The brackets for the 2019 NCAA Tournament, held in Pittsburgh, PA from March 21-23 this year, were released this week, so let's dive into them. For the first time ever, the NCAA has seeded all 33 wrestlers at each weight, which has led to some... interesting... outcomes.
Iowa is sending wrestlers to the NCAA Tournament at 9 of 10 weights; Iowa wrestlers earned automatic qualifying spots at 125, 133, 141, 149, 157, 165, 184, and 197 lbs, and Sam Stoll (somewhat surprisingly) received an at-large bid at 285, meaning he'll have one final opportunity to suit up in an Iowa singlet. Iowa is not favored to contend for a championship at this year's NCAA Tournament (much like the Big Ten Tournament, the championship race is sewed up for Penn State, barring some truly stunning results) and even contending for a top five spot could be challenging. Based on the seeds, if everyone wrestled to their seeds, this is what the team scoring would look like based on placement and advancement points (no bonus points):
1) 125 -- Penn State
2) 83 -- Oklahoma State
2) 83 -- Ohio State
4) 63 -- Michigan
5) 61 -- Iowa
Here are the full brackets.
|2||Nick Piccinnini||Oklahoma State||JR||30-0|
|4||Ronnie Bresser||Oregon State||SR||23-1|
|9||RayVon Foley||Michigan State||SO||31-4|
|10||Brent Fleetwood||North Dakota State||SR||24-4|
|12||Michael McGee||Old Dominion||SO||28-4|
Lee earned the 3-seed in the bracket, which was fully expected after his loss to Piccinnini in the regular season finale and his loss to Rivera in the Big Ten finals. Even if he had beaten Rivera in the Big Ten finals, it wouldn't have changed the fact that Lee would need to go through Piccinnini and Rivera to claim a second NCAA title (the seeds likely would have been 1 Picc, 2 Lee, 3 Rivera).
Lee did win an NCAA title out of a 3-seed last year. Doing so again could involve a lot of rematches from earlier this season. His first round opponent, 30-seed Christian Moody (Oklahoma), is a new opponent and one he should have little difficulty with. His round two opponent could be 19-seed Zeke Moisey (Lee won via 18-4 major decision earlier this year) or 14-seed Ryan Milhof (no previous matches). His quarterfinal opponent could be 6-seed Sean Russell (Minnesota), who Lee has beaten twice previously this year (4-0 at the dual, 8-0 in the Big Ten Tournament semis). And, as noted, he could see Piccinnini in the semis and Rivera in the final. Hopefully Lee can channel his mojo from last year's NCAA again this year.
|1||Daton Fix||Oklahoma State||RS FR||30-1|
|5||Luke Pletcher||Ohio State||JR||23-5|
|10||Roman Bravo-Young||Penn State||FR||21-4|
|11||Tariq Wilson||NC State||SO||14-3|
DeSanto earned a 7-seed at NCAAs after his 4th place finish at the Big Ten Tournament. That might seem low after he was ranked #2 in the nation just a few weeks ago, but he lost his rematches with Lizak and Suriano at Big Tens, Pletcher finished ahead of him (Big Ten runner-up), and Fix beat him at the dual a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Micic is still undefeated this year and Phillippi has a dazzling record, won the ACC Tournament, and has the only win over Fix this year.
Micic's 2-seed is somewhat controversial, after he medically forfeited out of the Big Ten Tournament after the quarterfinals. It's hard to argue that wrestlers should be punished for being injured, but some of these seeds are still difficult to swallow, particularly when they seem to benefit wrestlers for... not wrestling. Still, from an Iowa perspective, Micic's 2-seed could be beneficial; he could be DeSanto's quarterfinal opponent (if seeds hold) and based on his form at the Big Ten Tournament (where he was also sporting a very large knee/leg brace), he could be a very favorable draw for DeSanto. (That match would also be a rematch of a match that got very heated at last year's NCAA Tournament.)
