2020 Big Ten Tournament Seed Projections

By RossWB on February 28, 2020 at 6:02 pm
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© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

A week from now we'll be getting ready for the Big Ten Tournament and for Iowa to try and claim their 36th conference title and their first since 2015. But before then we can try and speculate on what the seeds might look like at each weight for that tournament. Seeding is as much art as it is science in some cases; the expansion to a 14-team league has made it impossible for a wrestler to face everyone else at a given weight, even with increased conference schedules. And that's before even factoring in the duals missed due to injury, illness, or, uh, load management. Which is to say: it's not a level playing field here at all -- some wrestlers face vastly more difficult schedules than other wrestlers. Balancing that against actual performance (the wins and losses) can be challenging at times. 

We also found out NCAA qualifier allocations for each weight, which I'll include below. The qualifier allocations determine how many automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament a conference has at each weight. If you have 8 qualifier spots at a weight, the top 8 wrestlers at that weight automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Overall, Iowa should have very little to worry about when it comes to the qualifier allocations.

So without further ado... 


1 Spencer Lee Iowa 9-0 10-0
2 Devin Schroeder Purdue 7-2 11-2
3 Patrick McKee Minnesota 4-1 6-1
4 Justin Cardani Illinois 7-2 10-2
5 Jack Medley Michigan 6-3 9-6
6 Liam Cronin Indiana 6-3 7-7
7 Nic Agilar Rutgers 5-4 5-4
8 Michael DeAugustino Northwestern 5-4 6-4
9 Eric Barnett Wisconsin 4-5 6-7
10 Alex Thomsen Nebraska 4-5 5-7
11 Malik Heinselman Ohio State 2-5 3-6
12 Logan Griffin Michigan State 2-6 3-7
13 Brandon Cray Maryland 1-8 1-9
14 Brandon Meredith Penn State 1-8 3-9


This one is a no-brainer, at least as far as Iowa is concerned. Spencer Lee annihilated his competition this year, tech falling or pinning every Big Ten foe he faced with the exception of Michigan's Jack Medley (who held Lee to an 8-1 decision). To put the gap between Lee and his nominal toughest competition, Purdue's Schroder, into perspective: Lee beat Schroder 15-0 in just 2:53 when they met in a dual meet earlier this season. So, yeah, I feel pretty good about Lee being able to finally claim that elusive Big Ten championship. 


1 Seth Gross Wisconsin 8-1 11-1
2 Roman Bravo-Young Penn State 7-1 8-1
3 Austin DeSanto Iowa 6-1 7-2
4 Travis Piotrowski Illinois 9-0 14-1
5 Ridge Lovett Nebraska 6-3 7-3
6 Sammy Alvarez Rutgers 7-2 7-3
7 Cayden Rooks Indiana 4-3 8-6
8 Garrett Pepple Michigan State 3-6 5-6
9 Travis Ford-Melton Purdue 2-7 3-9
10 Jordan Decatur Ohio State 2-7 4-7
11 Sebastian Rivera Northwestern 1-0 1-2
12 Boo Dryden Minnesota 1-3 1-4
13 Austin Assad Michigan 1-4 3-7
14 King Sandoval Maryland 1-8 1-9


The top three guys at this weight (Gross, Bravo-Young, and DeSanto) split their round robin against one another during dual meet competition -- DeSanto beat Gross, but Bravo-Young beat DeSanto, and then Gross beat Bravo-Young. DeSanto also lost to Gross to Midlands, though, and that defeat will likely serve as the tiebreaker between that trio.

The wildcard at this weight is Rivera. He's a returning Big Ten champion and All American... but that was at a different weight (125) and a year ago. How much (if at all) should those accomplishments matter when seeding Rivera this year, at this weight? Due to injuries, he missed virtually the entire Big Ten dual meet season, returning only to face Sandoval (the bottom of this division) at the end of the season.  He lost to Gross and Piotrowski at Midlands (the latter via injury default). Frankly, I have no idea where you seed him. At one point I had him as high as #5, but that didn't seem fair to the guys who actually wrestled (and won) at this weight all season long. That said, slotting him as low as #10 or #11 could make for a nasty quarterfinal surprise for one of the top seeds. Seeing where Rivera gets seeded will be one of the most interesting things to watch when the brackets are released next week. 

