Diving back into our preview of each weight of the NCAA Tournament, I'm going to break down every weight and single out how the Iowa wrestler will fare (if applicable), predict the finals match-up, and name dark horse(s) and potential surprise All-Americans. To be considered a dark horse, a competitor has to be seeded a 5-seed or lower. To be considered a surprise All-American, a competitor has to be seeded a 9-seed or lower. As a reminder, the full brackets are available here. Here's a link to Part 1 (125-157).
|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|
National Champion. I know: the draw sucks. Marinelli could have challenging, nervy matches from his very first bout of the day and winning a title will require walking a stressful three-day tightrope. He'll be spending so time in Upset Watch, he could buy a condo there. But if there's any Iowa wrestler this year that's eqipped to do that... it's probably Marinelli, right? Watch his performance against Cenzo in the Big Ten final and tell me he can't win a national title this week. It won't be easy (at all), but Marinelli has been brilliant all season. I think he has three more days of brilliance left in him this year.
#1 Alex Marinelli over #2 Vincenzo Joseph
Since I'm projecting Marinelli as champ, he naturally has to be in the finals. Joseph's main impediments to making the final appear to be #3 Josh Shields (who he beat 11-2 earlier this year) and #6 Logan Massa (who Joseph has a lifetime 5-0 record against). Several of the Joseph-Massa matches have been close, but thus far Cenzo has always had his number and I expect that to continue, should they meet again in the NCAA Tournament. And Penn State fans are well within their rights to remain confident in Cenzo standing tall atop the 165 lb division on Saturday night; so far he's only been following the same pattern he laid out in his first two seasons: lose the Big Ten Tournament final, win the rematch in the NCAA Tournament final. He once again lost the Big Ten Tournament final, but he should have a great opportunity to claim a third consecutive national championship.
#6 Logan Massa (Michigan)
If Marinelli falters, I think Evan Wick will be the beneficiary on the top half of the draw, but as the #4 seed, he doesn't fit my criteria for a dark horse pick. So I'll go with Massa instead. In order to make the finals, Massa will likely need to beat Shields (who beat him 7-3 earlier this season) and Joseph (who he's 0-5 against over his career), which won't be easy. Still, Massa is one of the most skilled guys in the 165 lb weight class, so it's not out of the question at all that he could put everything together for a brilliant three-day run.
#10 Branson Ashworth (Wyoming)
I don't feel great about the All-America chances for any of the guys ranked outside the Top 9 or so, but Ashworth might have a reasonable path, especially if he can upset #7 Isaiah White in the second round. Even if he can't beat White, though, Ashworth might be able to win a trio of matches in the consolation bracket to make it on the podium, as it looks like he might be able to avoid any major threats, with the exception of #4 Evan Wick or #5 Chance Marsteller in the R12. Not easy, but there's a shot.
|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|
#3 Zahid Valencia over #1 Mark Hall
To earn a rematch of last year's NCAA final at 174, Hall will (probably) need to once again edge past Myles Amine (against whom he's 4-0 lifetime, although all four matches were decided by one point), while Valencia will need to beat Lewis, who scored a surprising pinfall win over Valencia last month. Valencia has looked more vulnerable this season (he also lost to Hall in a dual earlier in the year), but I think he'll be up to the challenge at NCAAs. As for the finals rematch between Valencia and Hall... Hall wrestled a brilliant match against Valencia in his win earlier this year, but I have a hunch that Valencia will be prepared to get his win back.
#7 Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State)
I have a hard time seeing anyone outside of Hall, Valencia, Lewis, or Amine wrestling in the final on Saturday night, but Smith probably has the best chance to do so. He'd need to upset #2 Lewis (he lost to Lewis 7-3 last season) and #3 Valencia to make the finals, but he's looked pretty strong this season overall. All three of his losses on the year came at 184, where he spent about half the season. I don't think Smith has a great chance of being a spoiler at 174, but it's plausible.