Like Lee at 125, DeSanto is set to see a lot of familiar faces in his half of the bracket at 133. His first round opponent is new -- Appalachian State's Codi Russell -- but he could get Penn State's Roman Bravo-Young (10-seed) in the second round; they just met up in the consolation bracket at the Big Ten Tournament. As noted, if he gets by RBY again, he could get Micic in the quarters. If Micic is upset, the most likely opponent is 15-seed Ben Thornton (Purdue), who is another familiar face (DeSanto beat him 5-2 and 9-3 earlier this year). Looming in the semis is a likely third round with Suriano and Fix is the most likely finals opponent. DeSanto has a tough, tough path at 133.
|2||Joey McKenna||Ohio State||SR||20-2|
|3||Nick Lee||Penn State||SO||27-2|
|9||Dom Demas||Oklahoma||RS FR||29-7|
IOWA: #22 Max Murin (JR, 15-8)
141 is one of three weights (174 and 285) are the others where Iowa doesn't have a wrestler seeded in the top 12. Murin's first round opponent is 11-seed Tristan Moran (Wisconsin), who he hasn't faced previously. If Murin can upset Moran, he would likely get 6-seed Mike Carr (Illinois), who Murin just beat 3-1 in the 7th place match at the Big Ten Tournament. (Incidentally, the fact that Carr could finish 8th in the Big Ten Tournament and still get the 6-seed is one of the more questionable seeding decisions in the bracket.) If Murin can make it to the quarters, a matchup with 3-seed Nick Lee (Penn State) is likely; Lee beat Murin 8-3 in the BTT consolation bracket. Realistically, we'll need to see what Murin can do in the NCAA consolation bracket to see if he has a chance to earn All-America honors this year.
|2||Micah Jordan||Ohio State||SR||25-2|
|6||Austin O'Connor||North Carolina||RS FR||29-3|
|7||Kaden Gfeller||Oklahoma State||RS FR||28-4|
|8||Jarrett Degen||Iowa State||SO||25-6|
|9||Justin Oliver||NC State||SR||18-5|
|12||Brady Berge||Penn State||RS FR||18-3|
Lugo drew a 10-seed in the 149 lb bracket; this is probably where those early season losses to Jarrett Degen and Russell Rohlfing have come back to hurt him, as well as the loss to Brady Berge at the Big Ten Tournament. Lugo gets 23-seed Joshua Marcua (Arizona State) in the first round; he lost 4-1 to Marcua at Midlands last year in their only previous encounter. If he beats Maruca this time, he should see 7-seed Kaden Gfeller (Okie State) in the next round; Lugo beat Gfeller 7-4 at the dual last month in what was one of his best performances and biggest wins of the season. If he beats Gfeller, he'd likely face 2-seed Micah Jordan (Ohio State) in the quarters, which would be a very difficult matchup. 3-seed Mitch Finesilver (Duke) is the other top seed on that half of the bracket.
|1||Jason Nolf||Penn State||SR||26-0|
|5||Hayden Hidlay||NC State||SO||20-2|
|7||Larry Early||Old Dominion||JR||22-5|
|9||Christian Pagdilao||Arizona State||SR||22-8|
|11||Ke-Shawn Hayes||Ohio State||JR||20-9|
Things are definitely looking very B1G at 157 lbs, where the Big Ten has five of the top six seeds, including the top overall. Iowa's Kaleb Young is the lowest seeded of that lot as the 6-seed. Young is set to face 27-seed Dan Reed (Columbia) in round one. His likely round two opponent is 11-seed Ke-Shawn Hayes, who Young defeated 11-1 in the Big Ten Tournament consolation bracket. Get by Hayes and he's likely looking at a quarterfinal versus 3-seed Ryan Deakin (Northwestern); Deakin beat Young 6-2 in the Midlands final earlier this year. 2-seed Tyler Berger is the other top guy on that half of the bracket.