At 9-0 Piotrowski probably has a case to be higher than #4... but he didn't face Gross, Bravo-Young, or DeSanto in dual meet competition this year. He did face DeSanto at Midlands -- and lost 10-4. So I don't think his case to be higher than #4 is all that credible, personally. (That said, I wouldn't be upset if he was the #1 seed and DeSanto was pushed to the #4 seed -- that would give DeSanto a potential semifinal with Piotrowski and he'd have to face just one of Gross and Bravo-Young; if DeSanto is the #3 seed he'll likely need to beat Bravo-Young in the semis and Gross in the final.)


1 Nick Lee Penn State 9-0 10-0
2 Luke Pletcher Ohio State 8-1 13-1
3 Chad Red Nebraska 5-3 6-4
4 Max Murin Iowa 4-1 5-1
5 Tristan Moran Wisconsin 4-3 5-3
6 Mitch McKee Minnesota 3-5 5-6
7 Parker Filius Purdue 5-4 6-4
8 Dylan Duncan Illinois 6-3 6-5
9 Alec McKenna Northwestern 5-4 6-4
10 Cole Mattin Michigan 4-5 6-7
11 JoJo Aragona Rutgers 3-5 4-6
12 Matt Santos Michigan State 2-6 3-6
13 Eddie Bolivar Indiana 2-7 3-8
13 Hunter Baxter Maryland 0-8 2-8


There's a clear top two at this weight in Lee and Pletcher. They murked everyone else they faced in Big Ten action this year, with Lee going undefeated and Pletcher only suffering one loss -- against Lee. Things get a more convoluted after that. For instance, Chad Red beat Max Murin, Murin beat Tristan Moran... and Moran beat Red. D'oh. All three of Red, Murin, and Moran also beat Minnesota's Mitch McKee. Red and Moran each have two more losses in Big Ten duals than Murin... but that's because they each faced Lee and Pletcher (and lost), while Murin missed those duals due to injury. I think Red will get the nod here ahead of Murin and Moran, but you can justify any combination of those three. 

McKee could be slotted lower, given his less-than-impressive record, but he also faced a murderous schedule, with matches against Lee, Pletcher, Murin, Red, and Moran in dual meets. That he soundly beat (16-1 technical fall) one of his closest competitors for the #6 seed (Filius) boosts his case, too. Duncan was the beneficiary of an odd schedule that saw Illinois avoid Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. 


1 Sammy Sasso Ohio State 9-0 14-1
2 Pat Lugo Iowa 8-1 9-1
3 Kanen Storr Michigan 7-1 11-3
4 Brayton Lee Minnesota 5-2 8-2
5 Graham Rooks Indiana 6-3 7-4
6 Collin Purinton Nebraska 3-5 4-6
7 Jared Verkleeren Penn State 5-4 8-4
8 Cole Martin Wisconsin 4-5 6-7
9 Yahya Thomas Northwestern 3-1 4-3
10 Gerard Angelo Rutgers 4-3 4-4
11 Alex Hsiropoulos Michigan State 2-7 3-7
12 Griffin Parriott Purdue 1-4 2-7
13 Mousa Jodeh Illinois 1-8 2-9
14 Ryan Garlitz Maryland 0-4 0-4


Another pretty simple weight, at least at the top of the heap. Sasso went undefeated with wins over Lugo and Lee. Lugo went 8-1, losing to Sasso but also beating Storr, Lee, Rooks, Purinton, Verkleeren, and Martin. Storr's only loss was to Lugo. Lee's only losses were to Sasso and Lugo (though he also holds a win over Sasso from earlier in the season). Things get a bit more convoluted after the Top 5, but those guys aren't likely to factor into the title race too much. A potential Lugo-Verkleeren quarterfinal match could be a key battle in the team title race, though. 


