quarterfinals matchup with Kaleb Romero. While I think Nolan and Feldkamp are both slightly underseeded, I don’t expect anyone to really test Brooks in his first three matches. The semifinal with Trent Hidlay should be close, as in less than six points, but I still think Brooks wins 9 times out of 10. Then comes a final with, in all likelihood, Parker Keckeisen. Brooks beat Keckeisen 12-8 at the unofficial All-Star Classic in November, and while Parker has had a great year, I’ve still yet to see anything that shows me that he can reach Brooks. Call it a 5-2 win for the Nittany Lion.
Now, for the rest of the conference. Kaleb Romero is the six, and I have him making it to the Brooks rematch at the quarterfinals. To do so, he’ll have to get through Caleb Hopkins of Campbell and then Gavin Kane of UNC or Colton Hawks of Mizzou. He did beat Kane, the 11-seed, 6-4 in their November dual match. I have Romero eventually finishing fourth here.
Big Ten foes Matt Finesilver and Isaiah Salazar are on a collision course. Should they both win their first match, the 8 and 9 seeds will meet in round two. The two have not met, as Salazar MFF’ed their matchup at the Big Ten tournament. I’ll take Finesilver, I think, but that should be a very close match. Winner gets Parker. Abe Assad is the 12-seed and gets Guiseppe Hoose first, while Lenny Pinto is the 13 and gets Neil Antrassian in round one. Assad likely will see Marcus Coleman in the second round, who beat him 3-2 in their dual meeting. Pinto would probably see Trey Munoz, who he actually beat at the CKLV this year.
Other Big Ten guys include Layne Malczewski (15 seed) and Brian Soldano (18 seed), who face each other round one, and Dylan Connell (23 seed). I have Brooks winning, of course, and Romero, Finesilver, and Salazar all-Americaning.
HWAHSQB: Now this is a fun weight class. There are about 10 guys who could win it all and 16 or so who could make the podium. Far and away the hardest class to call and I like it.
Defending champ Max Dean failed to win the B1G and is seeded 9th. Of course, Nittany Lions use their NCAA devil magic in this tournament so I’m picking him to repeat. Jacob Warner was last year’s other finalist and he is seeded 14th?!? Yeah, I’m picking him to AA again.
The B1G has plenty of guys amongst the group that are on the cusp of making All-American. You have B1G champ and probably more importantly, OTE all name team qualifier, Silas Allred at the 8. He’s a Cornhusker. With a name like Allred, he really could only have wrestled for half of the B1G schools. Jaxon Smith from Maryland??? is the 11 and Illini Zac Braunagel, who fell in the blood round last year is the 12. I think Braunagel breaks through, but the other two guys are a year away. Cameron Caffey (MSU 19) also has the tools to AA, but I’ve got him falling just short.
Beyond them, you have Michael Foy (MInnesota 22) and Gavin Hoffman (OSU 26) are probably going to have earlier exits.
Give me Dean over Rider’s Ethan Laird in the final with Warner at 7th and Braunagel 8th.
Atinat: And finally, the Big Boys. Man, this is gonna be a great tournament, because I’m not sure this is even a top-three weight. It’s headed by Michigan’s Mason Parris, who has to be a big favorite after his 2-0 record against Kerkvliet this year, and his 4-0 record against Cassioppi all-time. He could get an all-Big Ten path to the finals, which would be fitting given that this is the Big Ten’s strongest weight. He’ll start with the winner of Garrett Joles and Travis Stefanik (Princeton), then get the winner of Orndorff and Taye Ghadiali (Campbell). Lucas Davison is the nine, and either him or eigth-seed Sam Schuyler (Iowa State) would be the quarterfinal matchup. Then Tony Cassioppi is the four seed, but Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz would look to breakup the B1G party. Everyone expects a Parris-Kerkvliet final, but could 2-seed Wyatt Hendrickson hold seed? I personally have Parris over Kerkvliet in the finals.
Kerkvliet will start with Hayden Copass of Purdue, then will likely get AJ Nevills of South Dakota State. Trent Hillger could meet him as the 11-seed, but he’d have to get through all-name team Yaraslau Slavikouski, the 6-seed from Harvard. Cassioppi starts with Jaron Smith of Maryland, then would see Tyrell Gordon (UNI) or Konnor Doucet (OkSt) in round two. It’s likely Cohlton Schultz in the semis, who Cassioppi beat twice at the 2021 NCAAs (first in the quarterfinals, second in the third-place match). Between Kerkvliet and Parris, I’d rather have Cassioppi face Parris because of their matches this year. He had a great back-and-forth match with Parris in Carver, whereas he has been owned by Kerkvliet this year. Still, I don’t have him beating either.
Other Big Ten guys not yet mentioned include Jacob Bullock (23-seed)... and that’s about it, because everyone else is in the quad of a Big Ten wrestler. I have Parris-Kerkvliet-Cassioppi, then Davison sixth and Hillger seventh.
So that’s the preview. Just one more day before the wrestling starts. Are you ready? Make sure you get your picks into our bracket challenge now that you’re armed with our incredible knowledge, and stop by tomorrow to enjoy the open thread.