|2||Vincenzo Joseph||Penn State||JR||23-1|
|3||Josh Shields||Arizona State||JR||27-3|
|5||Chance Marsteller||Lock Haven||SR||22-2|
|8||Mekhi Lewis||Virginia Tech||RS FR||23-2|
|9||Demetrius Romero||Utah Valley||JR||25-3|
As expected, Alex Marinelli got the 1-seed in the 165 lb bracket here. There endeth the good news. Marinelli got one of the nastiest draws I've ever seen for a 1-seed. His likely first round opponent is 33-seed Joe Smith (Oklahoma State). While normally a 33-seed wouldn't be cause for concern, Smith is far more talented than your normal 33-seed and a 2-time former All American (albeit at 157 lbs). Smith should be a much stiffer test than the opponent a 1-seed would typically see in the first round. If Marinelli avoids the upset against Smith, he could see 17-seed Jonathan Viruet (Brown) in the second round; Viruet took Marinelli to overtime at Midlands earlier this year.
In the quarterfinals, Marinelli could see 8-seed Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) -- who beat Marinelli (in freestyle) last summer. And in the semis Marinelli could face 4-seed Evan Wick (Wisconsin) for the fourth time this season. Wick got the 4-seed behind 3-seed Josh Shields despite having a head-to-head win over Shields this year (meanwhile, Lewis got the 8-seed behind 7-seed Isaiah White seemingly because of a head-to-head loss ealrier this year; head-to-head results mattered this year... except when they didn't). Marinelli is 3-0 against Wick this year, but all three bouts have been won on razor-thin margins and there's no ignoring the fact that Wick is an exceptionally difficult matchup for Marinelli. And, of course, if Marinelli gets through all that, his reward is a likely finals match with Vincenzo Joseph. If Marinelli wins a title this year he will absolutely, 100% earn the hell out of it.
|1||Mark Hall||Penn State||JR||26-0|
|3||Zahid Valencia||Arizona State||JR||26-2|
|6||David McFadden||Virginia Tech||JR||18-2|
|7||Jacobe Smith||Oklahoma State||SR||27-3|
|10||Mikey Labriola||Nebraska||RS FR||26-6|
Mitch Bowman failed to finish in one of the automatic qualifying spots and he was not an at-large selection (his 9-8 overall record and lack of notable wins pretty much assured that), so Iowa has nothing going at this weight. In terms of seeding, this weight was pretty much controversy-free at the top of the bracket and could set up some intriguing rematches in the semis if the seeds hold. The top half of the bracket is headlined by Mark Hall and Myles Amine; Hall is 4-0 lifetime against Amine, but every single match between them has been decided by one point and their most recent encounter (a 3-2 Hall win at the Big Ten Tournament final) was inches (or seconds) away from being an Amine win at the buzzer. The bottom half of the bracket is headlined by Daniel Lewis and Zahid Valencia; Valencia is the returning national champion, but he got pinned by Lewis earlier this year. This is a weight that could produce some fireworks.
|1||Myles Martin||Ohio State||SR||20-0|
|2||Shakur Rasheed||Penn State||SR||19-0|
|3||Zachary Zavatsky||Virginia Tech||SR||24-3|
|7||Nick Reenan||NC State||SO||15-4|
|10||Sam Colbray||Iowa State||JR||26-6|
|11||Lou DePrez||Binghamton||RS FR||29-5|
Like 133, this was another weight where a high profile medical forfeit (Rasheed forfeited out of his Big Ten Tournament final showdown with Martin) threatened to make a mess of things; the selection committee's response was, apparently, to just shrug and ignore it, leaving Rasheed in the same 2-seed spot he was in prior to the Big Ten Tournament. Again, I'm not 100% sure what the best answer is here, but the outcomes the selection committee has arrived at are decidedly unsatisfying.