1 Ryan Deakin Northwestern 9-0 9-0
2 Kaleb Young Iowa 9-0 11-0
3 Kendall Coleman Purdue 5-3 8-4
4 Will Lewan Michigan 7-2 11-3
5 Jacob Tucker Michigan State 5-4 8-4
6 Peyton Robb Nebraska 5-3 7-3
7 Eric Barone Illinois 5-4 7-5
8 Ryan Thomas Minnesota 4-4 4-4
9 Mike Van Brill Rutgers 3-6 4-6
10 Elijah Cleary Ohio State 2-4 4-5
11 Jahi Jones Maryland 2-3 5-3
12 Bo Pipher Penn State 1-6 3-6
13 Fernie Silva Indiana 1-8 3-12
14 Drew Scharenbrock Wisconsin 1-4 2-5


This weight is very likely "Ryan Deakin -- and everyone else." Deakin went 9-0 in Big Ten duals with seven bonus point wins (five major decisions and two pins). Young did beat Deakin at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments last season and also went 9-0 in Big Ten dual meet competition this year, but I think he'll ultimately be slotted behind Deakin given the latter's better overall performance this season. There's also not much separating Lewan (whose only Big Ten dual meet losses this season were to Young and Deakin) and Coleman, but Coleman did beat him 3-1 early in the season, which should give him the seeding edge here. 

Of note: Cael Sanderson announced this week that Brady Berge, Penn State's hoped-for option at this weight all season long, has been shut down for the rest of the season as he deals with concussion symptoms. His absence means Penn State will have to go with either Bo Pipher or Luke Gardner at this weight. Gardner wrestled in Penn State's final dual of the season, but Pipher wrestled in seven Big Ten duals. 


1 Vincenzo Joseph Penn State 8-0 8-0
2 Alex Marinelli Iowa 7-1 8-1
3 Evan Wick Wisconsin 7-2 9-2
4 Isaiah White Nebraska 4-3 6-3
5 Shayne Oster Northwestern 8-1 9-4
6 Ethan Smith Ohio State 4-5 6-7
7 Danny Braunagel Illinois 6-2 11-3
8 Bailee O'Reilly Minnesota 4-4 5-5
9 Drew Hughes Michigan State 4-3 6-4
10 Kyle Cochran Maryland 4-5 4-5
11 Brett Donner Rutgers 2-6 2-7
12 Tyler Meisinger Michigan 1-4 3-7
13 Tanner Webster Purdue 1-8 2-10
14 Dillon Hoey Indiana 0-5 0-7


Another weight were dual meet results helped make the top of the seeds pretty straightforward. Joseph beat Marinelli, Wick, and White. Marinelli beat Wick and White, but lost to Joseph. Wick beat White, but lost to Joseph and Marinelli. White lost to Joseph, Marinelli, and Wick -- but beat everyone else he faced. Those four appear to be the clear Top 4 at this weight. Oster has a superior record than anyone but Joseph, but he didn't face Marinelli, Wick, or White and was pinned by Joseph in under a minute. I wouldn't be terribly upset to see Oster higher in the seeds -- a potential semifinal between Marinelli and Oster seems less nerve-wracking than the latest nail-biter between Marinelli and Wick -- but I'm definitely not expecting it to happen.

The seeding picture gets very muddy after Oster, especially where Ethan Smith is concerned. He lost a lot of matches -- but his five Big Ten dual losses were against Joseph, Marinelli, Wick, White, and Oster. He beat everyone else, including O'Reilly and Braunagel, his biggest competition for the #6 seed. (He also has an overall 2-1 record against Oster this season.) He's definitely a "better than his record suggests"-type of guy. 


