Friday, March 5, 2021

2021 BIG 10 Preview


125 lbs 

As good as #1 Spencer Lee of Iowa is, it makes you question if the rest of the field is weak or if he's really just that good. I assure you, the answer is Spencer Lee is just that good. Such a tough wrestler, not only do I think he can pin his way through the BIG 10 tournament. I think he can do so never seeing beyond the first period.

The real fight here will be in the battles for second and third. Parity up the Wahoo, this will be all out chaos.  Based on seeding, #5 Rayvon Foley of Michigan and #8 Michael DeAugustino will have to settle for an at best third as they will both face Lee along the way.   

Being seeded #2 surely didn't do Nebraska's Liam Cronin any favors. In the quarterfinals he'll have either #7 Devin Schroder of Purdue or  #10 Justin Cardani of Illinois.  He's 2-1 Vs Schroder who is likely to way out do his seed and  while he squeaked by Cardani 4-3 earlier this, and it was Cardani who won three meetings between the two last season. There is definitely reason to believe there could be a huge upset here. 

Watching #3 Malik Heinselman of Ohio State perform this past three seasons has been a real treat. He's one of the most aggressive wrestlers I've witnessed over the past years & it's rewarding to see someone so relentless have success.  He does at times get over excited as to where most of the points scored against him are off of counters. I knew once he harnessed enough discipline to make his attacks crisper, that he'd have more success with that.  I think he's in great shape to make the finals.  Easier said than done of course. 

The top seven are allocated here, but I feel pretty confident that with at large bids eight will advance to the NCAA tournament.  Depending on where Cardani finishes, maybe even nine. 

133 lbs 

#1 Roman Bravo Young of Penn State Vs #2 Austin DeSanto of Iowa has been a rematch that fans on both sides of the aisle have long awaited.  No reason why this match shouldn't take place and we can finally put to bed any and all hypothesis as the actuality will be determined on the mat.   

I think #3 Sammy Alvarez of Rutgers is definitely our bronze medalist here, while Lucas Byrd of Illinois the #4 seed does look to be his consolation finals opponent.  It is spots 5-8, that I think might rearrange a bit once the actual wrestling goes down. 

The top seven here are allocated for NCAA qualification, although I think as long as #8 Jordan Decatur of Ohio State finishes in eighth place, he puts himself in contention for an at large bid.  He places higher than seventh, knocking a #5, #6 or #7 seed into the eighth place spot, it's more likely that the eighth placer does indeed qualify for the NCAA tournament. 

141 lbs 

Many are calling this weight class a three man race, but I feel that it is a four.  Personally I am looking forward to #1 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa Vs #4 Chad Red of Nebraska part two in the semi-finals.  In the dual, Red wrestled well on his feet but looked to have trouble against Eierman's phenomenal mat wrestling.  I think Red can give himself a real shot here, if he's able to keep this match on the feet. 

With that said, even making it to the semi's to face Eierman will be quite the journey.  Right off the bat he has #13 Colin Valdiviez of Northwestern, who I feel could be the monkey-wrench throughout this bracket.  Valdiviez took Red to a two point match when they met earlier this season. It is also important to note that Valdiviez is much more of a tournament wrestler than he is a duel wrestling.  I think this year's BIG 10's could more than reflect that statement. 

Right after Valdiviez, Red will then face #5 Dylan Duncan of Illinois in the quarter-finals.  Another tough matchup for the Husker, as he barely squeaked by Duncan 4-3 earlier this season. 

On the other side of the bracket, #2 Nick Lee of Penn State Vs #3 Sebastian Rivera of Rutgers looks to be another exciting semi-final.  Rivera seemed to come out of nowhere last season in route to a BIG 10 title at 133 lbs.  Neither should have trouble making the semi-finals.  

Six spots have been allocated for NCAA qualification and While I think the first five places are spoken for it is that sixth place spot I think that is up for grabs.  

I've already mentioned the threat that I think Valdiviez could be and then there is also #7 Dylan D'Emilio of Ohio State, #8 Drew Mattin of Michigan and #9 Parker Filius of Purdue.  Filius strikes me as the one to not know quite what to make of.  Both Duncan and D'Emilio had there way with him on the mat, but both Polanco and surprisingly Rivera had close matches with him.  If he can wrestle Rivera to a 7-6 match, I think it's feasible that he could place as high as sixth. 

149 lbs 

Very curious as to why Illinois's Mike Carr won't be competing. Especially with a 3-2 win over #4 Thomas.  Nevertheless...