From an Iowa standpoint, Wilcke nabbed a 12-seed after his 5th place finish at the Big Ten Tournament. His round one opponent is 21-seed Nick Gravina (Rutgers); they were actually supposed to meet in the 5th-place match at the Big Ten Tournament, but Gravina medically forfeited out of that match; they have no other prior meetings. Gravina is 6-3 this year after injuries severely limited his season. If he's healthy, though, he could be a challenging R1 opponent for Wilcke; the fact that he medically forfeited out of his last match at the Big Ten Tournament would suggest that he's unlikely to be 100% healthy though. If Wilcke gets by Gravina, he'll likely see 5-seed Max Dean (Cornell). Get by Dean and he could see 4-seed Emery Parker (Illinois) in the quarters; Wilcke is 0-2 against Parker this year with a two narrow losses. If Wilcke makes it to the semis, he'd likely get top-seeded Myles Martin (Ohio State), which would be an incredibly challenging matchup. But if Wilcke makes it to the semifinals here, that by itself will make this an incredibly successful tournament for him.
|1||Bo Nickal||Penn State||SR||25-0|
|2||Kollin Moore||Ohio State||JR||19-2|
|3||Preston Weigel||Oklahoma State||SR||11-0|
|5||Jacob Warner||Iowa||RS FR||17-4|
|6||Willie Miklus||Iowa State||SR||22-3|
|10||Tom Sleigh||Virginia Tech||SR||21-6|
Warner got the 5-seed in the 197 lb bracket, which seems about right, given his results this season. His first round bout is against 28-seed Drew Phipps (Bucknell); they have no previous matches against one another. If he gets by Phipps, though, things should get harder in a hurry. His likely second round match is with 12-seed Rocco Caywood (Army), who beat Warner 5-3 at Midlands earlier this year. If he turns the tables on Caywood this time, his likely quarterfinal opponent would be 4-seed Patrick Brucki (Princeton), who beat Warner at Midlands last year and has had an excellent season to date. And, of course, looming in the semis, should Warner get that far, is the terrifying possibility of Bo Nickal, the man who lives to pin Iowa opponents. Warner has improved over the course of the season, which is good, because Iowa will need him to be at his very best to score points at this weight in this bracket.
|1||Derek White||Oklahoma State||SR||28-1|
|2||Anthony Cassar||Penn State||SR||25-1|
|6||Amar Dhesi||Oregon State||SR||10-1|
|7||Trent Hillger||Wisconsin||RS FR||22-6|
|9||Matt Stencel||Central Michigan||SO||27-4|
|11||Thomas Haines||Lock Haven||SR||23-3|
IOWA: #29 Sam Stoll (SR, 9-5)
Stoll went 1-2 at the Big Ten Tournament and failed to finish in an automatic qualifying spot for the NCAA Tournament, which led many (myself included) to think that Stoll's Iowa career might be over. The NCAA selection committee threw him a lifeline and gave him one final chance to suit up as a Hawkeye, though, and named him an at-large bid and made him the 29-seed in this bracket. On one hand, a 29-seed seems a bit low for a guy who spent most of the season in the Top 10 and did have a win over Jennings (the 12-seed). But Stoll also just didn't have many wins of note this year (or all that many wins, period; he had just nine total wins this year) and the fact he even got an at-large selection has me inclined to not fuss about his seed too much.
That said, as the 29-seed Stoll gets a very tough matchup right out of the gate: 4-seed Jordan Wood (Lehigh). They've never faced off before, but Wood will be a big test for Stoll in round one. The bigger question for Stoll is just what he's able to do physically; he looked very limited at the Big Ten Tournament and his inability to get a takedown in Purdue's Jacob Aven (who was 11-21 this year and did not earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament) was extremely worrisome. If Stoll couldn't do much against a guy like Aven, it's hard to see what he might have for guys who did qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Still, he's got one more chance thanks to that at-large bid; hopefully he can make the most of it and end his Iowa career on a high note.