1 Michael Kemerer Iowa 9-0 9-0
2 Mark Hall Penn State 8-1 11-1
3 Dylan Lydy Purdue 8-1 11-1
4 Devin Skatzka Minnesota 5-4 8-6
5 Mikey Labriola Nebraska 5-4 7-5
6 Kaleb Romero Ohio State 5-3 7-5
7 Joey Gunther Illinois 4-4 7-4
8 Layne Malczewski Michigan State 5-4 8-5
9 Jacob Covaciu Indiana 2-4 7-7
10 Philip Spadafora Maryland 3-6 4-7
11 Jared Krattiger Wisconsin 1-7 4-10
12 Tyler Morland Northwestern 2-3 2-5
13 Willie Scott Rutgers 2-2 2-3
14 Max Maylor Michigan 0-9 0-11


Kemerer has a clear-cut case to be the #1 seed here -- he didn't lose and he has wins over all of the guys in the #2-6 seed spots, too. Lydy and Hall each had just one loss against Big Ten competition this season (to Kemerer, in both cases), but Hall's more dominant performances overall should give him the edge for the #2 seed. Skatzka and Labriola have fairly similar resumes overall -- they each lost to Kemerer, Hall, and Lydy. But Skatzka's win over Labriola should give him the edge for the #4 seed. The winner of their potential quarterfinal rematch could face Kemerer in the semis here. 


1 Aaron Brooks Penn State 6-1 6-1
2 Cameron Caffey Michigan State 8-1 10-3
3 Abe Assad Iowa 4-2 6-2
4 Taylor Venz Nebraska 6-3 7-3
5 Owen Webster Minnesota 5-4 6-5
6 Rocky Jordan Ohio State 5-4 11-5
7 Zach Braunagel Illinois 5-4 8-6
8 Billy Janzer Rutgers 7-2 7-3
9 Johnny Sebastian Wisconsin 4-3 5-3
10 Jelani Embree Michigan 2-6 9-6
11 Max Lyon Purdue 4-5 5-6
12 Jack Jessen Northwestern 3-6 3-9
13 Jakob Hinz Indiana 1-8 1-11
14 Kyle Jasenski Maryland 0-9 1-10


This is the hardest weight to seed in the Big Ten and it's not even close. This weight is, to put it mildly, a hot mess. Brooks went 6-1, with wins over Assad, Webster, Jordan, Braunagel, and Janzer... but also lost to Venz. Venz beat Brooks (and Webster), but also lost to Assad, Caffey, and Jordan. Caffey beat Assad, Venz, Webster, and Braunagel... but lost to Janzer. Assad beat Venz, Jordan, and Braunagel... but lost to Brooks and Caffey. Untangling the knot atop this weight is not easy. Caffey's early season losses to Embree and Braunagel probably give Brooks the edge for the #1 seed, though I wouldn't be stunned to see Caffey there, either. 

Things don't get a whole lot easier to parse after the top of this weight, either. Assad's handful of quality wins -- and general lack of losses -- should boost him up the ranks and the quality of Venz's wins should also keep him relatively high. But frankly there are a lot of potential ways to seed this weight and I fully expect my projections to be wrong to some extent here. Janzer feels like someone who ought to be higher, given his wins over Jordan and Caffey (who he also lost to earlier in the season), but it's hard to place him ahead of Braunagel (who beat him) and it's hard to move Braunaugel higher given his losses and... yeah. 

Embree is a particularly perplexing wrestler to seed, given that he won his first nine matches against Big Ten opposition (including wins over Caffey and Webster x2)... but then lost his next six straight matches against Big Ten foes (all in dual meets). Given that the losses happened more recently than the wins and he went just 2-6 in Big Ten dual meets, I don't expect him to get a very good seed -- but if he regains his early season form, he could be a dangerous opponent for a higher seed to face in the first round. 

Finally, given that the Big Ten received 10 automatic qualifier spots for this weight, there shouldn't be too much concern about Assad being able to compete at the NCAA Tournament. He'll only need to finish in the Top 10 at the Big Ten Tournament to earn one of those automatic qualifying slots. If he can't mange that, frankly, the odds of him scoring many points at the NCAA Tournament will be very, very slim. 