#1 Sammy Sasso of Ohio State is most certainly our forerunner for a title here, although I do think he'll have two challenges along the way.  #4 Yahya Thomas of Northwestern could give him a scare in teh semi-finals. When the two met last season, Thomas took Sasso into the tiebreakers before dropping a 5-4 decision.  

The #2 Max Murin of Iowa Vs the #3 Griffin Parriott of Purdue in what should be our other semi-final will also be an exciting match. Murin has been an exceptional case for the Hawkeyes as usually the black & gold faithful are not as patient as they have been with Murin. He's put his nose to the grind and continuously improved among those who have questioned his ability. He's earned the #2 seed. 

The top five here are allocated for NCAA qualification but I can see as many as eight or even nine qualifying here.  A bit of parity and matches that could go the other way to what they were in the duel will make this an interesting weight class. 

157 lbs 

With as dominant as Spencer Lee has been at 125 lbs, it overshadows how dominant #1 Ryan Deakin of Northwestern has been at 157 lbs. While the O.W. looks to already be in the hands of Lee, breathing down his neck is Deakin.   Whether it's #2 Kaleb Young of Iowa or #3 Brayton Lee of Minnesota, I think Deakin wins handedly in the finals.   

A lot of close matches that I think should make fourth through eighth place very interesting.  #7 Chase Saldate of Michigan State interest me as two of his four losses have been very close.  A one point loss to Lee and a sudden victory loss to #4 Kendall Coleman.  

I'm particularly anxious to see #9 Elijah Cleary of Ohio State.  Against the field he brings in five losses, but all five losses have been very close matches.  If he can turn those losses into wins,  he could go rather far throughout the tournament on the back side of the bracket. Needs to defeat #8 Garrett Model who defeated him 3-2 earlier this season, take his loss to #1 Deakin in the quarterfinals and then work his way through the consolation in what should be winnable matches. 

165 lbs 

With Wisconsin's Evan Wick not wrestling this season, little to nothing stands in the way of #1 Alex Marinelli of Iowa claiming his third BIG 10 title.  Finals opponent looks to be either #2 Danny Braunagel of Illinois or #3 Ethan Smith of Ohio State. The last the two met, Braunagel slipped away with a 5-4 victory.  Smith in many instances has been overlooked throughout the first couple seasons of his career.  While a third place showing would in itself be notable, upsetting Braunagel & making the finals I think would open up a few more eyes that often seem to over look him. 

The NCAA has allotted seven spots for NCAA qualification here, but I think this weight class will end up taking eight with one at large bid.   #8 Michigan State's Jake Tucker can be down right tough when he needs to be. It will as is with Cleary at 157 lbs need to be proven through the consolation bracket, but placing higher than eighth is more than doable for the seasoned Spartan. 

174 lbs 

If I had to pick the toughest weight class....and I mean that not only in the BIG 10 but in all Division I conferences, it would be this one.  This weight class if tough.  Every match, from beginning to end will be worth watching. I know the Hawkeye faithful want to believe that #1 Mike Kemerer already has this one in the bag, but he doesn't. Every match should be wrestled as if it is the finals, but in a lot of ways it could be. 

First round will see #8 Jared Krattiger of Wisconsin Vs #9 Jake Allar of Minnesota. This one ended 5-3 when the two met earlier this season.  We'll also see #5 D.J. Washington of Indiana take on #12 Emil Soehnlen of Purdue.  On Paper looks to be an easy match for Washington, but so many of Soehnlen's losses this season have been by a single point.  Could end up being a pretty decent match on the mat.  #7 Kaleb Romero of Ohio State should once again handle #11 D.J. Shannon of Illinois and you would think with the way #10 Drew Hughes of Michigan State has been wrestling that #7 Jackson Turley of Rutgers will do no less than a 10 point major decision.  Nevertheless somehow or another Hughes was able to secure a victory over Soehnlen so that makes me wonder. 

Quarter-finals is where it could get really interesting.  #1 Kemerer will have either #8 Krattiger or #9 Allar.  For sure a winnable match that should spell bonus points for the Hawkeye who already majored Allar 12-3 earlier this season. 

If Washington does indeed get past Soehnlen, then he has #4 Logan Massa of Michigan.  Massa was able to pin Washington at the tail end of the third period in their meeting earlier this season.  Should prove to be a better match here in the Quarters.  

#3 Carter Starocci of Penn State takes on what is likely to be #7 Kaleb Romero of Ohio State. He wasn't easy to get past the first time in a 2-1 tiebreaker. He'll prove every bit as difficult if not harder here. 

That moves us to potential Semi-finals matches. 