#11 Dylan Lydy (Purdue)
Lydy might be able to upset #6 David McFadden in the second round, which would dramatically increase his odds of being able to make the podium. Even if he doesn't manage that, though, he'd likely need to beat #21 Marcos Coleman or #28 Jacob Oliver in his first conso match, then beat #14 Kimball Bastian or #19 Ethan Smith in his next, before beating #8 Taylor Lujan or #9 Devin Skatzka in the R12. Good news: Lydy has a 6-4 OT win over Skatzka on his resume this year.
|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|
DNP. R12 (3-2). Cash Wilcke has two R12 finishes on his resume already, but I think he'll add a third one this year. Assuming Wilcke gets by #21 Nick Gravina in the first round, he'll probably face #5 Max Dean in the second round. I think Dean may be a bit too strong and slick for Wilcke to get by, which will send him to the consolation bracket. He'll need to beat either #22 Mason Reinhardt or #27 Christian LaFragola in his first conso match, then (probably) #13 Nino Bonaccorsi. If he can get by Bonaccorsi, he'd probably face #7 Nick Reenan or #10 Samuel Colbray; Colbray beat him earlier this year (in a close match). I just don't have confidence in Wilcke to string together the 3-4 good performances he would need to make the podium.
#1 Myles Martin over #6 Drew Foster
Martin is 20-0 with bonus points in 65% of his wins, including two wins over one of his biggest threats in the top half of the draw (#4 Emery Parker) and a 13-6 decision win over his other biggest threat in that part of the draw (#5 Max Dean). So I expect him to be wrestling for a title on Saturday night. #2 Shakur Rasheed controversially medically forfeited the Big Ten Tournament final and I'll be honest: I don't think the cosmic forces behind sports karma will reward that. Also, I think Foster has had a strong season and has a good draw. Of his five losses this year, one of those guys is at 174 (Jacobe Smith), two are on the other side of the draw (Max Dean and Taylor Venz) and the other is someone he would only see in the semifinals (Samuel Colbray). (He's also 2-1 against Colbray this year, with the two wins being comfortable.) He'll probably need to get by #3 Zack Zavatsky -- but Foster did beat him twice earlier in the season. That leaves the semis and a possible match with Rasheed; we don't know what the real state of Rasheed's health is, but if he's less than 100%, I think Foster can pull the upset.
#6 Drew Foster (UNI)
#13 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pitt)
I think he's a bit under-seeded at 13, frankly, and I think he has real upset potential against #4 Emery Parker, who's been inconsistent at times this year. Even if he loses that match, he'd likely get a conso match-up with Wilcke, which is a match he could definitely win. Then he might need to beat #7 Nick Reenan or #10 Samuel Colbray in the R12 to make the podium; considering he's 2-0 against Reenan this year with a 10-3 win and an 8-0 win, that seems doable.
|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|
5th place. I feel good about Warner's odds of making the podium this year, especially if he can avenge his loss to #12 Rocco Caywood at Midlands in the second round here. If he does that, he'd just need to win one more match to earn All-America honors, and I have faith in his ability to do that, since he'd probably need to beat someone like #10 Tom Sleigh or #15 Randall Diabe in the consolation round. That assumes he loses to #4 Patrick Brucki in the quarters, which I'm doing because Brucki looks like a massive challenge for Warner, owing to his size and strength. If he beats Sleigh or Diabe in the R12, Warner could see #8 Nathan Traxler, #9 Benjamin Honis, #11 Christian Brunner, or #14 Eric Schultz in the next match. Warner is 1-0 against Brunner this year and 2-0 against Schultz and he's yet to face Traxler or Honis. Either could be a tough challenge, but I can see Warner edging them to earn a spot in the consolation semifinal, where I have him losing to either #2 Kollin Moore or #3 Preston Weigel (both beat him earlier this season). I think he might see #6 Willie Miklus in the 5th place match and, hey, Warner is 2-0 lifetime against Miklus -- why not make it three?