1 Kollin Moore Ohio State 9-0 12-0
2 Eric Schultz Nebraska 8-1 9-1
3 Jacob Warner Iowa 7-1 7-1
4 Lucas Davison Northwestern 7-2 8-4
5 Shakur Rasheed Penn State 4-4 4-4
6 Jordan Pagano Rutgers 5-4 6-6
7 Jackson Striggow Michigan 4-5 10-5
8 Jaron Smith Maryland 4-2 5-4
9 Christian Brunner Purdue 2-3 7-4
10 Hunter Ritter Minnesota 3-3 5-3
11 Matt Wroblewski Illinois 3-6 6-9
12 Nick May Michigan State 3-6 5-8
13 Taylor Watkins Wisconsin 1-5 3-7
14 Nick Willham Indiana 0-9 2-12


Another nicely straightforward weight at the top of the pyramid. Moore blasted the competition at this weight and is an easy pick for the #1 seed. Schultz has the head-to-head win over Warner this season, which should give him the #2 seed. Warner handled everyone else he faced, though, which ought to earn him the #3 seed. That may end up working out well, too, since it would likely slot Warner into a first round match with Nick Willham -- who went 0-fer in Big Ten duals and gave up bonus points four times against Big Ten opponents (three major decisions, one pin). If Warner shows the same aggressiveness he did at the end of the regular season, that much could earn some bonus points for Iowa. 

Christian Brunner is a difficult one to figure at this weight, as he hasn't wrestled since suffering an injury against Rutgers' Pagano at the end of January -- but he hasn't been ruled out for the season, either. A healthy Brunner is probably a bigger threat than the average #9 seed, but it remains to be seen what condition he's in -- if he even competes at all. 


1 Mason Parris Michigan 9-0 10-0
2 Gable Steveson Minnesota 7-0 7-0
3 Tony Cassioppi Iowa 7-2 8-2
4 Trent Hillger Wisconsin 5-3 7-3
5 David Jensen Nebraska 3-1 3-2
6 Gary Traub Ohio State 5-4 7-4
7 Seth Nevills Penn State 6-3 6-3
8 Thomas Penola Purdue 5-4 8-6
9 Luke Luffman Illinois 5-4 7-5
10 Christian Rebottaro Michigan State 3-6 4-8
11 Alex Esposito Rutgers 2-3 2-4
12 Jake Kleimola Indiana 1-4 2-8
13 Jacob Heyob Northwestern 1-8 1-8
14 Parker Robinson Maryland 0-9 0-9


Steveson and Parris are the clear 1-2 at this weight, but who's #1 and who's #2? Considering Parris wrestled a full Big Ten dual schedule and Steveson didn't, I'm content to use that as a tiebreaker -- especially since one of the matches Steveson missed was against Michigan (and Parris). The seeds behind them are pretty clear-cut too -- Cassioppi lost to Steveson and Parris, but beat everyone else he faced this year, including Hillger, Nevills, Traub, and Penola. Hillger lost to Parris, Steveson, and Cassioppi, but beat everyone else. 

Organizing the tier of guys behind that is trickier, especially Jensen only wrestled in about half of Nebraska's duals this season. But he did beat Traub, who beat Nevills. Is that enough to spot him at #5? I think so, but alternate seeds here would probably make about as much sense, too. 

The big question about this weight centers around Penn State. Rumors have persisted that Sanderson would like to use stud freshman Greg Kerkvliet at this weight for the postseason. The issue is that Kerkvliet transferred to Penn State from Ohio State in the fall semester, after already beginning classes in Columbus. It's not clear if the NCAA will grant a waiver to allow him to compete for Penn State this semester. If he is granted a waiver, it's also unclear where he would be seeded -- perhaps at #14, given his lack of competition in Big Ten duals? He did go 9-0 while redshirting, including one win over a Big Ten opponent. If he is the #14 seed and Cassioppi is the #3 seed, that would make for one very high stakes first round match.

Finally, spare a thought for poor Parker Robinson of Maryland. He's 1-22 this season overall and 0-9 in Big Ten duals. Eight of those nine losses came via bonus points (four major decisions, two technical falls, and two pins). The closest loss was an 8-3 decision defeat... to Indiana's backup heavyweight, who is himself 3-16 this year. This has been a very rough year for Mr. Robinson. 

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