#1 Kemerer Vs either #4 Massa or #5 Washington.  I think it posses in Kemerer's favor to face Washington here. Kemerer is a capitalizer, one who waits for his opponent to make a mistake and then capitalize upon it. I think a young Washington is more likely to make those rookie mistakes than a seasoned veteran like Massa.   

On the other side of the bracket looks to be #2 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska Vs #3 Starrocci, unless Starocci gets knocked off by Romero, which I repeat, has probability to it.  Labriola Vs Starocci seems to me to at least on paper be a very fun match.  Both are so creative and innovative within their wrestling. Labriola flows like water out on the mat, seeming to have an answer to most anything anyone tries on him.  Starocci is like lightining, able to strike anywhere at any moment.  Hope to see this match happen. It'll be fun. 

Finals here is going to be great regardless of what it is.  #1 Kemerer Vs #2 Labriola or #3 Starocci. Hell it might even be #6 Romero, who only lost 3-1 to Kemerer in the duel.   

Might instead be #4 Massa instead of #1 Kemerer or maybe even #5 Washington.    

Man this weight class is tough.  7 Allocations here, but I think they'll take more. Really depends on how the rest of the bracket unfolds. 

184 lbs

Trying to make sense of this weight class is about to put me in the looney bin. While I think that #1 Aaron Brooks of Penn State has established himself as the forerunner, the rest of the bracket is a convoluted mess of parity that would drive anyone mad. 

For starters the #10 seed has wins over the #7 and the #2 seeds!  The #7 Seed defeated the #3 seed.  So on and so forth, it is pandemonium.  

As to what's going to happen?  I think you could get in Doc Brown's time machine and redo the events of tomorrow and Sunday till the end of time and never come up with the same results twice.  This truly is anyone's ball game.  

If anyone wants to make the case that wrestling is a mental game, this is the weight class to use as an example. 

#9 Nelson Brands of Iowa demolished #6 Taylor Venz in a very convincing 13-4 major decision.  Yet he lost to #8 Zac Braunagel of Illinois 3-1 s.v. and Venz turned around and majored Braunagel 12-1.  Speaking specifically to Brands, of all things that could happen to him over the weekend, a victory over Braunagel might be the best. He has to get out of his own head when he wrestles him. That's essential.  

Seeing that this weight class could shape up a million different ways, there's no way that they only take the six allotted to the NCAA tournament.  If anything I see as many as four at large bids for a total of 10 qualifiers.   Upsets will happen like mad and there's a good chance that someone will beat someone on the championship side of the bracket and then lose to them on the consolation side of the bracket. In fact, I say that happens more at 184 lbs, than it does any other weight class in the BIG 10. 

197 lbs 

Ah, back to sanity.  Not that I necessarily think that seeds will hold up here, because I don't.  I think A lot could happen here in the hunt for a BIG 10 title.  A lot of the matches between these guys have been close. A lot of 1 & 2 pointers that could have gone either way.    

If seeds do hold up #1 Eric Schultz of Nebraska Vs #4 Cam Caffey of Michigan State should be an interesting rematch.  The Husker edged the Spartan 6-5 earlier this season.  Every bit as interesting will be #2 Myles Amine of Michigan against #3 Jacob Warner of Iowa.  That match hasn't happened yet this season, but I can't help but think it'll be another nail biter.  

This weight class only has the top five allocated for the NCAA tournament, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see some at large bids being given away.  I think #9 Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State may be the guy to keep an eye on here.  Many of his losses to the higher seeded wrestlers have been close. Matches that could have been won.  


Fans have long awaited to see if there is anyone left in NCAA DI wrestling that can even remotely challenge #1 Gable Steveson of Minnesota.  Many believe that if there is anyone that can do it, it is #2 Mason Parris of Michigan.  Personally I also believe that Central Michigan's Matt Stencel can also give both a run for their money, but that's  a different discussion for a different day. Steveson thinks of himself as invincible, an already crowned king. Parris perhaps the one to dethrone.  Only one will stand in the #1 spot come Sunday night. 

A lot of wrestling fans are already really big on #7 Greg Kerkvliet, but I wanna see him compete against  the rest of the field before I'm sold.  He'll be tested soon enough in the Quarters against Parris. 

As to the rest of the weight class, I think Cassioppi holds his seed and finishes third here, although I do think that if anyone challenges him for that bronze medal it'll be #6 Trent Hillger of Wisconsin. He hasn't wrestled as well as I thought he would this season, but I still have high expectations for him.  I think there is a good chance that he and Cassioppi could meet twice.  Once in the quarterfinals and then again in the Consolation finals.  I don't think either one will be able to beat the other two times in a row.  

A lot of 

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