#1 Bo Nickal over #3 Preston Weigel
Bo is Bo and while I'm intrigued to see how he handles Brucki's strength (unless Warner upsets Brucki in the quarters, of course!), I have full confidence in him wrestling in the finals on Saturday night. The other half of the final comes down to either #2 Kollin Moore or #3 Preston Weigel in my opinion. Weigel won his four matches at the Big 12 Tournament by a combined score of 41-0 and looks to be healthy and in good form right now. He's a terror on top and I think his style will be difficult for Moore to handle. (Although, for what it's worth, Moore whupped him 13-5 at the NCAA Tournament two years ago.)
#6 Willie Miklus (Missouri)
This is a tough pick because it likely involves Miklus beating #3 Weigel in the quarters -- and Weigel just skunked him 10-0 at the Big 12 Tournament a few weeks ago. Gulp! Miklus did beat Weigel 10-4 in a dual last year, so... maybe? But I don't feel great about the upset potential for anyone facing Nickal, Moore, or Brucki, so...
#10 Tom Sleigh (Virginia Tech)
Sleigh has a likely R2 match-up with #7 Jay Aiello; he and Aiello split their matches this season, with Aiello winning 9-1 at the Cliff Keen Invitational early in the year and Sleigh winning 7-3 at a dual in January. If Sleigh wins the rubber match but loses to #2 Kollin Moore in the quarterfinals, he'd just need to beat one of #5 Jacob Warner, #12 Rocco Caywood, or #13 Malik McDonald in the R12, which is plausible.
|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|
DNP. I want to be wrong about this prediction -- I absolutely do. Stoll deserves so much better to put a bow on his college career. He could have -- should have -- been a multi-time All-American, but for multiple debilitating knee injuries. Knee injuries in 2016 and 2019 left him (or have left him) a shell of his best self and severely limited his ability on the mat in the NCAA Tournament. Another knee injury in 2017 prevented him from wrestling in the NCAA Tournament at all. I'm glad Stoll received an at-large bid and I'm glad he'll got one last chance to try and go out with some glory. But I can't shake the feeling that this is a situation where the spirit is willing, but the body isn't. I can't forget what I saw from Stoll at the Big Ten Tournament and that Stoll has no hope of ending his career with a bang. I hope Stoll can grit 'n' grind his way to something better than that -- that would be the ending he richly deserves. I just don't expect to see that, unfortunately.
#3 Gable Steveson over #1 Derek White
Welcome to the Gable Steveson Revenge Tour. The only hurdle of note he should see before a possible semifinal showdown with #2 Anthony Cassar (who bested him with a late takedown in the Big Ten Tournament final) is #6 Amar Dhesi in the quarters. I can't see Dhesi stopping the Steveson Express, though, and I think Steveson will wrestle a better match against Cassar in the rematch and book himself a spot in the final. I expect White to handle the competition on the other side of the bracket, seeing up a rematch... to a bout that Steveson won 8-2 early in the season. I don't see White turning that result around.
#6 Amar Dhesi (Oregon State)
As noted above, I don't expect Steveson to get upset by Dhesi, but Dhesi is a two-time All-American and a crafty veteran, so he has one of the better shots of pulling a big upset in this bracket. And if he can get by Steveson, there's no one he wouldn't have a shot at beating.
#10 Youssif Hemida (Maryland)
#12 Conan Jennings (Northwestern)
Hemida had a strong showing at the Big Ten Tournament (3rd place finish) and has a solid draw for making the podium. He could see #7 Trent Hillger in R2 -- and Hemida just beat him 3-2 at the Big Ten Tournament (Hillger did beat him 4-2 earlier in the season, though). If he wins that rematch, he'd likely get #2 Cassar in the quarters. Even if he loses that match, he'd be in the R12 and needing to win just one match to lock up a podium appearance. The bad news is that he could see #5 Mason Parris in that R12 match and Hemida is 0-2 against Parris this year, but hey. Jennings has a favorable draw to get his way onto the podium. His R2 match-up with is with #5 Mason Parris, who Jennings has defeated not once, not twice, but three times this year. If he can make it 4/4 against Parris, he'll be just one win away from securing All-America honors. I don't think he'll beat #1 Derek White, but I do think he could knock off #10 Hemida or #15 Tate Orndorff in the R12 to guarantee himself a place on the podium.